Artists & Ales 003: Jeff Bartell

By Brit Weidel

Hello readers, we’re back with our third installment of AERONAUT’s blog series “Artists & Ales!” Twice a month we will publish a new interview where we feature a new artist. This series was created with the intention to tune into the art world and help support the art community through visibility and promotion.

Artists from near and far and from all walks of life will be featured here so be sure to check back often for all of our upcoming interviews. You never know who might be making the piece of artwork you can’t live without!

For our third post, AERONAUT is proud to present local artist Jeff Bartell!

Mx. Brit from Aeronaut: Tell us about you Jeff..

Jeff Bartell: I was born and raised in central Massachusetts. I grew up with drawing being my main obsession, but curious about anything coming into view. I formally studied and practiced graphic design, and now I’m a design educator at the college level. I’m attracted to any creative outlet: visual fine art, illustration, design, sound, music, motion, whatever. I’m focused now on making digital drawings and images, but I remain multi-disciplinary. I get bored very easily.

Mx. Brit: And what is your favorite style of beer? (Aeronaut or otherwise.)

Jeff: I’m not really drinking much these days. I know in the past, a good pilsner (such as Robot Crush) has been a nice treat at the right time.

Mx. Brit: Now let’s dive more into your practice. What does your work aim to say?

Jeff: Most of my fine art work is a conversation with the unconscious in some way—trying to tap into that. My wish is to communicate an experience and a vision from a place of pure feeling. As I wrestle with a lot of darkness within myself, I am trying to transmute that into something that feels like an expression or healing of some kind. I just want to do something positive with my hurt and I hope people relate to that.


Mx. Brit: Who and/or what are your biggest influences ?

Jeff: Cinema, the natural world, mysticism, the internet, cartoons, psychedelia, prog-rock. Bjork, Meobius, Hiromi Kawakami, Louise Bourgeois, David Lynch, Yu Maeda, William Gibson, Dorothea Tanning, Honet, Michael DeForge, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Oneothrix Point Never, Brian Eno.

Mx. Brit: Are you jiving on a project right now? 

Jeff: I’m making these long distance murals with my friend Fish McGill (who some might know as the designer of the Aeronaut Porch Beer label). He shoots me the colors and dimensions that the piece should be, then I work on a design and send it back to him. Fish then executes the mural somewhere around his house or property. It’s been a nice way to safely collaborate in this isolated time.

I’m also working on an 80s synth horror movie soundtrack for a film that doesn’t exist yet. I’m trying to work sonically and just create these little moments inside this universe. It’s a blast.


Mx. Brit: Can you describe your work space/studio setup? 

Jeff: My setup is pretty nomadic and I like to keep things nimble. I mostly work with my sketchbook and laptop and that can happen anywhere. I do have a small standup desk in a studio space in a spare room that I share with my partner who is also a maker. Sometimes I will dock myself to a standing station to work. I try to keep things minimal so my time and attention go straight to my ideas.

Mx. Brit: Do you have a favorite artist’s tool? One that you can’t live without in your studio or work space?  

Jeff: A tarot deck has gotten me out of some creative jams. It’s preferable to have some divination factors present in my process.  Also, the iPhone is probably the ultimate artist’s tool. I’m using it for so much of what I do: shooting photos/grabbing reference images, writing down ideas in notes, airdropping stuff left and right! Very powerful. Lastly, the sketchbook is probably the most fundamental item for me.  Everything I do starts with an idea in the sketchbook and sometimes ends there, too.

Mx. Brit: How does your work comment on current events? Does social or political events affect how you approach your work?

Jeff: Indirectly more than directly. My work reflects the anxious climate of simply being a human right now, as there’s no real way to escape that. I’ve got so much anger about things that are happening, but most of it goes inside and manifests as Self vs. Self and less Self vs. World. I’m interested to see how my work adapts and transforms in the next few years. I want to be involved… and also EVOLVE. There’s no way around it, we’re all a part of this cycle we are in. Spun upside down, trying to figure out which way we are going to land, and what that damage is going to look like.

Mx. Brit: How does your individual perspective and/or personal lens add to the voices of art history? Do you bring something new? Do you honor something old?

Jeff: I suppose I owe some debt to surrealism and want to fit into all that. I’d like to feel a part of the continued legacy of that movement, of that universe in one way or another, without being super on the nose about it. But I am also hopefully becoming myself, with my own voice. I have craved avant garde material every since I was a kid, after seeing my parents’ Salvador Dali books my parents had lying around the house . I got a sense that art and life can be dream-like. Dream logic and dream language is comfortable to me. I’m not built for direct reality.


Mx. Brit: What inspires you most? What keeps you making art?

Jeff: Friends are a big inspiration. I like to share work and then see what others are doing. I want to help to make a community with other people where we are all making things. My vision for the future is that everything is automated and all of our needs are taken care of. Meanwhile, we are freed to sit around and make stuff and send it to one another. Like, true equal exchange. Decentralized. No money and no banks! No capital. The last frontier to explore is our own minds and our own imaginations. As always, the chance to make an impact on the world or the environment in some way remains pretty exciting. To bring something into being. I think the meaning of life just might be creation itself. You have an idea of something and then you try to bring it into existence. Could be a baby, a dream-home, a food truck, a sharper knife to cut bread with, or a painting. But we all want to create.

Mx. Brit: How have you developed your career?

Jeff: Most of my development has come from just making a lot of work and continuing to push myself forward. I went to graduate school to get an MFA and that helped to expand my mind and gain some confidence in just working creatively. It’s all been a messy ride and has certainly not been in a straight line! I’m always learning. I still feel like a beginner! So much to see. So much to know. That’s exciting.

Mx. Brit: What’s your take on the Somerville art scene? 

Jeff: Oh it’s good (I think!). Hard to throw a rock around here and not hit an artist. There’s plenty of folks making stuff right now and decent support for the work as well. I’m hoping it stays that way and the looming economic impacts of the area don’t compromise the scene more than they already have. It’s harder and harder to live here as an artist but everyone’s still pushing and still thriving.

Here are some cool Somerville artists to check out: Alex Kittle, Stina Simmarano, Catherine Maldonado, Sarah Gay-O’Neill, Allison Tanenhaus, Joseph Wight, Michael Crockett, Lexi Havlin… to name a few (of many).

Mx. Brit: What is the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?

Jeff: Instagram is a great place to check out my work and follow my journey: @thejeffbartell. I also have prints and other items for sale in my shop: Lastly, I love lending my vision to projects of any kind and I am available for commissions and collaborations  (album art, tattoos, apparel, you name it!): [email protected].

“Wild Lips”

Brit Weidel is the Community Events Coordinator at Aeronaut. The views and opinions expressed on this web site are solely those of the original author, and they do not necessarily represent those of Aeronaut Brewing Co.