Every October, artists all over the world take on the InkTober drawing challenge by doing one ink drawing a day the entire month. And this October, Loud and Alive brings you their stories.
When it came to finding artists for our Inktober Spotlight, it was a given for me to turn to this particular artist, who I’ve been following online for quite some time. For me, it started with a mutual love of dinosaurs – but I found fairly quickly that I truly adored Jams’ art, not just their blog.
Not only is Jams a talented artist (I may or may not have bought four images from their Velociraptor Girl Gang collection), but they’re also responsible for our logo – which was a really important part of creating our brand.
Thankfully, we’ve managed to pull them in for an interview where they answered some of our questions, all in the honour of Inktober.
Take a look!
Bethany: Tell us a little about yourself, Jams.
Jams: I’m Jams, I’m 22 years old and I’m a Chemistry student at Bristol University. I’m currently in my final year doing a Masters project on biogeochemistry but in my spare time I’m a freelance illustrator and self-published comic book writer/artist, and an all-round pop culture nerd.
Bethany: How do you feel your personal life impacted your art?
Jams: I’ve never been any good at sports or music or performing arts like a lot of my friends were at school, and I’m a rather introverted person, so instead of hanging out with friends at weekends or attending after-school clubs I’d stay at home and draw. It was a low-commitment hobby that suited my needs and all that spare time spent practicing really made a difference in terms of skill. Art has always been my ‘happy place’ whenever I’m stressed out.
My daily life as a scientist, full of logic and order and precision very rarely makes its way into my art. This was a conscious decision – art is my hobby and I wanted to keep it completely separate from my studies. My art is often lively, whimsical and expressive in a way that my scientific work just isn’t allowed to be, and it’s nice to have a change from sifting through pages of monotonous data or impeccably neat diagrams.
Bethany: How did you start drawing?
Jams: I’ve been a creative person for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is painting cardboard spiders with my dad at nursery school, and I’m pretty sure one of them still sits on top of the fridge. I always liked drawing but didn’t become obsessed until I was given one of those garish ‘How to Draw Manga’ books at the age of 12, when I suddenly decided I wanted to learn how to do it properly. I’m entirely self-taught; the only qualification I have is a GCSE in Art which put me off ever studying it further because in two years I learned absolutely nothing new and our teacher was awful. (I remember her telling me that comics weren’t ‘real art’ and I’d never get anywhere drawing in that style. Suck it, Helen.)
Bethany: Who are your influences, when it comes to art?
Jams: I get influenced by others all the time – my style is so fluid and is never the same twice so it’s hard to pinpoint specific people, but I’d have to say Ben Krefta (author of the aforementioned tutorial book) definitely deserves a mention for inspiring me in the first place. Cartoons and anime I watched as a teenager often leach into my character designs. I’m also hugely inspired by my fellow artist friends – I’m a huge advocate of supporting small-time artists and it’s so great to be part of a circle where we can all share ideas and encouragement.
Bethany: We saw that you created your own graphic novel – what inspired you to do so, what is it about, and what was the creation process like for you?
Jams: My graphic novel (still ongoing) is called I.Wish and was originally created as an 8-page story for a comics competition when I was 16. When I won first place I was inspired to expand the story, and five years and over a hundred pages later I’m still working on it. If it weren’t for exams I’d have finished it a long time ago but my goal is to get it finished in the next two years!
The story revolves around a group of kids who can do magic and are sent to the human world to grant wishes; they have to prove that humans still believe in magic or they’ll lose their jobs and their home. It was originally based on my naïve ideas that people do genuinely still believe in these things but since then has evolved into something a little more complex that questions whether we even need magic at all in the 21st Century.
At the start of each chapter I make bullet points of all the important events that happen, re-write it in script format, then draw thumbnails digitally to sort out the page layouts, and draw straight on top with the actual artwork. Doing everything in chunks rather than planning everything before starting is not the most efficient method, but when I start my next comic (already in the pipeline) I plan to be much more organised!
Bethany: What are some challenges you face when creating art?
Jams: Other than technical issues like struggling with anatomy and colour theory, I’m a huge perfectionist – sometimes I’ll draw nothing in two hours because everything I try gets rubbed out after five minutes. It’s very frustrating because I’m sure there’s so many great ideas that never survived because I couldn’t articulate them properly on the first attempt. I’m currently working on embracing the mantra of ‘finished, not perfect’ – once you start making something you have to complete it, no matter how bad you think it’s going to look. The results are often surprising and rarely look as awful as you predict, and it’s far more satisfying to see you’ve actually produced something.
Finding time to draw is also really difficult, especially while I’m at university. Even when I come home after a full day of lectures or lab work I still have to write up notes, read papers and prepare for the next set of experiments, so there’s very little time at all to spend how I wish, and very little of that ends up being use for drawing. It’s a shame that I’m only ever really productive in between semesters but I know that my degree has to come before my hobbies, so it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.
Bethany: Some of your art seems to be about empowerment, and sexuality. Do you feel as if it helps, both you personally and the society?
Jams: Over the past year or so a lot of my work has been related to gender identity – or more specifically, my gender identity. For a long time I had struggled to find out who I was and had gone through a lot of pain – and still do – and drawing helped me articulate my feelings in a way that words couldn’t. I never expected other people to identify with it so strongly but after receiving a number of heartfelt responses to my work I felt compelled to make more. It certainly helps me express complicated emotions in a universal language, and it lets people like me know they’re not alone. Trans representation in media is almost non-existent (and non-binary is even rarer) so if the big names aren’t going to provide it, then I’ll do it for them.
I also enjoy doing pieces based on a ‘girl power’ theme – I’m constantly surrounded by lovely ladies that I adore and I love making things that make them feel awesome. Self-confidence is one of the most powerful weapons a girl can have and if me drawing angry dinosaurs with flower crowns helps them in some way then I call that a job well done.
Bethany: What are some other things you enjoy doing? Do you ever feel them seeping into your art?
Jams: I’m a huge fan of sci-fi and animated films, and it’s very clear to see them reflected in my artwork, whether it’s blatant fanart of whatever I’ve watched recently or design elements I’ve borrowed and adapted to fit my own characters. Styles I’ve absorbed from my favourite cartoons often make an appearance too. I’m also a huge dinosaur nerd and while I could never be hired to illustrate a textbook they feature in a lot of my work too.
Bethany: Seeing as we are a feminist site, what are some challenges you think are present in today’s feminism?
Jams: I think there’s still this huge stigma around the word ‘feminism’ itself – it’s treated almost like a swear word and I’ve genuinely had people roll their eyes at me when I bring it up in conversation. When you actually explain some of the issues that feminism deals with people say ‘oh, but that’s just common sense, of course I support that’ but they’re so reluctant to associate themselves with that word, and that really needs to change.
Something close to my heart is misogyny/sexism within the LGBT community, especially against trans women. Feminism is only good feminism if it’s entirely inclusive and there are still a lot of second-wave feminists out there who haven’t quite got that message yet.
Bethany: And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Jams: There’s no such thing as bad art. Sure, there are technical things like anatomy and perspective that can be done ‘wrong’ but that doesn’t make your art bad. Did you learn something new during the creative process? Did you try a new technique you’ve never used before? Did you get any form of enjoyment out of it? Then it’s good art. Don’t put so much pressure on the finished product looking super polished and perfect, just enjoy making stuff and the technical skills will improve with practice, just like anything else.
Having fun is the most important part!