Jack Lowe’s refreshing and unusual illustrations carry an eccentric Alice in Wonderland type vibe, and similar to Lewis Carroll’s epic adventure, Jack’s artworks possess heavy themes such as alienation and avarice. In our latest spotlight, Jack regales us with tidbits about his artistic method and aspirations.
Q: Hello Jack! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
A: Well I’m from Adelaide where I’m currently studying a double degree of chemical engineering and biotechnology. But whenever I’m not doing uni work, I’m drawing as much as I can. Creating art has been something I’ve always loved and I consider it to be one of the most important things in my life. I haven’t exhibited a great deal but over 2013, 2014 and now 2016 I’ve illustrated quite a lot for my university’s student magazine On Dit in addition to creating stand-alone artworks.
Q: Who inspires you? What inspires your art?
A: My art has many sources of inspiration. Things that induce a response in me inspire me. I love listening to music; often it’s not a lyrical feature of a song, but rather the overall feeling it generates. I also love old-style illustrations, from watercolours to woodblock prints. There are features of these in my art. Most importantly, art is like an analogue of meditation for me. I sometimes use it as a way of coping when things have gone wrong, or as a way of understanding my own reactions to those situations.
Q: Do you have a preferred medium?
A: At the moment I really enjoy working with Indian ink, often with some watercolour thrown in over the top. There’s something really satisfying about sitting down and playing with such a medium. Any small mistake can absolutely devastate the whole piece, so it forces you to concentrate. By the time I’m finished there’s almost a sense of relief because I no longer need to constantly check if I’m going to smudge something.
Previously I’ve used dip pens, but I’m starting to use a brush more. Although a dip pen can give you a nice variation in line thickness, I find their nibs catch the grain on some papers. This can limit the freedom of my line work. In comparison, a brush allows greater movement. Although it’s a different experience for me, I’m trying to get used to it. I’ve also started incorporating digital colouring in illustrations I hope to have reproduced in print. Watercolours don’t reproduce well when scanned, so this adds a level of consistency that is otherwise lost.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: My style definitely varies quite a lot. Sometimes I like to think my work resembles classic pen and ink illustrations where something’s gone a little awry. Recently I tend to favour some darker themes. The work I’m planning to get done in the next few months will probably feature some starker comparisons between light and shade. I also want to incorporate more angular geometric features than I’ve previously used. Overall I like to use visual metaphors in my art. Sometimes it’s better to say something indirectly, you can have more fun with it that way.
Q: Can you please describe your artistic and creative process i.e.: from lingering idea to putting it into practice?
A: My artistic process is somewhat haphazard. However, I think it benefits from that. Concept generation works best when I’m under pressure, whether that’s a result of university, work or just my day-to-day personal life. In such times I often don’t have time to sit down and start drawing. Instead I’ll write down my idea or do a quick sketch for later. Sometimes this happens in my sketchbook, however I’ve now covered most of the walls near my desk with Post-it notes. I’m the first to admit this looks a bit concerning but I like that I can quickly record an idea, leave it in sight to ferment and eventually it may morph into something more realised or lead to something entirely different.
From this stage I’ll usually draft the piece a few times. The extent of this depends on what type of artwork I’m aiming to create. For stand-alone pieces I don’t want to over draft and lose all spontaneity. A quick concept drawing on scrap paper may lead straight on to the final piece where I can enjoy working things out as I go.
Recently I’ve been focusing on making comics. In contrast this requires a lot more planning. I’ll script, make thumbnails and carry out multiple drafts for each page. Once I’m happy, I’ll use a light box to transfer my draft to the final sheet before hand inking it, scanning it and colouring it digitally as opposed to my usual watercolours. This is a very time consuming process but I love it and it gives me great satisfaction when all that planning comes together in a final product.
Below I’ve included some pictures that show the stages I used to create an illustration (Noir Fish) in this way : –
- Drafting Stage
- Light Box Stage
- Inking Stage
- Final, Digitally Coloured Stage
Q: Where do you see your art practice taking you in the next five years?
A: I’d definitely like to have a greater focus on my art in the coming years. Perhaps once I’ve finished my studies, I’ll be able to allocate some time to pursue some illustration-style work. If I’m lucky enough to get a job in my field of study, art will still feature prominently in my spare time, as it always has.
In the past year, I’ve really tried to get into comics and storytelling via sequential art. It’s been a slow learning process, a lot of which has involved researching their storytelling techniques and stages of production. I’ve had some successes and failures so far, but any progress is useful. To the majority of people, comics conjure up images of clichéd superheros. However I’d really encourage people to take a look at some of the more diverse, indie-style comics which are out there. Some people just say it better in pictures. There are a lot of otherwise unheard voices that are engaging and worth listening to through this medium. It helps too that Adelaide also has a great pool of friendly, talented comic makers happy to share great advice. I have a few stories scripted, drafted and ready to go when I have the opportunity to do so.
Q: If you could recommend one artist, who would it be?
A: I’d absolutely love to recommend Hieronymus Bosch. His occasionally menacing, centuries-old paintings are packed full of unique, imaginative images. Looking at his work is like understanding what the very essence of the word ‘bizarre’ would look like if you could distill it and use it as paint.
Q: What is your favourite gallery?
A: I’ve not had the privilege of being able to travel to see a great deal of galleries. As a result, I’ll have to stick with our Art Gallery of South Australia. It’s right there for me if I need a break from study. It also helps that one of my favourite paintings, Circe Invidiosa, has been on display there recently. Other than that I really enjoyed the time I visited the Art Gallery of New South Wales a few years ago.
Q: Where can we find more of your work?
A: I illustrate for On Dit, The University of Adelaide’s student magazine, regularly. At the moment I also have a three page wordless comic titled ‘Seed’ published in issue 103 of Voiceworks. I’d absolutely recommend Voiceworks. They publish work from writers and artists under 25, I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to be in that issue. I’m yet to set up a page on social media but that is definitely something I’ll do in the near future. Until then, I’ll keep submitting work where and when I can.
Q: Which actor would you choose to play you in a film about your life ?
A: No one. That would be such a boring film. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for putting any actors, crew members or audiences through that one. If you’ve ever seen a pigeon looking confused and flapping about then that pretty accurately sums up my life, without requiring a production budget.
– Masya Zabidi