Jim Mahfood aka FOOD ONE has been in the comic game for a relatively short time, but in that brief period he’s worked on some of the biggest titles in mainstream comics, handling illustrations for Ultimate Marvel Team-Up, The Spectacular Spiderman and Kevin Smithâ€™s graphic novel version of Clerks. He also established his own imprint (40oz Comics) and made a name for himself in a tough industry, all while maintaining his own style and integrity. On top of all the work, he’s still finding time for personal projects and the odd foray into other mediums. He’s a busy guy, but found time to answer a few questions for us.
“People want to see new and fresh styles, but it’s sometimes hard to play in the mainstream comics world with a unique style.”
Format: For those that don’t really follow comic books or graff, maybe touch a little on how those two have influenced you and how they’ve influenced each other for you. Were there any artists early on that really got you interested in either genre?
FOOD ONE: I was always into comics and hip hop, so that led to the two just sort of meshing together for me, in my art style, and the comics that I do. Being into hip hop and the culture naturally got me into appreciating graff art. At the same time I discovered Keith Haring, Basquiat, Futura, Dondi White, Vaughn Bode, all those dudes. It all just sort of clicked for me and I absorbed what I could and put it back into my own work.
Format: I know that for artists working within the traditional comic industry it can be hard to develop out of the mould that’s been established for certain characters, and your style is pretty unique – was it hard to break in to that world or were people pretty accepting?
FOOD ONE:People were generally accepting, people want to see new and fresh styles, but it’s sometimes hard to play in the mainstream comics world with a unique style. Some of that stuff can stay pretty formulaic. They’re in business to make money so they have to cater toward mainstream tastes. But, I dunno, I try not to think about it. I just wanna rock my shit and make it fun and different and I’ve been luckyenough to carve out my own little niche and develop a following for it.
Format: So explain a bit about how you came to work with Kevin Smith, and exactly how did you end up being chosen to do the “Clerks.” comics?
FOOD ONE:I was at the San Diego Comic-Con in ’97 and I met editor Bob Schreck. He had just formed a new company called Oni Press and they were looking for an artist to do the Clerks book and I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I met Kevin there and we all got along and before I knew it I was drawing the book. It was a rad
Format: Outside of comics and toys and all the other stuff on your plate, what other things are keeping you excited day-to-day? Any hobbies?
FOOD ONE:I’m teaching myself how to paint. I’ve been doing lots of experimenting with watercolors, acrylics, spray paint, oils, whatever. I just fuck around and try new things and hopefully some good work comes out of it. I’ve started painting and drawing on girls; the shit is fun as hell; my friend Love Ablan shoots photos of all of it. We have a crew called The Pervert Train and we’ll put out an art book of all of that stuff when it’s all said and done. i’m also into film and video. My friends and I have been making videos under the Food Network moniker, stuff of me drawing and painting live, behind the scenes kind of stuff. We’re posting them on my blog. We did one about my new comic book, Carl, the Cat That Makes Peanut Butter Sandwiches.
Format: Is there a project you’ve worked on that stands out for you the most, whether it offered you the most creative freedom, was a character you had always wanted to work on, or for any other reason really? What made it memorable?
FOOD ONE:No, after 12 years of doing it professionally everything sort of bleeds together. There have been some stand-out moments, but mostly I’m just excited that I get to wake up everyday whenever I want, I rock out and listen to loud music all day, and paint and draw. It’s the shit, really.
Format: My friend Alister is obsessed with pens and markers, as most people who draw are, but comic artists are usually a different breed entirely. Do you have a secret weapon when it comes to pen and ink?
FOOD ONE:Not really, The secret weapon is really hand techinques. How you sling the ink and make the lines and marks you make. That something thatjust comes with years and years of doing it. It sort of doesn’t matter what tool you use; it’s how you manipulate your hand and wrist and make the lines you wanna make. That’s something I’ve really become conscious of in the last couple years….really trying to master the line and figure out exactly how to make the marks I see in my head. It’s challenging but fun as hell.
Format: A lot of artists cite their geography as a huge influence on their work, guys like Adrian Tomine or Chris Ware’s work more or less epitomizes the places where they live, whereas some artists seem hesitant to let it come through, where do you see yourself when it comes to this sort of thing, is it relevant to you?
FOOD ONE: Yea, it is. Living in Arizona had an impact on my art. That’s where I met The Bombshelter DJ Crew (Z-Trip, Emile, and Radar) and the whole live art thing started for me. And now, living in LA has definitely had an impact on my work and influenced me in strange and cool ways. There’s so much happening out here, you can draw influence from tons of cool sources. It’s never dull. I even started documenting my life and adventures out here in this new, ongoing autobio strip I do on my blog called “Los Angeles Ink Stains.” You can see them at www.foodoneart.blogspot.com
“I get to wake up everyday whenever I want, I rock out and listen to loud music all day, and paint and draw. It’s the shit, really.”
Format: The Colt45 project was (in my opinion anyway) one of the better illustration-based campaigns of last year, one thing I really liked about it was that it hinted at what might happen if your work was animated… I know it’s something you’re keen on doing and I’m wondering if there’s any projects coming up that might bring life to any of your work?
FOOD ONE: Yep, I’m working on that. Something is going to happen soon. That’s all I can say for now.
Format: Is there a medium that you want to experiment in that you haven’t been able to get around to yet? How do you see your work evolving in the future? Is it planned or pretty much fly by the seat of your pants?
FOOD ONE: It’s by the seat of the pants, of course. I am conscious of having the work morph, change, tweak, and evolve, though. I’m trying to push the level and acquire new skills. It’s a challenging situation, but the thing I like is that I keep surprising myself with what I’m doing and I don’t know what’s next. Who knows what my art will look like in five years? I don’t know but I’m definitely curious. It’s going to be a
cool little journey.
Format: Whatâ€™s your favourite food? “You’re stranded on a desert island and a crate of ___________” shows up… What is it?
FOOD ONE: Porn?