OUTside INspiration by Jeremy Rumas

Jeremy Rumas is an artist based in Chicago, where the winters are cold, the wind is fierce, and the trains rumble above the streets. It’s a little far from the ocean, but the sprawling expanse of Lake Michigan isn’t bad as far as bodies of water go. From there, Jeremy has done storyboarding and animation for various commercial clients. But after a surf trip to Samoa, he re-directed his efforts and has now focused attention on a surf film complete with his own original scoring.

Not one to go halfway on anything, here Jeremy takes us deep inside his memories for a journey through the artists, books and locations that fuel his creative drive.

At the end of this swim through concept art, National Geographic archives, out-of-print books, and a liquid mirror, he gives us a rare glimpse into the inspiration behind some of his recent sketches. If you can believe it, most of them were completed on a train. And if that’s not an argument in favor of public transportation, we don’t know what is.

(In case you’ve forgotten, Jeremy designed our latest KTV poster, Twin Peaks, which is still available for sale)

Some sources of inspiration for my art, travels, and filmmaking:


TRADITIONAL CONCEPT ART – Joe Johnson, Ralph McQuarrie, Syd Mead

By traditional I mean anything hand drawn on paper or hand painted or sculpted, actual physical artwork. Something you could hang on your wall without printing it out from a computer printer. I’m a big fan of Ralph McQuarrie who was the main concept artist on the original Star Wars Trilogy. I also really like Syd Mead’s visions of the future, namely what he created for Blade Runner. I love how old school concept art just feels human. I can sense that a person made this art by hand, and it resonates with me. I am fascinated by visions of the future, and want to someday make something substantial that is set in the future.


The most epic piece of visual storytelling I have ever experienced. In all it was assembled into six graphic novels, more than 1000 pages, all written and hand drawn by Otomo. I am absolutely floored by Otomo’s drawings. This story has heart too. This is a story about friendship and growing up in the midst of uncontrollable progress, devastation, and destruction, getting through it and still finding beauty in it all.


Eddie’s life story is a big inspiration to me. I read the biography Eddie Would Go by Stuart Coleman and I highly recommend it to any surfer. 


When I was 21 I stumbled upon an article in an old National Geographic about a young man who was sailing around the world by himself on his boat, Dove. One of the places he visited was Samoa. It all made quite an impression on me, it seemed like such an amazing journey. It made me want to travel the world, and it made me want to visit Samoa. I ended up going there a few years later. I’ve never read the book Dove, just one article in National Geographic. That article always stuck in my mind. It made me wonder about what else there was to experience and see on our planet.

I had forgotten about this until researching this week, but Graham’s first stop out of Hawaii was Fanning Island, Kiribati. I ended up sailing there with Chuck Corbett a few years ago.  While down there, we crossed paths and shared waves with Liz Clark, the young woman from California who sails around the ocean by herself. I remember that at the time she reminded me of this National Geographic story.


This book is Robert Dean Frisbie’s firsthand account of his time on the atoll of Puka-Puka.  Frisbie was originally from Ohio, and wound up traveling the South Pacific as a trader in the early 20th century. I no longer own this book, and it’s out of print, so I’m not sure on the exact dates. This is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read, and is a glimpse into atoll life just before the modern world would forever change it. Highly, highly recommended to anyone interested in the islands of the Pacific. Used copies can be found online.

It’s a shame this book is out of print–it is a true gem, full of amazing stories, and memorable characters. I’ve named my fledgling film company Little Sea Films, partly after a beautiful young island maiden whom Frisbie married, named Little Sea. I also chose that name as a bit of a reference to Lake Michigan.


Don’t let the cheesy new PhotoShopped cover deter you. This is an amazing story of 10 years of travel by brothers Lawrence and Lorne Blair throughout Indonesia, as they attempted to make a 16mm film about the people and places they visited. This was before cell phones, GPS, and the internet. Some of the accounts in the book are mind blowing. Some of the places they visited had made little to no contact with the outside world yet.  I have not seen the film series they produced which ended up being picked up by the BBC. This book is such a great read for anyone interested in travel, adventure, and Indonesia.

