An Interview with Marc Johns

Marc Johns‘ creations never cease to charm me! They are full of wonderfully quirky, oddly endearing characters that are paired with laughably ironic quips. The simplistic nature of his drawings only makes the message more clear. Marc was kind enough to answer some questions about his work in order to give us some insight into the process behind these delightful creations of his.

When did you become interested in being an artist?
I’ve always made art in some form throughout my life, but I guess it wasn’t until about five years ago that I really got serious and started approaching it as a possible career path.

What sort of activities did you take part in as a child? Did anything in particular spark your artistic interest?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. My dad used to bring home heaps of scrap computer paper from work for me to draw on. Like most kids, I read comic books, so I’d make my own little comics. They would be so thick I’d have to use a staple gun to bind the pages together. I still like making little books.

What materials do you use to create your pieces? Why do you choose this medium?
I use drawing pens and watercolours on thick, acid free watercolour paper. I keep experimenting with different media, but I keep coming back to good old ink and watercolour. It allows me to draw first, and then apply the watercolour paint afterwards. Watercolour stains the paper instead of covering it, and it doesn’t cover up my lines. I like the texture and depth I get with it. It’s so simple, so basic; all of my art supplies could fit in a briefcase.

Where do you get the ideas for your drawings?
I always keep a notebook in my back pocket, so that I can capture my ideas any time of day. The ideas tend to come from overheard conversations, magazine article titles, bad TV shows, good movies, song titles, stuff I read or see on the internet, and so on. Sometimes it’s just a word or two that I write down, and eventually it turns into a finished drawing.

I like to make my own notebooks. I’ll make a half dozen at a time, and they’re generally small and thin, just 30 pages, so they fit nicely in my back pocket. I just can’t bring myself to spend loads of money on things like Moleskine notebooks. I like the idea that my notebook costs basically nothing, so there’s no pressure to create anything really good in it. It helps my creative process knowing that there’s nothing at stake, nothing to lose. Making mistakes freely is essential. I have a drawer full of these little books now, and I flip through them when I need some ideas.

Is creating art your main source of income or do you have also have a “day job”? If so, what is it?
I do indeed have a day job - I’m a graphic designer.


Where do you get the ideas for your drawings?
I alway keep a notebook in my back pocket, so that I can capture my ideas any time of day. The ideas tend to come from overheard conversations, magazine article titles, bad TV shows, good movies, song titles, stuff I read or see on the internet, and so on. Sometimes it's just a word or two that I write down, and eventually turns into a finished drawing. I like to make my own notebooks. I'll make a half dozen at a time, and they're generally small and thin, just 30 pages, so they fit nicely in my back pocket. I like the idea that my notebook costs basically nothing, so there's no pressure to create anything really good in it. It helps my creative process, knowing that there's nothing at stake, nothing to lose. Making mistakes freely is essential.

What sort of message are you attempting to convey through your artwork?
The world we've created (when I say 'we' I mean us humans, society, civilization...) is odd and strange and funny and ridiculous and makes no sense. So my work tends to comment on that. The characters are hesitant, unsure. They're trying to figure out the world around them with mixed results. And I like to poke fun at marketing and media, since it's part of my day job.

What role does humor play in your art?
Humour plays a big part in my work, but it's risky. People think you make cartoons. But I think there's always some truth behind humour, so it's sort of my way of revealing whatever that truth is. I strive for honesty in my work. If something is funny, I can't help but to put that in my drawings.

Where do you see yourself going as an artist in the future?
I'd like to make books, I think my work lends itself to being in that format, so you can flip through a bunch of my drawings in one go. I'd also like to do a children's book or two. I have two young sons, so we spend a great deal of time reading kids' books. They're a great source of inspiration— my sons AND their books.

Where has your work been featured in the past? Are there any upcoming events?
I've got two drawings in the inaugural issue of Fray Magazine. One of my early drawings is on the cover of the current issue of PRISM International, a literary journal. I've got my art on the front cover of Beyond Magazine. Milk Magazine, from Hong Kong, did a 6-page spread of my work with an interview. Also, a company will be producing a t-shirt with one of my drawings. No upcoming events that I can confirm at the moment. However, I hope to release a book of drawings sometime later this year. I'm very excited about that - stay tuned.

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