Art Talk with Jono Doiron

Jono Doiron is an exemplary, praiseworthy artist currently working in Montreal, and I met up with him at the English Language Arts Network (ELAN) meeting where he was kind enough to speak to me about his work.   

80s popular culture is being revived in fashion and movies, how much of your work is driven by the current scene?

I actually don’t actively seek out which 80’s trends are enjoying resurgence. Whenever I’ve aligned my work with those trends, it’s mostly just been a coincidence. For instance, when I did the painting of the My Little Ponies smoking (‘Stable Vices’), the designs were based off the 80’s cartoon, not the new one. I wasn’t even aware there was a new show at the time. The fact that I was born in the 80’s, kind of instills a fondness of cartoons (and some other trends) from that era while earning me camaraderie with others of similar influence. The application of my work tends to be more derivative of the current scene: taking inspiration from street art, graffiti, illustrative styles and numerous other contemporary painters. The content of my work tends to be more influenced by the past, particularly the 80’s and 90’s.

Where do you stand on commercial art? Would you mind if your pieces were sold by stores that do not specialize in fine arts?

I don’t believe commercial art and fine art are nearly as divided as many people would believe them to be. In my opinion, as soon as art has a price tag – whether it’s an original oil painting or a plaque mount – it’s commercial art because the objective is to sell it.

What’s important to me is that my work finds the right audience, and that’s not always possible to do so in art galleries alone. Many people for whatever reason are still intimidated by art galleries or just do not have the incentive to go into them. Locally, I think businesses like Montreal Images have the right kind of focus. They do not specialize in original art, but have an obvious convergence in selling art. As with many other things, the value of something is often determined by the circumstances you discover it in. What I’m not OK with is selling my work in stores that don’t specialize in anything. I still desire to have my art shown alongside other art.   

Do you see your work as bridging the gap between illustration and painting?

Absolutely! I refer to myself as a painter and illustrator when I meet new people. My paintings are very much illustrations because they deal with narrative subject matter, and they are illustrations that just happen to be painted. The fact that my work isn’t discernibly one area or the other allows me to exist in both worlds and I enjoy that.

Do you envisage a graphic novel in your future?

I would love to produce a graphic novel in the future. It has certainly been on my mind for a long time. There are several characters I’ve developed over the years and I think bringing them into comics would be the proper medium for them. When I was younger, my ambition was actually to be a comic strip artist, but later my focus shifted to animation. I enjoy the strong emphasis on storytelling the medium offers, the tolerance for every style and that you’re only limited to what you can draw. A graphic novel is a mountain of work to produce, but when you’re finished, people can take your art along with them wherever they go and I think that’s pretty cool. The comics I enjoy the most tends to be the cartoony stuff like Uncle Scrooge, Sam & Max or the Looney Tunes or SpongeBob comics, so the book I would make would probably be something similar of that nature.  

How much of your work is autobiographical?

It’s very difficult to remove myself from my work completely. Every painting or work of art I do, whether it’s personal work or commissioned, I try to add elements of my tastes and interests. When I first started, I didn’t really have many ideas for paintings – now I have tons. The reason is I’ve accumulated more life experience since then and now have more to say and share with people. What you choose to paint speaks volumes about yourself because you’re communicating to the world something you think deserves more attention. If you choose to devote hours to making a painting, the subject matter must be important to you or you wouldn’t have bothered. 

The reason I frequently paint cartoon characters is due to both a kinship and a personal conflict. I admire them in very much the same light most people look up to celebrities, however, I’m upset by the fact they don’t actually exist and I’ll never meet them. I grew up without cable too so the only time I really got to see them was Saturday morning and ‘The Wonderful World of Disney’. I often depict them in my work as if they actually grew up with me and must now face the same tribulations we all encounter to make them more relatable.  They’ve gone through a lot of the same stuff I have. The paintings that focus on those themes tend to be the most autobiographical.

What do you say to those who say painting is dead?

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I would say that is one poorly researched. Painting is a medium – not a genre, so anyone who truly believes that comment probably just hasn’t found anything that’s resonated with them yet. I would recommend that they keep looking. Not just traditional painting, but there is equally stunning work that is completely digital too. There are still plenty of people making paintings, so it’s obviously not dead.

When and where can we see your next exhibition?

Currently, I have many original paintings on display until the end of the September in a restaurant called Bistro Resto Bon Ton located in LaSalle. I am doing a ‘meet and greet’ on the evening of Wednesday September 26th. I would be happy to answer any questions about my work and encourage everyone to attend.

Mid September, I have a table at the 2012 Montreal Comic Con as well. I will be selling works ranging from original drawings, (smaller) original paintings, prints and a self published booklet of sketches. I’ll also be drawing quick sketches for people too.

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