Living the "Artist Life" - meet Jourdon Gullett
© Jourdon Gullett/Bluetown
2006 Academy Illustration graduate Jourdon Gullett is a full-time, working artist; instructor; part-time artistic director for custom skateboard and apparel company Bluetown; and lives, sees and experiences art in everything he does. Learn more about this committed Chicago artist and his path to happiness.
“The very first time I had Jourdon in class, I saw he had a unique, mature and creative vision,” explained Instructor Michael (Misha) Goro. “His work is edgy, expressive and built on a solid foundation.”
Artist Becomes Instructor
Upon graduating from the Academy in 2006, Jourdon began working at Gallery 37 with the After School Matters program, helping high school students with various art projects. He started as an intern with his former Academy instructor, Misha Goro. He was promoted to an assistant instructor and eventually to the position of lead instructor. Students gain valuable experience with graphic design, mosaic murals, painted murals, furniture painting, and painting and drawing classes. To attract more students, Jourdon recommended in 2010 offering a painting class where skateboards would be used as the canvas.
In 2010, Jourdon and Jesse Nuehaus (who founded Chicago-based Bluetown in 1996, began a collaboration to bring back Bluetown Skateboards. The idea was to have all graphics created by local artists and have professional printing done by a California-based company, Generator. In 2012, Jourdon and Jesse formalized their relationship. With Bluetown Skateboards, LLC, Jesse runs business-related matters and Jourdon manages everything related to art and events.
A Labor of love
The edgy company is still very Chicago focused and has yet to make big money; in fact, its four to six employees don’t receive any compensation. All profits are reinvested in the company.
“We all more or less do this for fun right now, outside of our regular jobs,” explained Jourdon. “We set it up so that everyone gets a share of the company. Our goal is to show that there is a dedicated community behind the company.”
While most customers are from the Midwest and the Chicago area, Bluetown also sells skateboards in New York and Los Angeles.
Jourdon explains that Bluetown is open to investors interested in a Midwest skateboard company. He says that, with the exception of Affiliate Skateboard Company, which closed in 2011, there is no other skateboard company in the Midwest.
Bluetown recently collaborated on a new skateboard with Hiroshi Sawada, a world-famous coffee barista from Tokyo. The company will be releasing the new board graphic this spring. Most of them will be sold in Tokyo.
Gaining Artistic Traction Outside of Skateboards
Other positions that have kept Jourdon busy since graduating from the Academy include:
· 2006-2008: Worked as the designer/printer for a print shop in Rogers Park – Fast Track Printing.
· 2007: Merchandise Mart. Handled art.
· 2009-2012: Chicago Public Schools. Delivered art supplies.
· 2008: Humboldt Exhibition. Co-curated exhibits.
· 2010-2012: Johalla Projects. Started/sold art at a Wicker Park gallery.
· 2011-present: Bluetown Skateboards. Artistic director/Illustrator/co-owner.
· 2012-present: Solemn Oath Brewery. In-house illustrator.
· 2012-present: Freelance mural, design, and illustration work for clients, including: Waste Management, Kumas Corner, Hogsalt, Anchorless Records, Asian Man Records, Gallery 37, character skateboards, Uprise Skateshop and several other small businesses.
Make Your Passion Your Life
“I’ve always felt art and life should be fun,” explained Jourdon. “The more I can integrate the two, the happier I am. It’s that simple. My home doubles as a gallery, if that gives you any idea.”
Jourdon explains how he enjoys his free time: “The summer offers endless cook outs, skateboarding, riding my bike, and/or the occasional ‘80s nights at NEO. As for the winter, I’m often meeting friends at local dives and snowboarding. Of course, I’m also constantly creating.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever met an artist who is so successful at integrating his art-making with his lifestyle and personality,” commented Jourdon’s former instructor and Illustration Dept. Co-chair Tom Herzberg. “Jourdon’s work was always clever and well executed. He’s smart and always tried to solve illustration problems by employing his personal style.”
In Jourdon’s Own Words
What are the top three things you liked about the Academy?
Small classes, close relationships with instructors and the work ethic the Academy instills. You have to work a lot to get decent, then a lot more to get good… and so on.
What advice would you offer someone considering pursuing art and attending an art school?
The Academy will push you to become a better artist. By the time you graduate, you’ll likely have a close group of friends who are just as motivated as you are to continue on to the next phase of your life as a working artist.
What artist(s) inspire you the most?
Skinner, Mike Giant, Dennis McNett, Egon Schiele, Jean Michel Basquiat, Frank Frazetta, Ed “big daddy” Roth, and a few Chicago artists: Cody Hudson, Chris Silva, and Jeff Zimmerman. I see great art and think, ‘I wish I would have thought of that!’
Jourdon grew up in Woodstock, Illinois, and now resides in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. After Graduating high school in 2002, his mother pushed the idea of his attending the Academy. Jourdon explains that his father was an “excellent draftsmen; when he was younger, he used to paint custom motorcycles. We have recently collaborated on a few motorcycle gas tanks.”
Learn more about Jourdon here: http://jourdon.tumblr.com/and http://instagram.com/jourdon#