Comics have gained an increasing amount of attention with artists like Frank Miller and Stan Lee becoming house hold names, and graphic novels being considered works of art as opposed to the throw away fantasies of adolescent boys. Even with the increasing exposure of comic artists there are still those that edge around the mainstream and great something new and genre bending. Jonny Negrons’ work is sexual (in ways that he’d personally shy away from) and evocative in ways he may not admit. His style brings together influences from manga to french new wave. We got in contact with him and tried our best to see what goes into being such a distinctive artist. Also, we just wanted more pictures of thick girls but apparently he’d rather talk about all of the increasingly interesting work he’s putting out instead.
LG: You worked as a gold buyer before you became a full time artist. Did you have a lot of weird jobs before that? When and why did you decide to work in comics and art full time? What made you think, “I can make this a full time job?”
JN: I’ve had many different jobs before committing to art. I do not have a degree, but i prefer to think of myself as self-educated artist. I’ve been interested in drawing almost my entire life, and I’ve always had mysterious necessity to create. After I was fired as a gold buyer, I decided to work as hard as I could pursuing art. I still feel that I do not work hard enough, but I’ve had good fortune as an artist since then.
To the casual observer, it seems like you came up out of nowhere a year or two ago. Did you start posting art on Tumblr or Flickr and gain new fans that way? I can imagine that your art blew up once It started getting out there, since it’s so distinct.
You draw some thick women. You’ve been asked in every interview if that is the type of girl you’re into, and you’ve said no. But could you enjoy a girl that you draw in your comics from time to time? Your drawings of women are more realistic than most artists’ drawings. Do you draw that way because it’s so unconventional to depict women who aren’t super thin?
I appreciate all kinds of women for all different reasons. Compared to most mainstream ‘art’ and media, yes, I draw unconventional women.
I think John Cassavetes was one of the finest American film directors ever. In his film, Shadows there’s a scene where the characters visit the Metropolitan Museum of art, and they run to take a close look at Gaston Lachaises’ Scupture of a Standing Woman.
Do you prefer to produce prints or comics?
I’d love it if I could make large scale paintings. Ideally I’d like to create whatever I want, when I want.
What are your favorite current comics? Anyone (artist or writer) you’d love to work with in particular?
Off the top of my head, I’m currently inspired by works by Lala Albert, Jesse Balmer, Matt Furie, Aiden Kotch, Benjamin Marra, David Mazzucchelli, Herge, Frank Santoro, and Kris Silver.
[In another interview, Jonny says that when he first got into anime and manga, it was harder to find in America.] I feel the same way about first getting into anime and manga. It was really sort of “underground” and no one really knew about it when I got into it also. I grew up on Hayao Miyazaki’s work, such as My Neighbor Totoro (which is my absolute favorite of his to this day) and I was happy that I could finally put a name to the art style. What’s your favorite Studio Ghibli film? And how did you get ahold of anime and manga back in the beginning, when it first started coming to America?
I don’t have a favorite Ghibli film.
Where I grew up, there was a video store in my town that had a lot of really esoteric stuff, including lots of anime that was rare at the time. I didn’t realize how special this video store was until I got a little older. There is certainly a Japanese influence in my work, but I wouldn’t say my influences are limited to that. For many people it seems to be the most obvious.
I completely agree. I feel like we all took for granted the quirky little video stores in our town, and now we all miss them because they’re gone. I feel like your work could be influenced by more independent, slow paced films. Movies such as House of the Devil, not based on the horror aspect, but based on the slow paced buildup. Movies that aren’t all action, but put emphasis on the scenes between the action scenes. The characters in your work sometimes remind me of The Warriors, or some exploitation films. Are there any movies in particular that you think helped push your style to where it is today?
Good video stores aren’t gone. People just prefer the convenience of digital media. Take Netflix, the most popular films listed are complete shit, in my opinion. When I was 20 I wanted to learn more about visual storytelling, and I sought out as many films as I could. French new wave, silent films, surrealist films, Italian neorealism, Kenneth Anger, Federico Fellini, Seijun Sezuki, Wim Wenders, Ingmar Bergman, the list goes on and on and on and on. Those are just a few examples of films and directors who introduced interesting ways to tell a story for me.
That being said, would you ever want to write or direct a movie? Animated or live action? I personally would love seeing a movie animated in your style.
I’d like to do all that eventually, yes. Maybe not a feature though, who knows.
What are you working on right now? Both personally and for a job?
I’m working the upcoming Studygroup 12, some album covers, and a painting for Ben Marra.
Can you talk about the Negron book that Picturebox is publishing? Is it a comic? Art book?
It’s an art book which has some comics. Primarily illustrations of the thick broads everyone likes.
Anything you’d like to say since you have an audience right now?
Thanks for reading. Look for my book, which will be out in September.
Here’s a link to that:
Interview by Cody Roggio. @cdyrgo