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Jacqui Oakley 2013
I was really thrilled the last month or so to get so many nice blog posts and requests for interviews. It’s an added bonus that I read these blogs regularly too! Here’s some:
Applied Arts – Two Crown King album art/design feature. Nice to be on the Canadian wire!
Dribbble Time Out – Although interviews do make me feel shy, I have to admit it does feel nice to be listed amongst some of the top designers of Dribbble.
Pitch Design Union - I love Margot Harrington’s blog. She always features such amazing design and illustration projects and it’s wonderful to hear her personal voice come through. Here she kindly features my process work for the Lion artwork.
Legendary Lindy hopper Frankie Manning passed away on April 27, 2009, one month before his 95th birthday. He danced right up until the end, traveling around the world to teach and dance. He was always full of enthusiasm & life and such an inspiration to so many dancers. We all miss him terribly.
His incredible life story from frankiemanning.com: Swing dancer extraordinaire Frankie Manning was a leading dancer at Harlem’s legendary Savoy Ballroom where, in the mid-1930s, he revolutionized the course of the lindy hop with his innovations, including the lindy air step and synchronized ensemble lindy routine. As a featured dancer and chief choreographer for the spectacular Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, he performed in numerous films (including Hellzapoppin’), and entertained on stages around the world with jazz greats Ethel Waters, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Cab Calloway.
Upon the demise of the Swing Era, Frankie took a job in the Post Office, where he worked for thirty years until his rediscovery by a new generation of swing dance enthusiasts in the mid-1980s. Since then, he’s been in constant demand and motion, teaching, choreographing, and performing globally. He won a 1989 Tony Award for his choreography in Black and Blue, and served as a consultant for and performed in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X. Frankie’s activities have been chronicled in hundreds of articles (including features in GQ and People) and dozens of news programs (including a profile on ABC’s 20/20). Considered the world’s leading authority on the lindy, he is highlighted in Ken Burns’s acclaimed documentary, Jazz.
Between jobs I’ve been very slowly working on some ideas for a graphic novel about the history of African American dance. Here’s a rough drawing so far of one of Frankie’s mentors, Shorty George Snowden, a first generation Lindy Hopper. The next pic I’ll be tackling is their famous dance battle in 1935, when Frankie shocked the crowd with the first aerial! Let me know what you think so far? It still needs to be painted and inked. This is a new format for me. I really hope I capture the spirit of the dance.
Frankie reminiscing about the first air steps in his battle against Shorty at the Savoy in 1935. An interview for the Ken Burns Jazz documentary on PBS:
“It was coming down to the end of our turn, so I said, “You ready to do the step?” “Yeah, let’s do it.” That’s exactly what she said. I remember it as if I was there right now. I swung her out and did a jump turn over her head while Chick said, “SHUUMMP!” Then I jumped so we were back to back and flipped her. While she was going over, he played “CHI- CHI- CHI- CHI- CHI- CHI-CHOO.” And when she hit the floor right on the beat… “BOOMP!”
The crowd had been clapping in time with the music and yelling, “Go Musclehead!” (my nickname), but when Frieda landed, for one second, it seemed like everyone in the audience caught their beat. Their mouths opened, but no sound came out. It was as if people weren’t sure they had really seen what they’d seen, like they were trying to figure out what we had just done. They were awestruck. Then all of a sudden, the house erupted! Everyone jumped up and started stomping, clapping, hollering, and grabbing each other saying, “Did you see that?” “What the heck did he just do?” “He threw that girl over his head!” Folks were just carrying on. It was turmoil!”
The Lindy Hop by Al Hirschfeld (1903-2003)
Frankie, “Man, they dug a hole in the floor!”
I was happy to be asked to show my work lately in the 22nd issue of the online magazine TXTnein. Go to their website to get a free PDF download of the full magazine here. Other artists featured in this issue are Emiliano Martinez, Jonas Fleuraime, Monstruo Estudio, Robert. G. Bartholot & Denis Zilber on the cover.
Thanks to Shivani for interviewing me on her beautiful blog My Owl Barn. You can see the interview below but please go and check out her great site here, she has some beautiful art posted.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself, location, present job, personal stuff.
I was born in Canada, but spent my formative years in Bahrain, Zambia and Libya, while my parents traveled for work. I finally settled down in 1989 in Canada, after going back and forth from England, where my parents are originally from. This gave me a rather strange accent that often puzzles people. So now, I’ve been a freelance illustrator for about 10 years having clients such as Rolling Stone, Financial Times (UK), LA Weekly, The Boston Globe, ESPN, etc. I work on these illustrations in my Hamilton studio/home just outside of Toronto in Ontario, Canada & I also teach part-time at OCAD U, Ontario College of Art & Design, in Toronto.
2. What inspired you to become an artist and how old were you then?
I’ve always really loved working on art and when I was a child I’d make cards for family & friend’s birthdays. I think growing up in Middle East and traveling a bunch really got me excited about all the colour and textures around me. When I was young, I would especially love to go shopping at the souk markets in Bahrain where my eye would be attracted to the intricately decorative Persian rugs & the masses of colourful spice stalls. I think that love of pattern has always stuck with me.
3. Please describe your materials and medium you use in your pieces.
I specialize in hand-lettering, portraiture and nature illustrations – I love blending peculiar patterns and textures. I typically ink my work and paint with good old-fashioned oil or acrylic and elbow grease. Occasionally for commercial work, I render colour digitally, when a modern mood strikes.
