Jonny Wan, featured in 2010, gave us an interview earlier this year. Here it is now for your reading enjoyment. Jonny needs to get into contact Genndy Tartakovsky, I don’t know what their collaboration would look like, but I know it would make my head explode.
Where did you grow up? How has your upbringing and your home effected your work?
I grew up in a city called Sheffield in the north of England, My parents used to own their own catering business and I remember being young and seeing them rush around a lot being very pro-active but couldn’t figure out why. Looking back they were just doing the thousand and one things it takes to start up and maintain a business. My parents have always actively encouraged me to aim high and pursue goals and have also always stressed the importance of a good work ethic and devotion needed to achieve these goals. So although my upbringing and home life hasn’t really influenced me visually its given me a solid foundation to build on mentally as I strive to carve a career in illustration.
When did you first become an artist? How has your art changed since you began?
I think that I have always been a creative person at heart. When I was younger I used to invent alternate story lines for my favourite cartoons and draw them in a comic, I would also create my own levels for my favourite video games. I think its this curiosity for something different has lead me to becoming a creative person. The way I express my creativity has changed a lot growing up purely because of the exposure I have had to different ways of mark making and creating images, throughout high school and art college all my work was very much hand drawn and hand made it wasn’t until I left art college that I tried my hand at working digitally.
How has your work matured since you began? How have you matured? Do you see many parallels between the two?
To be honest I don’t think I have worked long enough or gained enough experience in the industry to able to look back on my work and critique the evolution of it. One thing I can say working commercially is my problem solving skills have improved! Working with big brands and agencies can sometimes come with a few dos and don’ts, you can’t just create anything and assume they will be okay with it. Its all about doing your research, predicting the challenges and working closely with the art director/creative director so you come up with a solution that not only satisfies all the creatives involved but is also in line with the brand/companies message and target audience.
What different media have you worked with? What made you decide to settle on illustration and design?
I used to be very practical with my work and loved bookbinding, screen printing and working with traditional paint is something I don’t do enough of these days. I chose illustration because with fine art I didn’t think I had anything I deeply wanted to express, A lot of fine art is very personal and I don’t think I would be able to sustain a career in that medium. I have always been fascinated with good graphic design and typography but I know its a very technical subject with its own world of rules and ultimately I just didn’t feel passionate about it. Illustration was a compromise between letting my imagination run wild and being able to forge a career with longevity.
How did you get in touch with Agency Rush? How have you benefitted from working there?
About 8 months after I decided to take the plunge into being full-time freelance I decided that I wanted to sign with an illustration agency primarily to widen my prospects of securing bigger and more exciting projects. I already knew that illustration agencies have a really deep reach with art directors and buyers within the industry and would be able to present my portfolio to people I would struggle to meet with on my own. I have been with Agency Rush for just over a year now and they have been fantastic. I have visited my agent a few times (they are based in Brighton which is very much the furthest south of England you can get!) and it’s very refreshing and comforting to meet people who are passionate about your work and want to help you grow and develop within the industry. Since being with Agency Rush I have had the chance to work on some amazing projects large and small and very much looking forward to what the future may bring.
Every piece usually starts its life within a sketchbook or a blank piece of paper, sometimes if I have a very tight deadline or I have a very good indicator of the direction I want to take I will jump straight into Adobe illustrator and start drawing the basic elements. Inspiration will come depending on the project I am working on, usually with commercial clients there is already a direction in place or a narrative to interpret and then its just a matter of researching and immersing yourself into the brief. With personal work I spend a lot longer in my sketchbook doodling and every so often something will stick out and I will develop that further digitally.
Who are three influences that you’ve had? How does their influence manifest in your work?
I try not to look at other illustrators for inspiration just because I can easily get jealous If I delve too deep into someone else’s portfolio! Don’t get me wrong I love looking at what others are doing but purely just to keep up with the industry and different projects other illustrators have applied their work to. I have been following Ben O’Brien, Steven Bonner, Matt Williams (Uberkraaft) and Matt Lyon (C86) amongst many others for a while now and they inspire me a lot with the projects they get involved with and the work they produce. They have a lot of experience within the creative industry and have all helped me at some point or another whether it be through advice or feedback of my work, they are also bloody great chaps too!
What was the inspiration for you “Experimental Type” series” Have you travelled to New York?
The experimental type series was just a mini project set up to inject some type into my work, I used to love graffiti and playing with letters and have always wanted to incorporate type with my illustrations. Its just finding my own voice with type and making sure my illustrations are still balanced with the inclusion of type that I’m struggling with. I have been to New York before and it is an amazing city, a melting pot of every kind of culture all in one city.
What film was behind “Shark Print”? What was your process?
I had completed a a personal illustration celebrating the year of the rabbit and wanted to illustrate another animal, coincidentally I had the film Jaws playing in the background and the rest is history!
How have Mayan and Mesoamerican art influenced your work? What about that style of art do you find so appealing and inspiring?
Ancient art in general fascinates me, I have always been interested in different cultures and the way people live in other parts of the world, it’s only natural that I started looking into the visual heritage of these various cultures. I think the defining moment was when I was on holiday in Egypt and I visited the Cairo museum of ancient history, I was blown away by everything that I saw. I’m sure we have all seen what is typical when we think of Egyptian art from history books and T.V documentaries but to be so close in the flesh next to these huge intricate sculptures and works of art was really breathtaking considering these were created by another civilization thousands of years ago.
What plans do you have for the future? Series or otherwise?
I take everything day by day and just hope that I can carry on making a living from something that I feel passionate about. Everyone knows that there really are no guarantees working as an illustrator and I have learnt to see illustration as more of a journey then a job.
I would love to push my work and explore different ways that I can apply my work to. So far I have seen my work laser etched onto wood, applied on a computer mouse and made into a 3D paper toy, I would love to maybe see how my work would look on fabric or as a sculpture. I’m constantly learning new skills and would love the chance to explore and expand my creative horizons beyond illustration.
What’s the best kind of sandwich?
On a healthy day – bacon and egg, on a cheat day – bacon and egg McMuffin.