In Geoff McFetridge’s light-filled studio in the Atwater neighbourhood of Los Angeles, the artist and designer has a stack of sketchbooks that is, he estimates, “probably over five feet tall”. These date back to the beginning of his career some two and a half decades ago. “There is a sort of weird old-man filing system,” he jokes, shuffling through them. “In some ways, I have a terrible memory, but then I can remember something that happened in these books years later, and I can go back and look at it and see what it was really like.”
He picks a sketchbook up, seemingly at random, and leafs through it. Each page has been roughly divided up into a series of panels, and each panel contains its own sketch. Looking at them in sequence, it’s clear that each sketch shows a slight progression compared to its predecessor; sometimes just a tiny detail has changed, other times, it’s a more obvious conceptual shift. “One thing leading to the next to the next to the next,” Geoff says. “For me, it’s like getting outside of yourself. Or you could say it’s like an inner journey. How do you go deeper within yourself? It’s an incremental journey, from the first thing to the hundredth.”
What emerges from his “filing system” is a clear sense of the ideas and concerns that Geoff has been preoccupied with over the years. Sometimes, he says, when looking for inspiration during a project, he’ll return to an older sketchbook, open it up and be stunned: “It’ll be the exact same stuff. Like, I’ll have drawn the same thing for ten years.”
There certainly are recurring themes in his work. In fact, recurrence and repetition are themselves important (not just for his repetitious creative process). For his 2016 show, The Quiet Of Not Listening, at V1 in Copenhagen, he wrote about what it would be like to walk along a Möbius strip. “It would be an infinite wander,” he said. “The continuousness, ending up in the same place as where you started, is recurring in what I do.”
Yet this does a disservice to the sheer range of work that Geoff produces. His practice is difficult to categorise, bridging those often-artificial gaps between illustration, graphic design and art. His list of clients includes some of the biggest brands in the world, but the outputs are equally as diverse and impressive – he has made animations for Apple and The New York Times; designed shoes for Nike; painted a mural for Warby Parker; and illustrated covers for magazines. But then, almost half of his time is spent methodically applying acrylic paints to canvases.
What unites all his work is an understanding of the power of images – their ability to communicate complicated ideas in an instant, but also their capacity for confounding us and presenting us with a puzzle. As he said in this interview (carried out over a year ago, before the pandemic struck), his paintings aim for this ideal: “It’s such a long paragraph. But it’s just one image.”
To read the interview visit It’s Nice That
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