I recently had the chance to interview the talented Jon MacNair. An illustrator who has a style all his own. I have long been addicted to his Flickr account. Taking a peek into his world. I was glad to have the chance to pick his brain about his work. Here is what he had to say:
Can you tell us about your background?
I was born in South Korea and grew up here in the Midwest. After high school I attended college in Baltimore where I studied illustration and lived for a number of years. I think I’ve always been a creative person. As a kid, art was always my favorite subject in school and there was never really a question whether I would pursue a creative career. These days I can be found working on different projects and freelance jobs, as well as participating in gallery exhibitions, mostly around the U.S.
What are your favorite mediums and why?
I’ve primarily been working in pen and ink for the past 5-6 years. Prior to that I worked in an array of mediums, like cut paper, watercolor, acrylic, pastel, charcoal, graphite etc. That was mostly during the college years when I was experimenting a lot. After graduation I focused more on the pen and ink with my freelance illustration work because it easily allowed me to digitally add color in Photoshop. That was pretty important with the quick turnaround and tight deadlines. Naturally, using that medium crossed over into my personal work and just kind of stuck. So the black and white nature of my work wasn’t initially because of my love of monochromatic hues, but more because of the restrictions of the medium.
I do love black and white ink work though. You can do so many things with it (using different pen nibs, brushes and techniques – dry brush and wet-in-wet etc). I still love working with charcoal and watercolor as well. I recently painted a skateboard deck with acrylics and am thinking of doing more experimentation with paint. I’d also love to learn screen-printing.
His Destiny Was Written in the Night Sky
I have noticed many of your works are influenced by works of artists from Renaissance era. Can you tell us more about this and your other influences?
Renaissance and medieval art continue to be inspirational to me. I pretty much love it all. Not just the paintings and drawings, but the tapestries, illuminated manuscripts, architecture, ornamentation and sculpture. I’m drawn to the attention to detail, often awkward and staged looking compositions, bizarre perspectives and intriguing use of symbolism. Mysticism, magic and alchemy were prevalent in those ages and I enjoy the fact that this comes through in the imagery of the time.
Thievery in the Woods
Aside from medieval and Renaissance art, there are many things that inspire me. Here’s a condensed list:
Literature: Grimm’s fairy tales, Russian folk-tales, Greek mythology, the writings of Shirley Jackson.
Books from my childhood: anything by Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Chris Van Allsburg, Gustaf Tenggren.
Film: Russian animation, German expressionist films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, work by the Brothers Quay and Jan Svankmajer, 1960’s Japanese cinema.
Art movements/genres: Symbolism, Metaphysical, Surrealism, Indian painting, ancient Greek and Roman art.
Random stuff: old maps, astrology, sea monsters, ghost stories, botanical prints, sleep paralysis, anatomical engravings, sketchbook collaborations, forests, extinct prehistoric animals.
Hijacking on the High Seas
With your work you have kind of created your own little world. With monsters, and plants, and buildings. I love that aspect of it. A glimpse into your world you created. How long have you been developing your style? And can you tell us about how you began to develop it?
I guess if I was going to be analytical about it, I could say I’ve been developing it since I was a kid. As you grow up, you’re constantly taking in influences and things that appeal to you, and storing them somewhere in your memory. I believe all these things come back into play at some point, whether you are conscious of it or not. But a more straightforward answer would be, since college. In college, working extensively in my sketchbook (which I actually didn’t enjoy at first) really helped me form new ideas that led to my current style.
Then after college, I started a “drawing-a-day” blog that pretty much forced me to keep producing work regularly. Sometimes it was good work, sometimes not. But through all that I was developing my style, and in the end it proved beneficial. I kept that momentum of one drawing per day going for a year. Towards the end of that year, I began to create works that were beginning to look more finished than what started out the blog. These eventually led to my current body of work, which became more refined and intricate. You just need to keep doing the work and the style will follow. It’s much harder to envision what you want your style to look like and then spend your time trying to get there. That’s like swimming against the current.
Some Sort of Mystical Explanation
Any big plans for 2012? I mean you know… before the end of the world… and creatures much like your characters crawl from the ground to kill us all??????
I actually made a little list of goals for the new year. There are some new mediums I want to test out, bigger pieces waiting to be made that are lingering in my mind, books I want to read, cities I want to visit. Also, I’d like to meet more artists this year and really try to integrate myself into an art community. The internet has been great for making contacts, but you can only do so much with that. I think real face to face interaction is still a necessity for sanity. I guess those aren’t exactly big plans, but I’m content with a bunch of smaller ones .
For more of Jon MacNair, here are some links. You know you want more.
Do it! Thanks for reading. –Kristopher Kotcher