“I work at my dining room table most of the time. I also have on old piece of furniture — it’s a chest of drawers with doors — in the dining room we affectionately call Edward, and Edward houses all of my drawing and painting supplies, as well as everything I need to ship orders. We don’t have the luxury of an extra room for a studio. We have kids – two boys, 5 and 8 – and they always have projects on the go, so there is a great deal of making that happens in our house. It’s kind of nice to not be tucked away in a workshop, but to have art making be integrated into everyday life. It’s not always ideal – I constantly have to clear my drawing and painting supplies off the dining room table before the next meal, and thoroughly scrub down the table (kids are not always tidy eaters) before getting to work. It’s probably good for me, because it prevents me from building up clutter. It makes me think of people who live on boats or in tiny apartments in Tokyo, where every counter or table has at least 2 or 3 purposes. (The computer is in another shared room, where I do my scanning and editing and blogging. Boring stuff.)
When I say that I work at my dining room table most of the time, I mean that much of the creative process happens in about a hundred different places. I keep these little homemade notebooks with me and jot down ideas wherever I am: on walks, in the lineup at the coffee shop, on the bus, while watching TV, or while putting the kids to sleep. I’ll overhear a conversation, see some quirky signage, spot an interesting pattern, or think of an odd combination of objects and I’ll pull out a notebook and get the idea down on paper. So in many ways, my “workspace” is everywhere.”
Marc Johns creates whimsical drawings filled with dry wit and humour. Whether it’s a man with branches growing out of his head that need pruning, or a pipe that’s trying to quit smoking, his characters are simply, sparsely drawn, yet speak volumes with just a few strokes of the pen. He’s been drawing since he was tiny. He’s not tiny anymore, but he’s not exactly big either. Marc is not sure why he’s talking about himself in the third person…Marc lives in Victoria, BC, Canada with his wife, two boys, and a drawer full of pens.
FROM YOUR DESKS: You are funny and smart. Did you grow up in a funny family?
MARC JOHNS: Humour and cleverness were always encouraged in our household. My father is a funny guy. Him and I used to stay up late watching Saturday Night Live together when I was a teenager. We took our funny business seriously.
In many ways, my “workspace” is everywhere.
FYD: When people say they are “just joking” …do you feel there is a tinge of truth in their message?
MJ: There is always a bit of truth when people say “just joking”, otherwise they wouldn’t have thought it in the first place. I find that looking for humour in things and situations leads to some sort of truth. I guess that’s why the best comedy is about everyday life.
FYD: You say…”You could fit my studio in a large suitcase.” What are we talking here? What are we taking?
MJ: After years of experimenting with different media, I settled on ink, watercolour and paper. We’re talking about little tubes of paint, brushes, pens, and small sheets of watercolour paper. Actually I could probably carry everything I need in a briefcase. No checked baggage, just a carry-on.
FROM YOUR DESKS: How did the sticky note project come about?
MJ: It was about four years ago. I was working in an office at the time (I was an in-house graphic designer) with a terrific office supplies closet. The stacks of sticky notes and highlighters were calling my name. Also at the time I was thinking about starting to share my work online in a focused manner, and wondered how I could do so in the most relevant way possible. I wanted my work to suit the online medium. The way art is consumed online is vastly different from the way it’s consumed in a gallery. You look at an illustration on a website for just a few seconds before moving on, maybe a bit longer if there is some text to read. The sticky note drawings are meant to be consumed quickly (and they are drawing quickly), but hopefully I’ve got some extra layers of meaning that reward those viewers who take the time to digest it.
We are so goddamn impatient. We want to find the perfect recipe for success. There is no magic formula in art, there is just magic.
Also, the sticky note size is perfect. When it’s viewed in a blog post it’s pretty much actual size on your screen. You are seeing it lifesize, imperfections and all, as if it were right in front of you. It’s also a very familiar material to most people. All of these elements help to make a connection with the viewer.
I find that looking for humour in things and situations leads to some sort of truth. I guess that’s why the best comedy is about everyday life.
FROM YOUR DESKS: These days, I see intense pressure from ones teens-through-their-20s to develop a style or mission statement. I remember being the dreaded “undeclared” before declaring Journalism. Is it okay to develop or find your style later in life?
MJ: Good God! Of course it’s okay to take some time to develop your style. It’s an evolution. There’s way too much focus on successful youth (I sound like a grumpy old man now). “Oh wow, look at that super original talented successful writer/artist/director who’s only 21”. It’s remarkable because it’s rare, and the story isn’t always true, so don’t beat yourself up about not having it all figured out. We are so goddamn impatient. We want to find the perfect recipe for success. There is no magic formula in art, there is just magic. You need to find something that works for you, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just keep at it, improve it, refine it, make it more meaningful. Developing your style never really stops. Besides, it’s more fun that way, because it keeps it interesting.