Jono Dry is a self-taught artist residing in Cape Town, South Africa. Jono's artwork features themes pertaining to mental health and explores complex concepts throughout his large-scale graphite drawings. We spoke to Jono to gain an insight into his creative processes, influences and more.
LS: It’s a pleasure to be able to speak to you today, for the readers who may be seeing your work or hearing of yourself for the first time could you introduce yourself and describe the kind of art work you create?
JD: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat to me! My name is Jono Dry. I’m a self-taught artist from Cape Town, South Africa and my work consists of large scale, hyper-realistic pencil drawings with
surrealistic subject matter.
LS: Do you remember your earliest introduction into drawing? And what was it that made you gravitate to the style of work you create now?
JD: My mother is an artist so I started making art when I was quite young. I always gravitated toward surrealist art and was fascinated by the work of MC Escher, Judith Mason and Rene Margritte so a lot of my interest grew from there. I remember sketching during lessons in primary school because I struggled to stay focused, but I only decided to really dedicate myself to drawing in 2009. After coming home from a small time abroad, I put on an exhibition with my mother and I was surprised at how well it was received. I had a moment where I realised art might be a viable option when some of my final high school works were sold, and that’s when I decided to pursue it as a career.
LS: You use Photography as a reference point for your artwork, what does the overall creative process look like from the inception of the idea, to taking the photos and then creating drawing piece.
JD: Over the years, I’ve learnt that the primary commodity in my practice is finding an idea that’s good enough to draw. For this reason, I try to make myself available to new concepts at all times -- whether it's having coffee with a friend, on a run or when watching a movie. Once an idea comes in, I’ll immediately write it down and then start chewing it over in my mind until I find a way to visually represent it. At that stage, I’ll arrange a photoshoot with all the elements. This process can rearrange and distort the idea and it's important that I stay open to this process moulding what the artwork becomes. I finally compose my works in Photoshop. It takes a long time to refine and find a composition that I’m happy with, and only then do I start drawing. The drawing process is incredibly tedious and slow.
Often there are elements in my original planning that are optimistic or don't lend themselves to graphite, and I need to once again readjust. This can be anything from minor decisions like leaving pencil strokes in the background, to doing my best to remove all evidence of the pencil work in a hyper-realistic centre piece. There’s a lot of problem solving involved at this step of the process.
LS: Of all your work, do you have a specific piece that’s speaks to you as your favourite? Or one that resonates with you the most and if so why?
JD: I always find this question challenging because each piece represents something unique for me so it’s hard to choose. They each remind me of a different time in my life and whatever it was that I was working through then. That being said, I think if I had to choose one piece I would pick ‘Pupil’. I worked on it for 6 months and it took over 600 hours to complete. It marked a significant time in my life and my career.
Augmented Reality 2013
LS: Does anyone or anything inspire the style of the work you create?
JD: It’s so exciting to live in a time where art is so easily accessible. Just strolling through Instagram, I find myself bombarded with hugely inspirational imagery. The list is almost endless of fellow artists doing breathtakingly beautiful and honest work. A lot of my inspiration comes from the conversations I have with the people closest to me. I really like the process of unpicking a concept or finding a different way of thinking about something I was sure I had figured out. I’m lucky that I have a lot of people in my life that I can have conversations with like that with.
LS: Your artwork often represents the intricacies of mental health paired with mythological influences, is this something you fell into naturally or rather an intentional way to translate the ideas and messages you want your art work to portray?
JD: My choice to convey mental health comes from a general interest in the subject as well as personal experience. Marrying it with mythology to get the message across is influenced by my mother, Erna Dry. Her work is almost entirely inspired by mythology soo it’s not surprising for me that I use those archetypal motives to translate my current understanding of mental health.
Creation (Escher Tribute)
LS: The intricate detail of your art work is mind-blowing, how long does a typical piece take to create?
JD: It’s hard to say, but on average they take around 200 hours to complete. I usually try to complete five artworks throughout the year.
LS: Finally, do you have any advice for young creatives looking to develop a skillset like yourself or find a way to develop their own creative style?
JD : I think my advice is to try and seize every opportunity to get exposure. Don’t be too hard on yourself and realise that every failure is a chance for improvement. Put the time in where you can, and trust yourself because at the end of the day, no one sees the world the way you do and that’s a unique gift.
You can check out Jono's work over on his website and Instagram both linked below: