illustrating and blogging from: BC, canada with marc johns

third in my illustrators & blogging series is the fantastic marc johns! how exciting, i was so happy when he accepted my request.

marc lives in victoria, british columbia, canada with his wife, two boys, and a drawer full of pens. he creates wonderful illustrations, often on post its. he has a talent for putting a lot of imagination in a little space!

you can follow him on twitter, facebook, and buy originals and prints in his shop.

hey marc! could you please give us a little intro to your work and your blog?
I’ve been sharing my work online since 2006. And, thanks to the internet, I’ve been making art full-time for two and a half years now.

I like to find the humour in things. Where there’s humour, there’s truth. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that everything I make is funny. I am by no means a cartoonist. I find our world to be a tad absurd, so I make drawings that are often absurd. I try to make work that amuses me, but it’s hard not keep an audience in mind, because we all need to make a living. I think if you create something that’s truly you, that’s truly honest, with complete disregard for any kind of audience or profitable market, the paradox is that it WILL resonate with people, it will find its own audience. It’s just really hard to have the faith to follow through and make that happen.

what to focus on illustration by marc johns
do you have a favourite piece that you’ve made?
My favourites keep changing. But I’m most proud of “What to focus on”. It’s had the greatest impact, yet it’s the most poorly drawn thing I’ve made! Although that was the point of it: it’s the mad scratchings of someone frantically reminding themselves to focus on what’s important. It resonated with lots of people, and consequently I’ve sold more prints of that one than any other drawing, and it’s been tattooed the most too.

what’s been your career highlight so far?
That’s tough to answer, because on the one hand, there are lots of projects I’ve done that I’m proud of, but I feel like I still haven’t really hit my stride yet. I don’t spend much time looking back. I keep thinking about what’s next, what am I REALLY supposed to be doing with all this?

But, if I had to pick something, it’d be my first book, published by teNeues. It turned out really well, some terrific retailers carried it (Urban Outfitters, MoMA bookstore, Barnes & Noble), and the whole print run sold out.

bird in hot air balloon illustration

do you have anything you’d like to achieve in the future?
I’d like to explore more storytelling with my work, and do more writing, and make more books.

if you have one, what is your all time favourite illustration or artwork? why? what does it mean to you?
I don’t have one single all-time favourite artwork. I think there have been different pieces and artists that have influenced me at various points in my life, but they keep changing.

man with antlers marc johns

how do you juggle creating and blogging? 

I blog just about everything that I draw so it’s just part of my process. It doesn’t really feel like a juggling act. I do feel that some drawings don’t make for very compelling blog posts, yet they are still worth creating. So the balancing act I sometimes struggle with is whether I’m making drawings that are good, or drawings that are good on the internet.

illustration by marc johns
do you have any favourite arty blogs you like to read?
Not lately. Although I keep finding great artists and illustrators on Pinterest. But I try not to spend too much time looking at other people’s work. I end up getting jealous or muddled or defeated. Quite counterproductive. I prefer to get inspired by things outside the world of illustration and art, like textiles, fashion, overheard conversations, expressions, objects around the house, and a million other things, and bring them into my work.

where are your favourite places for art? to see, buy, whatever’s on your mind.
My favourite art experiences have been in places like the Whitney Museum or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, or the Pompidou in Paris, or the Musee des Beaux Arts in Montreal. I wish we had places like those here in Victoria. But since we don’t, I’ll settle for good art books. I also love looking at art in people’s homes in decor magazines. I find it interesting to see the artworks people choose to live with. I also love the children’s section in bookstores. There is so much incredible illustration and creative storytelling in kids’ picture books.

polka dot elephant illustration

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