Category Archives: Art and Design

Johnny Perez talks fantasy and diversity in art

I originally came across artist Johnny Perez on Twitter. A quick visit to his site and I was hooked. His work is surreal and colorful (you know how much I love color) and is inspired seemingly by otherwordly creatures – the women are fairies, mermaids, supernatural beings, and yet still intensely human.

Johnny was recently in Mexico collecting references and inspiration for a new project. He gives us the scoop here, as well as his creative process.

How did you first get into art?

I’ve been drawing pictures since I could hold a crayon. But I didn’t think of it as a career until around 6th grade, when we began looking at our futures for a class project. I have always been told I would be an artist, but I wanted to be many things before I chose to use my talents for work. My family was always nurturing, so I never had to fight to become an artist. My sister has great talent and helped me improve as a child, and then my own research took over from there. Plus I don’t sing very well, so that was out.

What inspires your work?

I have no lack of inspiration! My constant sources are mythology, folklore, animation, and comics. I find inspiration in nature, in people around me, and colorful environments like my recent trip to Mexico. I love authors like Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and it’s no secret I love “Harry Potter”! I love directors like Guillermo del Toro and Baz Luhrmann, and old fantasy movies like “Dark Crystal”, “Labrynth”, and “Legend”. My childhood influences I believe are very strong in my work and come out in my color choices, my subject matter, and the fact that I really like to have fun with an image. Probably because I’m a big kid.

Your website mentions that your work features “figurative fantasy and cultural diversity.” What does that mean to you? How do those two things work together in your art?

To me figurative fantasy is a play on the traditional figurative model. In my work I don’t just want to portray the figure as it is in reality, because I believe there is so much unseen mysticism. I want to capture something that speaks more about who they are perhaps if dreams could be realized. For instance I painted one of my favorite singers, Erykah Badu, and instead of a traditional portrait, she is painted as a siren atop a jukebox in a sea of records with speaker-head fish, and a crane carrying a microphone. There is a nod to fantasy, and a bit of surrealism there. I believe in the veil between our world and others and I believe they are always influencing one another.

As far as cultural diversity, I try not to limit myself to what I know, but I want to heavily lean on ambiguity when it comes to cultures. Living in America I still hope for peace because I truly believe we are a melting pot of the world, and I find it so odd when people forget that. I want to express my cultural heritage from Mexico and Native America. I want to express my upbringing with Hip-Hop/African-American culture. I want to express the excitement of learning about cultures from all the continents, because it’s all so fascinating and it should be celebrated.

Courtesy Johnny Perez

Courtesy Johnny Perez

Beyond that broad sentiment I want to bring what I know to be a serious lack of diverse entertainment and imagery to what I do. I look at what other people are doing and I can’t help but see that I’ve been blindsided by popular media. I use my work to correct that. I’m not just talking about Hollywood, because sometimes they get it, and sometimes they don’t. But on TV, in movies, and on the internet, fantasy images (and images in general) are often devoid of colorful, unique characters. For a few years I took a break from American movies, because I got tired of the lack of flavor and tired repeating stories. I was missing some imagination. I was inspired by anime movies by Hayao Miyazaki, Makoto Shinkai, and those series that really pushed boundaries on what the medium could do. I try to do the same with my work.

What message are you seeking to impart with your art?

There is more to us than the skin we’re in, and there is more to life than what corporations would have us believe. There is more to the world than what we are taught. I bring myself, a lover of fantasy and traditional media, and introduce these foreign concepts. Many are hot political buttons, like religious freedom, racial equality, and gender ambiguity. I still work on bringing these things together. I aim to expose my viewers to diversity in all its forms, racial, cultural, sexual, religious because I feel so much sheltering being forced. Because we only have two genders in our society when so many more exist. Because we have oppression of races because our society is built on it. Because we have interference of freedom from all sides who seek to have THEIR way because they believe it is right. I’m asking questions and seeking answers every day, [and] so should everyone else in my opinion.

I often paint the fantastic, but it does mean more to me than a fairy tale. In a sense they are what fairy tales used to be, cautionary tales. “Don’t hate, appreciate!” as the saying goes. I was in a bubble as a child, and when I drew, my mother asked me, “where is the color?” referring to the pale skin and blonde hair of my subject. I was immediately offended, but something in me opened that day. And from there I realized the world I lived in. It is clear in recent events that many people want to remain in a bubble, and I hope that if any see my work, perhaps that will burst, in a good way. More importantly I hope to help fill the void along with other artists, that shows people of color are just as beautiful, fantastic and full of magic as any other.

Courtesy Johnny Perez.

Courtesy Johnny Perez.

Tell us about your latest project in Mexico.

