Jacob van Loon is an examiner. He admits that he is the type of guy you will most likely encounter at a gallery, standing painfully close to an artwork, with his nose barely touching the canvas. Examining the visual plane with great attention, van Loon will inhale as much visual inventory as possible without taking a single breath.
Installation Magazine: How did your journey as an artist begin?
Jacob van Loon: In a lot of little ways. My grandpa was in the auto business. I distinctly remember him teaching me how to draw a car in a few steps. He was no illustrator, but that crude representation activated a certain type of perception within me. My car drawings got more intricate once I started making associations between real cars and the simple schematic my grandpa showed me. For a while, step-by-step books were my favorite way of learning how to draw, one very influential book being Bruce McIntyre’s Drawing Textbook. The cover is an illustration of a futuristic utopian city layered with cube-based structures and the words “Drawing means visual communication.”
Installation discovered your work on Tumblr, an outlet that emphasizes McIntyre’s point that “drawing is a visual means of communication.” In what ways has Tumblr helped to communicate your vision?
Showing the details of my work online alongside finished pieces is a simple method to compensate for the constraints of sharing work digitally. Being in a room full of paintings and drawings on the walls is a completely different sensory experience than seeing the same work online. Faithful representation of physical work in printed or digital formats can be difficult to achieve, and I’m often disappointed with the outright lack of effort artists exude in the documentation of their own work.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Precise, processed-based, layered. Created with the notion that I am influenced by imperfect systems, both devised by man and found in nature.
How does your background in graphic design influence your work?
Understanding why design is important enforces different formal aspects of creating visually, whether or not the project is strictly design-based. Working with Anobium Books in Chicago, designing their visual identity and numerous publications over the past two years has been a great opportunity to channel some of the earliest facets of my formal training in the arts. Painting and drawing has taken off for me in some ways over the past three years, but I would hope more design opportunities surface in the future, since my biggest interest right now is working professionally in an environment where both art and design practices are equally recognized.
Does the Schaeffer series signify a pivotal moment in your life?
Pieces I consider part of Schaeffer were projects I started working on towards the end of my time in college in 2011. My illustration work for school was tight and packed with detail, usually in ink and watercolor or finished digitally. Pieces in Schaeffer had more physicality and conceptually were just modeled differently than anything I had worked on before. I don’t think the works in the series were antagonistic or in any way a response to how technical my illustrations were. It was a challenging new process to explore and through Schaeffer, the various avenues I had taken creatively up to that point began to merge.
Syntax is described as a multi-media project that explores identity in an age of social networking. Do you feel that this body of work asserts a sense of self-awareness or identity that was not felt in your earlier bodies of work?
A lingering thought I had that became more of a focus towards the end of last year was about presence. I have followers in several countries as a result of utilizing online tools for self-promotion, but because of that I consider my reputation fragmented and decentralized. For example, it became stranger to me that I had shown work in Texas twice, but remained fairly anonymous in the city of Chicago where I live. It never seemed important to try and get in with a gallery locally and then try to sell work that way, because those opportunities had already manifested while completely bypassing the conventional process of self-promotion. It made sense to create work that focuses on such a modern dichotomy, which I’ve experienced firsthand. Something I’ve also noticed is how people use social networking to control things about their presence and lifestyle that might not otherwise be so materialistically obvious. To make work about how carefully people show themselves to others in a modern social context lent itself to the types of historical situations I’m influenced by.
What processes do you employ in your artwork?
Anything that looks good. I have experimented with some different types of media, and I like to work on projects that can utilize several parts or all of that experience. The process I end up using has to do with whatever works best for the concept.
What’s next? What are you currently working on? Any scheduled exhibits in the works?
I’m creating new works within Syntax and Schaeffer for an upcoming Second Friday exhibit with Error Plain Gallery in Pilsen as well as planning new works for my first solo exhibition coming in January next year in Rogers Park. I’m in the initial stages of creating and possibly editioning a set of “first flower” illustrations, inspired by a chapter from Loren Eiseley’s The Immense Journey. Anobium Books is gathering material for their next release and I’ve started shooting photographic reference material for that project, whenever it may officially start. I’m entertaining the idea of coordinating the release of Anobium’s First Art Book as well, for a Brooklyn-based comic artist. That’s still in the idea stage, but it sounds like a good idea, right?