Meet Baltimore-based Illustrator Jimmy Malone. Native to North Carolina, Jimmy moved to Baltimore to attend The Maryland Institute College of Art, where he fell in love with Charm City and decided to stay after graduating in 2011. Jimmy works as a freelance illustrator, on top of a full-time job managing an eyewear boutique. Many of Jimmy's freelance clients have been local businesses and organizations, though his favorite project to-date has been designing a line of licensed apparel for the Baltimore drag icon Klitorika Browne. You can find Jimmy's work on his website here.
We have had the pleasure of working with Jimmy over the past several years. Jimmy has participated in shows such as the COSMOS Tarot & Oracle Deck, Stacks, Beautiful Forever, Great Personality, Girls: Fact + Fiction, Rolemodels, and more. We are thrilled to present his work and get to know his practice through the artist interview below!
Would you mind sharing a bit about your workspace? Anything that you always have around (references, collections, specific materials, etc.)?
In June, my husband and I bought a house in Baltimore. My favorite thing about our house is that we turned one of the bedrooms into my studio. I have a station for my laptop, tablet, and rolodex next to my 11x17 printer-scanner-copier. I also have a desk for drawing set-up with a slim lamp and a clunky light box.
I also have a few bookshelves and some still-packed boxes filled with reference books. Because specificity is so important to my work, I always try to make sure I am utilizing the reference books on my shelves. And I almost never get rid of a reference book. If I'm not able to find what I”m looking for in my collection, I either search the web or I go to a library. I think (and hope) that curating the reference images I use to inform the visual information in each illustration keeps my work from looking bland or generic.
Though no one book has everything, The Book of Costume by Millia Davenport is an incredibly comprehensive guide to historic (read: European, aristocratic) costume. It's an especially useful book for referencing historical garb or when looking for inspiration for fantasy costuming.
Do you often work in the same space or with other creatives? What is your creative community like?
Although I am happy to have a private space in which to work, I occasionally enjoy making art in the presence of friends and other colleagues. I often ask illustrator friends living in Baltimore for input on WIPs as well as career advice. Or sometimes we just hang-out and gossip. I feel really close to some of my fellow MICA alumni, especially my gal-pals living in the B-more area. (Shout-out to the Campfire Jerks!)
In addition to seeking-out input from peers, I started taking a class earlier this year. Another illustrator living in Charm City, Alex Fine, recently started the Baltimore Academy of Illustration (BAI), a private, unaccredited school for illustrators who want to refresh or grow their careers. I'm currently taking a one-semester editorial illustration class at BAI, taught by Alex. This opportunity has put me in contact with art directors and other creatives whom I may never have met otherwise. I also feel stimulated to make lots of new, interesting work that I would never have thought to make on my own.
Your work is always so interesting to look at - graphic, and bold, and your bright color choices are always a surprise, what is your biggest source of inspiration?
My biggest inspirations come from animated cartoons. Kids have really short attention spans, and cartoons are designed to hold what little attention people have using bright colors and attractive shapes. The shows Doug and The Simpsons introduced me to the concept that characters can have unusual skin or hair colors in an illustrated world without sacrificing their relatability. Likewise, the local color of objects and environments don't have to be true to the natural world. Integrating that principle into my work has freed me to use color as a design element and narrative tool.
Your work is often filled with wonderful characters that are full of personality, what sparked your interest in working with character so heavily? Any favorite character "archetypes" you enjoy working with?
Definitely watching cartoons and reading comic strips prompted my interest in character-driven narrative work. I think also being a naturally empathetic person has lead to my interest in portraying different facets of the human experience with my art. My main goal in most of the drawings I do is to communicate a specific feeling. I spend a lot of time trying to understand the characters in my pieces: how they feel, what they're thinking, and how they interact with the other characters in the picture plane. That process is especially evident in Vulpecula.
Most artists who regularly make character-driven work have their own default characters, in my opinion. Like, if an artist is asked to draw a person, no other specifics detailed, that artist will draw some variation on his/her default character. For me, the default character is a young woman. It's been that way since I was a little boy.
At the age of 8, I was drawing superhero comics with a female main character. Because of internalized misogyny, I thought that I would have to change the kinds of characters I drew in order to become a reasonably good illustrator. Cartoons, when I was a kid, typically featured male leads. It seemed that girls were supposed to be love interests, or best friends, or older sisters, but never lead characters. I do draw male characters, and some characters of indeterminate gender, but in the past few years, I've realized that I don't have to fight my artistic inclinations, so long as the content is not inherently harmful.
I use character archetypes as a tool to concisely communicate the concept at hand. We all generally know that villains are sleek and innocent people have big eyes. Those are stereotypes, but they are also communication tools. Because I have a tendency to draw female characters, I end-up utilizing female archetypes: nurturers, ingenues, bombshells, bosses, and spunky kids. As a man portraying female figures, I think there is something intrinsically problematic in me perpetuating these stereotypes. Despite using these archetypes as narrative tools, I do my best to create characters that genuinely reflect some aspect of the human experience.
What was your process like working on the COSMOS Exhibition? Did you resonate with your constellation?
Because Vulpecula does not have an already-established symbolic meaning, the folks at LGAL invited me to create my own interpretation of the constellation. Vulpecula is a “little fox,” sometimes pictured with a goose clenched in her jaws. I decided to include the goose in my illustration. The card is a warning of treachery and subterfuge.
Field guides from my reference collection helped me get a realistic understanding of these animals. Online, I found pictures of geese and foxes fighting so that I could get a sense of relative scale and movement. In addition to my usual visual references, I looked at stylized paintings of foxes and also at Japanese prints. Hiroshige was a huge inspiration while I was working on this piece. Because he was illustrating during the time that Japan was opening to the West, his prints are some notable examples of traditional Japanese art forms beginning to incorporate European approaches to realism and illusionistic picture planes.
What projects do you have in the works? Is there anything new you can share with us?
In September, I debuted my first short, black-and-white comic, White Bees, at SPX. White Bees is an expositional comic inspired by Andersen's “The Snow Queen.” I've really enjoyed working on this sequential project and I plan to continue the White Bees story with more volumes in the future.
I also recently found-out a map of North Carolina that I drew right after college (almost five years ago) will be published in They Draw and Travel's upcoming anthology of US maps!
The most recent work I can show is from the editorial illustration class I'm taking at BAI. One piece, art directed by Zak Bickel at The Atlantic, was developed to accompany an article about how billionaires can better be using their wealth to protect the environment. Another is an op-ed assignment about baby-boomer professors with outdated understandings of what is “progressive.” I have a few more pieces in the works, but they are still under review with their respective art directors. As I receive the green-light to release more information about the projects I'm working on, I will post images to my instagram. Between now and the end of the year, I'll have a few new pieces to show, so please keep your eyes peeled!
We are nearing the end of 2015. Do you have anything you are trying to finish up? Any big goals for the new year?
The final project I have queued-up for this year is my family's holiday card. So far, I'm thinking dinosaurs decorating a Christmas tree. Something cute and frivolous!
In the new year, I have the big goal to apply to jobs at a major animation studio. I'm enjoying the freelance lifestyle (and the security of a day job), but I have always had a deep passion for cartoons. Secretly, (or now not-so-secretly) I've already started compiling a visual development portfolio over the past six months. Being accepted at such a job could mean having to sell my house and move to California, but I see change as a necessary and thrilling part of life!