Boomerang, Toonami and pastiche from the past: Jake Terrell on his illustrative approach

The New York-based illustrator talks us through his lates work inspired by old comics and Japanese anime from the 70s and 80s.

28 November 2019
Reading Time
4 minute read

Within the work of New York-based illustrator Jake Terrell soft and fuzzy backgrounds are paired with sharp and detailed figures, while fires and molten lava are doubled up with geometric scenes of colour. It’s a juxtaposed bundle of chaos, but that’s just how we like it.

It’s hard to say when Jake first got into illustration, one thing’s for sure – from a young age, he’s always wanted to integrate the discipline into his life. Despite not knowing that he could pursue it professionally, he continued to champion his passion and knew that drawing, or being creative, was something that he’d always do. “My parents never pushed me to work that hard at being creative or push me to be interested in cartoons and illustration, but when they saw me do it, they supported it,” he tells It’s Nice That. “I feel really like in that sense I was surrounded by people who kept feeding me all of these visual resources.”

With most of his illustration and comic inspiration deriving from his early years, you’d be surprised not to find any cartoon references, pastiched with elements taken from programmes such as Boomerang and Toonami – basically anything stemming from late 80s and early 90s. Then, as he grew older, Jake became fond of anime from the 70s and 80s, “mostly because it was before my time and the aesthetic was so different to what Japanese anime seems to be now,” he says. Identifying a prominent overlap between the aesthetics of European and Japanese comics and illustration, Jake continues to explain how he’d be “lying” if he said that he never considered this aspect within his own work. “I love seeing artists who can so seamlessly blend those styles into something really new.”


Jake Terrell

Jake’s illustration work echo that of an intensive digital process, although he makes sure to use a standard analogue pencil and eraser as much as possible. That’s not to say that he never uses digital techniques and of course he leans – quite heavily – towards the digital side once in a while with his 13” Cintiq held firmly in his hand. “That said, I usually keep pads of different types of paper, a variety of pencils, erasers and Rapidograph pens,” he says. “I’m finding that there is a lot of freedom in drawing straight to a digital interface.” Another aspect that steers him towards a digital method of working is that less waste is produced, yet he’ll still come crawling back because he just “can’t get past the lack of tactility sometimes”. The conclusion to this dilemma is to simply use both, wherever possible – made easy due to the fact that he has regular access to Risograph printers. He adds: “Fortunately I don’t have to own one myself to actually use it, which is a huge relief.”

A recent project that Jake enjoyed applying his illustrative talents towards was that of a mini comic that he published at the Risolab during Wren McDonald’s class at School of Visual Arts, New York. Titled Everything And The Machine, which he refers to as a “silly name”, it's a “vague” story about a “badass girl who drives nice cars”. Jake describes the plot as the middle-part of the story, absent of a beginning nor an end. “It’s just fun to draw the scenes you’d like to see drawn, rather than worry about how the reader is going to interpret it,” he explains. Alongside this, he's started to dabble with design – a new endeavour that he initially thought of as a “completely different world”. Working more frequently in this discipline and in a more spontaneous manner than his illustrations, he’s beginning to realise how the two mediums overlap – “I mean, drawing in general could be considered a form of graphic design.”

As a whole, Jake’s illustration work – and work as a whole – is created with ambiguity. “If there’s anything that I’m trying to stress through my work, it's that narrative comes in many forms and it doesn’t always have to make sense,” he concludes. “Good storytelling is definitely a subjective thing, and my own opinion on that subject changes pretty frequently. But I like to put work out there that might not necessarily fit into one or two specific categories – it’s more fun for me that way, and hopefully that shows up in the work too. I want people to feel that energy when they look at it, even if they don’t necessarily like it that much.”

GalleryJake Terrell

Share Article

About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.