Originally from Albany, Georgia, Cole Gerst has made a home in Los Angeles as a gallery artist, comic illustrator, fashion designer, and animator. Drawing primarily from nature, Gerstâ€™s work is a beautiful mix of animals and organic palettes, even when creating work for unrelated projects. Previously working as the creative director for House of Blues Entertainment, Gerst is both inspired by, and involved with, music, specifically as it relates to design. In between his busy schedule, which recently culminated in the Vans Sky Gallery project, Gerst takes a moment to discuss his work with Format.
â€œI had some Racoons living in my attic. They are cute but they can wreak havoc on your house!â€
Format: You got your start designing posters and album covers. How important is music to you and how did you get into the business of designing for bands?
Gerst: Music is my life. Itâ€™s one of the things that really inspires me to create. I decided long ago that I wanted to design CD covers for bands when I grew up and I just put my mind to it and made it happen.
Format: Youâ€™ve produced a great deal of posters for bands. Looking back on some of your catalog, what are some of your favorites and why?
Gerst: The Elliott Smith Memorial poster for sure. I really like the design of the poster but more importantly it was made right after he died and was for a huge tribute concert that happened to raise money for the memorial fund. I really like the Guided By Voices poster too. That was for their farewell tour. I had that one blown up for myself to like 8 feet high. The Shins poster set has always been one of my faves too.
Format: What inspires you besides music?
Gerst: Iâ€™m influenced by other art. I have always collected outsider and folk art and used to go meet the people that made it and it was totally inspiring. Also film and architecture. Nature is inspiring to me and just being out in the world around people and experiencing new things is always inspiring too.
Format: Nature plays an important role in not only your content, but in your color section. How important is color in your work?
Gerst: Color is very important. I mean it has to work in harmony with the overall idea and layout etc. I usually have a very specific idea about how the colors are going to work before I start on any given piece.
Format: Recently you participated in the Vans Sky Gallery Project and you chose the Architecture for Humanity charity. Why did you choose this specific charity?
Gerst: Yeah I was glad to get chosen for the Vans Project. I wanted there to be a message and not just a piece of art. I mean it is a billboard after all. When I was a kid my mom would wake me up by saying â€œRise & Shine!â€ I turned that around to play off of the whole idea in Los Angeles of how if you shine or standout, then you will rise, as in fame or popularity or your career, whatever.
Architecture for Humanity is doing a lot of good things. They have been working in the Gulf Coast ever since Hurricane Katrina hit. I visited the Gulf Coast a year after the hurricane and was appalled by the lack of anything happening there. There were still cars on top of houses and abandoned buildings in the middle of the street. I saw a measly one city truck working in a totally destroyed neighborhood. I felt a little helpless. Anyway, these people are on the ball and getting things done, where our government is doing jack shit.
Format: Please describe the Yung Yeti project you developed for the Sundance Channel.
Gerst: Sundance had asked me to pitch some ideas to them for content. I pitched the Yung Yeti cartoon. It was just about this goofy Yeti that always ended up hurting himself. Somehow. At the same time this â€œGreenimationâ€ contest came up at Sundance and they liked the Yeti idea, but wanted me to put an environmental angle to it. I did that, created the pilot and now it will become a short series.
Format: Why did you choose a yeti, raccoon, and wolf robot as the main characters?
Gerst: I have always been fascinated by the whole Abominable Snowman and Bigfoot myths. The raccoon came about because I had some Racoons living in my attic. They are cute but they can wreak havoc on your house! I liked the idea of them talking like a normal raccoon would sound and the Yeti can totally understand him. The â€œDr. Woofbotâ€ character is an idea that the last wolf was killed by humans and to keep some portion of the wolf alive they made it into this hybrid robot wolf creature that is evil and destroys nature.
Format: Youâ€™re working on another pilot. What will the upcoming project look like?
Gerst: Iâ€™m actually working on a lot of stuff. Pitching ideas to various people and what not, so weâ€™ll see what happens.
Format: Upon first glance, the shorts you developed for Scion are confusing. Please describe the development of these shorts.
Gerst: Yeah Scion asked me to pitch some shorts to them and the only requirement they had was that there had to be some sort of box or character with a box head. This was part of an underground campaign they were doing called boxhead or want2besquare. I just came up with some crazy concepts and they loved them. They donâ€™t have anything to do with selling cars, thatâ€™s pretty amazing.
Format: The â€œLaLa Landâ€ comic strip is heavily inspired by Los Angeles. What made you want to develop a comic about L.A.?
Gerst: Well I live in L.A. for one and I see how stupid this town can be so I thought of just kind of making fun of it through the dogs eyes. The 2 German Shepherds are my actual dogs, but drawings, obviously.
Format: How do you come up with the storylines for the comic?
Gerst: I would try to come up with some sort of current event but a lot of it is based on my actual life. Like the Playboy Mansion one I did after I went to a fundraiser there. It was actually for the Special Olympics. The original comic got censored by the LA Weekly so I had to change it a bit.
Format: There is an image on the option-g website showing a writer who calls your comics â€œdisconcerting.â€ Why did you decide to post this specific comment?
Gerst: I thought it was funny. A lot of my imagery especially in the comics or the t-shirt line are made to make people think or put a twisted view on something. I felt like I had done my job when I read that.
Format: What is something you really hate about Los Angeles?
Gerst: I have to list one thing? Itâ€™s overcrowded and smoggy. Thatâ€™s two.
Format: option-g apparel has been creating clothing since 2003. What unique challenges, and opportunities, does the line present to you?
Gerst: The main challenge after I started it was trying to manage it all. It got bigger than I anticipated and I was spending 18 hours a day on it exclusively. I had to drop clients and it was taking over my life. I have figured out a way now where it is managed for me and all I have to do is design shirts.
Format: Working in so many realms must be time consuming. What do you spend most of your time on?
Gerst: Most of my time is spent trying to manage all the things I do. Sometimes I forget part of what I do. Iâ€™m currently trying to regroup and focus a little bit on a few things which means Iâ€™ll have to put other things to the side, but I think itâ€™s for the best.
Format: What would you like to spend most of your time on?
Gerst: Right now Iâ€™m enjoying the animation because it is relatively new to me, so Iâ€™m pursuing that more. I have been really trying to find the time to start painting again and I think I should be able to get a fair amount of paintings done before the end of the year.
Format: Anything you would like to add?
Gerst: Shine and Rise.