Briefly describe the work you do.
I am a contemporary pop artist who works in oils and acrylics. My process is intuitive, and I am always surprised by how a painting turns out! I start with a figure (often a dog), and slowly paint in other images. Each marks points the canvas in a new direction. The end result is dense and layered, and a single painting can take months to complete.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I grew up in 1970’s Hawaii, and Japanese anime is a nostalgic and constant influence – Hello Kitty, Asian super heroes, all the trading stickers and cheesy, subtitled TV shows. I was also a Graphic Design undergraduate major, and love great logos, commercials, and discovering new fonts. Another design influence is my use of the grid to enlarge and transfer images to the canvas. I find the process both meditative and incredibly stimulating. Regarding imagery, I often use dogs as a starting figure. When my parents divorced, my dad adopted over thirteen dogs, so they bring with them strong associations. Lately, I had several teeth and jaw issues, so those have found their way into my work as well!
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, > especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away > alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day > to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or > is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I am a traditional studio artist. I look forward to the time alone to create a painting from start to finish. The idea of collaboration, or hiring others to help me finish a project is abhorrent. However, much of my inspiration comes from observing the outside world – music videos, fashion, or the work of street artists. I always have several magazines lying about the studio when I am working. If I am stuck, I flip through them until a figure, pattern, or color, catches my eye and calls out to be included in my composition. I also try and see as many exhibits as possible. Although I thrive in solitude, I do not believe great art can be made in a vacuum. Contemporary art is a conversation, and artists need to keep up with what is being made by others.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may > not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Like many artists, there are the roles of business person or self-promoter that I did not really consider in art school. But I’ve found it’s about making friends and connections with curators, gallery owners, etc. who share a common vision. The internet has made the process so much easier. This project is a great example!
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time > set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
There is no best time! I love the rare days when I have an entire day to devote to art, but usually I just work when I can – at 6am in the morning, a couple hours at lunch, or after my kids go to sleep at night. I don’t wait for inspiration to strike. If I have a block, there is always something to do – clean my studio, organize applications, or just start moving the paint around on a canvas. The majority of the time, art making is pretty frustrating; I just keep chipping away, to hopefully get over the mental hump, and at some point the light turns on.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
I think I allow for more of myself in my work – both the fun and flawed sides. I used to think art was such a serious occupation, and it still is… the process is always soul-searching (which is never comfortable), but these days I care less about what people think, and it is reflective in my paintings. I also don’t take years to finish a piece like before… I’m not as obsessed with perfection.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
Living away from Hawaii for so long, I realize how unique it was to grow up in the islands. People are always taking stances out here – whether it’s about race, the economy, religion, or even an art movement. I am baffled by the energy expended on arguing or making a point. I am most inspired by the Hawaii-born artists who just created from the heart – completely embracing the multi-cultural background they came from. Someone like Bruno Mars is well known and exemplifies this joy, but I can think of many other island artists, singers, dancers, and writers who have inspired me just as much. Living in such a melting pot brings about such empathy and artistic freedom.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I cannot think of any other occupation where I am as fearless.
Jana Ireijo currently lives and works in Westport, CT. Her roots are based in Honolulu, HI where she received a BFA in Graphic Design from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She went on to graduate with an MFA in Painting from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. Jana has participated in group exhibitions throughout New York, New England, Chicago, and California and Germany.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.