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Jeope Wolfe (pr. JOE-pea) is a boy, and an in-house graphic designer at Ducks Unlimited Canada’s national headquarters outside of Winnipeg, Manitoba. He has worked…nuts to this third-person shtick; I’ve worked here in various capacities since 1998, nowadays primarily designing and overseeing the company’s members-only magazine, Conservator, and its french-language equivalent. In between issues I slog away on internal company requests and other corporate detritus.

I dig what I do, and I’m fortunate to be in the position I am, being where I am. I’m a fan of the whole scene. Show me anything artistic and chances are I’ll appreciate it.

Interests vary widely, including road maps, thunderstorms, taking photos, barbecued meat, vegetarian pizza and lasagna, birds, biking, hiking, exploring and my new house.

And I’m almost 30 years old.

If you’re headed to the Arctic, stop by Winnipeg. I’ll show you around, have a good time.


When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
For a few years in junior high I wanted to be a cartographer, which is close. But realistically, it didn’t happen until I was in college. I was taking an advertising and journalism program. I wanted to be a print journalist, but at the same time we were covering the local police beat (depressing!) we were learning how to create and write TV storyboards in advertising (non-depressing!). So that day I totally switched teams. The following year, majoring in advertising, I worked in conjunction with the design students on mock campaigns and what-not. They seemed to be having even more fun, so I finished up my course and enrolled in the design program. And – with no offense to the field – it just seemed really easy. I had to scratch and claw to get decent marks in journalism and advertising, but I was making the honours list in design almost every term. And getting more sleep.

Who or what inspires you?
I don’t have a hero or nuthin’. No Saul Bass posters on my bedroom ceiling. But seeing kickass work in the CA annuals, online, in publications? That inspires me. When the CA annuals come in the mail – especially the photo annual – it’s like Christmas. I never get tired of checking out good illustrations and photography.

Work from peers inspire me. An element I genuinely miss from school is being able to lean over and see what the next guy’s doing. If it was better, then dammit I wanted to be better. Every spring I attend my college’s graphic design open house. Some of it’s scary-good.

Nature inspires me. It’s design in its purest form. It’s the subject of a lot of my work, and it’s present all the time, all around. It’s perfection.

Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
Red River Community College, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, circa late ‘90s. It may sound small-town lame, but around here it’s where you have to go to gain a foothold in the industry. That’s where the technical training comes from. The basics, at least, in software, but also theory and history. It’s actually a pretty solid program that has pumped out some quite-fine grads.

How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
Fresh? Geez, I don’t know if I can get away with even saying that word. My work is stationed in the middle of a marsh, well out of the city, and the only thing fresh out here is muskrat poop.

So I try and keep tabs on similarly-themed magazines and anything newsworthy in design circles through that Inter-Net dealie. But by and large anything I create comes straight from that area of the brain that recognizes what just makes good visual sense.

What are some of your current projects?
I work in-house, so often times my schedule is set for me weeks or months in advance. Right now it’s fall and that means two things usually: the company’s auction merchandise catalogue and the fall issue of the english and french magazine. For years I’ve been in an incredibly fortunate situation where I get to design a full-colour, 40-page publication, single-handedly, without any external advertising. But that’s changing this issue, and I’m now in a situation where my design whims are no longer the boss – the advertisers are. Can the clean, neatnik designer coexist with the slovenly, brash external ads? Stay tuned (cue theme to The Odd Couple).

Also, I volunteered to build the front and back covers of the next HOWieZine. We’ll see how foolish a decision that was in a couple of weeks. Or not.

Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
I’m mostly proud of my magazine. A few years ago I was given the sole responsibility of putting it together after an unsuccessful stretch of doing it as a team. In my eyes, I’ve never slung together a solid-gold beginning-to-end mag, but I’m definitely proud of many individual page spreads and feature layouts. If this ever happens, it’s usually because the magazine planets align: stellar supplied photography, clever writing, captivating subject matter and maybe a little design epiphany on my part. To wit:

And I’m proud of a few of the things I’ve made as a result of a New Year’s resolution to create something artistic once a week. These hombres come to mind:

Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
I graduated during an awkward time where web design was just starting to become a big deal. And I had a chance to take it during an optional year of the program, but I left to make some money on account of being near-broke. So I know almost dick about that stuff. And I gotta learn someday because it’s advancing further and further away from what I think I could ever begin to comprehend.

In terms of more pure art, I’ve avoided painting. Even painting a wall gives me headaches. I’ve never been an ace flyboy at just getting dirty and making art.

Any advice to the novice designer/illustrator?
My dad’s advice once was to never bring your work home with you. My old boss’ advice was “Relax, you’re not saving babies”. And somewhere in there lies my advice. I abhor stress, so my advice would be to remember what you’re doing for a living, and remember why you chose the path you did. And relax. Always let chips fall where they may.

Also, do something artistic for yourself on a regular basis. Sketch. Take photos. Don’t take your skills for granted, because they fade – unless you’re some freaky prodigy. I was a far better artist in college when I did it every day than I am now. See, I should be following my own advice.

What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
If you’re talking about what makes one of my designed pieces or illustrations successful, I know it when I start drooling. If I’m so involved in a piece that I drool on the paper or keyboard, I know I’m on to something good. It happened with college projects and even recently while crafting submissions for Illustration Friday.

But what makes any design/photo/illustration successful? When you’ve taken something as far as it can possibly be taken. And it sounds simple enough, but 90% of all art in the universe doesn’t achieve this – and I’m guilty as anyone in terms of falling short. Time constraints, budget constraints, management, what-have-you; they’re all obstacles, and the most heinous crime in design is saying “good enough”.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burnout?
I maintain a creative blog. It’s small, cute and honest. I started it as the New Year’s resolution I mentioned because I went through a spell last fall and winter where I had a lot of self-doubt in terms of my skill and passion. A corporate in-house job will do that to a guy, however secure it may be. It’s worked. I still have woe-is-me moments, but it’s coming along slowly. I have a tendency to be pretty hard on myself, and my work.

This year I’ve also started making submissions and contributions to projects and sites like Illustration Friday, PhotoFortnight and the HOWieZine. This allows opportunities to stretch and do stuff not possible in a conservative office environment.

Or I’ll just go outside. It’s what man was meant to do.

And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
Bupkus. Maybe soon it’ll be hockey games. Otherwise, all the good stuff comes on well after prime-time. In Canada, that means shows like The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and The Daily Show.

At any given moment you might also catch me slack-jawed and stuck in cheese like Battlebots, World’s Worst Drivers, Spongebob Squarepants and classic episodes of The Amazing Spider-Man and Looney Toons.

Related Links:

The Conservator archives:

1 comment:

shannon said...

this is the best picture of you!

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