Art of Drive: Jon Westwood
Please give our readers an introduction to who you are, where you are from, and what you do?
Hello! My name is Jon Westwood and I'm an illustrator (and occasional animator) from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
When did you start drawing and how did your life as an artist begin?
I started drawing at a very young age, as was common I think for most people growing up. I liked taking things from my favourite shows at the time and recreating them or adding things to them to make them a little different. I remember a couple friends and I had this whole thing where we would take characters like Spongebob and make them wear mech battle suits or add ridiculous guns on them. That's the fun thing about drawing.. you can make something that you're sure no one (or at least no one in your group of friends) has seen before.
Who and what have inspired you and influenced your work?
Inspiration comes mostly from media and environment in different ways. Books, films, television shows, animations, and music can spark obsessive personal projects a lot of the time, while walking down a street I've never been on before and observing details in the environment can plant ideas to fill the atmosphere in those projects. Paintings and illustrations from other artists are also a huge inspiration to me. I can never have enough art or illustration books. I love the orthogonal, hard jagged lines of some of the great Japanese illustrators and animators, still working today, and I think (or hope) my sketching style is probably most analogous with those guys. Koji Morimoto, Taiyo Matsumoto, Masaaki Yuasa, Shinji Kimura.
How would you describe your style and technique?
I enjoy rendering and painting. I get excited trying to replicate the interaction of colour and light in the real word and enhance it in a way that hopefully looks interesting. But I also love graphic and 2D elements in an illustration. I like to think that I've wound up with a combination of those two elements to create a semi-realistic rendered style with a very apparent graphic underlay. That's definitely been a stylistic goal I try to push when painting a piece. I always try to make myself stay in that realm of visualization and I'll kick myself if I feel I'm painting too realistically or if I'm going overboard with certain graphic elements. I hope I've developed a style that I can say sits comfortably somewhere in between.
Has your style evolved over time?
I think (and hope) that most of the evolution of my style is in establishing a cultural underlay that can be seen in every drawing or painting; bringing elements from other drawings into new ones to connect that culture, and hopefully with a recognizable style, those elements will mould themselves into pieces that seem to be related to one another. That way, whether I'm painting a spaghetti western shootout, a sci-fi vista, or a '50s car race, it'll hopefully look like they're just different timelines in the same universe.
Please take us through the thinking and creative process behind your sketches and renderings.
In most cases, I'll remember back to somehting I watched in the past or an image I saw on the internet or in a book at some point and draw from that. The Strange Sunset piece for example came from looking at an image of a downward slope in the mountains of Iceland and thinking "How cool would it be if there was some sort of action happening there. Like a race!" But the renderings are usually an afterthought from the sketches, and the sketches are almost always thought up from memories in media and real life embellished to fit what I want to see out of it.
I notice a few of your pieces include cars and motorcycles. Are you an enthusiast?
Yes! Well... kind of. I don't own any motorcycles myself and know very little about them comparatively (You can thank the lovely Canadian weather for that), but I enjoy cars and motorcycles from an artistic perspective. I enjoy the fact that much like a painting, just looking at a vehicle can much of the time tell you exactly where and when it came from, whether it's the rugged but versatile WWII Harley, the function over form Cold War era Lada, the quickly emerging Japanese sports car from the 1980s, or the "we can do anything!" designs of the American sedans from the 1950s and '60s. Every vehicle has a story to tell, and you just have to look at one to be able to listen to it.
Do you have specific favourites?
Shinya Kimura's designs come to mind. I love machines that look like machines; vehicles you can see through. Those that offer a full gallery of their inner workings and mechanics. I love seeing the craftsmanship in a piece and the mistakes made in order to get there. There's a certain perfection in imperfection and I think his motorcycles really encompass that idea. Overall aesthetics are beholden to the necessity of the components in his designs and there's something refreshing about that. No paint, no fairings - just metal on metal.
I also think any model of the Brough Superiors are among the most beautiful vehicles in the world for the same reasons taken from a slightly different perspective.
What are you currently working on?
A couple of commissioned works and a couple of animations, hopefully at least one of which will contain some post-apocalyptic style racing machines. Can't wait to show those off!
What is next for you?
I hope to get more into animation as time goes on. It's one of my favourite mediums of story telling because of how much it combines creatively. I'd love to be able to create an animated short film one of these days.