Jonathan Kenyon inteview (Vault49)
June 1, 2009
Vault49 arise as a result of the partnership between students Jonathan Kenyon and John Glasgow during their final years at the London College of Printing in 2002. They quickly became one of the leading UK design studio with an impressive illustration, design and screen-printing portfolio. After their moving to New York in 2004 Vault49 continued working with some major international clients like Pepsi, MTV, Virgin Atlantic, New York Times. Since February 2009 Vault49 collaborate with Bang! Bang! studio Moscow.
Tell us about your first steps in illustration/art.
I would have drawing competitions with my brother to see who could most accurately draw my mother’s collection of antique dolls.
Which was your first amount fee? And what’s a project?
I actually was quite lucky and was asked to design a website for a luxury cushion retailer for £2,000 while I was still a student. Happy days!
What was a moment when you realized that you have to be an illustrator?
When I was 18 I broke my leg and was in plaster for six months. It was probably the best thing that ever happened to me and I re-assessed my life and decided to pursue what made me happy. I started drawing again and was accepted into a great college to study graphic design.
What are you doing for getting the order?
We concentrate on producing high quality, cutting-edge illustration with a basis in genuine craftsmanship and natural talent, and to a large extent we rely on the quality of our work to drive the commercial commissions. We also regularly keep clients updated with our work through portfolio showings and email.
How do you feel about commercial projects and your personal works? Is it the same feelings?
Vault49’s personal work is the driving force for our commercial commissions. It’s important to show clients what excites us so that we can influence the commercial work we receive. Commercial work can often be extremely creative, and sometimes even more rewarding than personal work – there’s nothing better than producing something I love, and then seeing it on a billboard or on the side of a bus in NYC. When I’m proud of something I’ve done, I like others to see it, even if they don’t know who did it.
How do you choose the themes for your illustrations?
I already have more themes and ideas than we will ever be able to use in our lifetimes. Inspiration and ideas are easy to come by – the hard part is editing our ideas and themes to decide which ones to follow.
Could you describe how you look like when you're drawing?
There will usually be music on, so my head will be bopping up and down like one of those toy dogs people have in car windows.
Tell us about pluses and minuses in modern illustration.
On the downside, there is too much repetition and imitation in the world of design and illustration. However, the positive result of this is a return to fine craftsmanship and a focus on natural talent instead of copycat art, for this is now the only way to stand out from the crowd.
What is your greatest achievement?
Running a successful design studio in NYC. Simple as that.
Do any texts inspire you?
Constantly. Reading books provides my greatest inspiration and I always read with a notebook beside me.
Is your work characteristic in some way of the country you come from — or live in?
Not really, it’s more representative of the books I’ve read and the world I occupy in my mind, more than my physical location.
What is the best thing about living in New York?
This is such a difficult question because I love this city so much. If I had to choose one thing, it would be the people – you can be anyone you want here and nobody will bother you.
If you could collaborate with any artists you choose, who would they be?
If you have a chance to draw a movie poster, what movie will you choose?
Any Bollywood movie!
What are the top 3 things that make you happy?
What are the top 3 things that make you crazy?
I could list 100 things easily, but here are three:
What is the thing you want to tell/ask us?
Is screen printing popular in Russia?
Tell to us your plans for tomorrow
Tomorrow is the start of the weekend, so... I’m going screen printing! Design is my hobby, not just a profession. I find it relaxing to be creating work that is not on a deadline.