Long before he designed the main characters on the Fox cartoon series Bob’s Burgers or co-created Nickelodeon’s Sanjay and Craig, Jay Howell liked to draw his lanky bug-eyed figures onto the pages of found magazines (like Playboy) and free-bin erotic novels. “It kind of satisfied my sick desire to feel like I’d accomplished something bigger,” he says, sitting in a downtown San Francisco bar just across the bay from his birthplace of Pleasanton. “It’s like, Hey, I’m part of the magazine now!”
Howell proceeds to drop his handbag (Louis Vuitton, loaded with spray paint and markers) at his feet and rise to the duty of tending bar. The place happens to be the same one he worked at years ago and doubles at a gallery that’s hung his work. In addition to shows up and down the coast and illustrating skateboard decks for Consolidated and for Creature, the Bay Area native is probably the only artist with both Vans and Gucci collaborations under his belt. Punks Git Cut, a selection of his zine work, came out late last year.
And now that the self-described “posh spaz” is our inaugural Artist in Residence, Howell’s dream of appearing in the magazine has actually come true. He tells us he loves to “get high and fly first class” with a Playboy in hand, and he excitedly describes how the great Shel Silverstein, having served as head cartoonist here in the 1950s and 1960s, traveled the globe as a sort of illustrator-journalist for the magazine. “I mean, imagine that. That’s so fun!”
Clearly the two artists have a connection beyond the Rabbit banner: Their work just feels good. “I try to be in a good mood constantly, so yeah, I’m a hippie,” Howell says, adding, “but I also own guns and love to drive fast cars.”