4. Who are your favorite artists? Why?
There are certain artists that will always be so thrilling for me to look at including Rauschenberg, Bruegel, Hopper, Freud, Toulouse-Lautrec, Klimt, & Schiele. But, I also get inspired by illustrators such as Moebius & vintage comic book illustrators such as Winsor McCay. Recently I’ve been amazed by the colours and textures of Henrique Oliveira’s large scale found-wood sculptures. My inspiration comes from more than just other artists, I also look to book cover design, vintage posters, textiles, folk art, record covers, architecture, & various old ephemera especially antique type work. Not to forget that there are certain film directors and cinematographers that will always impel my urge to paint.
5. What’s been your favourite project so far?
I’ve really annoyed a bunch of projects I’ve worked on this past year or two, since recently I feel like I’m enjoying the process of creating art so much more. I just finished a series about Hawaiian Ukulele music which was so much fun & now I’m thrilled about the new animal paintings I’m doing for an art exhibit in Hamilton, entitled ZOO coming up in July.
6. What is a constant challenge for you and most rewarding part of having a creative profession?
It is so satisfying to work for myself and actually get paid to paint. I love having my own hours and working at home but the tricky part is the balance between work and leisure time, especially when you enjoy working so much. I have to give myself permission to stop sometimes and remind myself that it’s alright and important to do other things. It’s hard to do that when it’s busy. Being a freelancer you never like to turn down a job, so sometimes you have to get used to working very long hours which I find harder as the years go by!
7. What do you do when you are not working?
When I’m not working I do love to watch films. I’m also a dancer and have taught & performed vintage jazz and Lindy Hop swing since 1990. I find this is a really great mix and forces myself to get away from hunching over my drafting table.
8. How do you use your blog for your art?
The blog is a fairly new venture for me. I nervously started it a few months ago, not being sure if what I had to show would interest anyone. But, since I got on my way I’ve really enjoyed working on it. I like to show my process for my paintings which hopefully helps other people but also forces me to scrutinize & adapt my process. I also include other things that excite and inspire me such as art, design, & film stills.
9. I noticed that your pieces have owls in it, and was wanting to ask you about that.
I got interested in owl paintings when a couple of friends took me on a very Canadian outing to the sugar shack festival at Mountsberg Conservation Park. I think they were trying to instill a love of the cold Canadian Winter in me! So this is a tradition in Canada where maple trees are tapped for syrup, which you eat when it freezes on the snow. At this park they also have a selection of rescued owls & eagles. I had never seen one up close and they were so striking, especially the Barn Owls with their big staring dark eyes. They had such an otherworldly quality & a quiet strength that I was dying to capture in paint.
Soon after this I had my first solo show in Toronto entitled, Prowl which focused on these owl paintings and had some beautiful owl poems by my friend and fellow owl enthusiast Carolyn Veldstra. This show was a sort of quirky nature tour, making connections that might have seemed far-fetched, between the witticisms of Carolyn and the art. A lot of the artwork was inspired by old textile patterns and prints, and the texture of owl’s feathers really lends itself to that. Here’s one of the poems from the show:
The Barn Owls, by Carolyn Veldstra
We see here a pair of Barn Owls—and we gain the distinct impression that we are being stared down by something preternaturally calm, nearly dangerous. These eyes, darker than an ink-dipped coal-miner, give away little of this bird’s soul, and perhaps penetrate a little too deeply in our own.
They know us well. Barn Owls live in close proximity to humans—inhabiting all our dark crannies and feasting on all that goes bump in our night. It’s not surprising that beaten down English serfs saw death in these pale white faces.
Death to voles, surely—a nesting pair of Barn Owls will eat more than 1000 voles in a season. Quick to determine that a bulbous serf (or skinny academic) is less a meal than a flurry of voles, we can rest assured the Barn Owl will most often leave well enough alone; though, keep in mind, folkish wisdom advocates walking around an owl in a tree—of course, the owl will turn and turn and turn its head to watch you, thereby wringing its own neck.
10. Describe your work on which you are currently working?
I’m working on a few different editorial pieces for magazines in the States and in the process of doing art for a group show myself and my husband, Jamie Lawson are curating here in Hamilton called Zoo, or a Montley Menagerie of Magnificent Mammalia, in July. This is really thrilling since it’s the first time in years we’ve all shown our work together with our talented friends. My contribution will be a series of decorative animal images showing scenes of violence is a beautiful way.
11. What are your future plans and dreams?
Wow, that’s a large question. I’d love to publish a book at some point either about birds or about vintage American dance. It would be lovely to work on more shows and projects that I am in charge of. I just hope as time goes by I still stay inspired by working on different artwork and traveling, but things are looking good so far.
Etsy Shop with Owl Prints & More: My http://www.etsy.com/shop/jacquioakley
I luckily adopted this treasure from a family friend years ago. I was pretty chuffed, but my friends who have helped move it multiple times have not been so pleased. It weighs a ton, being a solid oak table with wrought iron legs, and hiding within it a very old sewing machine. Supposedly it, “is handsomely and substantially constructed, embodying all that is reliable and desirable, and aside from its useful qualities, is an ornament fit to grace any home ….it stands without and equal.” Pretty impressive, no? If you don’t believe this then perk up your ears to Mrs. J. H. McBride’s glowing review,
I am sure it will prove an important adjunct to the table in our family and would think every family would feel the household necessities incomplete without your table ….book rest. The wood of the table is very beautiful, I think. Cordially your, Mrs. J. H. McBride. Cleveland ,O.
Here is a photo of the engraving on the front of the table and also some photos of its instruction booklet. I thought I should document it before it totally falls apart. I love the details in each etching, especially the one with all the numbered parts.