Geoff McFetridge: Blurring the Line Between Graphic Design and Fine Art
After earning his MFA in the Graphic Design program at CalArts, Geoff McFetridge realized, “I’m not looking for a job. I wanted to do animation, have art shows, and do design projects. My interests are so broad, I’m going to have to invent this career for myself.”
And so he did.
Through his Championship Studio in Los Angeles, McFetridge has amassed an impressive roster of clients, including Pepsi, Nike, Vans, and The New York Times, who love his highly stylized minimalism that blends pop art, modernism, and the DIY aesthetic of California’s skate culture, constantly blurring the line between graphic design and fine art.
He was recently hired by luxury brand Hermès, who gave him the freedom to create whatever he wanted. “Most often, there are no parameters, so I invent parameters,” he says.
“There is this connection to the work,” he continues. “It’s my job to talk to clients and explain to them what you’re going to get. This is directly touching this current of creativity and thinking to all my work. You want to be part of that current.”
Whether it’s an ad or an album cover, McFetridge is always pressing onto new things, new skills, forever “that kind of DIY person.” Instead of focusing on his most recent exhibit in New York, he talks about the short film he’s doing for a Danish clothing company that inspired him to take up wood carving. He happily shows off one of the carvings, a canoe with a sleeping figure in a hoodie, that he’ll float down a river in the film.
The Canadian-born artist was always “the kid who drew,” which led him to create skateboard zines and band T-shirts for his friends in junior high and high school. After graduating with an MFA from CalArts, he became the art director for the Beastie Boys’ short-lived Grand Royal magazine.
Working in just about every medium available from painting and drawing to animation, he’s also done film title design for several of Spike Jonze’s films, as well as Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides. He’s even designed sunglasses for Warby Parker, painted a Fisker electric car, and built custom furniture for his daughter.
He’s had solo art shows at Half Gallery in New York, Cooper Cole in Toronto, the V1 Gallery in Denmark, Parco Gallery in Tokyo, Spirit Room Berlin, Kemistry Gallery London, and New Image Art in Los Angeles.
McFetridge is so busy he nearly forgets to mention the documentary being made about him and the LA Metro artwork he designed for the Westchester station.
“I am trying to capture how this city constantly surprises me with its diversity and confounding polarities of experience. Los Angeles is urban in a way that can accurately be described as abstract,” he says of the piece, which comes after he was awarded a public art commission for the Ottawa Light Transit Authority’s new Lyon subway station.
“Having this design studio is like this great trick,” he says. “I thought I was going to redefine what being a graphic designer was and now it’s, ‘How can running a design studio be an ongoing art project?’ A design studio is basically a conceptual art project,” he shares, explaining that he’s not just creating art, he’s creating the conditions in which he can be an artist.
When asked if genius is innate or taught, he says, “Absolutely it can be taught,” adding, “I think there are geniuses, we all know people who are on that sort of scale. I was born with the liking to draw. That’s not the same as being born with talent. I know the sort of stuff I like to do, so I’m pursuing those things and improving over time.”