Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Jon Hunt. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Jon, appreciate you joining us today. Are you happier as a creative? Do you sometimes think about what it would be like to just have a regular job? Can you talk to us about how you think through these emotions?
Back in the stone ages, when I was around 15 years old, I worked at a stone yard breaking, shoveling and bagging rocks. So yeh, literally, it was the stone ages for me. This was a part-time gig that didn’t last very long, but I had a lot of time to think in the hot summer sun as I filled bags with decorative landscaping rock (I earned 50 cents per each 50 pound bag). Mostly what I thought about went along the lines of “If this is what people call a ‘real job’ then I NEVER want to do a real job again!” When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to visit the studio of a pretty well-known illustrator and comic strip artist. His work space was filled with the toys he helped design and he even let me to do some finish work on a few of his comic strips that were being collected after appearing in Heavy Metal magazine. Up until that point, I had never realized that you could actually get a job doing that stuff– but of course SOMEONE had to be drawing and painting the comics and book covers I was buying! It was a revelation. I was hooked.
I held down a retail job at a catalog showroom as I earned my undergraduate degree in illustration. In my senior year I switched to a bookstore so that I could earn money, research publishers and understand how books were published and sold. I believe it was author Neil Gaiman who gave the advice that as long as you were heading in the direction of your goal, then you were on the right track. The book store job was a means to an end and I actually enjoyed learning about the retail side of the publishing business. Especially since they don’t teach that stuff in art school.
When I graduated from college I dove right into freelance illustration. It was a tough business– especially since I lived far away from New York City (in the days of snail mail and faxes). I had to take on various side jobs to make ends meet. But never anything full-time that would distract me from my goals. Eventually, I was offered a part-time teaching position at a local community college teaching fantasy and children’s book illustration and that sent me down the parallel path of art education which I still follow today.
There was only one time in my life where I seriously considered dropping my illustration career to concentrate solely on teaching. I had just gotten my MFA (which I needed to be able to continue teaching). It was supposed to be an 18-month program but it ended up taking me four and a half years between teaching full time and continuing to take on illustration work. At the end, I had earned my MFA, but I was utterly burned out. I stopped sketching, I had no ideas for art. My inspiration and drive to create had completely dried up. Then after a couple of months, I started to feel depressed and desperate. “What was it all for?” And I suddenly realized that I NEEDED to make art. Without creativity in my life I felt empty and even teaching felt pointless. Why would art students listen to a professor who didn’t make art himself? As I began sketching, rebuilding my portfolio, and reconnecting with clients, I was reminded that a life without artistic expression was impossible for me.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
I got my very first illustration job when I was still in art school. I painted a lighthouse for the cover of a local AAA members’ magazine. This was also my very first lesson in what to expect in the “real world”. The art director had left my art in a cardboard sleeve outside of their office door so that the mailroom could pick it up and send it back to me. Unfortunately, the janitor got to it first; crumpled up the original watercolor and tossed it in the trash. I billed the art director for the original but of course they never hired me again. I went to Paier College of art for my degree in illustration. It was an excellent school with professors who were world-renowned illustrators. However, even in this competitive environment, the nuts and bolts of contracts, billing, networking and taxes were not discussed. Luckily, I befriended a couple of the younger teachers who introduced me to science fiction and fantasy art conventions and told me about professional organizations like the Society of Illustrators and the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and this knowledge is what allowed me to break into the industry. The working artists, writers and designers that I met after art school impressed on me the importance of discipline and professionalism. I was also excited to learn that they were all just as excited about art as I was!
My first “big” job was a children’s picturebook that I wrote and illustrated for a major New York publisher the year I graduated from college. I went on to do eleven kids’ books and few cover jobs but ultimately I gravitated back to my first loves of fantasy, horror and science fiction art. Over the years, I have done illustrations for many games, record/CD and book covers and magazines as well as some concept art and storyboards. I have also done many group and one-person gallery shows (the most recent one was called MONSTERS!ROBOTS!ROCKxROLL!) I am super excited to announce that I have a tarot deck called The Trick or Treat Tarot coming out in October 2022 from Llewellyn Publishing!
In addition to my freelance work, I also run a company called creepyeepz where I design, manufacture and sell cartoon horror-themed items like pin badges, key rings, stickers and other fun stuff.
Is there mission driving your creative journey?
To be perfectly honest, the original driving force behind my creative journey was pure selfishness. I had all of this stuff in my head– ideas gushing out in sketchbooks, flipbooks, short films, paintings, comics and stories. I desperately wanted a life where I could explore all of those things. So when I realized that you could actually make a living as a commercial artist, I never looked back. I never considered doing anything else. I love sharing my work with others (social media “likes” can definitely be a confidence booster) but ultimately, it is the satisfaction I get from creating the work that matters to me. Each new piece of art is my next favorite thing. Of course over time, our goals change or are refined, and my story is no different. All those years ago I sort of fell into teaching as a way to make extra money, but I discovered that I actually enjoyed sharing my stories and teaching the skills that I myself had been taught. Rubrics and administrative duties can be a bore, but I adore my students and the fresh styles and insights they bring to my own life and work.
I guess what started out as a selfish crusade to fulfill my own creative desires has morphed into a journey that I enjoy sharing with others– including my son Connor and daughter Emma who are both blossoming musicians and artists in their own right.
In your view, what can society to do to best support artists, creatives and a thriving creative ecosystem?
I may get crap for writing this, but artists can be their own worst enemies. We can be at times, elitist, snobby, petulant or timid (these are not moods exclusive to creatives of course). Society as a whole often perceives artists as emotionally-driven, disorganized hobbiests– “Oh, you make pictures. That must be nice. I have to work a real job.” Yet over the course of the pandemic, people desperate for distraction and inspiration fell back on books, comics, music, TV and movies to transport them from the harsh realities of daily life. Art in all of its forms is a fundamental part of human society and yet so easy to take for granted. Artists are no easier on themselves. We can fall into the trap of thinking that because we enjoy what we do, we don’t deserve to get paid. However, as a commercial artist, I expect to get paid for the work I do. It’s my job. It’s how I buy food and pay my utilities. But it took me a while to get to the point where I was able to project this level of confidence to clients.
So, if we want the general public to take us seriously, then it is our responsibility to take ourselves seriously– while having fun!
- Website: https://www.huntillustration.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/huntillustration/ and https://www.instagram.com/creepyeepz/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/huntillustration/
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/huntillustration
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3O3TDLPaftN3nXBpvakREw
- Other: https://www.etsy.com/shop/creepyeepz https://www.hireanillustrator.com/i/portfolio/jonathan-hunt/ https://www.amazon.com/s?me=A2GB14G1UWBBY7&marketplaceID=ATVPDKIKX0DER