Climber, artist, activist – these are all words that describe the man Jeremy Collins. If he’s not on a rock face then chances are you will find him with a sketch pad or behind the camera. In the past year alone he received 6 Honored Finalist awards for his films, and he has been featured on the cover of National Geographic and Jones Flagship Snowboard.
James Kennedy: What was it that made you interested in climbing?
Jeremy Collins: I think just a general interest in adventure really, then one thing lead to another. When I was 15 years old I went rappelling with a friend who was a Girl Scout instructor. After awhile just going down got boring, so we got some books to learn about climbing up. Eventually we couldn’t go on without some help – so we got a mentor to teach us what climbing really was.
JK: When did your artwork come into this?
JC: Art really is part of my generic makeup. I starting drawing when I was five years old, like most people, only I didn’t stop. Climbing and the outdoors started to manifest in my art as I became more aware of just how important those things were to me.
Whether it’s emotional, or just getting excited about something, a response to a climb I’ve just done, it always comes out in my art. I’m constantly sketching on climbing trips, as well as when I’m at home with my family.
JK: Would you say you have a role in voicing what the people, the average person, are feeling in some certain events?
JC: Yeah, I’d say so. The art doesn’t just reflect my voice it reflects a universal truth. I put my concern in the human condition in those pieces of art. When I put something on the Internet it’s something that I just have to share, but for everyone one that goes online there may be ten more sitting on my desk.
JK: What is it like connecting with people on that kind of level?
JC: It’s pretty satisfying man. I’m an adjunct at a local art school, and so I work with students trying to figure out their life. A lot of the time we talk about the style of the work, but it all comes down to “what is my concern?” It all comes back to the human condition, and that is what feeds other concerns – whether those be environmental or something else that you are passionate about. It opens up conversations that you can talk about, with words as well as art.
JK: What kind of conversations have you had with your art?
JC: The Sandy Hook shooting art opening up more doors to conversation than anything else I’ve ever done. The responses to it were so overwhelming I was having trouble sleeping at night. I’m a parent of a kindergartner, and all the people going through the situation of having kids shot – or just the not knowing – it was all very painful and moving to me. The conversations that came from it ranged from “nice work” to a guy from Portland writing a mini essay about how his daughter fell to suicide a year before and how the image is exactly what he had needed. No matter how important it may be as an artist for me to make it, it is that much more important for the audience to receive the art.
JK: How would you describe what you do to someone?
JC: I met my best friend back in the fourth grade, and he describes it the best. Whenever he happens to be at a little dinner gathering and somebody says to him “so, just what is it that Jeremy does?” He responds with, “He gets up and does what he feels. Not what he feels like, but what he feels.” It’s a soulful experience climbing, or surfing, or being anywhere disconnected from the material world. For me, those experiences manifest themselves as fine art, film, or my sketchbooks which all lead back to sharing some sort of a story.
JK: So how does your art influence your climbing?
JC: The way we approach our physical activities - climbing, skiing, running – can be just as much a piece of art itself. It’s just as satisfying for me to be on the rope on a first ascent as it is to be sitting behind the camera. The parallels between the two – climbing and art – is astounding.
Jeremy is always working with something on his sketchpad, and tries to get outdoors as often as he can. Visit his site here to see more of his art, videos, and storytelling.