September 27th, 2017
Jesse Gussow

As a kid growing up, Saturday morning cartoons were the best! Shows like the "Ninja Turtles", "My Pet Monster," "Spider-Man", "COPS" and "Ghost Busters" (the cartoons) were some of the highlights and encompass my favourite and most memorable shows! People who grew up watching them are now adults and those cartoons have inspired the work of countless artists. Jono Dorion is one such artist whose style is very much reminiscent of the cartoons of that time.

His piece, "Till the End" features Kermit the Frog, but the style and setting remind me of the Jim Henson film "The Dark Crystal" and the television show "Teddy Ruxpin". His fascination with contemporary popular culture and cartoons is what makes his work so enjoyable for me personally.



Where are you from?

I am from Dartmouth/Halifax, Nova Scotia. In 2012, I relocated to Montreal.



How did you get interested in art?

I was a shy introverted child who didn't read much but liked the idea of being able to communicate in pictures. Animated cartoons deeply captivated me and presented an alluring world built without boundaries that I wanted to visit. Drawing cartoons made me feel like I was granted access into their world. My grandfather, who also draws and paints, largely influenced me and encouraged me to turn it into a regular practice.



How would you describe your work?

The most concise shorthand I've come up with is 'narrative cartoon paintings'. Additionally, I'll throw in other terms like 'pop culture' and 'symbolism' (or, 'pop-symbolism').



There are a lot of pop culture references in your work. How has popular culture influenced you and in turn made you wish to make art out of it?

Pop culture has offered me camaraderie with people I would otherwise have little in common with. It has made me wish to make art out of it because I don't want to live in a world where culture is only consumed. I see culture as a discussion and making paintings are my attempts to join it. What I don't do is look for trends or limit my focus solely on the present day. I think painting pop cultural references has also been a way for me to accommodate a sense of longing for periods in art history I did not get to directly contribute to, such as the Golden Age of animation, the painted movie poster era, or EC comics. [ed. note: Entertaining Comics, aka EC Comics, was a comic book publisher that produced horror, crime, military, and science fiction from the 1940s through to the mid-1950s, with the Tales from the Crypt series being the most successful. EC Comics later produced the satirical Mad magazine - its most enduring success!]



What is your favorite cult classic thing? Be it films, television shows, bands, video games, or characters/comics.

When I was a child, I was OBSESSED with Ninja Turtles. I've since calmed down and haven't kept up with the property as I've aged. I will forever love the classical Looney Tunes cartoons and Tex Avery's MGM shorts on a deep level.



What is your process for creating a piece of work from start to finish? Do you sketch out an idea beforehand? How long does it take to complete a piece?

My process is anything but spontaneous. It is more akin to classical illustration. To start, I'll do lots of research on key visual elements of the image, read articles and even search for documentaries on the topic. Then, I'll do small studies of composition variations and choose the best one to extend further. I'll enlarge it via photocopier and keep tightening up the drawing until it's sophisticated. Then I'll scan it and do some tonal studies and color studies (usually digital). Lastly, I'll enlarge the drawing to the exact size of the surface I'm working on and start the final painting. This whole process can typically take under a week for smaller paintings or up to a month for larger paintings.



What kind of music do you listen to while you work?

I never listen to music while I work. If I'm drawing or painting - that's it - that's the only thing I'm doing. I even wear earplugs to help me stay in the zone.



If you weren't an artist what job do you think you'd have?

I would be perusing a career as a voice actor. Absolutely.



What's the most difficult aspect about being an artist today?

Reinventing ways to politely remind art enthusiasts that artists do not receive financial remuneration based on likes, comments, hearts, shares and follows.



Did Instagram kill Art?

It may be too early to tell. Instagram is a great platform that has made art accessible to masses of people. The problem is: how do you make people appreciate something that is so pervasive? Is Instagram generating an interest strong enough to also make people want to make people look at artwork in person? If people's only experience of viewing art is on their phones, I see that as concerning.



What is your favorite thing to paint?

Paradoxes are the most reoccurring theme in my work. I like painting things that are not absolute, but have a sense of duality about them.



What does your work say about you? What does it say about the viewer?

About me, my work likely says I overanalyze things. About the viewer, it probably discloses they have fond nostalgia attached to cartoons and find comfort in absurdity. (And to the viewer who buys my work, it says they have good taste - hahaha.)



Where do you get your inspiration?

Cartoons, puns, parodies, parables, antonyms, documentaries, podcasts, paintings by old masters, mysteries, lore, anthropology, old movie posters, strong character design, dim lighting, nightmares, storms, cultural differences, movie soundtracks with original scores, strange animals, nature, health, abandoned places. I look for overlap in these topics to formulate ideas.



Ah, a fellow Canadian! So you've heard of Fudgee-Os. Do you prefer Oreo or Fudgee-O cookies?

I am a proud Canadian and indeed familiar with Fudgee-O's. However, I belong to a narrow margin of people who do not like chocolate. I will choose neither as I do not wish to deplete chocolate from those most devoted. I'm a humanitarian in that regard.

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