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A Magazine for Sheffield

Jonny Wan: Digital illustration done justice

It's not often that I look at advertising to be blown away by the art on them. Jonny Wan has the uncertain acheivement of being the best art I've seen on an advertising banner in Sheffield. Immaculate vector work, a name to watch for - real illustrative talent. A Sheffield lad now based in Manchester, we spoke to Jonny about his inspirations, working processes and current projects. [imagebrowser id=24] What got you started as an artist? Tracing it back to the very beginning, it was my fascination for the cartoons I watched, the comic books I read and the video games I played growing up throughout the mid-late 90s. These three things provided my greatest exposure to visual culture growing up and I still enjoy looking back at these things today. I think what captivated me the most was the imaginative and more often than not abstract worlds these things created for me. This eventually led to me picking up a pencil and start copying my favourite characters, re-imagining them in my own world with different storylines and backgrounds. I also loved to create my own little worlds where characters I loved from TV would battle it out with characters I loved from video games. Can you describe the process of starting a new piece? The process is always the same and pretty simple. I will rough out sketches then bring them onto my computer to finalise. The only difference is whether the work is for a client or for a personal project. For a client there is usually a commissioning process with a formal structure, deadlines and contracts. I will have to spend a bit of time talking through the ideas with whoever I'm working with and there will most likely be a couple of rounds of amendments and changes as the project progresses. Personal projects can take a lot longer to conceive and realise, but can also be the most fulfilling. It's also the time to experiment and really push your work forward and expand your creative practice. Through my own experience, it's the personal stuff that drives the commercial stuff. It's very easy for an illustrator to become known for something and people will commission you to produce that same thing with a slight variation over and over again. That's fair enough and will pay the bills, but I felt it was sapping my creativity and after a while it became dull. Even with my own work now, I'm pushing character design and straying away from pattern and embellished illustration to keep things moving forward. What are you working on at the moment? I have just finished a set of weekly editorial illustrations for the Financial Times and have just seen some glove designs launch recently, so a lot of projects are coming into fruition. This leaves me some time to delve back into some personal projects I have been meaning to start and I'll also be looking to push my typography work. I'm also looking to branch out from illustration and explore other areas of creativity through graphic design and photography, looking for ways to incorporate that into what I already do. Which of your most recent pieces have you enjoyed making the most? I really enjoyed the editorial pieces for the FT. I love editorial work in general because of its tight turnovers and the variety of topics you get challenged to illustrate. Editorial is not often the best paid and probably won't put your name in lights like an advertising campaign would, but it allows you a lot of freedom to experiment and is often considered the bread and butter for most illustrators. The deadlines can be punishing, with the copy coming through at the end of the day and the finals due for the next morning, so it can really push an illustrator, but for me it's that kind of pressure that gets me working at my best. [imagebrowser id=23] How has your art changed over the years? I think my work has evolved dramatically over the years and hopefully will continue to do so. At university all my work was hand drawn with very minimal colour. It was only after graduating that I started to teach myself to work digitally. I think the more techniques you experiment with, the more that will inform how you create images and in turn your work will evolve. Personally I feel I'm still trying to find my voice illustratively and there are still some aspects of my style that need tweaking. I am happy with my work at the moment, but I'm always looking forward to what else I can bring into the mix. Recently I have had the chance to see my work applied to products like vinyl toys, engraved phone covers, book jackets and apparel which adds a 3D element to my work. The thought of my work going from something flat into something that's tactile really excites me, so I'm currently trying to find other avenues to make my work stand out in that way. Who or what are your biggest sources of inspiration? I turn to things gone by for inspiration. I love looking at ancient art from a variety of cultures and take a lot of influence from the way character forms are constructed and how patterns are implemented. In terms of designers and illustrators, people like Abram Games and Charley Harper spring to mind. I find these guys amazing because of the level of craft involved in their work. This was before the time of computers, the creative suite and the elliptical tool. These guys were planning out their designs using compasses, set squares and rulers, and their work is still an inspiration today. Geometry and symmetry seem to play a large part in your work. Are they actively part of the process, or do they come naturally, so to speak? The strong lines, geometry and symmetry that appear in my work are just a reflection of the creative aesthetic that excites me. For example, I prefer the angular, almost cubist style cartoons like Dexter's Lab and Samurai Jack over something like He-Man, in which all the characters are more or less anatomically correct. The same thing can be applied to most of the things that I find interesting in art and design, like Cubism and Art Deco. I love looking at these movements for inspiration and I'm sure somehow subconsciously they find a way into my work. Good advice you wish you'd been told earlier? Learn the business side of art, like setting up as a sole trader, registering as self employed, getting an accountant and so on. Try and stay away from trends. Create work that has longevity rather than something that's seasonal and fleeting. )

Next article in issue 55

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