Earlier this week, we released three new prints by Jason Wasserman that feature classic scenes of Montreal. From the Lachine Canal, to the Theatre Snowdon to the Turcot Interchange, Wasserman depicts various neighborhoods of the city in a illustrative, comic-book style. With the launch of these new prints, we thought it was time to uncover the story of the Montreal artist.
Tell me a bit about yourself. I see that Montreal shows up in your work a lot. Are you a born and raised Montrealer?
I have a cynical but sincere sentimentality towards Montreal. I grew up in Ville St-Laurent but also in my grandparents' clothing store on Mont-Royal Avenue. It was called Maison La Belle Renée. It was there for more than 50 years, in the heart of the plateau. Being a third generation Jewish anglophone in a francophone province, I developed a strong identity as a Montrealer. I've been exploring that in my artwork lately, glamorizing it while poking fun, with that vintage crumbling architecture vibe. Typical nostalgic Montrealer waiting for the expos to come back.
What led you to a career in art?
Spiderman! I drew so much Spiderman as a kid. I know all kids do, but I was just obsessed. Especially the webs. I tried to make it as good as the McFarlane webbing – which is still amazing to this day. And then there were those very useful unpopular years in high school and CEGEP. I got endless practice as I just drew all the time. Becoming a fine artist was what I really wanted to do, but it seemed like a pipe dream, so I studied 'Design Art' in university, hedging my bets on being able to do any type of design, not just illustration. In the beginning, I was working commercial jobs to fund my personal work. Over time, I saw my self-initiated projects and my contracts were feeding off each other nicely. Clients would request versions inspired by my weird personal projects for their ad or t-shirt and vice-versa, as illustration, graphics and screen-printing began to influence my style and subject matter in fine arts.
What is your creative process?
I used to just sit and draw. Go with the inspiration. I am not that romantic anymore. I spend way more time thinking and researching before I start sketching. Asking myself the question "Who is this for? Why would they want to put this up in their living room?" It might sound too restrictive, but it’s the contrary. I like having a clear direction within which to be creative. In the end, I understand more what the art means for me and for the people who enjoy my work enough that they are excited to live with it in their house. Of course I have my own obsessions and my own style, but you don’t need to think about that when you're working, it comes out whether you like it or not.
There is a strong illustrative/comic book style in your work. What are some of your most significant influences?
Charles Burns is probably the biggest single influence. Black Hole seemed to crystallize a style I had been working towards for a long time. I studied his lighting technique, particularly for hair. Man, that Charles Burns hair is too good. There are lots of other influences too like Kirby and Miller and Giant. The Montreal scene has had a big impact on me, particularly working with En Masse over the last few years. There's some incredible talent that EM works with. And creating in such close collaboration, you really have to be on your game, you bounce stuff off each other and that helps to take it to the next level.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
I’m working on a new set of prints that will be the French continuation of Journey into Montreal. It's a more vintage movie poster style, celebrating the city's salacious side. I'm also developing another image series that could be described as pulp illustrations for manliness.
Jason Wasserman's comic book style is an aesthetic loved by all. Check out more work by the art here.