Case Jernigan How a soccer-based side project led to work with Nike

Cover Image - Case Jernigan

New York-based artist Case Jernigan worships at the altar of football, gorging himself on as many matches as he can see. But for Case this is work and play, as for several years he has been spearheading the Off-Foot collective (alongside Anderson Fariss and Josh Giunta), creating footy-themed artworks for magazines and leading brands like Nike.

He has attracted a big online following, particularly thanks to his amazing animations that manage to make the Beautiful Game look even better. We had a chat with Case about his art, his fandom and why a famous headbutt changed his life…

You’re a Newcastle fan (who were relegated from the English Premier League in 2016) – you must have had a pretty tough season…

Loving Newcastle tests your patience. My friends in New York follow Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Real Madrid, etc. They watch their teams win more often than not; I wake up every weekend and view slow-moving, uninspired slop.

Mike Ashley, the owner, has dragged the team into a dark place. However, I’m a fan of (new manager) Rafa Benitez. My instincts tell me that, if given the time, he can rediscover a team culture that reflects the history of the club and the talent in the squad.

Take me back to the Zidane headbutt in the 2006 World Cup Final, which you have described as a bit of a turning point for you. Where were you watching the game? What effect did it have on you?

I was heading back to Italy after a summer of traveling through Europe, and I watched the game on a long stopover in Brussels near the train station. I was wearing an Italia jersey in a packed French bar.

Zidane slammed Materazzi to the pitch and the French fans burst out laughing and cheering, which promptly turned to silence when the referee showed the card. That tournament in particular meant a great deal to me. I met passionate people and experienced the riches of fan culture watching big games in Amsterdam hostels, Italian parks, English pubs, and even at the legendary Berlin fan mile.

That summer lives in my mind as a kind of coming of age and I think about it often.

Could you talk a little about the process behind these animations. How do they come together and how painstaking is it?

Animation is like being a Newcastle fan. You spend many pointless hours feeling dejected, but every once in awhile, something clicks and you feel happiness.

Many artforms serve the artist with a built-in immediacy, a type of reward system. The lovely feeling of pushing a brush full of paint across a canvas, or slapping your hands onto a wedge of fresh clay.

The inherent satisfaction in animation stems from stitching together many singular moments and feeling your eyes light up when they finally move.

The process can be quite involved, I use a combination of cut paper, painted backdrops, digital drawing and ink drawings. The biggest challenge is definitely the sheer amount of time necessary to make anything of quality.

We keep hearing football is on the verge of a breakthrough in the US – is that really happening?

I live in New York, a soccer friendly city. We have some solid pitches, many great soccer bars and pubs, three professional teams and an international population.

Every day I’ll spot an Aguero, Ronaldo, or Messi jersey on the street or subway. If one looked solely at New York (or Portland), one might think that soccer is huge in the US. But I think there are many states and cities out there that haven’t quite caught the fever.

With that in mind, soccer is still definitely growing – the interest in the US teams, the growth of sports media companies and magazines covering soccer – it’s all great for the game.