Q&A with Jeremy Collins

How can art make the world a better place? Award-winning artist Jeremy Collins strives to answer this fundamental question through his work. In this article, Brendan Leonard with Adventure Journal catches up with Jeremy to talk art, impact, travel, and climbing large rocks.
Mountaineers Books Mountaineers Books
December 12, 2018
Q&A with Jeremy Collins

Artist Jeremy Collins roams the globe with sketchbooks in hand, dumping his soul into their pages. In the folds of those pages  his particular worldview was born—from authentic travel and adventures as an exploratory rock climber to award-winning filmmaker and author.

As an activist, Jeremy has donated his time, voice, and work to causes he believes in for many years. He has used his art to fight for Bears Ears National Monument and traveled by river in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to tell stories for its protection. His work supports numerous environmental programs throughout the United States. To inspire all of us to do better, Jeremy created  the Wild Lines of Jeremy Collins 2019 Wall Calendar offering monthly "Action Prompts" along with mini-essays and notable dates relevant to the outdoor and conservation communities.

So, what makes Jeremy Collins tick? How did he first break into the industry? What is his #1 favorite pitch of climbing? And what should you definitely not ask him if you happen to find yourself sitting next to him on a plane? Let's find out.


Q&A with Jeremy Collins

The following is excerpted from  Jeremy Collins' interview with Brendan Leonard for Adventure Journal. Edited for space.

Brendan Leonard: When people sit next to you on a plane and ask you what you do, what do you say?

Jeremy Collins: Usually I have my headphones in so they won’t ask. But sometimes I have weird scabs or ink on my hands, so they persist. I start with “I am a storyteller,” and if they are the inquisitive type, they’ll ask “what kind of stories?” Then I say, “Well, I am an artist, a rock climber, and a filmmaker, and I tell stories about my travels and adventures through various mediums.”

And then guaranteed, every single time they will ask “Oh, what is your favorite medium?” And then I say, “My favorite medium is the next one.” And then sometimes that confuses them a bit, and I smile and put my headphones back in.

If not, they will:

A. Tell me about their nephew who failed at art school and is working at a coffee shop, or
B. Ask, “So have you climbed Everest?”

To which I say, “No, I climb large rocks, not so much snow and ladders.”

If the conversation is going well and their breath (or mine) doesn’t stink too bad, I’ll go on to tell them I make art maps and editorial pieces for publications, short artsy films on adventure, and various other creative projects.

If I pull a sketchbook out for them to look at, they will generally offer to buy me a drink, to which I order a Jack Daniels and a Coke.

BL: What was your first climbing experience?

JC: I had a friend in high school who taught rappelling at a Girl Scout camp. He took us out to rappel highway road-cuts. On my first rappel he hung above me offering advice. He knocked a huge block off that cut my neck and shoulder, so I arrived at the base soaked in blood. I looked into climbing shortly thereafter and learned going up was much more attractive than going down.


BL: Your art and maps have graced just about every big publication in the outdoor industry. What was your first big break into the industry?

JC: In 1996 or so, I put together a little packet of my art and mailed it to Rock & Ice magazine and prAna. Both of them showed interest, so I drove to their headquarters in Boulder and Carbondale to meet in person. I wonder if anyone actually does that anymore. Anyways, they both gave me work to do, and that was kind of the beginning. I just retired recently from Rock & Ice after 116 issues.

BL: What’s your favorite pitch of climbing, anywhere in the world?

JC: The next one.

Well, wait, I take that back.

The 7th pitch on our route In Gold Blood in Venezuela we called “The Greatest Pitch in the Universe” or something like that.

It was steep, and went through numerous three-foot roofs, just small enough to undercling and reach over the lip to a jug. Each roof had a crack on its back side that gobbled up protection. It was the most perfect pitch – with heel hooks, dynos, and sculpted, immaculate rock. It never got harder than 11a, and it ended up this open leaning corner, leaning out over the whole Gran Sabana landscape. The sun was setting, while the parrots and howler monkeys were cheering for us a thousand feet below. I was far from home, but surrounded by good friends, touching rock no one had ever touched before and grinning ear to ear. That might have been the best pitch I ever did. Crap, now I wish I was there instead of packing for the Amazon.

This article was originally published in Adventure JournalRead the full interview here.

Follow Jeremy's adventures on Instagram at @jer.collins and online at jercollins.comThe Wild Lines of Jeremy Collins 2019 Wall Calendar is now available for purchase.