The European leagues have recently kicked off. Week after week, fans will wait for bursts of beauty to erupt on the field. Those moments of pure talent can only be matched by the jaw-dropping artistry that they inspire off the pitch.
Case Jernigan, a Charleston native now living in New York, is one example: he turns the plays, personalities, and history of the game that move him into doubly stunning, expressive paper portraits, collages, and short animation films. Off-Foot, Jernigan’s brand with his collaborator, Anderson Fariss, is an emporium of his soccer-related art. love.fútbol talked to him about his entry into soccer fandom, New York’s growing soccer scene, and the books that stand behind some of his work.
For much of the artist's childhood, soccer played a secondary role. He was interested and played casually, but chose to focus more on tennis. “I was in Germany and Italy during the 2006 World Cup for college stuff -- I was studying art -- and I was just completely sucked back in.” That tournament and his experience abroad encouraged him to follow the Premier League and keep closer tabs on his favorite club, Newcastle FC.
Moving to New York further pushed him into his love for soccer. The tennis courts in New York were limited and poor quality, so Jernigan decided to sign up for the New York Coed League. The accessibility of soccer in New York certainly helped: with a Fox Soccer subscription, reliable streaming services, and local pubs that aired games, he was able to indulge in his rekindled passion.
When asked about Pirlo’s new role at NYCFC, the artist responds with excitement. “During that 2006 World Cup, Pirlo was on everyone’s mind. That’s when I was first really exposed to him. Now he’s here, in the same city!” But, he adds a caveat: “Buying all these old guys isn’t the healthiest approach for the MLS. I’m much more excited by the Red Bulls building a strong team or Toronto having Giovinco and Michael Bradley.” In any case, Jernigan admits, he looks forward to all the New York teams -– Red Bulls, Cosmos, and NYCFC alike -– building authentic history over the coming years.
Development over time is something he is used to. “I didn’t really make any art related to sports at all until a little over a year ago,” he says. The hype around the Brazli World Cup kept international soccer lodged in his head. Naturally, it was reflected in his art work. “In the beginning, everything I made was too obvious, too literal. The game in that moment was full of big stars -- there was less media, photographs, art to digest that was interesting. I mean, there’s only so much you can say about Cristiano Ronaldo’s personality, fame and stardom. With a lot more access to different games and leagues, the really cool magazines, TV shows, and podcasts out there… I don’t know, it inspired me in a different way.”
This isn't to say Jernigan’s art doesn’t focus on individuals. His portfolio on Off-Foot features very familiar faces, like American legends Brian McBride and Tim Howard, and current Barcelona star, Luis Suarez. Many pieces feature Maradona, whose influence in the ’86 Cup and world soccer as a whole moved Jernigan.
The artist points to the late Eduardo Galeano’s Soccer in Sun and Shadow as a partial explanation for the abundance of Maradona pieces: Galeano, he says, “found all the nuance and story related to soccer that fans already know, but he said it in a way that no one else has before.” He adds, “That’s my goal, to try and find some poetry. Not to get too hung up on caricature or portraiture, which seems to be a lot of the work out there now. To try to find something personal, unique, and try and represent the way it meant something to me.”
It's easy to see those qualities in Jernigan's work. Everything -- from the materials he uses to the particular, details in his collages -- emits ingenuity. His personal lens is reflected through each work’s imagery; the delicacy of his craft through his short films (the latest of which you can watch here).
Off-Foot, Jernigan says, is a work in progress: he and Fariss are working to expand the brand's t-shirt collection. Be sure to keep an eye out for his illustrations over at Howler magazine and explore more of his art here. You can find more of Jernigan's Off-Foot on Twitter & Instagram.