Last week we sat down with J.A. Ramirez to talk about his work and experiences. As we met at the door of his house, and he finished up his cigarette, he lead me inside, down his stairs and through a wonderland of pencils, sketchbooks and cartoons. If the word “imagination” could be put into a physical form, that’s what this room would entail. He grabbed a few sketchbooks of doodles and sat down across from me, ready to share his experiences up to this point.
How about you tell us a little about yourself?
I graduated from Indiana University Northwest. Printmaking was really my thing at the time. Now, my focus has turned to illustration. Printmaking is definitely hard to continue doing without access to equipment and when I do have the access available, it’s really hard to coordinate that.
What’s something a lot of people might not know about you?
Well, I started drawing when I was 5 years old. I wrote my first story when I was 6. I could barely write, but I did. So I remember writing this story and it was super complex (at least for a 6 year old). It’s something I just…do…all of the time. I draw these things and write these stories. And now I’m getting to the point where have I both the skills and education…I’m just looking for the right outlet to get my work out there. It’s difficult for young artists in the (Northwest Indiana) area. They don’t have the availability to get that exposure. I’m just trying to find my style of the work I want to do. I’m also interested in a lot of different things. I tried improv type comedy with some friends. I’ve been making my own comics and things like that. Testing different waters. Just trying to get work done.
So is Illustration kind of a majority of what you’ve been doing lately?
Yeah, definitely. It’s hard. The way people seem to be taught is that illustration is a “lesser” of art. Printmaking (and other mediums) always seemed to matter more to people. So I have a hard time putting like a series together. I’m still deciding if I’m looking into galleries or my own illustration books or something. I just know that in school, all my notebooks were filled with were little doodles and drawings. That’s what I’m used to. Not BIG things. Not really a series of things. Just these random pieces.
How long do these illustrations take you?
Honestly, not that long. Its not incredibly large scale, and I usually already know what I want to draw before I even get started. I think I’ve gotten to the point, creatively, where I can just create what I set out to create. I’ve been also putting this comic book type thing together, but it’s more adult humor than anything. But it’s hard to know the demographics and things of people that will get their hands on it. It’s also just to get the exposure you need. Although, the Internet has definitely helped that.
Your work is really incredible.
Thank you. It’s a weird area where my work is kind of cute and cartoony, but in a sense it’s not. I don’t even know where these things come from sometimes. They just pop into my head and I know I have to get them out. It’s a lot of fun doing them. I’m finding that I do a lot of this work and it might not even get out there. I have sketchbooks of these drawing and ideas all over the place. I need to get more of that out. I don’t have the time to put all of this stuff together….with a book or something. And I also just don’t know how deep the mind is to bring these things out.
How did you fall into illustration in the first place?
When I was young, I just wanted to draw these cartoons. And it just sort of evolved into these different things. I wanted to make comics and things, but I always put my twist on them. I would go buy those “how to draw comic” books, but I could never do it completely like them. I had to make it my own. I found myself taking pieces and styles and ideas and it slowly changed into my style of drawing now.
What’s your favorite type of illustration and/or what type do you find yourself doing most?
Well, I definitely enjoy writing. I’ve written some short stories that I always wanted to put a web series together with. I never really got into to the political type art. It’s mostly just humorous and…weird. I just like making things that are weird that might make people uncomfortable. Not in a scary way…but make them think.
Where can people find this stuff online?
People can definitely see these things on my website, jaramirez.work. My illustrations and printmaking art are on there. I put things on my Instagram and Facebook. My website will definitely be growing soon. And I’ll be putting more comics up there to see how people react to them.
What’s next for you?
Physically or mentally? (laughs) There’s a good chance to heading to Vietnam for a while to teach English. It’s scary, but I’ll have more time to get work out as well. It’s going to be an experience. That and building my portfolio while trying to make my way into Chicago. I’m excited where things are headed right now. There’s this Lull that you encounter after graduation where the world scares you and you don’t know what’s going to happen. But I feel like I’m past that. I feel like things are on the upswing. We’ll see what happens.