More thoughts on illustration by Jordan Awan
We spoke with Brooklyn-based illustrator Jordan Awan a few weeks back. This is the second part of that interview. How did you find your style? ‘Though “style” can be a slippery word to use, I can pinpoint one particular instance that led to a major turning point in the way I work. It was a comment made several years ago by my good friend Eric Wrenn, who told me that I was drawing too quickly and needed to physically slow my hand down’. ‘ Forcing myself to draw and paint as slow as possible was incredibly difficult but absolutely necessary for me. It helped me to make each line count as much as possible.
Art making, like life, is a process of constant becoming and never of being. So the work I make is constantly evolving, sometimes in obvious ways and sometimes in invisible ways. Ultimately you are who you are and can only control and shape what comes out to a very small extent. Blake says: “As a man is, so he sees”. One consequence of this would be: “As a man is, so he creates”.
A story that my father told me years ago and that always stuck with me was about Isamu Noguchi carving stone. If a stone was not breaking in the way Noguchi wanted, sometimes he would try to force it to break. The stone would crack and crumble under his force but still not break the way he had wanted, and ultimately he would succeed only in destroying a large part of the stone. He would be so ashamed that he had tried to force nature to act according to his own vision that he would put the stone aside for years to let it heal.
This story is incredibly powerful on several levels, but the one that is most relevant here is this: things and people are what they are and cannot be made otherwise. Each creator has a voice that is unique to them, and though they can not change their voice through willpower, they can become more in tune with their own natural creative evolution. Forcing yourself to make things in a way or style that is not natural is ultimately going to be a destructive, not a creative, act’.
What do you enjoy most about your work? ‘The thing I like best about my work is that it was made by me. There is no pleasure quite like sitting back and contemplating something that I created. My father is a poet; when he reads his poems to me, he often is seized by uncontrollable joyful laughter, and I readily join him in laughing. That is the kind of creative exuberance only a creator feels and only another creator can empathize with and wholly
My other favorite part is the actual making, the creative process. Susan Sontag once said (something to the effect of) her books were only alive to her when she was working on them. Every creative person can identify to an extent with what she means. When you’re working on a piece, it has life; it’s sparring partner of sorts’.