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Sucked In

I recently found a drawing that I had started a while ago, when I was doing almost everything with my Rapidograph pen. For some reason I never finished it, but when I found it I realized that I liked it, and it needed to be finished. The original concept was about kids in our modern world, and how from an early age they are sucked into our digital matrix and, in some cases, never experience any relationship with the natural world.
I remember as a kid, spending hours outside, playing in the dirt, exploring little nooks of my mom's garden, catching bugs and inventing little worlds. Sure, we had the original Nintendo, and the Atari before that, but it never totally overtook our lives (barring one 8 hour binge I specifically remember trying to beat the original Mario Bros), and I always had more fun out in the woods or our backyard.
Today, some kids are raised by their video games, and have no need to develop an imagination because they have their fantasy worlds mainlined to them on their game consoles. They never leave the five foot radius around the TV.



"In the past year, I’ve paid rent in five places in four states, climbed in another 10 states, deep-water-soloed in Mallorca, established new routes in Namibia, and belayed my first 5.15, in Spain. I travel so much my friends ask me where I’m going next instead of saying hello."
So writes Majka Burhardt, in an article for
Climbing that I was asked to illustrate. One of the main points of the article was the author's aspiration to be 'green', at odds with the huge carbon footprint she was creating by constant travel around the world. The piece ended up being very conceptual, in my attempt to show the different players in the author's inner battle between environmental responsibility and her pursuit of adventure. It's not immediately obvious, but the background tones were created by layering a scan of the backside of an old Romanian map behind the inked art. I thought the fold lines were a cool detail.
The illustration will appear in the 'Whipped' section of the February issue of

Below is the original concept sketch that led to the final art.


Mountain Mishaps

"What could possibly go wrong? Like hundreds (maybe thousands) of climbers before us, however, we soon learned that the seeds of tragicomedy are sown with seemingly inconsequential decisions."

I recently illustrated eight vignettes of comedic mountain accidents compiled by climbing legend Dougald MacDonald. I received the assignment while on a climbing trip in Germany and the Czech Republic...and the deadline was close. I had come prepared with brush pen and Moleskine, and, laying apartment-bound in Prague awaiting the snows to recede at Elbsandstein, I had a good opportunity to make some art. My limited tools forced me to make quick and loose sketches, a few of which ended up in the final art.

The article is out now in the December issue of Climbing.

A few examples:



The shirts are finally up and on sale at my Etsy Page (jgivens.etsy.com). Check them out, available in multiple colors. New designs will be coming soon as well, so check back!


Killed File

I am currently working on a holiday card for a client, and they just killed an idea that I particularly liked, and would have enjoyed finishing. So, I thought I would post it here and keep it alive, rather than file it away with the rest of the ideas-that-could-have-been. Its of a polar bear chasing a candy cane...maybe it was too unclear, or dark, or didn't make any sense...but I like it. So it goes.
Here are two versions, ink sketches colored in photoshop. My water brush filled with sumi ink comes in great for these quick sketches, and gives an idea of what the final art will look like.


New Shirts!

So, Im finally getting my act together and making some T shirts. I decided the first one should be of a cartoon that was published in Alpinist that seems to be everyone's favorite (including the guy who got it tattooed). I had to redo the art in ink in order to work better on a shirt. The first samples have been printed, by my longest-known friend and shirt printer Don. He sent me a pic of the shirt on dark brown, but it will be available in light blue and sand. I picked the softest, best cut shirts I could find, so they should be sweet. I'm currently on a trip in Germany, but they should be available soon after I get back in a few weeks. They will be available at my Etsy shop, jgivens.etsy.com.


Reluctant Hero

Illustration for "The Reluctant Hero", a piece by Bill Dwyer, about the choice to rescue a stranded climber on Aconcagua.

"I was coming down from Aconcagua's summit for the third time this year when I saw the guy face down in the snow, in a whiteout at 22,000 feet."

Out right now in the October issue of Climbing, in the Roadkill section.


Wolf Hunters

While serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Romania, I decided to climb Parangul Mare, one of the highest peaks in the country, in the Carpathian Alps. Its not a technical ascent, just a long hike. Along the way I noticed blood splattered on the trail, and soon after ran into two Moldovans, who told me they were tracking a wolf. They had high powered rifles and sheepskin hats. I guess they had shot it, and were following it to finish it off. They were eager to know if I had seen anything. Nice guys, and very amused at me being American and speaking (bad) Romanian.
I did this illustration a while ago, and never did anything with it.


Iceberg climbing

Iceberg climbing fascinates me, especially the idea that you are climbing a moving mountain. And, being in the ocean, there is a whole lot going on under you, a whole other world, with creatures swimming around in a parallel universe.