Jon Juarez is an illustrator who lives in San Sebastián, Spain. He is working as an author, book and comic illustrator, and animator for diverse film projects. In an interview for redteastories.com he talks about his career and the lessons he had learned in the past through art.
How did you get started as an illustrator? How long have you been making art?
Jon Juarez: When I saw Kill Bill’s anime, I thought: wow … I was speechless. And it’s not that I wanted to be a cartoonist, I understood that I could build fictions and move people with drawing. For someone that has no studies or contacts, like me, making comics seemed the shortest way to do that. But it took me 10 years to master the technique, and in that strange process between learning and not being up to standard, I ended up professionalizing my own learning. I became a cartoonist.
How would you describe your professional path?
Jon Juarez: I became a cartoonist, the tool for other people to tell and sell fictions. I have not developed personal projects from that moment until now. So, in the same way, that your cells mutate according to the foods you eat, my artistic discourse has been intoxicated with the projects I have done. It is an imposed trajectory, but at the same time, it is indistinguishable from the trajectory that I would have preferred to have, because you are the consequence of what you decide, and your decisions are the consequence of what you are. I am the best and the worst version of myself in every moment.
Do you have any influences?
Jon Juarez: When you try to develop an idea, it seems that everything around you finds you holistically because all your senses work in that direction. The biggest stupid thing in the world can become a happy idea.
If you could go back in time and gave an advice to your younger self, what it will be?
Jon Juarez: I would say: Buy bitcoins.
How would you describe your own work to people?
Jon Juarez: Imagine a person’s brain activity is mapped when somebody says a word … “Apple”, for example. The areas in that brain related to taste, color, smell, texture, weight … will be activated. In the same way that we encode that perception through a word, there are other tools (such as drawing) which are capable to codify that perception from another perspective. Drawing is a language, a tool to perceive reality, to go into detail about that code and its mechanics, about reality and our way of perceiving it. It is not the same to write “horse” than to draw a horse, to smell a horse, to touch a horse, to listen to a horse, to think a horse, to dream a horse, a horse, a horse.
How long does it take to produce an illustration?
Jon Juarez: Usually, one week; sometimes more and sometimes less.
From where do you draw inspiration?
Jon Juarez: From things that excite me and from uncertainty.
If there will be an illustrator’s decalogue what do you think the commandments would be?
Jon Juarez: Anyone who complies with the mechanics and rules of a trade will be replaced sooner or later, by someone or by something.
Do you believe that you have a social responsibility as an artist?
Jon Juarez: I do not believe in the artist figure. Art is the ability to thrill through an idea, it is not a constant, we all are able to give emotion sometimes. The artist figure does not exist, because all humans are artists. My answer to the question is: Yes, all human beings have a social responsibility as artists.
If you could have a tea with any three illustrators, living or dead, who would you choose? And why?
Jon Juarez: I would have a cup of tea with Loic Locateli, Valentine Seiche, Jules Bulain (naleb) and Camille Broutin. I would show them a project to work on together.
Can you tell me five lessons you learned through illustrations?
Jon Juarez: Making comics is not made on a human scale, it is like an interstellar trip.
A style is a choice between what you enjoy, what makes you stand out and what is profitable for you.
When I repeat a resource, it is not style, it is economy.
You do not have to agree with your fictions; right because they are fictions. An author who speaks through his characters is not an author, is a bad ventriloquist. You can write-draw a book or some characters that you do not agree with.
It is more important what makes you doubt that what pleases you.
Something you wish you’d known when you were just starting out?
Jon Juarez: Disappointments, bad decisions are as necessary as successes.
What is the most inspiring place and time for you to work?
Jon Juarez: Any rainy day, I prefer to do other things when the sun rises.
Do you ever hit a creative wall? If so, how do you recharge your batteries?
Jon Juarez: What blocks me the most is having a good idea and delaying it because I have to do other things, delaying that idea over time in exchange for a little money and realizing that the idea loses its own context. It is like picking up something that you have dropped and throwing something else away when you get up, and like that for 10 years. I used to think that an idea may not be worth telling if it does not resist the erosion of the years, but this is not true, it is a self-delusion. There are ideas that hold up to time because they were born within a historical context, and nothing more. So now, the projects that I keep are the ones I want to tell myself. I do not think of a possible reader, I do them for myself, to immerse myself in the ideas that disturb me, those that I do not understand.
What are your goals now?
Jon Juarez: I have to finish a comic that I am developing thanks to a scholarship between Spain and France, and I am collaborating as a storyteller in a telecommunications company.