We met Jennifer in a neighborhood cafe years ago while she was vising from southern California to see one of our other rabbit's gallery showing. She sat on a black leather sofa, knowing nobody except Skyler Brown, who kept getting up to answer questions. He introduced us, having spoken highly of both Jennifer's abilities and her collaborative spirit. Jennifer was quiet and smiled a lot, which intrigued me. Months later, we used one of her black and white illustrations for our first cover of issue no.1, which we produced on various office copiers after hours and circulated underground. Years later, we are still admire the dark whimsical aspect of her story boarding.
JENNIFER MONES interview
Speak on the relationship between solitude and creating.
There is little more energizing than making art by myself, music blasting in headphones, alone with my thoughts, and sitting in what would have been complete darkness if it weren’t for the light from my computer screen or the dim desk lamp that makes the room look candle lit. Being able to create by yourself shows comfort in being alone and that you don’t depend on anyone to make you whole enough to be creative.
But from my own experience, when I’m not happy in solitude and creating, I’m likely not in a good state of mind; I’m not whole and I need other people to fill the void and keep me company so I’m not alone with my thoughts. Here is where I would seek out my friends on Skype to help me feel well enough to art- and all I ask of them is to just hang out with the camera on, they don’t even have to speak since all I want is their positive energy to overshadow the negativity I was feeling.
In short (again, from my experience), the relationship between solitude and creating is dependent on my state of mind.
Much of your work has elements of fantasy. Is this how you see the world in front of you, or are you taking what is inside your head and giving it form?
I mostly experience the world with lots of optimism, magic and giggles- but I don’t think that’s the culprit behind why I prefer to make art featuring fantasy. I think it has more to do with the illustrator in me. An illustrator’s motive to make art is that they want to create worlds and beings that before never existed, which I think translates into me putting elements of fantasy into my work.
How would you define desire? As in desire for another human being?
Hmm… that’s a toughy because this is all still new to me. See, the thing is I’m demisexual; I can’t feel passionate desire for someone unless I fall in love with them. You’re likely thinking, “But isn’t that normal? Most people aren’t attracted to everyone all the time.” Yes, but the norm is to feel desire frequently at least through little moments throughout the day such as with the hot co-worker, random stranger on the sidewalk or a sexy celebrity. It’s not a matter of whether or not the feeling is acted on, I’m talking about any presence of desire for another person in that way. The vital signs of my ability to feel passionate desire for another person is a flat line with occasional tiny bumps- but the special snowflake I’m in love with makes sudden tall spikes appear in that line. But I also don’t feel that kind of desire with every person I fall in love with- which is why desire is still new to me and I can’t give a very good definition of what I think it is.
What is the relationship between the clothing and the characters in your illustrations?
I suppose for the sake of illustration and storytelling, clothing can communicate about the character. Clothing can convey: what time period the character lives in, life style, where this character resides, etc.
Do you draw from real life or from photographs? Do you think this matters?
I usually draw from photographs since they’re convenient to draw from and easily accessible since the internet is teeming with whatever your little heart desires. However, for the sake of building a skill: yes, it does matter if you draw from photos or life. Drawing from life lets you find out what it’s like to live in the space of whatever it is you’re drawing- which will help an artist learn perspective and how to draw three dimensional..
Has music influenced the art you produce? How so?
Since my art less about emotion and more about story telling and creating worlds, no music sadly does not influence what I create. However, what music does have is the ability to lift my mood when I’m in one of the sadness holes that prevent me from creating art. The only problem is, I become too dependent on music that it becomes life support; if the music stops, I find myself out of the emotional state where I’m able to create.
What is your favorite treat?
Like nommy-nom treat or any kind of treat? In terms of nommy-noms, it depends in my mood. Currently, I would love a rice crispy treat. But if we’re talking about things I just really love, it also depends on my mood. When I’m really happy and I feel everything is going fantabulously well, my most favorite “anything-in-the-world” treat is being by myself and reading from my collections of ever growing things I want to read. When I’m not that happy, my favorite treat is spending time with a friend who can make me act like I’m on crack. What I mean is this: usually, I’m reserved and soft spoken- but with a friend who can make me act like I’m on crack, I’m just energized bouncing off the walls and can be mistaken for an extrovert.
