Interview with Sarah Joncas for ‘Upon Another Shore ’ | Exhibition July 8 – July 29, 2023

Thinkspace is pleased to present Sarah JoncasUpon Another Shore.’ In this show, the figurative becomes a vehicle for more existential and constructivist emphases, an armature around which to posit narrative suggestions and symbolic inferences. Highly refined areas of figurative rendering, like the lush skin tones she achieves with oils, are combined with elements of a more graphic sensibility, executed in acrylics, to establish compelling visual tensions between realistic dimensional space and flattened stylization, which nods to her roots in illustration and animation. An early interest in animé and manga, as well as in those neo-noir cinematic references aforementioned, helped to galvanize Joncas’ interest in character-based works.

Our interview with Sarah reveals which color she finds difficult to work with, the challenges of being a mom, how she gets creative with her image references, and that one food dish she’s been craving.

What was your focus and process for this latest body of work? What were you exploring as an artist? 

I’ve been exploring this balance between realistic figures and graphic aesthetics for many years now, but after the mini solo I had with you guys last fall, I felt the need to play more with abstraction and other visual energies. Through my preliminary work building up compositions in photoshop, I began to enjoy my ‘sloppy’ cut and paste styling, the rough edges, and mistakes I’d make while using a computer mouse to draw in colour etc. It spurred me to start selectively including those within the finished pieces. I think both emotionally and visually it’s made for an interesting direction, though I’m uncertain at this time whether I’ll continue with it. Even though my paintings are very controlled, I tend to move through themes and ideas intuitively rather than spending a lot of time planning where I’ll move next.

What was the most challenging piece in this exhibition? 

I had some difficulties with ‘What Comes Back’, not just in creating a figure that looked natural, but deciding how I wanted to complete the work, moving back and forth with finishing touches and ways to balance the composition. I also find reds to be a very difficult colour to paint with (and photograph)! One of my favourites, but the paint itself tends to be less ‘solid’ than others, and more finicky. I end up painting more layers with it to get where I want.

How has your studio practice changed or evolved since becoming a mother? As an artist, how do you prepare for maternity leave? 

When your kids are so young (toddler currently and a baby on the way), you do have to sacrifice far more of your time and energy, some of it unexpectedly when your child is sick, or you don’t have other care options. I’ve had to find ways to balance my work and take time away from it to be where I’m needed. Living in Canada, our mat leave is much longer too, and I was pretty much a year out of work looking after my first (especially during covid when there was no aid). Because I’m self employed, I didn’t have a funded mat leave, but instead tried to bank paintings and work that I could sell while away, also did what I could in order to have a larger show just before my expectant due date. Thankfully, things worked out for me that way, it’s not the kind of thing you have full control over! Despite your plans, pregnancy and babies do their own thing, hah.

How many different pencils/graphite tools do you use for your drawings? Do you have any new favorite materials you’ve added to your art box? 

I only have a case of about 12 pencils I use for my drawings (have had it nearly a decade now), along with a mechanical pencil I love for finer linework. Then I have a few erasers, kneaded and gum, and black gesso for the backgrounds. I use a couple smaller, fineliner pens for any detail work as well. I recently picked up a handful of artist pencil crayons to play around with now that this larger show of work is completed.  See how I might like incorporating washy acrylic backgrounds, with colour penciled drawings and paint. Play around more with mixed media on paper. 

Are you a collector of faces for references and inspiration? Do you work with models to get the right reference shot? 

Most of my references are images that I build up through collage, cut and paste, in photoshop. Stock imagery, models, celebrities and myself or friends, where needed. Sometimes a face can be the eyes from one person and the lips of another, while I’ll take photos of my own hands or clothing (face even) when I want something specific. The lighting in those refs can be also become quite jarring, not all looking to be from the same source, so I’ll incorporate my own interpretation and invention to attempt making it look natural.

You’ve shared that you’ve wanted to incorporate more of your travels into your works. Have any of the pieces in this exhibition been inspired by or used references from your travels? 

Before covid I had begun to do so! Had used some photos I took in Iceland and Japan to help with a handful of works I created, but since covid I haven’t traveled at all. I guess the pregnancies and babies have put a hamper on those things as well for now. In the future, I hope traveling can be something I get to pick up once again!

Can you share with us a piece of artwork or museum exhibition that has significantly impacted you as an artist? Or has left the longest impression?

It’s very hard to choose one image or show that’s impacted me quite so much, but looking back I honestly think seeing my first issue of Juxtapoz as a teen had the most significant change with where I wanted to go in my career. The issue featured Lori Earley’s ‘The Hunter’ on the cover. I had only just started getting into oils and exploring female portraiture myself, and her work just put me in awe. I felt so driven to accomplish that smoothness of skin. Her paintings possessed that deep skill and lushness of an old master, but was modern and edgy and almost digital looking… My own work has changed a lot since that time, but I think seeing her paintings (along with many, many other artists work) in the pages of Juxtapoz influenced me towards a path in fine art rather than my original goal of being an animator.

What piece of unsuspecting advice or words of wisdom has helped you on your artistic journey?

I haven’t had a ton of mentorship in my years growing as an artist, but I think following your heart within your work and learning not to let every piece of criticism stop you from pursuing that has been fruitful to me. As a kid and teen, I could be very influenced by others opinions, trying to be obedient/responsive to where others thought I could or should change, but it’s very important not to lose yourself and what makes you happy, especially with something as personal as art! I’ve learned that’s the place where you’re most likely to excel anyhow, by listening to what drives you.

What is one of your most memorable meals? It could be because of the food you ate or the company you dined with, but it is a meal that has stood the test of time.  

I can’t pinpoint one meal that stands out being better than any other, but lately I have been dreaming about this pasta dish I ate in Florence about 4 years ago… And you know, I’m not that crazy about Italian food (I enjoy it, but it’s far from my favourite). Find a lot of Italian food I eat locally is kind of mediocre/mundane, but this plate I got while traveling Florence was just amazing… Far better than any other meal I ordered while traveling Italy, as well. And it was just some tiny, local spot, no bells or whistles. I don’t even remember the name of the restaurant now, but I regret not having had another day in Florence to dine there a second time, haha.

Exhibition on view July 8 – July 29, 2023 at:
Thinkspace Projects
4207 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Los Angeles, California 90016

Leave a Comment Below:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.