EK Interview: Morning Breath

art blog - Morning Breath - Empty Kingdom

Morning Breath is a collaborative company based out of New York.  It is the combination of the minds of Doug Cunningham and Jason Noto, they met in 1996 while working at Think skateboards in San Francisco.  Morning Breath was formed 6 years later and has been going strong since.  They’ve diversified from skateboard designs and do everything from magazines to posters to album covers and a book called The Early Bird – The Art and Design of Morning Breath.  Their interview follows, check it out!

How did you two meet each other at Think skateboards?  Who introduced themself first?

Jason had been working at think with Mike Giant for a few months prior to Doug. Doug started a few months later. He would be replacing Mike’s position. The art department there was just us three at the time, so it was pretty easy to bypass any formal introductions and just jump into the work at hand.

art blog - Morning Breath - Empty Kingdom

How long was it until you did your first collaborative venture?  What was it?

Jason came from a graphic design background, and Doug had an Illustration background.  We collaborated fairly early on. We first did a series of skateboards that incorporated both typography design and illustration. It was a series of boards that pushed this whole year 2000 thing. It was still around 1996, and Think wanted to get this jump on the future. It was a bit cheesy, but it set a method of working together that we would continue to evolve with.

Can you both tell us about your separate backgrounds?  What do you have in common?

We both had started being creative very early in our lives. I guess things began to become significant around our early teens. In New Jersey Jason was getting his chops with things like one off jacket designs and flyer art that was punk-rock/hardcore influenced while Doug was spending his time writing graffiti on the west coast. Being born around the same time, and both being fairly nostalgic, we would cross reference things from our childhood during many conversations we had at Think.

art blog - Morning Breath - Empty Kingdom

What is it like to have your own studio?

Having a studio for us was something we would often dream about in our earlier years. It seemed like this big idea of “making it”.  I guess it turned out to be part of the reality as you move forward with what it is you do. It’s nice to have a place away from home to be creative, to just wind down, have a few beers and shoot some pool.

What major the challenges you have encountered so far and how have you faced them?

Our biggest challenge is change. It’s easy to get comfortable, but nothing stays the same. You never know what exactly is going to change, but something always does. It forces us to be on our toes.

Many younger artists haven’t had the chance to work in a serious collaborative effort; can you tell us how the two of you operate together?  What’s the process of taking an idea from beginning to end?

We generally work fairly loose, from idea to approach. We kind of go back and forth with each of us throwing something into the mix until we’re pleased with the outcome.

art blog - Morning Breath - Empty Kingdom

What are the problems you face in collaborative work and how have you overcome them?

We try to keep our ego’s at the door. We know that trusting each other’s ideas is the single most important ingredient in doing what we do. It’s probably why we’ve been able to work closely so long.

What kind of commercial work have you done?  What was the most rewarding job you’ve had and why?

We’ve done the whole gamut of commercial projects. Most have probably been in the Music Album cover area, and skateboard/snowboard/apparel. Different projects reward differently. There’s something nice about getting a shit load of money for a project you don’t necessarily take the most interest in. But it’s more gratifying to do something you’re really stoked about even if the money is not what you would wish for.

art blog - Morning Breath - Empty Kingdom

How do you decide whether or not a company or client is worth working for?  Do you have any specific criteria/selection process?

It’s really about it making sense for us. Financially and/or creatively. We are not on some “too cool” shit that we won’t work with somebody if they’re not the latest thing, but it still needs to fit into our big picture. We know that not every project is going to be some kick ass creative masterpiece; it’s about having the balance.

Much of the work on your site has to do with music, whether CD covers or concert posters, how did you get dialed in to that industry?

It started with Jason Landing an in-house job for Def Jam in the late 90’s, as we formed Morning Breath we continued to expand on connections that mostly started in house. A lot of people ask us that question, and to be honest, seeing it from the inside it’s not that easy for an outsider to break in. It really is a who you know kind of thing. It all happened as a right place right time thing for us.  It was not something we were seeking for.

art blog - Morning Breath - Empty Kingdom

How are you two challenging yourselves as artists?  What are you doing right now to take it to the next level?

We’ve been competing against each other in pool, especially eight ball. We’ve been inviting strangers to play against us, to work out our weaknesses and take it to the next level. Seriously- bullshit aside, we are trying to crack that nut ourselves. We constantly have ideas we want to pursue, and thoughts of projects we’d like to start, it’s really about time management. There are just not enough hours in the day. For us many of our big leaps happen suddenly than momentum drives the rest.

What’s in the pipeline?  What’s the supercool idea that you wish you could take a year or a month off and pursue?

Grind it out. We just move forward, we don’t always have much in terms of a game plan; we just have moments of spontaneous energy, and do what we can to make something out of it. We’re doing it, we’d like to take a month or a year off of that, just to wind down.

art blog - Morning Breath - Empty Kingdom

What is your favorite kind of sauce?

Marinara sauce. Not a big fan of cream based sauces.