LeeAnne Johnston. Age: 28, Place of living: Edmonton. Alberta, Canada, Profession: Retail, Art Supplies, Education: Bachelor of Fine Arts, University of Alberta
Can you begin with telling me a little bit about your illustration practice? How did you begin to Illustrate?
When I first started practicing art my goal was to become a character designer or a comic book artist. I built a great sketchbook dependant process when I started and it has been vital to my current art practice. I felt that I needed to expand my repertoire so I entered a Bachelor of Fine Arts program which expanded my skills greatly and introduced me to my current passion, printmaking. I developed a new avenue for my obsession with monsters and surrealism by using this imagery to explore mental health, intangible illness, disability, and liminality.
What is your main focus in Illustrations?
My technical focus is on linework. I love playing with layering as a way to show different states or times and the combination of experiences. I focus on the figure warping it into monstrous forms to portray internal dialogues. Sometimes I examine pain or confusion, and other times I try to blend varying experiences into a new form as a way to sort through my own thoughts. My focus is in imagination with splashes of reality to help ground the viewer.
When and why did you start to create Monsters?
When I started at University I was trying to build a new way of creation for myself. I put my history of character and monster creation aside in hopes of developing something new. But it was only once I was encouraged to incorporate my new skills with my old subject matter that I really began to develop my current style. The monsters were always an escape for me, a way to examine my own thoughts. They were a coping method for dealing with my own mind and body as they gave me a kind of catharsis. Now I directly examine the role of monstrification as a symbol, while still using it to explain and manage my own discomforts.
What do you express through them? What do they mean to you?
The Monsters act as a type of communication. When I cannot find words to explain my experiences I resort to imagery. The Monsters help to open a dialogue about uncomfortable experiences, they mean so much to me. They are my own personal folklore. By sharing my monsters I want to provide others with the same comfort that I receive from them.
Does gender play a role in your Illustration? How do you think Monsters are connected to Gender-questions?
Monsters are liminal beings. They are a mix of varying realities; whether that be a mix of human and animal characteristics, mixes of gender presentations, or mixes of stable and unstable forms. Gender is a background character in my current work. Directly it is represented in the blending or exclusion of genitalia on my figures. While indirectly gender conflict and confusion influence the thoughts that are the focus of my work. Concepts that surround gender presentation are a subject I hope to examine more directly in future work as I feel it gets lost amongst the examinations of mental health and invisible illness.
I think Monsters are definitely related to Gender. Monsters represent struggle and liminality, two concepts that are synonymous with Gender struggles. As a non-binary person I relate to monsters, not quite being masculine nor feminine, and see their mixed forms as a representation of my own confusion.
Do you have a definition of what is monstrous? Do you need it?
For me Monstrous is something that is a mix of forms or states; monstrosities are the ‘other’ and encapsulate multiple forms and definitions. I see Monsters as both terrifying and beautiful, a sublime form of the imagination.
What ore who influenced your work? With whom do you talk about your work?
I am influenced by a wide range of artists. In school I was exposed to the work of David Altmejd who influenced me to examine the combination of reality and surreality, and Alisson Sommers whose fleshy gore is portrayed elegantly as it overruns the figure. From comic books I discovered Mike Mignola whose work was a gateway into a world of imperfect heros and folklore. His work lead me to Ian Bertramink who works both in comic form and large scale painting have the inner experience spill out of human figures into reality.
I use the Instagram platform to show my work and have found other like minded individuals to discuss my work with besides my sibling or friends. Gabrielle Marin [@gabriellemarinart], Rachell Mills [@lunairyart] and Rachel [@mooncreeper.art] are a few of the artists who have been been prominent in discussions of my work
What is your favorite monster ore piece of work? Why did you create it? (please attach)
For me it would be impossible to choose a favourite monster, there are so many that I love. Of my own monsters I think my favourite would be from my book “Everyone Feels like a Monster, Sometimes”. Out of all of them the Laundry monster has to be my favourite. These monsters were a way to show each person’s internal monsters which they grapple with on a daily basis. I wanted to open up monstrosity to the everyday person, not limiting the idea to extreme cases of mental distress. Everyone has an existential crisis while doing chores, becomes aggressive about a tv show, or just really hates folding laundry.
do you have any particular focus or self enforced rules that you follow when you work on your creatures? What visual methods do you use to create your monsters?
I focus on creating scars, wounds, duplications, twists, or malformations within my work. I do limit myself to incorporating elements of the human figure. I leave my inhuman monsters for the comic work that I am developing. It’s important for me to keep my figures a little bit human since that is where the thoughts and feelings are being derived from. My figures experience human pains and discomforts and it warps them, yet they still maintain a semblance of their humaness.
What do want to achive through your work?
I work mainly for myself. This process is a coping mechanism for managing my anxiety, depression, gender confusion, and chronic pain. I feel the benefits of having a representation of my experiences and have found people telling me they too find comfort in my images for the same reasons, I want to share my work so that I can provide a comfort for others and give them a representation of their own experiences, though they may vary from my own.
Do you do commission work when you create Monster? Have they been published, and if so where? Aside that, where do you publish your Work and where (ore in what context)do your Images circulate?
My images predominantly circulate online via Instagram. I have published one collaborative book, ‘Familiar Monsters’, which collects the work of Gabrielle Marin, Tatiana Bonin-Guist, Artemis Tratnik, and myself. I have had my work displayed in group gallery shows and a solo show at SNAP gallery. I have returned to my comic book roots and have been producing small handprinted zines and am developing a comicbook script.
Do you want to tell me more? Go ahead!
I call Monsters liminal beings, and I want to expand on that a little more. Monsters such as the classic werewolf encompasses different states of being, human and wolf. To me each monster is a different form of liminal experience; the expression of multiple genders, the combination of different animals, being both a person and a creature, being both feared and revered. I consider each of my drawings to be its own liminal experience. They examine different states of mind, and otherwise invisible experience, and blend them together into a new form. That is why I see my figures as Monstrous and often use the term monstrification to explain the process.
Is there some other Artist, Illustrator ore Work you want me to know about that creates Monsters that talk about Gender?
Not specifically gender. A lot of the artists I follow examine mental health, though I highly recommend the work of David Altmejd if you had not known about him before. His werewolf series deals more directly with classic monsters than my own work, but he has been a huge influence.