Ted McGrath.

“My studio is on the fifth floor of an old industrial building that was once the Eberhard-Faber pencil factory in Greenpoint Brooklyn. I share the space with designer/art director (and girlfriend) Kim Bost, and there’s a slew of other super talented artists, illustrators and designers in the building, as well as a silk screening business, a large mail order music retailer, several record labels and a mastering engineer to name just a few. There’s a certain, for lack of a less cornball way to put it, “positive vibe” to the place that makes it a really rewarding and inspiring workspace.”

Ted McGrath lives and works in Brooklyn. He and Kim Bost work together as JMBOTRN. When not doing all that he does this. His clients include:  MTV Networks, The New York Times, New York Magazine, TIME Magazine, WIRED, Glamour, Plan Sponsor, Chicago Magazine, The Deal, Business Week, Texas Monthly, WestWayne / 22 Squared, The Village Voice, Cottage Life, Complex, Globe Investor, BUST, NYLON, Men’s Health, The Howard Hughes Medical Bulletin, and Maclean’s among others. (photos by Sam Weber)

FROM YOUR DESKS: How do you work? 
TED McGRATH: With commissioned illustrations, I start with a rough sketch to work out how the “graphic” elements are going to work together. From there I get into the mess of the thing, getting the “feel” right monkeying around with textures and materials, treating those graphic components in different ways – “Does this iceberg look better as scratchy ball point pen thing or a painted element that gets taped in?”  I’m currently spending more time on big drawings that get pretty abstract, but even with those there’s at least a proportionately hazy sketch in place to refer back to. The older I get the more I understand the value of a “map” – even if it’s drawn with a blunt crayon on the back of a greasy place mat or something like that…
It’s kind of like owning the best pair of Clark Kent glasses ever – 
FYD: How are in-house jobs different from your past assignments? 
TM: I’m currently working at an in-house design job and it’s pretty great. It’s something that’s going to go on essentially in perpetuity in some form or another (designing/producing a monthly clothing catalog). It’s almost endless in scope, which is great for any number of a million reasons. It’s kind of like owning the best pair of Clark Kent glasses ever – you do this job during the bulk of the day that’s still engaging your brain in a pretty fun environment and you’re working alongside friends. The financial stability that comes along with it is super refreshing.  It’s been great to be a little more choosy with what editorial gigs I take on, as well as being able to make work that I’m really excited about without having to worry about “Well if my editorial clients see these weird big drawings are they going to think I’ve lost my mind? and if so, how am I going to eat?” Weirdly, it’s thrilling and genuinely freeing in ways that maybe aren’t apparent on the surface.
FYD: What is the most inspiring thing you have seen this past month? 
TM: A friend sent me a link to this brief YouTube video of Philip Guston working in his studio alongside a National Gallery profile. The en masse influence of Guston on much of my generation can’t be overstated, both the painter and even the commentary make a lot of good points:I love watching artists work. I just watched Athens, GA: Inside and Out– a great documentary from 1987 about the art and music scene in Georgia. You’re getting a glimpse of the twilight of it, a sense that you’re witnessing the fade on that particular localized electrical storm of creativity.
A Cy Twombly painting or a Saul Steinberg drawing or a Marx Brothers movie…

FYD: You seem to embrace humour in your work. Any media or outside influences helped tap into this? 
TM: I’ve always been into absurd humor; things that are just somehow inherently funny by nature, or make less sense the more you question them.  I’ve grown to appreciate how you can use humor on multiple levels to make a more serious point or illuminate a subject in a different light, wrap it in different layers. I love that in art – be it a Cy Twombly painting or a Saul Steinberg drawing or a Marx Brothers movie or a Thomas Pynchon novel or Brian Eno or Roxy Music or James Brown or Eddie Cochran or whatever slice of rock n roll pop culture…that idea of subversive humor inflected “cool.” While I definitely don’t come close to anyone I just mentioned in terms of mastery of that particular art, it’s something to aspire to, and be inspired by.
FYD: Are you a loose leaf paper or graph paper fan?   
TM: I have a serious graph paper habit. I can’t explain it and I’ve been trying really hard to avoid it lately, it’s starting to feel like a crutch. Maybe because the paper is sort of “pre-drawn”? Somebody has already “started” so it’s a less intimidating surface? I’ve been into high quality paper for the first time since I was forced to buy it in art school, there really is such a pleasant feel to quality paper. I’ve been using tablets from NY Central Art Supply called clay coat paper that have such a smooth surface for inks and it doesn’t absorb much so you can get these amazingly nuanced tonal scales.
FYD: Do you see your work evolving?
TM: I’ve been doing these big drawings with ink and spray paint that are pretty removed from the work I have on my website. The spray paint has been great to work with because it’s so completely unwieldy – there’s no way not to be loose with it, and it interacts with the paper and inks in really weird ways. Rauschenberg had a quote about the necessity of treating your materials like conscious collaborators (I’m sure I just butchered even the paraphrasing there) and these pieces have been the deepest I’ve gotten into that mentality with the best results. There’s definitely not enough of them that are good enough for public consumption yet, but I’m excited to start hustling for shows later this year.
Ted’s Blog is here and on Twitter you catch the wave here.

Leave a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *