Jon Halls has put together the first of our resident artist project for you to take part in so we thought we’d take the opportunity to find out a bit more about Jon and his practice.
First Floor Space: Your work is so much about journeying, we’d love to know more about your journey into your practice; what has brought you to this place in your work and can you tell us a bit about your creative past?
Jon: I always wanted to do art but didn’t really know how to go about making it my career. After doing a foundation course I applied to university to study illustration and during this course I began to combine my love of drawing with my love for animals.
At uni I had to respond to project briefs so I began to explore the background of these animals and became increasingly concerned about what we are doing to their homes. This led to me moving from drawing animals and their stories to looking at how we can protect nature because saving a woodland will save more species than protecting a single animal.
We know that you are particularly passionate about the environment and we love how strongly that comes through in your art; how do you think that art and activism fit together? Do you think they inform one another in your work and how you communicate your beliefs?
For me art and activism are both expressions of love. You have to love what you do because the world won’t value it and you will have to fight for it. While some activists can be extremely pragmatic and separate their emotions from their work, for me I see the emotionality of my work and how it translates nature as an asset.
Activism and art interact in my work by constantly checking each other. Sometimes I can get too bogged down in the data and art can help lift it up into something visually engaging. Likewise, looking at the reality of the planet and translating this to an audience can ground some of my more abstract ideas into a more understandable end result.
Croydon Railway Nature Trail, 2019
What have been your biggest influences throughout your creative career?
One of my biggest influences was my art teacher during my A Levels. He was a bit of a loose cannon, but his love for art always shone through and he introduced me to German Expressionism. Artists from this period such as Kathe Kollwitz and Frans Masereel influenced my style of drawing while showing me how to use it for political effect.
Beyond art, my main influences have been nature writers such as George Monbiot, Isabella Tree and Robert Macfarlane. Seeing how they have shaped our national conversation on nature made me realise that I could do something similar through art.
For people that are looking to take part in your project, do you have any tips for drawing on the move? What is your favourite way to walk and make art?
As a tip for drawing, it’s always worth having something solid that you can bring along to rest your page on. It will stop the page from collapsing on itself and means you can stand, sit or kneel without worrying. This can be a hardback sketchbook but it can be something as simple as a clipboard or solid piece of cardboard.
For me doing 15 minute drawings is my favourite way of recording. It allows you to sit down, immerse yourself in a space and get a drawing under your belt before you become uncomfortable. I prefer drawing on khadi paper with my ink brush pen as the paper has a lovely tone and texture which works perfectly with the expressive capability of the brush pen to do both detail and bold lines.
Spring Park, 2019
If you could walk to any place in the world where would you go?
I would love to walk the Y2Y trail. This is the mammoth project between Canada and USA to create a continuous nature corridor between the Yukon and Yellowstone parks for species like bison, wolves and bears to freely migrate. There is something about nature in North America that retains this frontier wilderness and walking this landscape would be a dream come true.
What are your hopes for this project?
I hope that this project inspires people to see their local area differently. Walking and drawing slows you down, and you begin to see a space in a new way. I hope this gets people out into nature more, but also to question what kind of nature they have access to and if your local council could do more.
You can take part in Jon’s project now; all the resources can be found here. If you have any questions or work like some help getting started on the project, just let us know!
Jon’s beautiful work is available to see and purchase on his website and you can follow him on social media @jonhallsillustration.
Stay safe and keep creating <3