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Interview: Jon Fox

Jon Fox, based in Bournemouth, submitted his portfolio to us a few months ago and we were immediately keen to get him involved in the magazine. His work consists of large scale, frenetic paintings which demand to be studied for hours, because of the sheer wealth of swirling, coded imagery. We caught up with him recently to talk about how he found making a spread for our latest issue: A Few Of My Favourite Things. Here’s what he had to say:

NB: What are your favorite things?

JF: Well, based on the things that i included in the design..we’ve got honey on toast with a cup of tea…island life (preferably a tropical one), hula girls ..in fact girls in general , fresh fruits and vegetables, and the joy of growing them..eggs (especially chocolate / golden ones)…the birds and the bees..enjoying the creative process of drawing..using my imagination, pondering its connection to the cycles of nature, the weather the universe.and music.. strong long island ice tea…a nice bottle of red…..ligers..surfing and travelling…oh and ice cream. I guess those were the first things that popped into my head and fell out my pen, but i think i have other favourite things too..for example, getting into warm bed after working late on a freezing night or when you see a person bending over to pick something up..just at the exact same time someone beeps a car horn..but they’re not as easy to make into a pattern…

NB: How did you approach the challenge of creating a repeat pattern?

JF: I approached it with a dimwitted look of total confusion and puzzlement..to start with anyway. I’ve never attempted a repeatable pattern before or indeed the screen printing process. So it was like a big custard pie of uncertainty to the face. But after a while I (kind of) got the hang of it, and started to enjoy the challenge. As far as creating the image..I guess I started by listing some of my favourite things..then whittled it down to ones that would work (and be fun to do) as a drawing. Then it was about drawing up all the elements separately and juggling them all around until a decent overlapping / inter connecting composition fell into place. After that it was just a matter of tearing it all apart again and working out how on earth i turn it into a repeatable pattern (..not as hard as i thought)..and work out all the separated coloured layers (..total head f*ck). I ended up learning quite a lot of new skills in a short amount of time, bit of a crash course in Photoshop…but i really enjoyed the results..its got me thinking about the potential of using patterns in my other work now.

NB: How was working with colour separations different from your usual processes of painting and drawing?

JF: Well.. I guess it was just tricky for me at the start..working out the colour seperation because, to be honest, I didnt have a clue how you work it all out properly in Photoshop! I do use it occasionally, but only in a very crude way. I’ve always seen it as just a tool for cutting and pasting or scanning and printing..nothing more fancy than that. So it just meant I did everything back to front and the wrong way round..it probably took me longer than it should have but, like I said before, I learnt a lot by doing it the long way round…stuff which will be important to know for the future, so its all good.

I guess the main difference from drawing and painting though is the fact that its so much more hands on, its there in front of you to touch and push around until your happy with it.. its a lot more of an organic process based more on feeling and intuition. Where as this was more of a cerebral exercise..I had to really think and plan ahead (which I’m really not used to) like working out a puzzle. I always feel a bit uneasy working on something that only really exists as a PSD, I cant touch it -its just floating around in my computer. I still have no idea if it has worked out how I wanted?..guess i’ll find out when I open a copy of NoBrow!

NB: You say on your website that your work ‘often addresses the conflict of emotion: ‘heart against head”. would you say that this is true of the image you produced for A Few Of My Favourite Things?

JF: To be honest I don’t think so..I mean for all my moaning about not knowing how the process worked, it was genuinly a lot of fun to do! I’m not sure there was much conflict in that respect. To me the final image seemed like a pretty happy place? I think when I put that up on my website..it was just after i’d finished a series of big paintings which were dealing with those kind of themes in a lot more depth, so it was probably geared more towards explaining that body of work. I think my head and my heart are more or less on the same page these days..so not so much conflict!

NB: How do you see your work evolving in the near future?

JF: It’s difficult to say how exactly, I’m always trying my push my work as hard as I can to the next level,  I always want the next piece to be stronger than the last and I want it to evolve and develop in all respects.  Saying that, it’s a natural process, and I guess its about just trying to follow the growth and changes that feels right at the time? I definitely have a backlog of ideas I want to explore and experiment with: colour combinations, characters, themes, compositional stuff, and now, patterns! At the end of the day, these are really just starting points. Once I get started and begin to develop any of them further, the creative process kicks in and its just a matter of following the flow and exploring all the potentials that appear before you and spiral off into new places. After all, thats the fun and joy of creating something original (or at least trying to). So I’ll have to see what happens, and where it goes from here: it’ll no doubt be as much a suprise to me, as it will to anyone, but its what I look forward to!