My friend recently met Lawrence Blair in Bali. He told me he had a parrot on his shoulder and an eye patch and that he was quite fascinating to talk to.


Graham is a knee boarder and glass artist from Marrawah, Tasmania. I had the good fortune of meeting him and his wife, Esther, while visiting Tasmania, and got to stay at their place for a while too. They built their own house with methods Graham described as being influenced by 1960’s counter-culture. One of their walls is filled with beer bottles that are full of water. When the sun hits it from the outside, they all glow this beautiful amber and help warm the house. All throughout their place, there is beautiful light from the sun shining through Graham’s colorful glass art, a lot of it inspired by waves. Their bathroom is a separate little room outside. It’s more like a capsule to the sky–three sides of it as well as overhead at an angle is all glass, the room is elevated a bit, so that when you sit down, just about all you see is blue sky and clouds.

He had this one trippy, rainbow spiraling sort of tunnel piece. I asked what it was and he replied, “Oh that’s a time tunnel or space kite…” I thought that was so awesome, a space kite.

He told me it was a complete surprise when he got this issue of the Surfer’s Journal in the mail and saw his art on the cover.  I am pretty sure it’s the only time the Journal has ever ran a piece of art other than a photograph on the cover.  Graham’s art is breathtaking in person. If you are interested in his work, Graham can be contacted at: egmace (at) activ8.net.au


My brother and I bought this book while we were in high school. The otherworldly underwater black-and-white photographs by Wayne Levin captured our imaginations.  Especially the ones of body surfers in Hawaii, which look like men flying in clouds. At the time we had never seen anything like this before. I think we lost this book, unfortunately. But it had a lasting impact on me.


This is the only big expensive book of photography I have ever purchased. I picked it up in a bookstore and the gravity of his photos really hit me hard.


I carry a sketchbook around a lot of the time. I like to sketch anything I see that’s interesting or beautiful, or ideas that just come to me. I jot down story ideas, character ideas, poster concepts, often inspired by something that passes me by. I almost always sketch with pen, my favorites are Pilot hi-tec c pens from Japan. With pen each line is permanent and can’t be erased. Drawing like this really frees me up since I don’t think about stopping and erasing. I get into a nice flow drawing this way.

The sketch on the left was inspired by a building under construction that I kept passing by on the way to and from work. I drew this one night during my train ride home. One of the recurring themes for poster designs I’ve been doing is civilization in the form of a wave. The one on the right is inspired by a girl who has really cool hair and also a story that’s going to be in my film.

More sketches of waves while on the train. Heavily inspired by my memories of 80’s skateboard graphics. My first pro board was a Vision Gator that was way too big for me. That’s a big inspiration for the angular waves I’ve been painting recently.

Sketched these at a restaurant at the train station. Tall girl on the right with her little cup of water. I don’t own a smartphone yet, and I think that not having one helps keep me sketching while I’m out and about. I know when I’m around the internet, I get sucked into that way too often when I could be spending that time making something. But when I’m out, if I’m waiting for a train, or out to lunch, I’ll often just pick up my sketchbook, and I usually kick out my best ideas by doing this at random times.

Sketched these last night on the train. Inspired by brothers Mikala and Daniel Jones. Daniel is the goofy footer. The board at bottom right was not supposed to be so long, but the bumpy train made me slip with my pen, and I had to make the board longer to fix it. I’m pretty sure first thing Mikala would say to me is, “board’s too big.”

These are some sketches for story ideas I have that take place in the future. The bottom one is supposed to be one of the main streets of my hometown, Highland, Indiana, 100 or more years in the future. The police wear hot pink in this future, and kids still skate. I call this one Gold Dreams, in reference to the cash for gold shop that’s moved in. The top one is in Colorado far into the future, at a time when the Atlantic Ocean reaches up to the walls of Denver. I call that one The Great Stairway. 

Brush and ink sketches from a trip with the Jones brothers. That’s Daniel at left, Captain Abun bottom right. His shirt said, “Longboarders Take It, Shortboarders Fake It, Kneeboarders MAKE IT!!!”

NOTE: Thanks to Mike Killion for shooting a bunch of these photos.  The mural at the top left of the page is on his apartment wall.



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