04 May Featured: Jon Jones’ Lively and Characterful Illustrations
Since graduating with a degree in graphic design from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, Jon Jones has spent his time travelling between South Africa, the US and Taiwan – where he is currently based. With illustration as his focus, Jon uses his everyday experiences and encounters to inspire the playful imagery he creates. We chatted to him to find out more.
Did you always know that you wanted to pursue something creative as a career, or was there more of a journey to discovering this?
More of a journey really. My thoughts teeter see’d totter sawed between studying a trade or art. And graphic design, in naivety, was as good a compromise as any.
What drew you to graphic design and specifically, illustration?
My brilliant friend Simon Kuhn was really quite influential in the decision to study design initially, and then later whilst studying with Pola Maneli and Keith Vlahakis, who are both naturally very talented and gifted draw-ers, really got me thinking about illustration in design, and what that means and how it fits. And even more so after seeing Shigeo Fukudas ‘Victory’ poster and how powerful an image it was.
How would you describe your illustrations to someone who has never seen them?
They’re silly and naive.
How big of an impact do your surroundings have on your style or approach? Have you noticed any discernible shifts in your work since spending time in Taiwan and the US?
There’s definitely an influence that happens, at first subconsciously I think, then later realising that I had begun to simplify things a bunch, and make things a little more ‘cute’. And just going with it. Especially more so after being in Taiwan and Japan.
What else are you influenced, informed or inspired by?
Economy of line, Matisse, Henri Rousseau, ukiyo-ye, the off-set printing process, Cai Guo-Qiang, skateboarding, the authors David Mitchell and George Orwell and the music of Arthur Russell, Felix Laband, Sister Nancy and Yellowman.
Are there any themes or motifs that seem to reoccur in your work?
I think maybe motorcycles, bicycles, and cars. I guess city-type things really.
What is more rewarding: the act of creating, or the final outcome?
The act, definitely.
What balance do you endeavour to strike between order and spontaneity in your process?
There is generally a bit of planning that goes into any given piece. I like thumbnails as a form of idea vomiting, so I usually try to be free/spontaneous in regards to those, just get it all out really, the good and the bad. Then I read the proverbial tea leaves and refine. So maybe half and half, leaning towards controlled spontaneity more.
Is there a piece of work or a project of yours that stands out as a personal favourite, or that has a particularly memorable story attached to it?
I’m working on a couple of collaborative pieces for a group exhibition at the moment with my good friend/photographer Kenji Haruta which has been pretty fun so far. I’ll give you a sneaky little peak.
What are you currently working on or working towards?
What do you do when you’re not working and how does that feed you creatively?
I skate. It’s really helps you forget about everything. Also a good way to see and explore different parts of a familiar city, or learn about a new city, and meet some really cool people along the way. Everything good that has happened to me in life, has come from skateboarding. Goes for bad equally too though, haha.
If you could choose anything or anyone, what would you work on next?
There are just too many options to really decide, but something with friends is in the top five for sure.