My project [that] I’ve been referring to as Urban Sketches and Landscapes of Mexico, and sometimes “Viva Mexico!” is about my exploration of the country’s natural beauty as well as urban environment and graffiti art through photo and painting. Many things in my childhood and later my love life led up to this project. First I grew up in a mainly English-speaking household. I always felt I was Latino/Mexican in race, but as I learned more about my roots, I realized how out of touch I was, and what I was missing out on. My elders spoke Spanish, and we ate Tex-Mex daily, but that was certainly not enough. I hated the Spanish music my family listened to, I didn’t particularly like molé, and I was positive everyone south of the border was wearing ponchos and sombreros. I mean, I had so much to learn! That chance [came when] I was about 10, and I went on a trip with my grandmother to Acuña, Coahuila just south of Del Rio, TX. She was conducting bible school classes there with a church group from Haskell, TX. I immediately felt the sting of the privileged life I had led. But I also fell in love with the landscapes, the architecture of buildings, and the small neighborhoods of the residents we visited. There was so much color, and history!

After that trip, I became friends with someone at my school who was from Jamay, Jalisco. From his family I learned what Gorditas were (real ones!), how to play Lotería, how to make Horchata, what chile seasoning goes on Duritos, and so much that my family never did or ate. We also connected over the music and death of Selena. Because of it, I listened to Spanish music, and learned the words. I learned her story, and probably watched the movie of her life a million times, all the while gaining the inspiration to connect with my roots in the same way and someday have my art be as admired. Not long after, in high school, I lost my grandmother to liver failure from diabetes. It was in the back of my mind that we would take another trip someday. I thought I would never go back unless it was on my own, but I was always told it was too dangerous.

My boyfriend of two years now got a great opportunity to perform professionally there, and I of course had to tag along. It was a time of connecting for the first time with his immediate family that still lived there in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon. It was also a time of reconnecting for me to see what I couldn’t before, and appreciate what I didn’t understand so many years ago. It was my intention to paint plein-air [meaning outdoors, so that you recreate the source as it is while you paint] but that was nearly impossible with everything we wanted to see. So I took every photo possible. I was able to tour the city with his family, which was a far cry from the poor villages I first encountered. I was able to eat the home-cooked Mexican food, that was so different and yet familiar. It was almost instantly a home away from home that I had been away from for too long. This was my first chance to see Mexico both as an adult and as an artist, to connect the dots, and capture the experience to reference for future work.

When will the project be available to the public?

I’ll be releasing artwork as it becomes available through my website: JohnnyPerezArt.com/vivamexico I will also be posting progress on my blog, so its a good time to message me if you see a piece in progress that you want! Prepurchase is no longer available but links will be provided to buy each work through PayPal, or in person if local.

Artist Geneva Benton shows us a world of color

You might recognize her better as Prinnay on Tumblr or GDBee, but however you know her, artist Geneva Benton makes an impression. I first started following her on Tumblr, drawn immediately to the bright bold colors that are a hallmark of her work. Her characters are nothing short of inspirational, and so I was really excited when she agreed to be featured on The Quibblerview to talk about her background and art style.

When did you first begin to become interested in art and drawing? What sparked that interest?

I started drawing since childhood but didn’t get serious until the late teens. I just really liked drawing, but then played a game called Chrono Cross, which sparked me wanting to draw and inspired me quite a bit more.

Bubble Tea by GDBEE

“Bubble Tea” by Geneva Benton (GDBEE).

As a self-taught artist, what were the resources you depended on to develop your skills?

I have tried watching streams on how other artists work and tutorials that they make. Also just starting and eye balling what makes someone else’s style so great. Doing the occasional study on anatomy, animals, etc is also quite helpful. Quite a bit is experimenting.

One thing that really attracted me to your work is how amazingly colorful it is. How did you develop that style?

Since I was a teenager, I’ve really admired an artist named Benjamin Zhang. His artwork is especially colorful, with hues and shades used so drastically and artfully. For the most part, my style is inspired by his color use.

"Taurus" by Geneva Benton.

“Taurus” by Geneva Benton.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Mostly random things. The way paint looks and chips off a wall. A single kiwi. I really have trouble explaining it.

Your art also features a lot of black women. Is that intentional on your part, to broaden the representation of black women in art? Or is it a reflection of you and your community?

Well, it’s what I know. I’m a huge cute stuff and anime fan and also black, so it’s all subconsciously boiled together and out comes the art that I do. I am trying to broaden these horizons but it’s definitely my comfort zone.

"Reach" by Geneva Benton/

“Reach” by Geneva Benton.

What advice would you give to someone looking to become a professional artist or freelance as an artist?

Freelancing is technically working professionally. I would say study on what you need to get started and amass enough savings for a couple of months to cover initial freelancing expenses. And do good work! Do good work and a lot of work will come to you. One of the most challenging things is finding work, but refining your craft always increases the odds.

