Jonny Negron is one of the hottest new guys in the circles of comics and drawing, but nobody seems to know too much about his personal life. Turns out he's kind of tight-lipped as an interview subject, and although I did manage to slightly crack his shell, after our chat the mystery of Jonny Negron remains unsolved. If nothing else, maybe you'll enjoy the pretty pictures.
VICE: Jonny Negron, is that your real name? Where are you from?
Jonny: Yes, that is my real name. I was born in Puerto Rico, but I grew up on Long Island and I currently live in Texas. My family moved to New York when I was two years old, and I moved to Austin in 2007 because I was tired of living on the East Coast. I'm currently a self-employed artist, but I was working as a gold buyer earlier this year.
How long have you been into comics?
I've been into comics since I was a kid. I really liked superhero comics, especially X-Men. I first experienced manga and anime when I was about nine, and obviously it was a big deal for me. That stuff wasn't around like it is today, so when I first got into the Japanese comics it blew my mind. I will always love AKIRA, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Hayao Miyazaki's work.
Off the top of my head, Matt Furie, Suehiro Maruo, Masami Teraoka, Yuichi Yokoyama, Angie Wang, and Chris Ware have all been sources of inspiration.
How long have you been working in your current style?
I've been drawing almost my entire life, so I suppose my style is an accumulation of many inspirations. As an artist, I feel I must always be advancing, so I try not to think about style too much.
Your cover of Thickness reminded me of Frank Miller. Are you conscious of your influences?
I'm personally not a huge fan of Frank Miller, but I do find it interesting that my work is sometimes compared to people I've never heard of. I'm influenced by a large range of things and I never know where to begin, but usually when I notice that a drawing or comic strip of mine reminds me of someone else's work, it's not intentional. Normally when I envision a piece with a particular artist in mind, the results are very different from what I planned.
The cover art and your comic inside Thickness were pretty great. How close is that to your actual sexual fantasies? Was that based on a dream or something?
Thanks. Grandaddy Purple, the story in Thickness, isn't really based on fantasies. I suppose they're based on a few dreams I've had. Very odd dreams.
Grandaddy Purple is a popular strain of pot. Are you really into pot or do you just listen to a lot of rap?
Haha, am I into pot? I think I'd prefer it if that remained a mystery. I listen to a moderate amount of hip-hop.
Tell me about making Grandaddy Purple. It seems like it was based on dreams.
Yes, some of the images did come from very bizarre dreams. For a long time I was ambivalent about making "pornographic" work. Then one day I was watching a commercial for a U.F.C. event. It was a montage of half naked men beating the living shit out of each other, and I asked myself, "How did that become OK?" If depicting violence, which is something most people do not want to experience, is OK, then depicting sex, which most people enjoy very much, should be acceptable on an even broader level.
Your comic about Jay Jay the homeless guy reminds me a lot of Sof' Boy.
Sof' Boy is great.
Was your Jay Jay comic a parody of Hutch Owens?
Jay Jay is a real dude. He was the only homeless person who lived in the first neighborhood I moved to in Austin. Like many bums, he'd get wasted and pass out random places around town. What he says in the comic was said to me verbatim.
You draw some severely thick honeys. What kind of girls are you into?
I draw females the way I do primarily because you just don't see women with those kinds of physiques in art and media very often. The more I draw, the more I exaggerate the proportions. But it is certainly not a personal preference. The majority of women I've dated have been thin. I think there's a reference to Crumb in the way I draw girls, but Crumb only seemed to want to draw one type of woman too, which gets a little tiring. I love all kinds of ladies!
What do the girls you date think of your depictions of women? What does your mom think of it? I do pretty dirty drawings and I don't think my mom's too happy about those.
Most women don't say much about it, and the ones who do have given me positive feedback. I show my mom about five percent of the work I do, haha.
You've got beautiful lines and colors. Describe your process for making a comic or image like Extra Credit.
Thank you. I've been drawing since I was two years old. As far as comics go, sometimes I'll have a clear concept, like with the Jay Jay comic, but I'm never married to my ideas. I like to allow the images and story to reveal themselves as I go along. That way I don't disappoint myself with what I'm doing. I try to embrace chance.
Tell me about your process for making an image.
I suppose it depends on what I'm doing. As far as single drawings or paintings go, I prefer to draw freehand with a pen. I'm not into making multiple drafts or preliminary sketches, and I primarily use watercolor paints and markers.
My approach to creating comics is different. I almost always lay out a page with pencils first. If I didn't do things this way I'd go through lots and lots of paper. I love doing as much as I can by hand. For example, I really enjoy using shading tones even though I can create the same effects digitally. Slicing each individual tone just feels better to me. Unfortunately, I can only find the shading tones online, and it's becoming quite expensive. So that's it, my process is quite simple. I'd imagine it's not very different than many other artists'.
Where have your comics and other work been published?
Aside from Thickness, I have work in Diamond #6, Gang Bang Bong #2, Meathaus SOS', and Demongodgoblinheaven, which is a self-published collaboration between Jesse Balmer and myself.
What are you currently working on?
I've been working on multiple freelance projects, including a zine I plan to print in the fall. I also have a long story that I've been writing since 2009. My goal for 2012 is to finish a graphic novel.