Meet Young Jerks: an independent brand and packaging studio based in Brooklyn, New York. This five-person team of designers, illustrators, and letterers is behind the art in our newest woodcut collection. 



What was the process of creating the artwork for Parks Project and how did it differ from other projects you’ve worked on?


The process for creating these illustrations started with plenty of research and discovery. Understanding what makes each park special and highlighting those elements gave each illustration a specificity to it that felt authentic to the location and its inhabitants. We love to explore different approaches to our illustrations based on what feeling we want to convey, and with this project in particular, we wanted the illustrations to feel esoteric and folksy in nature because it’s a rare opportunity to work within that artistic space. We wanted the calendar to feel almost handmade with a naive and free feeling that romanticized the primordial aspects of nature. Each scene is loosely connected in a way that alludes to the connections within the ecosystem itself, and the stylization of the creatures and landscapes look as though it was crafted along a riverside with the most basic of tools. 


How and why did you choose the medium for the artwork for this project


We worked mostly digitally with this project in order to make collaboration easier, but we were inspired by the papercut process initially. We loved the handcrafted feel of papercut, but we  aren’t experts in that field of artmaking, so we studied the characteristics of the craft and did our best to emulate what makes that style work so well. Another medium we considered was katazome, which is a Japanese indigo dyeing process using stencils and resist paste to create motifs on fabric. For the sake of efficient collaboration and production, , we did our best to study the process and translate the thinking digitally.


Where did you find inspiration for the artwork?


The inspiration for the artwork stems from each of our years collecting little found bits and pieces on travels and in bookstores. Sometimes we come across a tiny drawing or a weird photo and it speaks to the person inside of us trying to realize themselves. After accumulating so much scrap and songs and art over the years, when we step back and look at it all, we start to see what we yearn for in ourselves

Being outside obviously plays a huge part in Brett’s inspiration as an artist, whether it be through hiking, fishing, or cycling - it all plays a part in his personal view of what he likes to create. He carves and paints these wooden bears that embody both his fear of bears (he’s never seen one before, but they terrify him, almost like a boogeyman character) and they also absorb and represent his fears in general as an artist, friend, person, etc.



How did you choose the national parks that are featured in the artwork?


The parks we chose to illustrate have a beautiful variation to them – the animals, environment, weather patterns, geological features, landmass scale and location. Some of the parks feel more personal while others are on the list to visit. Brett loves The Badlands; Meg was born and raised in Colorado, so we had to include the Rocky Mountain National Park. Dan Christofferson is a Salt Lake City native, which meant Zion had to make the list! Dan Cassaro had recently visited Yosemite, so his mind was fresh with inspiration from that trip. 

A handful are still a mystery, and there’s an exciting challenge to having never visited a park and trying to embody what that park feels like. It becomes a fantasy world in your mind. We can romanticize the grand scale, or the amount of animals we might see, or the sunsets across the landscape, and it inspires us even more because we don’t truly understand it beyond the research online or in books. 


How often do you guys visit National Parks? Can you recall a favorite memory from the parks?


Someone on our team is at a National Park at least once a year, if not multiple times. We aren’t necessarily hobbits, adventuring every single day, but some of us definitely come close (or wish we were out there more often). The National Parks system is a gem in this country, and we all really look forward to any time we get the opportunity to visit one.

For Kelly, Acadia is such a magical place to be in Maine. She grew up frequently vacationing with her family in cabins with zero electricity, and she grew to love Maine's craggy landscapes. One year, they were lucky enough to rent a house on Isle Au Haut, which is home to a portion of Acadia. She was blown away by the landscape, the wild blueberries, the wildness of the trails, and the fact that it is one of the few National Parks that go underwater. She’s been aiming to get back there ever since they left, with scuba gear in hand.


What are your favorite spots in the outdoors?


Brett: My favorite spot in Portland OR has to be Forest Park! It’s a 5000 acre densely Doug Fir forested protected area within the West Hills of Portland, packed with over 70 miles worth of trails weaving throughout. Perfect for afternoon hikes with your dog and gravel biking up and down single and double track all day long, and very easy to access from multiple points in the city. 

Meg: My fave green spot in the city is McGolrick Park, with a Screen Door soft serve ice cream cone in hand!

Dan Christofferson: My favorite green space is Prospect Park. The secret bike trails through the forest I took my son on, and a secret place called The Vale of Cashmere, a hidden corner we could build forts in and make our own park magic.

Kelly: My favorite spot is East Fairmount Park along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. I love scurrying back there after a long slow tour of the Philadelphia Art Museum, sketchbook in hand. It always feels like the perfect solo date to take myself on when I'm feeling like I need to fill my cup.

Dan Cassaro: My backyard full of ancient locust trees and the marsh and the family of foxes that just moved in. The crickets and and frogs at night made me quit the white noise machine cold turkey.



What was the most challenging part of creating the artwork for this collection? And what was the most rewarding?


The biggest challenge within this project was our own desire to try different techniques and styles across an array of multiple illustrations. Of course, whenever we wander outside our comfort zones, we spend a lot of time in a world of curiosity and self-doubt alike. When we went outside our comfort zones across 12 illustrations, we certainly ran into challenges with consistency and learning new things along the way that caused us to rethink previous renditions. Handling this challenge was the reward in itself – going out on a limb and managing to make it all look like we’ve done it before makes for a very satisfying experience. It was a great exercise in the idea of “just keep pushing, keep going, let’s see where we end up” which feels quite poetic considering the subject matter.


Meet Young Jerks: an independent brand and packaging studio based in Brooklyn, New York. This five-person team of designers, illustrators, and letterers is behind the art in our newest woodcut collection. 

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