The very talented Jon Warren designed the eye catching image for Mr Smith’s corner, so we thought who better to interview as part of our arts issue. Let’s hear a little more from him on what it’s like to be a full time artist!
What is the best and worst thing about doing your own thing…
The best: Being able to manage your own time.
The worst: Having to manage your own time 😉
How did your interest in art begin and develop?
I’ve always been a scribbler. My best O-Level result was in art, but everyone knows that’s not a serious career. Accountancy is a serious career so I started the training and took a few junior posts before drifting effortlessly into IT where I remained for a couple of decades. I spent a lot of my free time in Photoshop just for fun, then dabbled in simple CGI video production which led into traditional stop-frame animation. Wanting to have a go at traditional drawn 2D animation, I bought a graphics tablet. My drawing really wasn’t up to scratch so I made simple black-and-white cartoons and worked at drawing better backgrounds in colour. Along the way I started producing ‘paintings’ in Photoshop and showing them to people at work. The response to these – and the hundreds of doodles with which I littered the office – was positive, so I persevered in producing these single images rather than multiple frames.
Ultimately it struck me that I should try to produce images without the safety-net of an ‘undo’ function, so I bought some cheap watercolours and picked up a paintbrush for the first time since that O-Level exam. I’d paint in every spare moment and made every mistake in the book, which I hadn’t actually read. I’ve dabbled in acrylic and oils but have always returned to the watercolours. I’ve always been a scribbler so occasionally I’d produce pen-and-wash pieces. Characters from my animations began to appear and it was at this time that the sheep came into being. Nowadays I paint landscapes, critters, and cartoons. I’m still dabbling in different techniques and developing, and most of all its still fun.
What made you fully commit to painting?
I’ve always been a creative hobbyist so when my lengthy IT consultancy contract came to an end at the end of last year I made a conscious decision to get “off the wheel” and do something I positively enjoy.
What has been the most challenging experience?
Getting into a market about which I know next to nothing. I have no experience in the commercial art world and have very few contacts in the sphere – I really am starting from scratch. The biggest struggle is to try to think commercially without sacrificing integrity.
If I paint for rewards rather than the painting itself, the results always suffer. I have to keep creativity and commerce in totally separate corners
What has been the biggest surprise?
I suppose it’s that I get myself up every day with a sense of hope and purpose. Every day. Surely that’s against the rules?
What is your favourite piece, and why?
The last one I finished, hopefully. I’ve produced 3000+ images this year – across several themes – so it’s tricky to choose. The abstract silhouettes, probably. Even I’m intrigued as to how they inter-relate, and their minimal ambiguity gives them a sort of exponential narrative. 😉
Professional-grade watercolour paint doesn’t come cheap, so painting white sheep is quite economical. They started out in my animations but have wandered into my pen-and-wash pieces and don’t appear to have any intention of leaving. Sheep get a rough deal from the dietary restrictions of most of the major faiths. Neither sacred nor filthy, sheep deserve an apology from Darwin. Survival of the fittest, the warmest and the tastiest. Sheep are generally regarded as stupid and docile, though I suspect they’re just stoically dignified.
We love your digital man, will we be seeing more of him?
He started out as an animated character, easily redrawn but more flexible than a stick-figure. He kind of stuck, and even accidentally won me an award for an internal corporate video. For my wife’s blog I produced a few static frames of him in colour, which went down well. Although I’ve largely stopped animating, he appears on a few prints on my Etsy shop and I’m sure there will be more of him in the future. He’s open to offers.