"There once was a cat that planted a tree in his brain." So begins multimedia artist Randy Jamison's third animated short. The Cat--a squiggly drawing of a drooling boy without pants and with a hole in his head--sprouts a tree, which is eventually removed with the boy's brain and eyeballs still entwined in its knotted roots.
"There's something I just love about drawing holes in things. I don't know why it is," explained Jamison, smirking. "It could be that there's just something in there, and I don't know what it is, and that's the portal to it. My three favorite things to draw are eyeballs, holes and barf."
In high school, The Cat was one of Jamison's favorite figures to sketch. On 3-by-5 notecards he chronicled the character's absurd adventures, eventually animating a few of the comics. Though Jamison has been out of high school for more than 15 years--and is the founder of Curious Media, a successful interactive agency in Nampa, as well as a husband and father of two--his work retains a playful mischievousness.
"He's always got big poppin' eyeballs coming out, almost Ren And Stimpy-ish kind of stuff," said Flying M Coffeehouse gallery co-curator John Warfel. "You can always see the little hairs. It's not gross, but it's kind of like, 'eww' ... He takes what would normally be a cutsey-looking thing and adds a little edge to it."
On First Thursday, Sept. 2, Jamison will exhibit a collection of new ink and watercolor illustrations at Flying M Coffeehouse. While some might be unfamiliar with Jamison's work--he's kept a low artistic profile over the past decade due to family and work constraints--Warfel insists he's one of our underappreciated local greats.
"Though he hasn't been out much, he's one of the old-school guys that a lot of people knew about from back into the '90s ... the Ben Wilsons of the world know who he is even though a lot of other people don't," explained Warfel.
Jamison got his art start in 1993 at the now defunct Canyon Gallery in Nampa.
"Lars Justinen, he owned the Canyon Gallery and donated his space for the high school studio art class," said Jamison. "I showed there, and five out of six of my pieces sold."
Justinen continued to nurture Jamison's budding artistic talent, eventually hiring him on to work at his agency, Justinen Creative Group. While Jamison cut his teeth learning web design and animation, he continued to exhibit his artwork, showing in places like the Phantom Gallery, Coffee News, Koffee Klatsch and even Boise Art Museum.
"He was a very talented guy when he first started out," said Justinen. "He was right off the streets, kind of didn't know much about stuff, but he had a funky alternative way of looking at stuff that was very creative."
Jamison's latest collection of work retains some old motifs--eyeballs and holes--but also explores some more complex mathematical and visual concepts. One piece features a boxy-looking truck with a giant tailpipe, which plays with the viewer's perceptions of dimension.
"I've been explaining it as the reverse of 3-D, or 'art for Cyclops' ... Instead of it being 3-D where it sticks out, it actually sticks in ... I think it's the trickery that's so interesting to me. It's not exactly what it appears to be," said Jamison.
Other pieces that will adorn the walls at Flying M through September include "Untitled," a dream-like cityscape with a suspended sleeping boy in an orange onesie and Scaredy Cat, which features a white-pencil drawing of a frightened Coraline-meets-Sock-Monkey feline.
"He has a playful, sophisticated-primitive style that is a little off the beaten path that really plays to a philosophy that I think both of us share, which is, at the end of the day, most adults are just children that are boring," said Justinen. "And he creates interesting visuals that are not boring."
In addition to working on this new collection of illustrations, Jamison also has a number of professional irons in the fire. Curious Media recently secured Disney as a client and has been doing website design for Phineas and Ferb, among other projects. Jamison is also working with toy celeb Caleb Chung (responsible for the Furby and Pleo) and a Chinese company to produce a pet camera/laser-beam device that can be controlled via the Internet.
"The guy that was responsible for buying Caleb's last toy company, Pleo, was looking for a device that fit both the pet and tech markets ... He invited us to come to China, and we went and met with the owner of this manufacturing plant there," said Jamison. "They have something like 400,000 employees."
And that's a pretty big break for a guy who prides himself on his barf drawings. Lucky for us, even with Jamison's rising professional success, he still finds time to scribble a hole or eyeball here and there.
"He has all these crazy cool ideas. I guess DaVinci built catapults and Randy builds laser cat toys and little robot things," said Warfel. "He's got one of those minds that is just all over the place."