What do you think the function of fairy tales are? Do you think they have a place in post-modern society? Why or why not?
This question reminded me of something Guillermo del Torro once said when he had to explain the purpose of monsters in stories, which I feel is applicable to what I was just asked. Here it goes;
Way back when, we lacked the resources and knowledge to explain things like why the sun sets and the moon rises. Thus, we made up stories to help us make sense of the world- such as a tale about a snake that eats the sun every dusk and another creature that eats the moon every dawn. But this doesn’t mean that fairy tales are irrelevant in post-modern society because we have a more sophisticated knowledge of the world and now know why the sun sets and rises. We still have enigmas we try to understand, but they’re about the social aspects of our world. We still need explanations for the irrational desire to murder, the want to harm another being, the blatant apathy for the well being of the Earth, inequality, etc. So fairy tales still have a place in our world since they help us better understand and express ourselves about the confusing aspects of our society.
If you could try to communicate one thing through your art for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I still don’t even think I have a theme in my art that I communicate- or at least not one that I’ve recognized. I suppose since I mostly produce sweet, cheery, romance filled pieces that have a tinge of darkness, the one message my art would communicate for the rest of my life would be this quote from Doctor Who, “Intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.”
How do you see illustration maintaining its relevance?
Illustration will always maintain it’s relevance because it’s the bridge between ideas and reality; illustration is a way to convey ideas to people who need visuals to better understand what is being communicated. This is exactly what concept art is. This is also the function of children’s book illustrations; they help children better understand the story being told.
How does using interfaces (computers, cell phones, etc) influence your art? Do you think technology matters?
Thanks to computers, artists have access to more tools. Thanks to programs like Zbrush and Google Sketch Up, issues with drawing in perspective should be a thing of the past- yet I still manage to keep my perspective skills at a level that is embarrassing for an illustrator. Ha, anyway my point is that interfaces do influence my art in that I have so many more tools that I can use.
Have you ever gone through periods where you do not produce art? If so, why? Do you think it is important to be constantly creating, even if the work is "bad", or to pause when something is not right?
Yes, there are two periods in which I was emotionally unable to produce art; when I was fourteen and now. When I was fourteen, the reason behind my lack of art was mostly self doubt. I doubted that I can ever make a living with art and that I needed to pull my head out of my ass, grow up and pursue something more reasonable. I couldn’t think of what was more reasonable than art though. In addition to this, I was overall not in a happy state during this time- which added to my lack of motivation to create. I did do small in class doodles and maybe one or two paintings a month, but I wasn’t as dedicated to art as I was before.
This lasted until I was seventeen and went to California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA). Being surrounded by other creative people made me realize I wasn’t alone nor an idiot for pursuing art and I would be an even greater idiot for putting aside being creative so I can better pursue the life and careers society has conditioned us to believe is more reasonable.
When I started college, I slowly entered the state of mind I currently find myself in. I began to regret every decision I ever made that lead up to me wanting to be an artist. I rued the day I felt I was such a special snowflake that I deserved nothing other than a career in the arts. I felt this way because I began to fully realize how hard it is to get to the point where one can make a living off of doing what they love; only the most creative an talented people get to have this privilege. You’d think this would put me into the mindset where I’m optimistic and I think, “Well gee whiz! If I just better myself, gosh darnnit I well get mah art career!” But really I’ve just been completely cynical and stressed out as I work myself beyond exhaustion as I try to better myself- which is unhealthy mentally, physically and creatively.
I’m currently working on healing myself and getting to a good mental state. Something that has helped was when one day I actually thought about all the “stupid” decisions that led me to become an artist. I noticed the trail of choices were traced all the way back to when I was four and with a crayon; as a soft spoken only child with not a friend in the world other than my parents, the crayon was my best friend and it was always there for me to express myself with and help draw better worlds in which I didn’t feel so alone.
Once I realized that I was an artist since way back then and there was no stopping that, I stopped feeling the agonizing regret about choosing to go through with a career in the arts. If I did choose to work in a field that is deemed by most to be more “practical,” I likely would have quit everything and went to art school anyway because I would have been unsatisfied with anything other than being an artist. Realizing this has put me on the path to healing myself- but I’m sadly still at the point where I struggle to pick myself up and make work. I’m sure though this story will have a happy ending when the time is right though.