Artist John Malloy creates illustrations with such meticulous detail, it’s no surprise they take on a painterly effect. His use of line and form mixed with brilliant colors give his illustrations a huge amount of depth which can be applied in an array of graphic applications. It’s no wonder he was chosen to collaborate on the creation of Peace Tea’s (a part of Hansen Beverage Company / Monster Energy) logo and branding. John Malloy’s artwork has also been in many publications such as Paste Magazine, Faethetic Magazine, Dazed and Confused and Business Week. We had the chance to interview John and get the scoop on his process and what the future holds (two shows at ThinkSpace Gallery!).
Did growing up in rural Pennsylvania affect your creative style? What were the major influences?
It definitely did. There really wasn’t a whole lot to do for anyone under legal age [or over] so drawing and painting offered an escape for me. On the other hand having easy access to open forests and nature inspired me in other ways to spend long meditative amounts of time on my work. When I started painting back in college I was really influenced by early fantasy artists like Frank Frazetta & Boris Vallejo, but also digital artists at the time like Dave McKean. My work now isn’t like any of that stuff but it’s really what got me initially interested in painting.
When you first started to draw at a young age what did you create?
Cartoons mostly, characters from books and tv shows, and then in high school I would draw landscapes and pencil-rendered portraits of my favorite musicians.
What drew you to the old masters?
Their ability to make something look lifelike using oil, with a luminosity that was almost ‘more real’ than reality, was really what blew my mind. It made me realize that oil was a great medium to create a believable alternate world. I also had an excellent teacher, a trompe l’oeil painter [trompe l'oeil means ‘fool the eye’].
From where do you gain inspiration?
Everywhere. Music, photography, film, installation/video art, and just everyday life. It’s always there as long as I’m looking.
Upon taking on an editorial project, how do you prepare for it? Describe your process?
It depends. Sometimes the art director has a clear idea of what they want and in that case I’ll do sketches based on their concepts. More often than not though it’s up to me [which is always more fun] and I’ll scan through the text for the major points and anything that brings something visually to mind – metaphorically more than literally. Then I’ll start doing design sketches that are intended to grab the viewer and lead them into the text.
Name your favorite Editorial piece design-wise you have done? and Which was the most fun to do?
That’s tough. I think I have two so far, the Kathleen Edwards I did for Paste and the Krishna Das piece for Utne Reader. The Potato Hole piece for Paste was probably the most fun though as it gave me an opportunity to draw the iconic Neil Young.
Kathleen Edwards – Editorial Illustration for Paste Magazine
Kathleen Edwards – Editorial Illustration for Paste Magazine
What was your inspiration for Refract – your collection of Mixed Media artwork? Eyes play a prominent roll in these pieces…what does it represent?
Funny you should ask. The series was originally to be used for an illustrated compendium for an album by the band, Travis, who hired me to create the pieces around the drawing of an eye done by Roald Dahl. The eye was the initial inspiration, and the scenes were based on the album which told the story of a guy who dies, and looks back on his life’s mistakes. I pulled a lot of inspiration from unfortunate times in my own life as well for it. They loved the work but decided in the end that they wanted to start work on another album right away and wanted to focus more of their funds, resources on that instead.
In the Potato Hole (from the Paste Magazine review of Booker T’s album), please explain how you came up with the idea for this illustration.
Well I knew I had to have the likenesses of everyone involved on the album, which included Booker T, Neil Young, and the Drive By Truckers, and that the fact that they were teaming up on something that was both indicative of each artist but also creating something new. Using the potato as a visual metaphor it seemed natural to make them all ‘potato heads’, for lack of a better word, growing from the same ‘seed’ of inspiration.
If you had to pick someone to be your “hero” who would it be and why?
Tell us something about yourself that not too many people know.
I also teach on the side and love teaching. I’ve taught Illustration & Digital at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and currently teach at the art dept. at SUNY Fredonia, NY. It keeps me inspired.
Who are your favorite artists?
Lately I’ve been loving the work of Gregory Crewdson, Jen Stark, and AES+F.
Name three words that describe you best.
Busy, Inquisitive, and Infantile-Humored.
About your newest project Peace Tea…can give us some information on this project?
Sure thing. It’s really been a collaborative effort between me and the creative team at the Peace Tea Beverage Company [a part of Hansen Beverage Company / Monster Energy], and creative director Lisa Lopuck. The idea was to create each flavor’s label around a different movement/revolutionary time in history and/or locale, promoting peace with the product. The style behind it is more like my graphic work [rather than my rendered, painterly stuff] as it’s more suitable for the cans it’s printed on. I also designed the logo. Originally I would draw everything in ink, scan it in, and color using photoshop. Eventually I invested in a Wacom Intuos tablet and created a brush to mimic sumi ink. It takes just as long, usually about a week on average to do each design, but having it all digital makes revisions easier.
What projects are you currently working on?
Right now I’m putting together two new pieces I’m really excited about for 2 separate upcoming shows at Thinkspace Gallery in Culver City, CA in early 2012. One show’s called ‘Picks of the Harvest’ and the other, ‘Wild At Heart: Keeping Wildlife in the Wild’.