Do not adjust your sets. The bony-assed, glassy-eyed subhuman in the background is a “Zombikini Girl,” and the young man in the foreground is her creator, Jeff Rogers, a Reno artist, non-aberration and a study in complexities.
“It’s part of a series of oil paintings,” Rogers explains of his work-in-progress. “I love horror-movie posters, the old-school style from the ‘50s and ‘60s. So it’s a play on horror movie, plus the beach-party movies, like Frankie Avalon. [I’m] just playing with the textures of the skin to get that dead look but not too over-the-top. A lot of the influence comes from comic books. That’s what I’ve been drawing since I was little—what started it all, really.”
Characters from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Spiderman were among the early drawings Rogers first made, artistic superpowers that began “since early elementary school, since I could draw. [I had] a piece of paper all the time.”
As an inspired kindergartner, the X-Men-driven artist’s medium was classic:
“Crayons,” says Rogers, now 23. Today, as he returns to UNR for final classes to get a degree in art, he isn’t about to rule them out.
“One of my first courses at UNR [included] going back to using crayons; a way to rethink how to work things. I was always kind of like a black-and-white, straight-up pencil [artist] most of the time. I didn’t really get into color.”
Viewers wouldn’t know it, considering the vivid, half-sleeve, collage-like tattoo on Rogers’ right arm. It’s part-montage, part growing scrapbook, both metaphors for the more than skin deep story of his life—so far. He experimented with watercolor crayons at McQueen High School, then graduated to oil painting once he hit college.
“That’s where I really jumped in. Also, being part of [Reno’s] Youth Art Works program, I did two mural projects and a printmaking project. They really helped develop my color skills, which was lacking. … I’ve grown greatly with technique and figuring how and what I want to paint—the one thing I struggled with the longest. I think without figuring [that] out, you can’t do it well. I was never really happy with anything until a few semesters ago, when I started getting into the groove of things. Every painting is a step forward. I tweak it, it gets a bit more detailed. It’s an ever-growing thing. I’m becoming happier with what I’m producing.”
As a photographer in the heavy-metal music genre, Rogers is prolific and published, with credits including the UK’s Rock Sound magazine. Known on the circuit as “Metal Jeff,” he’ll hit the road with New Hampshire-based band The Network. And even though he won’t have to skip class to go, Rogers is likely to be studying on the side, inspired by Greek and Norse mythology, plus Basil Gogos, who painted many Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine covers decades before Rogers was born. With family and friends to back him up, his pursuit of art as a profession doesn’t appear to intimidate him.
“Art is always what I’ve wanted to do,” Rogers asserts. “I’ve never really been that great at anything else. It comes to me. I know I won’t make a ton of money off of it, unless I do things right—get into the right things, meet the right people—but it’s something I love to do. It’s a passion. … I’ve been aware for a long time that there’s struggle with [art as a career], but there’s struggle with everything.”