"The Harpooners" Jon MacNair
I spoke to emerging artist Jon MacNair, winner of last issues re_action, about his intricate and beautiful illustrations.
Can you tell us a little about the image you submitted?
I submitted a drawing entitled "The Harpooners." It's part of my most recent body of work that includes a bunch of ever-evolving characters, mostly animals or animal/human hybrids. As with most of my work, there's a narrative quality to it that seems to hint at a story, but it's never entirely clear what that story is. I like to think of each work as a little vignette or scene that you're getting a glimpse at. With this particular drawing, I wanted to convey a sense of adventure and mystery. I kind of imagined that the harpooners were on the hunt for sea monkeys, giant human sized ones. To the right of the boat you can see the tail of some aquatic creature. Is it a big fish? A mermaid? Or could it be the elusive, giant sea monkey? You decide.
Where do you get your inspiration for your artwork?
It's a real conglomeration of miscellaneous sources. Lately I've been really interested in Early Netherlandish art. I find the compositions, colors and meticulous handling of details really beautiful. A few years ago I became very intrigued by illuminated manuscripts and medieval tapestries and that is still a source of inspiration for me. Of course I love surrealism and symbolism and the artists of those movements like William Blake, De Chirico, Max Ernst and Henry Fuseli. As an illustrator I am inspired by the books I grew up reading as a kid. I love the work of Chris Van Allsburg, Tasha Tudor and Lane Smith. I'm also slightly obsessed with classical music by Russian composers and Russian animation.
Do you have recurring themes in your drawings?
I definitely have themes in my art that seem to keep popping up. I'm not sure how conscious I am of this while I'm working or how well I can describe them, but the condensed list would probably be: disguise, birth/death, night, silence, isolation, danger, the shifting of power, and the parasite/host relationship. Really, I'm more interested in figuring out why I'm drawn to exploring these particular theme and ideas, and what they reflect about me as a person. Do you have a favourite drawing you have done?
I tend to get bored with my art pretty quickly after completion, so I usually like my most recent work the best. Right now I'm still liking a drawing I did called "The Mountains Wept for Her" which is loosely based on the death of my two cats. "The Mountains Wept for Her"Jon MacNair You recently set yourself the task of posting a new piece of artwork everyday for one year. What did you learn from this experience?
I decided to start up an art blog after being inspired by illustrator Martha Rich's "Freedom Wig" blog where she posted a painting a day for one year. I knew it was going to be a challenge for me because at the time I was sort of in a creative rut. I thought that if I got into the habit of drawing daily, it might help me stay out of those slumps and give me a inspirational boost. It was hard in the beginning because I was starting out by being in a rut, but as I kept going it got easier. I took some pressure off by reminding myself that the daily entries didn't have to be masterpieces and that it was more just about the act of drawing. I gave myself little exercises like doing blind contour drawings, which I hadn't done since freshman year of college. Some days it was hard to find the time to draw or even post the entries, so there were times when I got a little backlogged, but I always made up for those entries later. As time went on and I found that more people were looking at the blog, I got even more inspired to keep going. The feedback was positive and I felt almost an obligation to keep drawing and creating so those people would have something to look at. By the end of the year, I was actually feeling a little sad that it was almost over, but I was also feeling accomplished and somewhat relieved. It had been a very time consuming challenge, but it re-ignited something in me and I didn't feel the threat of creative slumps like I had in the beginning. I still post stuff on the blog occasionally, but I've really become enamored with the online art communities on Flickr. I've been exposed to a lot of amazing work on that site and have made many contacts. The response to my work has been wonderful.