Uncanny X-woman

Jill Colbert

Artist Jill Colbert alongside a detail from her mural in the Reno Art Works gallery.

Artist Jill Colbert alongside a detail from her mural in the Reno Art Works gallery.

Photo/Brad Bynum

The artist's reception for Experience the Uncanny is at Reno Art Works, 1995 Dickerson Road, on Friday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.manfishinc.com.

All through high school and college, Jill Colbert was, in her own words, “a sketchbook junkie. I would go through four sketchbooks a month. After I graduated college, I realized I should probably sell those drawings rather than keep them in a little book.”

The 23-year-old artist was born in Truckee, California, and grew up in Incline Village, where she lives now. She has a BFA in illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design. She works as an illustrator, does fine art, and, in an unusual twist, manages metal bands.

“Most of my clients for illustration are actually musicians,” she said. She’s done album covers, posters, T-shirts and more for some high-profile hard rock and heavy metal bands, like Halestorm, Sevendust, and former coal Chamber bassist Chela Rhea Harper. She started building up a network of connections, which helped her develop contacts for selling her art but also lent itself to band management. She manages three bands: locals Seductive Rage and Blood Agent, and Toronto band Dark Before Dawn.

Growing up and during college, she studied a lot of pop surrealist work, but she says she takes most of her inspiration from the music that she listens to while working.

“Sometimes I’ll just have it in the background,” she said. “I’ll listen to particular artists if I want to be inspired by something. Or if I’m working for a particular artist, I will only play their music in a constant loop, because I want it to have as much influence as possible.”

She has an exhibition at Reno Art Works, 1995 Dickerson Road, this month. The artist’s reception is Friday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. The title of the show, Experience the Uncanny, references the humanoid figures that appear throughout the show. None of them are straightforward portraits of people, but rather contorted illustrations of mutants, demons, faeries, aliens and more. One piece in the exhibition is “Tree Spirit,” a wood sprite in a contorted position, rendered in black, white and apple green.

“Human, but not—because drawing normal people is boring,”she said. “When you see something like antlers or horns on a person, it just has that uncanny or surreal feeling to it. And it’s not a scared feeling. At least when I see it, I’m in awe of it.”

The show consists of many small works—acrylic paintings, pen and ink drawings, digital illustrations—mounted on the walls and linked by larger, site-specific murals painted directly on the gallery walls. Those temporary murals, only up for the duration of the exhibition, add an ephemeral quality to the show. Eyeballs, trees, birds, and antlers are other recurring images alongside the uncanny human-but-not-human figures.

In some ways, Colbert might match the archetype of Ally Sheedy’s character in The Breakfast Club, the introverted, outsider girl, up in her own head, making her art for own amusement. Even though she’s now a young professional with a degree, Colbert and her artwork exude the exuberance of a teenage misfit.

“I do a lot of creepy stuff, and I do a lot of really fat, chubby, colorful animals,” she said.

She recently had an exhibition at Never Ender that focused on the colorful animals. Her current show at Reno Art Works focuses on her “creepy” side, though animals still make plenty of appearances. Another recurring image is a half-man, half-fish; her art company is called Manfish Inc.

She has work for sale at the exhibition for a variety of budgets, and she also has prints, buttons and stickers for sale—$5 items, similar to the merchandise the bands she manages sell. She says she always has new work.

“I work really fast,” she said. “I literally can’t stop drawing.”