Fly fishing can be beautiful… and fly fishing can be badass. It can be both, and Jake Keeler’s artwork represents that. Jake was gracious enough to allow us to conduct an interview with him to talk about himself and his art work. First, here’s a quick little bio from Jake before we get started.
“Hailing from Minnesota, I enjoy making art, fly-fishing, listening to metal and above all, hanging with my family and close friends. My work is a result of formal art education, combined with experiences and activities in various counter cultures.
My drive to make art is natural, as is the drive to spend time on lakes, oceans and in rivers; I’m just trying to share those high frequencies through the art I make and life I live.”
DH – I’m gonna come right out and say it. Your Necromancer series pretty much embodies what my nightmares are like when I get skunked. Some kind of demonic monster showing me the fish that got away and not letting me have it. Does your interest in the macabre stem from the metal or do you have some kind of deeper connection to that sort of imagery?
JK – It’s all from a childhood of D & D, metal, bad sci-fi/fantasy movies, comics and generally cool shit I guess. I try not to over think those influences, because from 5 to 38, there has been a ton of potential factors. The perception that the skulls and so forth evoke the macabre is held by the beholder (in your case, the dreamer) – skulls are just another part of the animal, human or otherwise. Humans have such an amazing way of fetishizing and projecting our ideas onto images and objects…I’m certainly playing with that.
DH – As a Minnesotan, I suspect your winters are much like Cleveland’s, heavy on the snow and seemingly never-ending. How do you keep yourself busy/sane in the winter months?
JK – Yeah, Winters in MN can be brutal. It’s severely colder here vs. other places in the U.S. during the Winter…that’s the real grind. Having a healthy outlet is critical; art has always served that purpose when needed for me.
DH – Your works, especially the necromancers, seem to be very pike/musky heavy. Dare I ask if you have a favorite species? And more specifically, is there something about that species that inspires you to recreate them in your art?
JK – Smallmouth. I like drawing smallmouth because they rule.
DH – The next question I ask is for purely selfish reasons… Do you do tattoos? I could name about 5 of your works that I would totally get tattoos of. Especially Burial Ground and Risen. Recently, I read about an artist being upset that their work, or at least an approximation of it, was recreated by a tattoo artist. I had never thought about how that scenario would play out but I’m curious what your take on that is?
JK – I’m not a tattoo artist myself, but people have had work tattooed on themselves before, and I’ve done a few design for people (not recently).
I think I know the incident you’re rapping about…I do have some thoughts on that, and I’ll try to distill is down to some broad points:
- If you share your work on the internet, expect everything. That is the double-edged sword of the game. People have been biting style forever. So, it will happen, and then it will happen again.
- I don’t know the specific details around the affair, but tattoo artists recreate drawings, sketches, photos, etc that clients bring in every day. I’ll take a wild guess that most don’t ask “hey, do you have permission to get that tattooed on your left butt cheek?” They need to make their living as well…
- Someone thought the image was dope, obviously– take it as a complement. If I want to promote my work, I consider it my job that people know that I’m the maker of those images…if someone out there sells prints of my shit and claims it’s theirs, good luck and more power to you. When your customers learn it was actually made by me, too bad for you I guess. I don’t have the time or energy to police the internet (see point 1).
- EVERYTHING I just stated hinges on the fact that I don’t sell my work much, and I’m not making my living off my art, I can be flippant and/or nonchalant to these kinds of issues. If I was making my living off my artwork, I would likely have a different position.
DH – That was about as thorough an answer as I could have hoped for. I myself don’t have the time or equipment, but DoubleHauled’s coauthor Andy is a big home brewer. Do you have any favorite styles to brew? Anything specific you like to drink when you’re painting/fishing/tying?
JK – Ha! Yeah, low ABV stuff, or Gin and Tonics. Occasionally a good Scotch.
DH – Oh I can’t do tonic. Tastes like a trip to the dentist. Beer or whiskey for me. I know you’re affiliated with several brewing associations. Do you work for a specific brewery or are you just a big brewing advocate? I’m curious about your day job.
