Earlier this month, we sat down with artist Jason Mowry to discuss his exhibition, The Fox and the Man at the Door, an illustrated collection of Aesop's Fables. We wanted to hear more about Jason and what inspired him to illustrate fables.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself!
A: I am an illustrator artist living and working in Columbus, Ohio. When I’m not in the studio I’m typically hiking in the woods or working on a Haruki Murakami novel.
Q: Are you a full-time practicing studio artist and illustrator?
A: I keep a home studio where I’m fortunate to spend the majority of my time in freelance work, commissions, and gallery shows. I also teach a drawing class one day out of the week at the local arts college.
Q: How does teaching influence your artistic practice?
A: My time spent teaching affords me the chance to meet students and engage with them. That engagement over the course of a semester can be very rewarding. The class I teach is a drawing from life class. It allows me the opportunity to draw with the students as well as immerse myself in the practice of drawing and drawing applications. Drawing is an area of practice I feel I can always learn more about and having a class gives me the chance to engage in extend research.
Q: When did you first learn about Aesop’s Fables?
A: I have memories of Aesop’s Fables from childhood. My mom had a very old collection of the stories that she kept on the family bookshelf. The collection has since been lost. I was never able to track down the specific collection from that time. Over the years I have collected several versions of the Fables.
Q: What about Aesop’s Fables inspires you?
A: The fables are certainly timeless but to a large extent also considered partially anonymous. Some of them can be attributed to a Greek slave named Aesop who may or may not have been a real. I’m fascinated by the idea of something potentially anonymous that can also be timeless across multiple cultures and eras. Myth and folktales are compelling to me for the same reason.
Q: Do you have a favorite fable?
A: One of my favorites, is the Fable ‘The Monkey and the Dolphin’ It’s odd and grim and captures the way spirit of the Fables.
Q: What made you choose to stick to black and white with this series?
A: The fables could be said to be metaphorically black and white in their outcomes. The decision to use black and white seemed to be a great way to connect with the moral allegory side of the stories. I also took a lot of inspiration from seeing the etchings and ink drawings of the early illustration masters like Arthur Rackham, Edward Detmold, and Gustave Doré. All the great masters of illustration were working largely in black and white in many of the published collections. Working in ink and black & white seemed like a tribute to those inspired sources.
Q: Your bio says you combine myth and personal narrative to speak to the larger collective narrative - can you describe that process more in depth?
A: I like to pull mythology into some of the pieces I make. By connecting myth with elements of personal narratives it brings the work closer to a vision of timeless art. Keeping Myth alive is a concern in my art as well as being able to make it personal and approachable.
Q: Most of your work incorporates animals, do you feel a strong connection with nature?
A: I typically use animals in my paintings as symbolic elements or anthropomorphic stand in for emotional states. Most of the animals I paint I am using to talk about human states of being. That being said, there are moments in my life where I’ve encountered the ‘greater wild’ of the animal kingdom and I’m instantly aware its relationship to my humanness.
Q: You have a very noticeable style; do you remember the beginning of your current artistic style?
A: I don’t know if I can pinpoint when or how my style came to be. I think it’s is most likely a jambalaya of my various art influence over the years simmering to the surface. I find myself pushing past my comfort or even skill level in services of the narrative. Raw effort, or just missing the mark of perfection I think can sometimes read as style.
Q: Have you always anticipated yourself being an artist or did you start out on a different path?
A: My high school didn’t have enough art requirements to get me into a 4-year art school so I had to make definitive choice about my future at an early age. At the time, it wasn’t a necessarily hard decision to make. I’d been drawing and creating for much of my childhood. Some of my fondest early memories where my brother (Ryan Mowry also an artist) and me writing and drawing comics for the kids in our neighborhood.
Q: If you could be a character from one of Aesop’s fables, which would it be?
A: That’s a good question. Probably the man in ‘the man counting waves with the fox’. If only to have a fox tell me to chill out.
See Jason Mowry's exhibition now on view at Artlink Contemporary Gallery until October 27th, 2017.