Junior Jordan Denis creates digital art with eerie undertones

Bianca Templeton

How long have you been making digital art/working as an artist in general?

I’ve been drawing ever since I could remember. From the minute I could hold a pencil, I was always drawing and creating silly original characters. But the first time I ever really got serious about art was when I got a tablet in seventh grade and then I’ve been doing digital art ever since.

How is the creative process and what gets you going?

I get inspired by a lot of things. It’s just things that I find interesting in everyday life. Sometimes, it’s people that I know. Sometimes, it’s ideas that I find. I’m really into medicine and science so that’s a big inspiration for a lot of my work. But other times, it’s just something I hear in passing or a T.V. show or a post on the internet. (It) gives me ideas and once I get a little inkling of something, then I just think about it for a couple weeks. Then I’m like, “Yeah,” I get a fully-fledged idea and I just roll with it. Once I get an idea, it’s just always on my mind for a while. It just occupies my thoughts. I come up with stories and characters really quickly, but I don’t start with them until a couple months of developing the idea.

Are there any common themes, motifs, or symbols that show something personal of yourself in your work?

There are a lot of motifs that I use. I tend to have a pretty consistent color palette that I end up falling into like dull navy blues and I also like bright reds. My reason behind this isn’t exactly symbolic, it’s just that I have really bad eyesight and I can’t really handle bright colors. So, I tend to fall into neutrals. For motifs in my art, it’s making cute things kind of unsettling. I’m in AP Studio Art and that’s the theme I’m going with, like cuteness with grotesquery, is something I like working with. Other than that, it’s just whatever comes to mind or like whatever the commissioner requests, you know.  Of course, I fluctuate this a lot but it’s probably my favorite one, that’s what entire comic is rendered in.

Kimmi

What matters most in every piece you create?

I feel like just that it’s interesting to look is important. Because I try to stray away from pieces that are, like, visually not very fun to see. If it’s just like a guy standing against a white background without an interesting pose, then that’s like not very fun to look at. So, what if I’ve been trying to do, especially recently, is create something that you want to look at for a long time that you can’t just glance at. I also like using color harmony to make pieces pleasing to the eye because like I said earlier, I have very weak eyes and I really am sensitive to things that are like jarring colors or no enough contrast ‘cause I can’t see them very well so it’s important for me to have something that’s easy on the eyes and interesting to look at. 

Simplicity is fine, I know a lot of artists who do a lot of simple work and I think they do it really well. But for me specifically, I don’t tend to do that as much.

Are there any artists you envy or take from quite a bit?

I think every artist has their inspirations and that’s not a bad thing. It just inspires you to get better and I’m certainly no exception. There’s a lot of really interesting artists on Instagram that I take a lot of inspiration from. You’d be surprised to know that there’s a really big community of artists with really diverse styles. There’s a lot of them that I could probably name 10 that really inspire my work. The thing about developing your style is that you want to study from other artists, but you don’t want to copy from just one person because that would make your style look unoriginal and it would stunt your growth. So taking from a lot of people is important.

Is there any piece that really speaks to you or that has inspired you?

I feel like more than just a specific piece. The thing that motivates me to make characters and specific things is seeing other people’s story ideas. I can’t really think of anything specific off the top of my head. There is one artist that really inspired me, the name is OMOCAT, who’s actually a fashion designer who does sort of character art on their clothes. Some of their techniques inspired me a lot.

How has selling your artwork online affected you?

When I first started it, I was in middle school. Getting $20 bucks a month (from selling stickers on Redbubble) was a big deal for me because I never really had money before. But these days, I get like $30 a month off Patreon and I get some 200-odd-dollars from commissions. On bad months, it’s like $50 and good months, it’s like $450. Being an artist, there’s no real consistency in your sales. So it’s a little difficult but I’m only in high school so it’s not like the worst thing.

Click here to view Denis’ Instagram page.

What helps you when you’re not completely satisfied with what you just drew?

It really depends on my degree of unsatisfaction. If it’s, ‘I don’t hate the piece but I know there’s something off,’ sometimes I just like looking at reference images or changing the color palette. If a piece really doesn’t look right, especially in a lot of the early phases, there’s nothing wrong with starting over. I’ve had to do that with a lot of pieces. Some of my best ones have like three thrown-away drafts behind them. I feel like that’s good because it helps flesh out your idea.

What direction do you feel your work is going at the moment?

I feel like my style is getting a lot more realistic. I used to do a lot of really cartoony stuff but it’s sort of taking a more, still stylized, but more “grounded in reality”-type look. Thematically, I’ve been drawing a lot more body horror and unsettling stuff. Before, I didn’t as much. I used to be like a more Pokémon fan-artist. These days, I’m getting into a lot more original work, exploring horror especially, is more fun to me these days.

How has this direction changed your work over time?

Like I said, I’ve gotten a more realistic approach and I feel like I’m more focused on creating something that’s more tangible. Before, I used to make kind of “one-off” pieces, but now I’m really dedicated to making something that means something. A one-off piece is cool but it’s not like a story you can get attached to or even want to print it off and sell it. It means a lot more if you make an overarching thing.

Where do you want your art to go in the future?

I’d like to get better at anatomy. I love color theory but I’d like to see where I would be with it in a couple years. I think it’s just like honing my skills and getting better at my technical craft because like I’m not a terrible artist now but I feel like since I’m only 16, that in a couple years, I’ll be way better. Beause that’s been the pattern throughout my life. I do something really good and I’m like, “I’m so proud of this,” but when I look back on it, like a couple years later, and I’m like, “Oh my god, it’s terrible.”

Do you plan to pursue art in college?

I get this question a lot, especially when people tend to take notice of my art and they’d be surprised to find that the answer is a hard no. I thought about it for a long time because obviously art is a very important part of my life but I was worried that there’s not going to be any—I don’t want to sound materialistic here—but I was worried there’s not going to be enough money in the industry and I was worried about not being able to support myself. Because the last thing I’d want is to live with my parents forever because I value independence. I want to get into either law or medicine. I am a varsity debater so I really love law and arguing and that kind of thing, but I also really love the human body and that’s my fixation with horror, which comes from really, is just a fascination with the grotesque in the real world. So I was thinking about going into neurosurgery because it’s just such an interesting field to me but of course art is never gonna leave me. It’s always going to be a part of my life. Even if it’s not necessarily my career, I feel like it’s always going to be an important part of my life.

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