JK – I’ve been working in the craft beer and homebrewing industry for the last 10 years or so. Worked at a homebrew retailer for about 7 years, did this thing called Brewing TV, and now I’m the Director of Marketing for BSG (Brewers Supply Group) – we sell ingredients to brewers, retailers, wineries, cider makers and craft distillers all over North America. I’ve been there a bit over 2 years. Currently I’m a Governing Committee member of the American Homebrewers Association Governing Committee, and a Board member on the Brewers Association BOD as well. So…yeah, jowl deep in beer industry. Keeps me extremely busy, but I thoroughly enjoy the job, the industries/markets I work in, the communities, and the people; I’m fortunate to have found a career, and a company that keeps me engaged and treats me well. It’s a not a bad way to make a good livin’.
DH – You mentioned in your bio your experiences in counter cultures. I was actually a skateboarder for over 16 years (till my knee went bye bye) and was really involved with the subculture around it. When I couldn’t skate anymore, I picked up fly fishing and found that the subculture of fly fishing had remarkable similarities to the skateboarding community that I frankly didn’t expect to find. Obviously you’re into art, brewing, and fly fishing, which all contain within them aspects of what you could call counter culture. What do you think the connection is between these interests from your perspective?
JK – Great point…something that seems to come up a lot with the 30-40 yr old fly fishing crowd I’m a part of here in MN, and I’m guessing the thread is common everywhere. Basically, I think these kinds of folks find themselves crossing paths because on some level, we all like making stuff, doing stuff and in the process of that stuffiness, we like to get better at the stuff, or at the very least see where the path goes even if we don’t get “better” at it.
We’ve all discovered that these activities can become lifestyles, and in that, they help give purpose and meaning to what we’re up to here on Spaceship Earth (credit the Illusion on that one).
Shit is deep.
DH – Haha, mind blown. That’s an exceptional answer. Do you ever tie your own flies? That seems to be a whole other subgroup of its own, even though it’s obviously connected to the act of fishing. Personally, I feel like it gives me a great creative outlet either by creating new patterns or changing up old ones.
JK – I do, but I don’t consider myself a “fly tier”. I think that’s what you’re noodling at, right? I think it is a thing onto itself. I’d rather draw than tie, but sometimes there is nothing better than rocking out a good pattern and then having success with it on the water. That’s a pretty awesome feeling that fly fishing can deliver in spades.
DH – I noticed on your blog that although you occasionally sell originals or do commissions, you also do trades. I’m curious, what are some of the more unique trades you’ve made for your art work?
JK – Frankly, it’s mostly art…nothing odd or exotic.
DH – Boo. I was hoping for a Winnebago or something. So we talked the other day briefly about your online store no longer being up and running. When can we expect to be able to purchase some of your work in the future?
JK – I really have no desire to sell work or do commissions right now. I want to focus on making work. If I do sell a piece, or the rights to an image, I want it to be significant. I started to feel this more and more over the last year, which is why I took my online store down; I didn’t want to sell reproductions anymore. It’s also why I turn down 90% of requests for commissions and/or rights to use my images.
Down the road I’d love to get the work back into galleries, and work that circuit again. Maybe get represented and let someone else sell my originals; I need a distributor. Also, I’d love to work with a print-shop someday and do some custom/limited run screen prints or etchings.
That all said, I’m super happy making my cash-money in the beer biz and making art however, whenever, whatever – I never want to lose that freedom to say “fuck it”.
DH – And finally a fun question to part with. You can’t mention metal in your bio without me asking for some of your favorite bands. And go…
JK – I’ll give you one: Clutch. They get lumped into metal, although they’re hard rock to the core. Can’t seem to stop listening to them lately. Such a great catalog of songs. Excited for their new album to drop soon.
DH – Ah yes, I’ve seen them several times. They seem to come to Cleveland a lot cause there have been several times when I missed a show as well. They’re definitely one of those bands that’s just somewhere between genres, almost to the point of being their own thing. Hard to define them.
Well thanks so much for giving us some of your time and keep up the awesome work. Hope to see some of your art for sale again soon and if you ever want to visit Cleveland, we’d be happy to take you around to our many breweries and go steelhead fishing in our local rivers.
JK – Thanks to you guys for the opportunity to share a bit about my work. I’d love to grab a beer and some chrome in Cleveland sometime….cheers!
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