Colossal is an art, design and photography resource curated by Christopher Jobson out of Chicago, IL. Colossal is unique in its depth and seemingly unending reach into meaningful visual inspiration found all over the world. Jobson’s journey from web designer to full time blogger is a pretty inspirational story itself, we’re glad he took time out for this Made on (mt) installation.
Portrait of Jobson in right column is by Jacob Boll, Demo Magazine, Columbia College
How did Colossal get started?
Colossal began as a personal blog where I collected interesting art, photography, and other visual bits of inspiration. It was part of a much larger project in 2010 where I challenged myself to do 100 random new things from learning to kayak to running in my first race to taking a ceramics class. Because of my background in web design and writing I took it pretty seriously right from the beginning and have blogged almost every day for the last four years. It was completely unexpected to see it take off so quickly, and by January of 2013 I was able to quit my full-time job to focus 100% on finding weird and beautiful things on the internet.
When you’re not curating Colossal, what are you working on?
Mostly my six-year-old son, Caleb. He’s an active kid and needs maintenance, food, and bandaids. I also run an online shop in connection with the blog. We just launched an art print section, so the last few months has been a solid education about boring paper, ink, and shipping things. But I love it.
Colossal spans multiple media and different disciplines of design and art. How do you discern what’s “good”?
I think it comes down to a couple of things. Though I don’t have a photographic memory I have a strong familiarity with everything I’ve written about as well as what appears on the few hundred blogs I keep up with each day. So when something new, different, or unexpected emerges it sticks out instantly.
I also grew up with a dad who was an art director and when I was 7 or 8 we would look at contact sheets from photo shoots or layouts for a magazine and he showed me how to compare and contrast what “worked” and what didn’t. It was something that carried through studying art and design in college, and on through to Colossal. It can be a time-consuming and agonizing process, but I think the unreasonable amount of concern I put into making decisions has in part led to Colossal’s success.
What do you like most about your job as editor of Colossal?
The best part of working on Colossal is being in the position to affect change through our coverage. From hearing about an artist finding representation or landing their first solo show, to hearing about an art class in Uganda that reads through Colossal each week, to stumbling on a great photo on Flickr only to see it land in Time Magazine a few weeks later. It’s these humbling, thrilling and usually expected events that make it easy to get up at 5 a.m. to start piecing together the next article.
Part of your mission is to bridge art and science in a way. Why is that important and how are you doing that?
I was born and mostly raised in an extremely rural environment where entire days were spent slogging around the edges of a pond, raising farm animals (mostly birds), growing food, doing yard work, and making discoveries outdoors. That experience has led to finding beauty not only in human expression but also in the natural world, either through documentation of it (usually photography) to science itself. I also find Colossal synonymous with “amazing” and as it’s personal blog I don’t have a problem covering things out in left field. With a son going into first grade I feel strongly about how art and science is presented in school, and while Colossal isn’t a place for me to share those opinions editorially, I feel it can happen indirectly though the topics we cover.
THE (MT) Q & A
What is the biggest obstacle you face to doing what you want to do?
About 75% of what I do each day is scour the web for new content. Even in the face of an endless sea of possible articles I find it difficult to pull the trigger on something. I set the bar pretty high for myself, for the benefit of our readers, so in that sense it can become agonizing at times as I struggle internally with what to post next.
What would be the worst possible job for you?
Any kind of agency work where you have to deal with clients. Or deadlines. Or selling things. It requires a special sort of patience and ability to work under pressure that I simply do not possess. I’ve been there, tried, and burned out. I could also never fathom being an artist. I could—and plan to—spend the rest of my life amongst them, but creating art from scratch is just terrifying to me.
If you could collaborate with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you want to create?
Filmmaker Ron Fricke. Land artist Andy Goldsworthy. I’m not sure what the project would be. It would have to be something huge, at the intersection of science and art.
What are five websites you make sure to visit each week?
Hyperallergic, Booooooom, Kottke, Arrested Motion, StreetArtNews. A few times each day.
What trend are you sick of?
I wouldn’t say I’m sick of them, but on art/design blogs lately there’s an abundance of time-lapse videos in urban centers or rural areas, which although very pretty and technically impressive, all begin to look the same after a while. It would be amazing to see these same filmmakers take all this time and equipment, go into one of these places, and instead identify an person, event, or situation and tell that story.
What would people be surprised to find out you’re obsessed with?
Anything involving World War 2. Completely obsessed.
What is one song you always have to turn up? What’s one you always turn off?
When working on Colossal the last 1-2 years I’ve spent a huge amount of time listening to Zoe Keating. One of my favorite recording artists right now. Looking forward to her new album.
If you could have any piece of artwork displayed in your home what would it be?
Oof, that’s hard. Probably a crazy installation by Sarah Sze or a sculpture by Tony Cragg. A Dali painting would be OK too.
What do you love most about where you live?
We live a few quick steps to a beach on Lake Michigan, it’s nice to be so close to such an enormous body of water, it’s like the ocean, but better. I spend a huge amount of time there with the fam.
If we came over to your neighborhood where would you take us for a drink or a meal?
We’ve been eating a lot at this modern southern place called Big Jones. Killer gumbo, shrimp and grits, and fried chicken. So good.