Ian Grandjean captures the atmosphere of sonic space in his airbrushed artworks

Circling between animation, illustration and fine art, the LA-based creative talks us through his evocative practice.

21 April 2020

Ian Grandjean’s road to becoming an artist has been a pretty interesting one to say the least. From Florida and currently based in LA, when he was young, he became obsessed with a ventriloquist doll, until its mysterious disappearance... The doll doesn’t have much to do with his journey into illustration by the way, it was just a fun anecdotes that felt too good not to include.

He’d always enjoyed drawing and invested in an airbrush after watching Akira, hoping to emulate the golden age of animation. For a few years he tried his hand at experimental animation, but underestimated the effort and cost of a production. “Initially I didn’t understand how expensive and time consuming it was to shoot on film, or that traditional animation relied on a crew of hundreds of people,” he tells It’s Nice That. “I overshot my capability and nearly lost my mind.” And when he was later introduced to the works of Robert Beatty and Killian Eng, Ian felt inspired to try working digitally, something that he’d previously been dubious of.

While studying experimental animation at CalArts, he came across a whole new influx of creatives that have gone on to influence his work. Japanese packaging, World Graphic Design Now, Jon Rafman and Oneohtrix Point Never are just a handful of examples of this period and beyond that took Ian’s fancy. Such atmospheric graphic sensibilities are clearly visible in Ian’s work now – matched with a dose of sonic space and a sprinkling of surrealism about it too. “I engage design elements that signify the scene existing in a time or place outside of the present,” says Ian. In this way, he frequents the subject of the beverage can in his dusky work – utilising the subject as a multi-purpose vessel for exercising his graphic design, typography and packaging skills.


Ian Grandjean: The Growlers

As for his creative approach, he cites a methodology proposed by David Rudnick in four areas. The first requires one to “build work of a depth that is improbably difficult to co opt effectively,” combining craft and concept where the two become mutually inclusive. The second point entails a creative to disavow and distance oneself without apology to “individuals who adopt shallow or cynical models of cultural production.” The third involves supporting others who take the time to build tools for the good of a community, and the fourth, encourages the act of building platforms and communities that can outlive and outreach an individual.

It’s an outlook adopted by Ian across all his creative endeavours. From commercial to personal projects, he expresses a distinct capability to push his practice forwards. Exemplified in his poster design for The Growlers, for this evocative piece, Ian wanted to portray a Rockwell-inspired cover illustration from the late 70s National Lampoon era. Drawing influence from the narrative of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, Ian tells us of the design: “I wanted the audience to experience the work as a film poster,” explains Ian. With this in mind, he would frequently decrease the size of the poster down to a thumbnail to assess the visual semblance of the composition. And luckily for Ian, it certainly worked as the piece caught the attention of the one and only Keith Rankin in a “super fulfilling” connection; Keith is an artist Ian has greatly admired for a long time.

Elsewhere, we can look forward to appreciating Ian’s work as of yesterday (20 April 2020) on Netflix, lo and behold. The venture came out two years ago when Ian attended a small animation screening and was fortuitously sat next to the artist Jesse Moynihan of Adventure Time and Forming fame. Ian shared his work with Jesse, and the two kept in touch, eventually resulting in Ian working as a background painter on Pendelton Ward’s The Midnight Gospel under the art direction of Jesse. “It was one of the most rewarding projects I have participated in,” Ian finally goes on to say of the highly anticipated series. With bags of creative freedom in tow, and now the show is available to view, we can bask in the glory of Ian’s personal style on the big, little screen, and see him almost touching the animation greats he has so looked up to.

GalleryIan Grandjean

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About the Author

Jynann Ong

Jynann joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. She went freelance in 2022.

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