Lenora Jayne is a self-described “Brooklyn-based & Neptune-bound illustrator, designer & creative dilettante”. How fabulous is that?! I hope she comes out to Los Angeles someday, because I have a fantasy of us sitting down together, trading art supplies, and going completely nuts on the side of a fusion food truck on La Brea. Til then, this interview will have to suffice. We dish on managing artists, influences, and developing a style. She’s cool. Real cool.
You’re a sort of Jill of All Trades—aside from your visual artist work, you also list Artist Management as part of your skill set. What does this mean and how does it work? It seems that a lot of artists, so much of the time, have to manage themselves, and it’s a total trial and error adventure.
It’s true! I come from a very DIY background. Almost everything I know about art, business, design, and programming, I taught myself. I’ve found that many of the artists I know are focused more on making art, and don’t know how to advocate for themselves and get their work in front of more eyes.
Managing artists is a new thing I’m attempting to work my way into, which is really a natural extension of branding and design, I think. The art collective that I’ve been running for the past four years (The Lowbrow Society for the Arts) is currently in the process of dissolving. One of the big things that I’ve learned in those four years, is that I love connecting people and building creative community as much as I love making art. And it really comes from this desire to support other artists and advocate for creatives who are just starting out, because it’s tough and can be isolating at times, and I want us to all make it and get paid!
I consider myself a sort of self-styled “advocate for artists”, I suppose. I’ve given more than one “pep talk” to friends that were dealing with difficult freelance clients or who were undercharging for their work. It’s a challenge sometimes, to fight for your right to make a living off of art! It feels like we’re cheating the system, because we have this really intense love for what we do.
But my goal is to be able to use my range of skills to help others build a brand, develop their online presence, and connect them with the resources that they need to produce more and better work. And to foster collaboration! Because what’s cooler than working with other people that can inspire you and inform your work?
I adore all of the bright color you use in your work, and the fact that you don’t use much black to harness in your color. How did you develop your style? Your work is unusual, because even though the content and palette is cohesive, you don’t seem to stick to any one medium. On the front page of your blog alone, you see work in cut out paper and gauche, acrylic, and digital—but they never seem to mix. What informs your decision to use a certain medium for a certain piece? How did you develop your interest and skill in each medium?
Color has always been something I’ve been intrinsically drawn to! Bright colors just express a certain joy, energy, and excitement that I identify with. There’s a lot of “myself” in my art, for better or for worse. In terms of media, I really have a hard time with the fact that I don’t work in one style. Sometimes I feel like it’s a failing. When I was attending Parsons for illustration, it was a very, very common critique: you have to develop a recognizable style and work in a preferred medium in order to get hired for work. I hate that! I want to do everything!
Each medium has its own voice, and they all lend a certain emotional tone, for me, to a piece. I think I also have a different handstyle in each medium as well. Working digitally feels modern and clean, gouche and rag paper have a sensuality to them, they seem more personal and tactile.
I’ve been basically working in every medium I could get my hands on since I was a kid: watercolor, colored pencil, crayons, charcoal, acrylic, oils, collage, silkscreen, etc.
One of the most revolutionary tools was the computer. When I first really started perusing the internet, at age 13, I discovered all these amazing artists (on Geocities, of course) who worked digitally, and I had never seen that before! I loved the bright colors and the clean lines. And so, I did my research, asked questions, and dove in with a mouse, a downloaded copy of Gimp (an open-source image editing program) and a crappy digital camera to photograph my sketches.
You have a very tight hold on your content—ladies in “various states of undress” (as you put it). They sometimes seem to be aware of the viewer, sometimes not—almost as if they are making the choice, not you, and that’s what gives them their personalities. They sometimes seem caught in the act—particularly the women eating ice cream. Why women disrobing and what questions are you exploring for yourself with this idea?
I swear I do draw more than naked ladies! But in the past few months, I’ve primarily been doing my “Not Safe For Work Friday” posts. NSFWF is my time to play with various combinations of digital and traditional media. I like drawing girls because it’s my way (as a queer, tattooed and rainbow-haired artist) of subverting the norms of what a “pinup” is, and exploring what beauty is, as well. I’m recognize I’m still getting there, but I want to really push my own (and others’) perceptions of “sexy” by including a spectrum of body types, races and genders, because in the real world, sexy is so much more than Victoria’s Secret models. And you know, sometimes it’s easier to be subversive and slip in a little bit of a message in there when you sugarcoat it with sex.
I love how pop inspired your work is, and it’s pretty apparent that you are clued into icons as far as movie actresses from the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. Who are your art influences and what attracts you to their work?
Where to begin? I’m inspired by mythology, fairy tales, the future, color, psychedelic art, femininity, fashion, storytelling. I think I’m still learning how to translate that to my work, though. I have so many favorite artists! I originally went to school for fashion design, so fashion has a huge, huge influence on me still, especially Hussein Chalayan, Alexander McQueen and Prada’s Fall 2008 collaboration with illustrator James Jean. I love Ellen von Unwerth’s photography, which features women who are alluring and powerful and in-control of their sexuality (and meticulously styled!). And I’m a total sucker for graffiti art, all of the girl artists out there; Swoon, TooFly, Miss Van, Lady Aiko, Fafi, they all present these strong images of femininity that I find incredibly inspiring and empowering.