There is no telling when inspiration might hit, but as any successful creative knows, it’s not so much where it hits but how you get it down. A blank notebook really is the fundamental blank canvas for creation. With this in mind we handed three different Melbourne artists/illustrators a range of products from artisan stationers NoteMaker, including a Moleskine and a topshelf selection of pens, pencils and markers, and left them to let them jot down and process some ideas. Armed with the right tools, we revisited them in their studio a month later to see just what they came up with. First up is, artist/illustrator Steen Jones.
Steen’s tattoo influenced aerosol and watercolour works feature everywhere from street walls, to custom hand-painted skateboard decks, t-shirts, skin and of course notebooks. To celebrate the Take Note series, NoteMaker are giving away Steen’s customised Cahier notepad (pictured in the spread) and a one year subscription to ACCLAIM, head on over here to enter.
Photography by Michelle Tran.
How would you describe your creative practice to a stranger?
That’s a hard one to put into words but let me try… Although the majority of my work is heavily inspired and derived from a traditional tattooing style, I wouldn’t say that all of my work falls under that blanket. I like diversity, so with that I tend to juggle a few different works, mediums and styles at any given time.
For example, right now I’m in the middle of a traditional Japanese commission at a private residence, collaborating with Melbourne-based artist Meggs on another wall, I’ve just completed two custom hand-painted acrylic skateboard decks and I’m just about to drop my second legitimate skateboard graphic. I’ve just finished one set and about to start another of customised stippled human skull replicas, along with my somewhat regular watercolour commissions. That’s on top of whatever I may do for any personal projects or myself. So to put it in a nutshell, let’s just say my creative practice is versatile or all over the place!
At what point did you realise you were going to pursue a career as an artist?
The minute I started working in a tattoo shop! I used to draw as a kid, like most kids, but I guess because I just assumed I wasn’t good enough or a natural or something stupid like that, I never did anything with it. But shortly after living and breathing within the creative industry, I was inspired to draw again, or at least try and then my ambition and re-kindled love took over.
What are some of your main weapons of choice?
Pencils, fine-liners and watercolours are my constant but I do dabble with acrylics and aerosol when time permits me to!
What are some things that trigger your creative process?
Anything and everything. I’m hungry for it so I’m always looking for it, intentionally and unintentionally. Sometimes a song lyric will jump out at me or I hear or see a nice quote. Other times like last night for example, while waiting for my dinner, I saw and liked the layout of the shop sign so I photographed it for reference in case I need it one day.
When do you feel most creative?
Late at night or early in the morning when no one is around. I’m easily distracted so when nothing is happening around me I’m the most focused. It’s a shame though, I really like sleep but I just don’t often get to practice it!
Describe your creative process, how does one of your artworks begin?
It depends on what I’m doing at the time but the majority start from some form of idea, and occasionally a reference will trigger ideas too. From there I put these ideas to paper and decide the best medium for the piece or work, whether it’s aerosol, watercolour, acrylic etc. Then I’ll draft, sketch, draw, re-draw sometimes and then the project evolves from there. It’s rare but sometimes I draw or sketch aimlessly with nothing mapped out in my head prior and I just see where it leads.
How important is getting ideas on paper? How do you formulate ideas?
It’s crucial. I’m forever jotting down lyrics, ideas, concepts, cool spots for photos, painting or anything else that I may be able to use. I share my memory span with a goldfish so for me it’s imperative.
How do you feel when you first start a drawing?
Providing I’m not rushed, good.
If you get an idea on the go, how do you record this?
#takenote immediately (haha you get it!?) I’ve learned that although I may not use it right away, fresh ideas can and do come in handy when I’m lacking or just having a plain ol’ shitty day.
Where do you seek inspiration on a daily basis?
Anywhere, but social media is the biggest one for sure. I check Instagram and Tumblr daily so I’m able to stay on top of all my favourite tattooers, artists, graffiti writers etc from all over the world. Being exposed to their works daily only makes me want to work harder and inspires me to do so.
Describe your workspace? Where do you feel most comfortable creating?
At home working alongside my girlfriend Melissa who is usually working at her desk next to me with our cat sprawled, annoyingly, across my desk.
What tunes are on heavy rotation when you’re at work?
If Melissa is around, we keep it relatively chill with something like Anberlin, Gaslight Anthem and City and Colour but if she’s not home then I’m probably bumping some rap stuff!
Are there any particular subject matters that you always seem to be drawn to?
Animals and flowers.
What is your typical day?
First of all, I’m not doing anything without coffee. I generally work (my day job) ‘til 4. When I get home, I usually ease myself into the night by handling emails, packing orders or maybe running an errand or two before locking myself away to paint or work on whatever it is I’m doing at the time. Then I try and get myself to sleep at a decent hour of the early morning, wake up, and repeat.
If you were not an artist, what would you be doing?
Definitely travelling. I really want to see as much of the world as possible.
Steen used the following products for the past month:
MOLESKINE FOLIO ART – A4 WATERCOLOUR ALBUM (21X30CM)
KOH-I-NOOR MECHANICAL PENCIL – 5900 BLACK – 2.0MM B LEAD
KOH-I-NOOR MECHANICAL PENCIL – 5217 BLUE – 2.0MM BLUE LEAD
KOH-I-NOOR MECHANICAL PENCIL – 5217 RED – 2.0MM RED LEAD
COPIC MULTILINER SP REFILLABLE FINE LINER PEN – BLACK – 0.7MM
COPIC MULTILINER SP REFILLABLE FINE LINER PEN – BLACK – 0.3MM
KOH-I-NOOR PENCIL ERASER – ROUND
TOMBOW MONO ZERO ERASER
UNIBALL POSCA MARKER – MEDIUM TIP – BLACK
Visit Steen’s Tumblr, website and Facebook.
To see more from our Take Note series, watch this space and if you’re feeling inspired, start taking done your own notes via the huge selection of stationary at NoteMaker.