When things are meant to happen, the universe conspires. It also conspires in favor of constantly hard-working artists like Jhonny Nuñes. Jhonny is a professional graphic designer and illustrator originally from Colombia, but his nomadic spirit and love for art have led him to study and work in Spain and even Russia 🥶. This year, Wacom and Jhonny Nuñes will join forces on several projects and we want to introduce him to our community with this interview.
1. What was your greatest influence or reason for devoting yourself fully to illustration?
I went into illustration because ever since I can remember I have always been attracted to images and their function as a visual language, I can honestly say that this has always been my vocation.
2. What did you study to prepare for this career; and what do you advise to people who don’t have the means to go to art school?
I have a degree in graphic design, one in visual communication design, a master’s degree in advertising illustration, and I also have a master’s degree in art direction. Formal in-person education is on trial right now and is going up against low-cost digital education and free mass content, you can learn a lot as a self-taught artist without spending huge amounts of money, there are no more excuses not to learn.
3. When did you start doing digital art and why?
I don’t like to think that I am a digital artist, my job is to make effective visual communication in the form of graphic design and illustration for my clients, my process was as common and as traditional as anyone’s, I began with paper and pencil, then I discovered a graphic editing software, and now I spend my days switching between those 2 disciplines; the reason I do what I do is that it fills me with enormous pleasure – I like it, I’m good at it.
4. What are your favorite illustration programs and tools?
This is a very good question, people usually think that my illustrations are vector, but the truth is they are mostly bitmaps, I only do vector illustration if the client specifically asks me. Photoshop is my favorite app to illustrate and my Wacom Cintiq Pro is indispensable for my work which makes it my favorite tool.
5. What do you advise to people who are afraid or who are reluctant to create digital art?
There is no law that forces a creative mind to opt for a specific discipline, anyone can express themselves or execute their work in the way they consider most comfortable and paramagnetic, it can be analog or digital, proof of this is the innumerable relevant personalities in the world of creativity that have their own styles and methods, what I can say for sure is that no matter what the final technique is, having a Wacom at hand is always useful and necessary.
6. What are some of the art trends or styles that have most influenced you?
My first great visual love was comics, I loved reading them, collecting them, I even illustrated my own comics and created my own superheroes. After a while, when I bought my first computer, there was a long phase in which I only did vector illustration, since that was the trend when social networks were emerging. I’d say comics and vector art have been my 2 most important influences.
7. Do you think Latin American artists have to travel abroad to boost their careers?
No, I don’t think it’s necessary, online networking is the ideal way to promote a career, get relevant clients and present yourself to the world, and even more so in this era of social distancing… But of course a couple of photos abroad doing this or that for some clients always generates engagement and reach in the networks.
8. How do you incorporate your Colombian culture in your work?
Excellent question, each time I find it more difficult to incorporate my culture into my work. My clients are 95% brands from the United States and 5% brands from countries outside Latin America. The projects I am commissioned for must align with current market trends and unfortunately, Colombian culture is not a trend in the industry. However, my clients consider my color use technique as one of the main reasons why they hire me and tend to define it as something visually very Latin American.
9. What have been some of the projects that have brought you the most satisfaction?
I always do my work with the maximum effort and professional quality possible; I am always satisfied with what I do because I do it well. Every year I set myself strategic goals to work with new relevant clients. When my strategy bears fruit and those clients I was pursuing contact me, I feel indescribable satisfaction. My work is pure satisfaction and I think that’s why it’s easy for me to remember the less satisfactory jobs since there have been so few.
10. How was your experience working with Disney for Encanto?
It was like being on a roller coaster that never stopped going up. Working for Disney on a film inspired by Colombian culture has been one of the most enriching professional experiences I’ve ever had, just imagine, it’s not every day that one of the largest and most important corporations on the planet knocks on your door to ask you to help them make history, all of that was just fantastic.
11. What advice do you have for young people who aspire to one day work for big brands or studios?
Be professional: having a professional work protocol helps to reflect your professional level with confidence and helps in negotiations when talking about money.
Learn about business: not everything is illustration, you have to invest time in business training to be up to par with a great client.
Say no to illustration agencies: a large client always means a great opportunity, valuable contacts, and a huge amount of money, if you let yourself be managed by an illustration agency the equation changes against you, since you will not control the negotiations and you’ll never really know how great that opportunity could have been. With agencies you will never be able to connect with that client, you will only really know what the agency wants you to know, and eventually, that “huge payment” that you were expecting will be 30% smaller than anticipated.
12. What are the advantages of freelancing?
Sleeping well and plenty, not having to cover 3 jobs and only receiving the salary of one, having total freedom to decide who I want to work with, not having to ask anyone for permission to use my time as I want, when I want, making more money in one day than they can pay me in 6 months at an agency, blasting my favorite playlist while I work, not having to put my name on the food I keep in the company fridge, receiving gifts from my clients, sending gifts to my clients, living without fear of being fired, being happy.
13. What advice do you have for creatives working with illustration agencies?
Illustrators who want to be represented by illustration agencies usually choose to be because they believe that this is the only way to land large clients, but they are wrong. The illustration agency is really the worst option if you want to make a career as a freelancer, my advice is this: forget about illustration agencies and learn to manage yourself as a freelance illustrator.
14. What do you do to attract the attention of brands or studios you want to work with?
I do a lot of research, I investigate who are the people with whom I must communicate, I apply marketing strategies that I designed based on my needs, I send love letters, I put my photo as a profile image on all my networks, I maintain a strict discipline in networks and I only share what my clients want and need to see, I’m not trying to sell anything, I just say hello and ask how I can help, I’m surgically professional, I’m always available.
15. What are you most excited about this year?
Going to Portland, Oregon.
It’s hard not to fall in love with Jhonny’s work and be inspired by his story. We hope you have enjoyed this interview and that you start following Jhonny Nuñez on social media.