Canadian artist Jon West takes a cue from the great Japanese animators to create breathtaking scenes of action and intrigue that look amazing across a ton of great products.
Read on to find out what makes Jon tick.
"Always challenge yourself, get criticism from others around you, and work to improve what you have the most difficulties with. It'll feel that much better when you can sit back, look at what you drew, and say 'I can't believe I made that!'"
How has your style and aesthetic changed over the years?
I’ve always enjoyed rendering and painting. I like the challenge of replicating how light and colour interact with each other in the real world and trying to enhance it in an interesting way. But I also love more graphic 2d elements in an illustration. I think what’s changed the most is a desire to try to make a realistic/rendered style have a more graphic, illustrative look to it and combine those two things into something palatable rather just one or the other. I’m always trying to morph my style to comfortably fall somewhere in between. Much of it also comes from being influenced by other artists’ works and studying how they draw and paint, their medium application, compositions, etc. My style might change overtime without me realizing it just from being influenced by new artists and media.
What tools do you use?
I use Photoshop and a Wacom Intuos tablet, but I’ll sketch traditionally with a pencil and ink. I’ll sometimes do some traditional paintings for practice every so often that never see the light of day where I’ll use oil or acrylic. I love the opaqueness and richness in noticeable colour variation in those mediums, and if anything I try my best to replicate that digitally.
"...never hold off drawing something because you don't think you'd be able to draw it, whether it's in your sketchbook or in your mind waiting to become an illustration."
What advice would you give to another artist just starting out making work?
I’ll preface this by saying a sketchbook is one of the most valuable tools in an artist’s arsenal. It’s where you can fart out crappy ideas that no one needs to see and you don’t need to be embarrassed about. I think anyone interested in any form of visual arts should definitely have one. That being said, never hold off drawing something because you don’t think you’d be able to draw it, whether it’s in your sketchbook or in your mind waiting to become an illustration. Always challenge yourself, get criticism from others around you, and work to improve what you have the most difficulties with. It’ll feel that much better when you can sit back, look at what you drew, and say “I can’t believe I made that!”
Do you imagine a finished artwork before you begin, or do you work on developing characters or narrative first?
I don’t think about colour at all until I have a full final sketch drawn out on the computer ready to be rendered, but I almost always have something finished in mind before starting on an illustration. It’s in the sketchbook where I try to replicate as best I can the characters, composition, lighting, etc, but if it’s a personal illustration, usually that means going far off track and ending up with a final sketch that was nothing like what was in my mind. Which is kind of a cool way of exploring themes that may not have come to me otherwise.
Do you have a creative routine?
The sketching phase for me is probably the most challenging because if I want to make something original, I usually have no idea what I’m going to make or how to picture it in my mind. A lot of the time I’ll go out to a coffee shop or some other public area to begin a sketch that I’ll later take home and turn into a finished piece. There’s something about stepping out of a “work” setting that makes coming up with ideas a little less daunting. From there, my ideal environment is me at my dimly lit desk, a lot of coffee, and some music or a TV show to pass the time.
What’s your favorite work by you on Redbubble and why?
I think it might have to be “Strange Sunset“. It was one of my first times attempting to push overly vivid colours along with some other stylistic elements that were pretty new to me in a fully fleshed out illustration. I knew I wanted to make a scene that looked surreal in an environment that could actually exist but enhance it past the point of realism and into the realm of fantasy. What I learned from that piece gave me the confidence to peruse other illustrations that I’m not sure I would have even attempted otherwise. I guess it was kind of a personal milestone!