What’s a project you’re working on now that you’re really excited about?

I was on course for Kickstarting an artbook but it’s been put on hold till next year, for time reasons. Otherwise, I’m just making whatever feels cool at the time, until another idea hits me that is less time consuming than a book.

Geneva Benton will be at Anime Weekend Atlanta from September 29 – October 2, 2016, at the Renaissance Waverly Hotel & Cobb Galleria in Atlanta, Georgia.
By http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/obf_images/73/6b/1b0b57f1eae055d4fa81dd3e7f59.jpgGallery: http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/image/L0013843.html, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35966438

Watch the “cultural big bang” courtesy of Google Culture Institute

There are times, after three hours have dissipated into thin air with nothing to mark their existence except a few retweets, when I wish the internet was never invented. One imagines what one could have accomplished in that time, what wonders could have been created, what knowledge gained.

And then, there are other times. Times when the internet is the reason for wonders and knowledge. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…

THIS!

Okay, perhaps an explanation is in order. In this video, the director of Google’s Arts and Culture Project, Amit Sood, talks about how the project is in essence making art galleries and museums accessible to people all over the world.

The amazing thing about this, as the video demonstrates, is that when you bring art from all over the world together like this, it gives you the opportunity not only to discover arts from different cultures, but to see the connections between those different cultures. You can see how different styles and formats traveled and influenced developing cultures. It’s a “cultural big bang,” as Amit says, but it’s more than that, it’s a cultural Pangea too.

You can see where a thing starts, how it travels, and where it ends up.

What’s particularly great about this is that not only can you see art from all over the world, you can experience it in a way that isn’t usually possible in real life. The zoom feature, for example, lets you see a level detail that’s usually denied to the average museum visitor. Check out this close-up screenshot I took of “The Fisherman Unable to Hold the Giant Fish,” by Manohar Das circa 1595:

"The Fisherman Unable to Hold the Giant Fish" Manohar Das, 1595, Cincinnati Art Museum, via Google Cultural Institute.

“The Fisherman Unable to Hold the Giant Fish” Manohar Das, 1595, Cincinnati Art Museum, via Google Cultural Institute.

Even on this screen, you can see so much detail: the strokes of the brush, the way the colors are blended together to create different shades, the overlay of different textures on top of one another. It’s amazing! As wonderful as it is to visit actual museums in person and see these things in real life, the fact is that such institutions you often cannot touch the artifacts or see them up close. This project, which is still in beta, is an opportunity not just for those for whom museums and art galleries are not easily accessible, but for anyone with fascinated by how art is created and maintained.

There are probably some pertinent questions to be raised at the idea of Google storing all this cultural heritage, given its already in-depth access to so much of our personal information and, of course, purchasing habits. But I have to say, if this is what Google is planning to use its world dominion for, I’m for one am on board. All hail the mighty Google and its artistic database!

Learning to draw with Graham Shaw

I’ve always wanted to have some kind of artistic talent. When I was 15, I enrolled in art classes run by an extremely talented and patient man, who taught me sketching and oil painting. There was only so much he could do for me, though, and the end result was that I dropped the art classes at the end of the summer to focus on schoolwork.

Some dreams never die, though, and so I was really excited when I saw this video on the TEDTalks YouTube channel. It’s called “Why People Think They Can’t Draw” by Graham Shaw. In it, he advances an interesting premise: that anyone can learn to draw in a few easy steps.

When I watched the video I was a little skeptical, but I went ahead and gave it a shot. The style Shaw demonstrates here is very caricature-ish, but the technique does work. I made the whole gang, including the unnamed bald guy.  Exhibit A:

Featuring Thelma, Pam, and Jeff. Spike and Bald Guy not pictured.

Featuring Thelma, Pam, and Jeff. Spike and Bald Guy not pictured.

So can anyone draw this way? Well, given my utter lack of talent, I’m going to go ahead and say yes. The downside is that it’s a bit limiting in terms of style – if this kind of design isn’t really your thing, you might not be very interested in pursuing it. Also, you’re only getting profiles of the characters you’re drawing. But the video did inspire me in one way: Shaw’s whole technique is based on making small elements that build on each other. That can’t be too hard, right?

That process produced Exhibit B:

I added a few more details, including ears and a light sketch of the bridge of her nose.

I added a few more details, including ears and a light sketch of the bridge of her nose.

This was a really fun experiment to do and I think it’s a great way to approach the creative process, whether you’re using that process to produce art or anything else where you’re not sure where to start or how to get the result you want. You’re not going to be producing Mona Lisa-style portraits, but you can create simple cartoons to use in your business or for your own personal amusement. With a little practice, I think Lizzy and I could become very good friends.

Like this post? Come back on Tuesday for more cool stuff!