Forms and Lines: a Conversation with Case Jernigan

4-4, cut paper, 2014, 20×16 inches.
When two players go head-to-head, or shin-to-shin, during a 50/50 challenge, it doesn’t always end pretty. Flashbacks of Luis Montes and Segundo Castillo’s horrific clash in Texas last summer are conjured up. But every once in a while a David Luiz or a Cristiano Ronaldo will tilt the scales in grace’s favor and offer up something serendipitously harmonious for us to enjoy. Off-Foot is one of those instances. Case Jernigan is the creative mind behind this effort and it’s beautiful vignettes of the beautiful game. Not your typical soccer-salivating stylist, Case approaches this combo in a way that is somehow both traditional and innovative. While many have conceded possession of this expressive task to mediocrity, Jernigan comes out on top. Simply put, his stuff is really good. We spoke with him via email.

Maradona and Hands of God, cut paper, 2014, 12×9 inches.
P&O: Case, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. By the looks of your work, you seem to be very aware of what you’re doing, so I’ll try to engage you the best I can without it becoming totally apparent that this is the first interview Post & Out has ever conducted. No pressure…

C.J.: I’m ready, let’s do this.

P&O: Please tell me about yourself. Where are you from? How did you become involved in football and art, respectively, and when did the two finally meet for you?

C.J.: I’m from Charleston, South Carolina.  I grew up playing soccer and watching the Charleston Battery, a small pro team nearby, with my Dad and brother. Tennis occupied my thoughts through high school and college, but my soccer awareness and interest was well and truly re-ignited when I moved to New York five years ago. I joined a soccer league on a whim and couldn’t believe what I’d been missing.  I started playing multiple times a week and rekindled an old interest in Newcastle United.

As for art, I’ve always made art. I remember one of my first possessions was a kids table with rolls of paper that could clamp down over the surface for drawing.  I remember making drawings in elementary school and trading them for whatever junk kids liked then.  Pogs? Maybe X-Men cards.  I studied art in college and grad school, specifically painting.  About a year ago I began to make small drawings of footballing moments or personalities.  Specifically Alexi Lalas and the mythos of the early US players like Cobi Jones and Brian McBride serve as major influences in what I make.  I had so many Umbros.  Sooo many. This past World Cup and the excitement and belief spurred on by Klinsmann and some of our promising young talent really got my creative faculties jumping, so I made a lot of work in the buildup to the tournament.

Landon Celebrates, ink, collage, cut paper, 2014, 18×14 inches.
P&O: In a way it’s a relief to have discovered your work. With the advent of the Internet, the intersection of football and visual art has really expanded in recent years, which is great, but most contributors seem to focus on digital design. While your work provides great examples of design, what stands out is the handmade look. Is this only a digital aesthetic or do you actually produce your artwork manually? Can you talk about and elaborate on your undertaking?

C.J.: Everything I work on is handmade.  For cutouts I use a Nepalese paper with beautiful texture.  All of the drawings are ink, charcoal, or graphite on paper- I don’t use any digital techniques.  Recently Matisse’s famous cutouts were displayed at the MoMa here in New York, and I love the way they exhibited the pieces.  The striking blue nude was hung next to its previous incarnations.  The first is ragged and sharp in some places, like a patchwork experiment, while the final image is crisp and more graphic.  You can see how his mind worked through the image from beginning to end.  It seems that a lot of football illustration or design out there is interested in recognizability and final product.  This is great for catching people’s attention, but I’m always going to be more focused on process and engagement with the materials and subject matter.  My pieces (hopefully) always look and feel better in person than they do reproduced online or in a magazine.

P&O: Many of your pieces are focused on particular players or events. How do you choose the subject or topic for a new piece? Do you support a certain club or national team that influence you most?

C.J.: I’m a sucker for nostalgia..  I spent the summer of 2006 in Italy and Germany during the World Cup.  This was a huge coming of age summer for me, so I can’t help but associate Klose, Totti, Nedved, and McBride directly with my travels, art viewing, beer swigging, and general merriment of that time.  When I make art related to specific memories I do a little bit of time travel myself.  In the ’90s there was a great commercial with footballers battling demons for the fate of the beautiful game.  Cantona rips a shot through the chief demon’s torso and everyone celebrates.  It was great. Ridiculous, but great.  I’m a huge Newcastle supporter as well as a supporter of the US National team.  Newcastle haven’t given the fans much to write home about in the past couple of seasons, but I do recall the 4-4 with Arsenal as being one of the most outrageous and entertaining games I’ve ever seen.  New York is full of Arsenal fans, I took pleasure in their misery.

Cruyffs, ink on paper, 2014, 16×20 inches.
P&O: Returning to the matter of the intermingling of football and art, it would seem that although the two have always shared common ground, in more recent years the focus has shifted more toward the art side. This is not to say that the football aspect has been neglected, but rather that the art aspect has evolved so much. Could you talk about this as well as the role that the Internet has played and what you project to be the future of art and football?

C.J.: I think that the range of football art is broad.  On one end, there’s Keith Coventry, who has made abstract paintings that feature incredibly specific titles related to football and history that are engaging and funny at the same time.  For example, “Single Roman, Single Luton Fan” shows two curious red circles.  It cracks me up.  It’s unconventional football art that is super specific to the artist.  It’s more than football art.  On the other end, with the instant accessibility of instagram and other platforms, we are used to being inundated with imagery and design based on what’s happening at this very moment.  James had a bug on his shoulder.  Cristiano is mad at Gareth Bale.  I think this type of approach to art making can be fun but also dangerous, as the artist hasn’t perhaps had enough time to digest and distill his or her own ideas into something unique or individual.  Perhaps herein lies also the line between illustration and art, which can be fuzzy.  I can’t predict the future, but I do think some publications out there, like Howler, are trying to make visuals that require a ‘longer look.’  Give yourself time to investigate the piece or design and you’ll find further details.  There is more under the surface, and it seems that many football fans in the US are hungry for that type of approach.  What do I know, though?  What I DO know is that my best work is my most personal, so I’ll keep going there.

P&O: Thank you very much again for your time. We really appreciate you sharing your thoughts and work with us all. Cheers.

For more of Case Jernigan’s work, visit Off-Foot.com, and check him out on Intagram and Twitter using @off_foot.

Interview conducted via email between 13 March, 2015 and  16 March, 2015. All artwork pictured is that of Case Jernigan.

Edited 12 May, 2015.

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