Brooklyn artist Jim Torok has pieces in The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art in New York City amongst many other collections. He also has an exclusive collaboration with THE EIGHTH featuring his oil painting “ Some Days.”
THE EIGHTH visited Jim at his Williamsburg studio to catch up with him
on his start at Paper Magazine…
… when I first started there, I was dropping off my portfolio for illustrations and they were one of my favorite magazines, so I wanted to try to get work there as an illustrator because that's what I was doing at the time. And I dropped off my book actually, a couple times and I would just go in and pick it up, and nothing. And it was like, "Wow, just don't get it. They don't like my stuff?" So, one time, I just asked the receptionist, "Did anybody even look at this?" And she was honest, she said, "I don't think so," and I'm like, "God, I keep dropping this off and you guys don't even look at it?" So, she actually called Kim [Hastreiter] and said, "This guy's out here, could you look at his book," and she said, "Yeah." So I went back and showed it to her, right then and there and she sort of looked through it and she wasn't that impressed, she's like, "This stuff's all right, but do you have anything else?" And I had always these little books that I carried around, and I still do - not right this moment - with all of my little cartoons in it and I pulled that out, out of desperation and I said, "Well, I have this." And she looked and she started laughing and she said, "These are great," and she said, "We'll give you a feature cartoon," like that. So that's how I started doing the cartoons. She was the first person that really gave me my start way back, those many years ago.
does size matter?
Actually, I was in a show called, Size Matters.
… it had really huge things and really small things in it but I always-- I started doing the small portraits just because that was the most comfortable thing for me to do, and when I figured out the size and doing them on these little panels, that's what really clicked for me, because I just-- as being, really, basically, a cartoonist I like working at a table and small and like that, and that's usually the cartoon size, too when you have things published. And that's just the way I naturally always worked, that's why I first did it because that's the only way I could figure out-- I wanted to do portraits of people, and I had this idea but at that time, also, a lot of people were doing huge things. And then, of course, there was Chuck Close, too who was a big admirer of-- and I'm like, "He figured out how to make portraiture contemporary in his time," and I was like, "How do I do it?" But I'm like, "I can't compete with his big stuff, but I think, I can make something just as powerful and just as intimate in a way." My idea is to make it intimate and make it small and see if I can do the same thing by reversing the scale. And it sort of works because like you were saying, "When you see them reproduced," the scale doesn't really matter.
life in Brooklyn…
… my favorite shopping place, is Heimens right down on Bedford there, and I actually did a portrait of this guy that's worked there forever, Jimmy. It's my favorite hangout and we've known each other for years or I know all the people. And I love to go in there and talk and we talk about all kinds of stuff, it's really fun. It is definitely our regular stop. It's like I get to go in and talk to Jimmy and tease him. We tease each other. It's really funny. Anyway, as far as eating… There's this place, Bliss that's really a great-- it's like macrobiotic or micro biotic I'm not sure, but they have really good food there that's really great like, vegetarian and you can get vegan, I guess. I like Jimmy's Diner. I go there. I don't know if you guys like fried chicken, Southern fried chicken with gravy on it? That's one of my favorite places, too. And in the park, right here, is great because as a regular routine, especially when the weather is nice, got to go to the park every day and be outside in the sun. Otherwise, I'm in here too much.
8 things he can’t live without…
1. one's my wife.
2. … art, doing the art…
3. friends, people, very important
4. morning coffee
5. dark chocolate
7. TV shows
8. I love nature actually. Being able to go outside. We have that house upstate for in the summer, and that's great. And nature, nature's great, got to have nature. If you don't get nature you get wacky, too. So, if I don't have coffee, art, and nature, friends in my life then…
If you could paint a portrait of anyone…
There's one thing, I did a show at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. And I always thought, "About what would be cool" and to be one of the people that do the official presidents portrait that would be awesome. I don't think there's a whole lot of chance of that but it would be cool to do.