CHICAGO — If you haven’t seen Colossal, don’t worry: you will. It’s an art and design blog which is, well, what it says it is. It’s getting mentioned everywhere, including here on Hyperallergic. It so happens that the blog’s creator, Chris Jobson, and I have known each other for years, and we live about three blocks from each other on Chicago’s north side. So I thought I would see if the guy who’s responsible for bringing such cool stuff to the world’s attention would overcome his modesty and talk about himself for a few minutes.
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Philip Hartigan: What is Colossal?
Chris Jobson: Colossal is an art and design blog featuring almost exclusively non-digital artwork and other visually-oriented endeavors. During the course of a week you’ll find roughly 30 posts on sculpture, photography, design, animation, painting, installation art, architecture and street art.
PH: When did you start it and why?
CJ: Colossal was launched in its current state in the summer of 2010 as part of a line item on a list of 100 things I had challenged myself (and eventually succeeded) in completing before the end of the year. The previous year I found myself in somewhat of a rut, having little time to produce any creative work of my own due to obligations at work and raising our newly-minted son Caleb, so I devised this silly list to force myself into a number of different situations and endeavors I wouldn’t have normally made time for: writing regularly, eating healthier, running a 5k, reading books, getting out to see more live music and other small things.
Although the blog began as just a thing “to do” I found quickly that not only did I enjoy it but that I was also somewhat good at curating content. In just an hour or so each day I was able to briefly interact with artists and designers and in a sense live vicariously through their creative process by blogging about their work without having to stress over my own.
PH: Do you have an art or writing or tech background, and does that even matter?
CJ: I taught myself the basic skills of web design while in high school in the late 1990s and after two years of studying interactive multimedia at Columbia College in Chicago I landed a job at a small ad agency. Since I was doing web and graphic design work full-time I started taking a number of creative writing classes in the fiction department to keep me engaged in school. I graduated with this strange mix of design and writing skills, and while I certainly wasn’t a master of either, it left me with this strange set of skills that applies to blogging. From digging around at flea markets for antiques with my mom as a kid, to following my art director dad to work at different publishing houses, everything has oddly intersected at Colossal.
PH: Where do you find all the stuff to post, and what determines your choices?
CJ: During the week I keep up with about 250 blogs using Google Reader, and while I often find great things to share on Colossal from those sources, I spend an even larger amount of time trying to find things that aren’t on any of them. This might mean an entire night of clicking through South Korean art gallery websites, or checking out emerging portfolios on Behance or Cargo Collective. I also get about ten submissions each day, so lots of fun stuff shows up in my in-box.
Mostly I’m looking for things I feel are accessible and engaging to a broad audience, and before I post anything I try to get a feel for how unique it might be, frequently opting to not post things because of how saturated other blogs might be with that content. This means that while Colossal may not be the go-to place for all art trends, you’re continually going to see things you’ve never seen before.
PH: You always try to write at least a paragraph about the work, and there’s a lot of it up there every day! How did you find the time to dedicate to the site?
CJ: I generally work on the site between 8pm to midnight each night, getting things ready for the next day and occasionally some larger work periods on the weekend. I work a full-time job as a web designer so it’s simply going to have to remain that way for the foreseeable future. Sometimes I only have the energy to say something that equates to “look at this cool thing!” And then I’m unconscious.
PH: What was the moment or event that made the site take off?
CJ: There were two posts in March and April of this year that changed things dramatically: Sagaki Keita’s doodle drawings and Scott Weaver’s kinetic toothpick sculpture. Before appearing on Colossal there was very little online about either artist and over the course of two months almost 3 million visitors stopped by Colossal to see them. It was pretty exciting.
PH: Does living with a writer help in any way?
CJ: Yes, very much so. I run numerous posts past [my wife] Megan each week and she helps me tweak things to make them perfect. I also greatly trust her visual sense and I often show her a list of things I’m considering and she helps me decide what direction to go in.
PH: What are the immediate plans for Colossal?
CJ: There are some really big things I’m working on right now, some that will be announced soon and others I want to keep wraps on for a bit until they materialize. Expect some new projects and partnerships. I was also just asked to start writing for Wired Magazine so you can check out my piece on Toronto sculptor Evan Penny in the December issue.
PH: I have first-hand evidence that your young son [Caleb Jobson] is a budding artist. When should we expect to see his work posted on Colossal?
CJ: Yeah he draws for extended periods almost daily, filling enormous butcher paper rolls with all kinds of people, spaceships, monsters, aliens. It’s so fun to watch that organically develop. He’s drawn several Colossal-worthy things already, so I’ll need to weed through everything sometime soon!