Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Interview with Jon MacNair

q) What is your name and what do you do?

a)My name is Jon MacNair and I am an artist and freelance illustrator living in Baltimore Maryland. I went to school at the Maryland Institute College of Art and have been living here ever since. When I’m not working on my own projects or doing freelance work, I can be found doing exhibition installation at the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore.

q)When did you really get into art?

a)I’ve always loved drawing and doing creative things. As a child, I distinctly remember doing things like painting rocks to look like animals and making paper-mâché replicas of Tutankhamen’s death mask. My parents used to take my sister and I to art museums pretty often when we were very small and still in our strollers. Somehow I absorbed all that great work and it stuck with me.

q)How did you come to the realization that you should try your luck at art on a more serious level?

a)I began to think more seriously about art as a career in high school. As a senior, I was faced with the same decision as everyone else, what to do after graduation. I had been always been a good student (with the exception of being terrible at math) but never really excelled at anything as much as I did in art, so it was a relatively easy decision to attend art school. Before high school ended I had spent two summers at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit doing a pre-college art camp sort of thing. It was a valuable experience in that it gave me a good sense of what to expect at art school. The people I met there were great and I knew that I wanted to be surrounded by more of these type of creative individuals.

q)How did you discover the particular style that you have?

a)I think many artists would agree with me when I say that style it is an evolution. Unless you just rip somebody off, it’s not something that just happens overnight. You have to go through those phases of your work looking similar to the work of artists you admire. Eventually, all your influences that you’ve mentally acquired over your lifetime become conglomerated and filtered through your own eyes until they resemble a creation purely original to you. In high school my art began to have a somewhat recognizable style, and that just continued through college and up to now. However, I do remember being somewhat worried about developing a style in college. I was an illustration major and had been told by my teachers of the advantages and disadvantages that having a distinct style could bring. On the one hand it was a crucial part of successfully marketing yourself so clients would know what they were getting when they hired you. On the other hand the danger of being “typecast” so to speak and tied down to your style was also a concern. It’s just an aspect of the business every artist has to deal with.

q)How would you describe your style?

a)A lot of people have used adjectives such as “dark” and “creepy” to describe my work, and I would say I am just now beginning to not mind that so much. I used to think that was a negative description and didn’t like how it sounded so one-dimensional, as if that was all that really stood out about my work. I realized that I was the one who was making it negative by thinking that way, and realized that some people think of “dark” as an appealing or interesting aspect of it. In my own words I would probably used adjectives like narrative, intimate, dreamlike, mythical, and maybe even voyeuristic. I think “weird” can be a very positive word to describe art too.

q)Who or what influences your art?

a)If you just want names, I’d say artists like William Blake, Frida Kahlo. Max Ernst, Giorgio De Chirico, Henri Rousseau, Odd Nerdrum, Hieronymus Bosch, Henry Fuseli and Ernst Haeckel, I also love the look of German Expressionist films (silent era) and 1960’s Japanese cinema. Illuminated manuscripts, medieval tapestries, fairy tales, mythology and music are all strong influences as well.

q)How often do you create a new piece?

a)It’s usually an inconsistent flow when it comes to producing, but I try on average to do a few new pieces a month. The size and level of detail of the work of course plays a big part in that. Having deadlines for shows is always a good motivator too. From 2007-2008 I had a daily art blog that I would post to and that was a great challenge for me. When it ended I felt as if I had really accomplished something.

q)What kind of success have you had with your art?

a)I’m still very much in the beginning stages of getting my art out into the world, but I have participated in a few group shows and sold a couple pieces. I’ve participated in some online zines and various projects I’ve been invited to do. This year has been a very productive one for me and I hope to continue to participate in shows. I am scheduled to hang my work in a local café at the end of February for a month, so right now I am preparing for that. I’ve also had some success with my freelance illustration working with numerous editorial publications.

q)What would be the ultimate goal for you and your art?

a)Like most artists, I would like to be able to live off of my art and avoid the monotony that a real life job could create. While being rich would not be a bad thing, I don’t expect to be and that’s okay. I am most happy when I am making art and right now all I need to be happy is enough money to live on without having to worry about paying bills every month etc. I just want to keep producing. Fame is something that seems so far away right now that it is hard to imagine it, but some kind of recognition is always welcome. I think that if I ever actually became extremely famous one day that would scare me a little and I would end up shying away from it. Like most people I like recognition, but too much attention is a little overwhelming to me.

q)What do you see as an accomplishment in the way of art?

a)Staying true to your own unique vision and continuing to make art; working through the creative droughts.

q)What kind of message, if any, do you try to convey through your art?

a)I can’t say there is any one particular message that I try to convey in my work, but I do want to encourage the viewer to apply their own ideas and experiences to the open-ended narratives I present.

q)Sum up your art in one word.


q)Any additional comments?

a)Just because artists enjoy what they do doesn’t mean it doesn’t qualify as “work.” Making art takes a lot of time and effort and self-discipline. Artists are a valuable part of society and culture and people shouldn’t always expect them to work for free.

q)…your contacts…



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