by Chérmelle Edwards
Each morning Lenworth McIntosh—who also goes by Joonbug—opens his Fresh Kaufee Instagram feed with hand-drawn letterings and illustrations that simply say “Good Morning.” The simple gesture is an extension of the full-time artist’s Fresh Kaufee clothing brand and creative thoughts, which—for the first time—are on view in a solo exhibition at Dallas lifestyle store Epocha. We spoke with McIntosh to learn more about what drives him and his approach to making art.
How did the “Good Morning” series of illustrations begin?
The “Good Morning” project started with deciding to say “good morning.” I saw a lot of hand-lettering artists practice drawing a word or a quote, so one morning I got the notion to draw “good morning to you.” It was received so well, which was so amazing. People don’t get told “good morning” often enough and it’s such a simple thing to say—to brighten your day, to give you a head start. It’s snowballed into a series on cereal, cartoons and vintage video games.
Fresh Kaufee is more than an Instagram handle for you, it’s also your clothing line and a personal ethos. Can you share a little about your road to having a lifestyle brand?
I’ve been drawing since I was three or four. And, I’ve developed my own style. I draw from things in my head. And, when I draw from life I’m stretching what I see. I like to fuse art and create something new so I’ll play around with everything that I draw to make it fun and interesting. I started the clothing line in 2009. It was molded by my drive to become successful at what I loved to do. I found a niche in creating art that is wearable.
Can you explain what you mean by wearable art?
The Fresh Kaufee concept is to take what coffee does to the body and put it in a wearable platform. Just as coffee wakes you up physically once caffeine takes effect, my brand is like that pick-me-up. It supports a lifestyle of waking people up to what they really want to do. If you have doubts about your career, or you’re looking for support in going against the grain, my brand is here to support you. I use to work at McDonald’s and I quit to do my art full time, which I’ve been doing since 2011.
That is inspiring!
Yes. I want to wake people’s creative senses so that they do what they love in life; provide them motivation for success. And success is a whole bunch of things. But at the end of the day, I can say I’ve made $2 more that day or I’m just happy—and that’s success.
Having your first solo exhibition as an artist is a success. How did the collaboration with Epocha come to fruition?
Epocha is a menswear boutique and the owner and I are pretty good friends. He’s introducing a work-live environment with his store. It’s an organic environment, with a New York vibe and an old, repurposed basketball gym floor. The kitchen is on the same floor as where the apparel is sold, there’s a backyard, a DJ on site and a front living room-like gallery space where my paintings are. Once it was together, he said I had to come and do a show—over 200 people came out on the opening night.
The show is called “Lenworth, The Righteous Leftie.” What are your show’s themes and who is it named for?
Lenworth is from my father. But I wasn’t on good terms with my real father so I was against using that name, so I was using Joonbug—my nickname that is synonymous with my illustrations. But, I was always reflecting on what was happening in the world and I wanted to create a third side to my artistry and the things that I observe. Those themes are in the show and it’s under Lenworth to cover the conceptual, raw and thought-provoking things I thought needed to be exposed.
The show tackles the things that I was taught as a child about Christianity like in “Ominous Children,” the one with all the eyes. It’s a reminder that what we do in front of a child won’t be forgotten. Then there’s my ideas about women and how society deems a woman powerful by things like her shape and hair, so I did a piece where I made her powerful, vulnerable and bald. I wanted to make the show a place where you came, stopped, looked and reflected.
What was your creative process to get to this body of paintings?
There’s a lot of procrastination. Once I’m in the zone, I focus and knock it out. A lot of times the illustration is so easy, you just need a pen or pencil or paper or anything. And it’s so accessible. With painting, I’m priming wood, working with the canvas, setting out paints and colors—I think about that a bit more. But once the first stroke goes on, it’s all impulsive—there’s no thinking. I want it to be completely expressive: whatever goes on there, goes on there. And there’s really no mistakes—it’s impulsive so whatever happens, happens.
‘’Lenworth, The Righteous Leftie” is on exhibit at Epocha through 30 August 2014.
Images courtesy of Lenworth McIntosh