JJ Cromer

Interview and Online Gallery

What was your inspiration for “We’ll Find a House to Warm”? Can you tell us about the black and gold figures intertwined in the center? What are the markings that look like words above the figures?

A combination of my imagination and a story I read about an aging polyamorous community.  My image is a depiction of an intimate network of spontaneous, like-minded individuals.  Perhaps they’ve found themselves in an inappropriate spot, maybe not.  The markings are a kind of automatic writing.

I’ve always been fascinated by codes and glossolalia.  My father was a cryptographer in the 1950s, and I grew up in central Appalachia.  I don’t have the mind for cryptography, and I’m not at all religious, but my drawings often let loose with something I don’t understand.  I’m okay with that.


I don’t have the mind for cryptography, and I’m
not at all religious, but my drawings often let loose with
something I don’t understand.  I’m okay with that.


What are the different mediums in “The Nature of Our Partnership”?
Ink, colored pencil, collage.

What music do you listen to when you draw?
Lately it’s been on shuffle.  More rock-and-roll than not.

How many artworks would you estimate you’ve made to date?
I don’t know. I draw everyday, and I have since November 1998.  They’ve piled up.

Any favorite quotes or words of wisdom on life; or, alternatively, especially favorite moments in the Peanuts comic strips?

No, can’t recall any.  We have a two-year-old.  His grandmother gave him some toys made in the 1960s, modeled on characters from the comic strip Pogo.  I’ve been thinking about that opossum and his friends: “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us.”

As a child you wished to be a cryptozoologist. If you had taken that path, which creature or two would you most have hoped to find living, and why?

I never really had a favorite.  Bigfoot, if I had to choose.  The locals – we’re still in central Appalachia — call him the “woodbooger.” Haven’t seen him yet. Friends and family have seen a big cat up there near the cemetery and on the ridge road.  Maybe a mountain lion.  Big cats are also a Fortean favorite.  I haven’t seen him either.

You’ve said that your work is “weedy” in that you find inspiration for new works inside of finished ones — do you take inspiration from the world around you as well? What about some of your more recent works which seem to be political in nature, is that a new source of inspiration for you? If so, why now?

Each piece is a product of my turning rocks over in my brain, as well as looking at the world around me.  I generally lean in the direction of intuition.  I’m reluctant to pin a label on any of my drawings. I think all art is political; IMO it moves to either prop up or tear down.  My current inclination is to tear down, and some of my drawings are more overtly political than others, like “Jump, Chump!” I can’t imagine my work ever being a spear though. I don’t have the skills.  And the folks who do – Sue Coe, for example – are amazing.  In my day-to-day life I try to make good, openhearted liberal decisions.  This certainly influences my parenting choices.  Politically speaking, as an artist, I’m happy to give folks splinters.  But at the very least if the rocks in someone’s brain shift a little as a result of looking at my work, I’m perfectly happy with that.