Monday, October 26, 2015

STUDIO SPACE: Jonathan Vair Duncan

Hello, Cincinnati! I’m Jonathan Vair Duncan, an illustrator, painter, and teacher. I live in the Oakley/Hyde Park area of Cincinnati with my wife and dogs. In 2011 received a BS in Illustration from Indiana Wesleyan University, but I’ve been accepting freelance work since 2008.

Currently, I am participating in IlluXCon, am the Guest of Honor at Furpocalypse, and will be dealing and giving a lecture at Midwest Furfest.

Location: Cincinnati (Oakley/Hyde Park)
On the Drawing Table: Convention plans and digital sketch commissions.
Coming out soon: My first personal art painting series. 

How did you get your start as a professional artist?
I felt I needed to make most of my mistakes by taking on freelance commissions in the beginning of my college career. I opened for commissions in 2007, but was not commissioned once until 2008. Fast forward to today, I am an active artist within the furry fandom (think talking animal characters), have a Patreon account funding personal work endeavors and mentee relationships, and I travel the country at cons selling work, getting commissions, and giving lectures.

Describe your work. 

My commission work almost exclusively features anthropomorphic animals. These character designs usually serve as  my clients’ avatars, so it is my responsibility to render them with as much love and intention as possible. My commissions have affected my clientele’s relationship dynamics and self-image.
My desire to foster wonder and imagination in my viewer’s eye is what drives me towards visual abstraction. I want pieces with less polish, that a viewer’s mind may participate to complete the image.

Tell about your workspace. 

Because I work in our small apartment, space is a precious commodity. I use an exercise ball as a chair combat my sedentary periods as a digital artist, and make good use of the foam grid floor panels to adjust my height or sit directly on the floor for particularly intense traditional projects. A south-facing window allows natural lighting suitable for traditional painting during most of the day. Under my worktable is an assortment of canvases, frames, and mediums.

My work table is currently being used for some huge personal paintings. Above my table is large piece of  paper full of some stream-of-consciousness doodles.

What are your favorite materials digital and traditional?

As a basis, I love working in any medium with a handicap. I’m a firm believer in limits bringing about incredible solutions, and for this reason my traditional mediums include absolutely anything I choose to explore—sharpies, whiteout, once I even used chocolate! My Digital program of choice is a free program called Alchemy, used in the entertainment industry for quick concepting and heavy experimentations. Currently, I’m the only artist who uses the program to finish pieces. You can download the program here:

What’s your typical workday/work session like?
Before bed around 9:30PM, I ready some coffee in a pour-over and prep some sweet potatoes in our toaster oven.

I wake up at 6AM to take care of our two huskies, check messages, and make breakfast for my wife and myself. By 8AM I try to have my workout and cleanup behind me, so I can start an hour-long process of art warmups. The rest of the day is filled with commission work, small exercises, and sometimes I take calls with clients and broadcast my computer screen over a stream, which you can view 9AM-6PM EST on most weekdays here:

What do you do to keep yourself motivated as you work?

Streaming my work and timing every sketch commission to the minute allows me to maintain a professional state of mind, even in the otherwise leisurely atmosphere of home. If I have a big project I need to churn out, I buy a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and tear into it once I’ve done a good job.

What is your dream job?
 I am currently doing my dream job. Getting to talk to clients directly while creating characters to change their lives for the better, that is the greatest job I could ever hope for!

Do you keep a sketchbook? 
Last year, I ditched sketchbooks in favour of folded cardstock paper. This formatting seems to be easier to carry in a pocket, tear apart and reorganize by subject, and also works well when needing to expanding my image’s dimensions later.

What do you listen to while you work?
I try to avoid listening to anything during design and construction periods of art, since the multitasking won’t allow me to be my best. When detailing or colouring after the drawing process, I will listen to assorted lectures or go through a music playlist I’ve cultivated here:

What are you reading?
“Consider The Lobster” by David Foster Wallace
“Understanding Comics” by Scott McCloud
“My Name is Asher Lev” by Chaim Potok

Who are your artistic influences?
I deeply resonate with the works of Andrew Wyeth, Wassily Kandinsky, Zdzisław Beksinski, Rick Berry, Phil Hale, João Ruas, and Woodkid.

What do you do that is not art-related that inspires you?

Anything that helps me in my pursuit of Truth is how I want to spend my time! My current favourite topics are philosophy, religion, conceptual maths, and cultural diversity. Being my best artist means finding inspiration in all places.

What was the best advice you got in your career so far?
I recently came across this quote, and found it to be the backbone of everything I would desire in my career.
“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
-Albert Camus

What is your favorite color?
I don’t have a favourite colour, since I’d be fine if I only saw black and white the rest of my life. I do love seeing grey used creatively around bright colours, though!

How can we get best follow your art online/on social media?

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