Jon MacNair is a graduate of The Maryland Institute College of Art, where he earned a BFA in Illustration. His commercial work has appeared in various editorial publications as well been used for package design and apparel.
He has exhibited his fine art in galleries worldwide, having shown in New York, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, D.C, London, Glasgow, Paris and Hamburg. Beautiful Decay, Faesthetic and Elle magazine have also featured his work. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon.
A lot of your work is in pen and ink but I’ve seen a few of your pieces also in pencil. What appeals to you about working in pencil?
I like the soft look you can achieve with pencil. It also picks up the tooth of the paper, which creates a nice, grainy texture as well.
Could you tell us a bit about your creative process, from the initial idea to the finished piece?
I usually come up with a rough idea in my head, which then gets turned into an equally rough thumbnail sketch. This is usually very small and scribbly-looking. There’s a pretty big leap from the thumbnail sketch to the final pencil stage of the work in terms of adding in detail. I prefer to work some things out as I go along and see what develops. Because I usually work in ink, following the pencil stage, I go over the drawing with india ink and gradually add in tones with a brush. Then it’s a matter of just slowly layering ink washes until I’m satisfied.
What size do you tend to work at? Do you have a preferred scale?
Usually, 18″ x 24″ is roughly the largest I work, and 11″ x 14″ is more typical. I enjoy working around this size mostly, or a little bigger. I always have ambitions of working much larger, just to see what that would be like.
Do you have a favourite subject matter?
I love nighttime scenes, scenes with characters on some kind of journey, as well as imaginary creatures.
What are some of your favourite materials to use?
I love pen and ink, watercolor, graphite and charcoal.
Your work slightly reminds us of old medieval and mystical manuscripts. Could you tell us a bit about your influences and how they come together in your work?
That’s a good observation. I do love medieval art and illuminated manuscripts. I’m also really interested in Symbolism, German Expressionism and Indian and Persian art. When I was a kid, my parents read us a lot of fairy tales and I continue to enjoy those. Then in high school and college I got more into mythology and folktales. I feel like I’m creating my own mythology with the characters and environments I depict, but it’s all very gradual and organic. I never set out to do that specifically. I just wanted to draw.
Can you tell us about a favourite piece of yours, or a favourite creative experience?
It’s usually works that are more recent. One that I am pretty fond of is called “Imminent Disruption of a Nightly Ritual”. It tied together a lot of different ideas I had in my head for a long time and took me several years to actually getting around to creating.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
I do, but I don’t work in it regularly (I should). I create small daily drawings though for my blog Scritchy Pictures.
Is there a particular direction you’re interested in taking your work in the future?
I think it would be nice to try a larger scale, as well as maybe introducing some new materials into the mix. Also, translating my work to a three-dimensional medium is fun to think about.
Lastly, what are you working on now and what can we look forward to from you next?
I have some freelance projects to work on, possibly some album artwork, and some pieces I need to start for a two-person summer show. I’m also continuing to work on a collaborative sketchbook project.
To see more of Jon’s work, visit www.jonmacnair.com
Jon’s work appears in Issue 1 of Tiny Pencil Issue – available to buy here.
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