Oscar Joyo Interview
Hey, Oscar. Before we get into this talk, I’d like to start off by having you introduce yourself to readers as well as myself.
My name is Oscar Joyo and I’m a Chicago-based visual artist who works in both traditional and digital media.I was born in Malawi in 1992 and moved to the US less than a decade later. I was inspired by animation, video games, movies, music, and art books from the 1999 Tarzan film growing up but graduated into anime, figurative painting, and surreal art as I got older. I continue to be influenced by artists of various disciplines to this day.
Growing up who were some of the artists that inspired you?
As a kid, I was inspired by artists like Akira Toriyama, Alex Ross, James Jean, Glen Keane, and Kehinde Wiley.
What makes those particular artists so inspirational to you?
Sure, these artists had some strong influences on because of how they combine things together to make a new viewing experience. I also admire their rendering abilities and how well they capture realism.
Akira Toriyama was my first influence with his show Dragonball z. His combination of pop culture and fighting films really caught my attention. His way of drawing character was so simple to copy of from that I drew it all the time.As a kid, every kid in my class drew Goku and Vegeta.Honestly, if it weren’t for that show and the profound impact it felt on me, I wouldn’t be drawing today. I then graduated to Alex Ross with his blend of classical realism and comics which was foreign to me at the time.What makes him great was how he took his passion for comics and realism seen by artists like Norman Rockwell and fused them so beautifully. Glen Keane but more specifically his work on Tarzan is another influence on me. As I got older and really dove into his process and how tedious he had to study animal and human life (keyword: study) to make his characters come to life in his work. Kehinde Wiley with his mix of classic, Renaissance art, and black culture really influenced me growing up. He utilized the representational aspect of figure painting so masterfully but what sold me on him was how regal he made his subject matter.It showed the importance of an African American and within us, there is royalty. I can’t fully pinpoint what I loved about James Jean but his ability to switch from pop-oriental to comic book to surreal made me want to work with various media. Funny enough, I didn’t like his work until I got to college and looked through his “Rebus” book. Like Kehinde with Black culture/Renaissance, James incorporates a traditional style of Japanese paintings with a surreal/representational approach. Overall, what I love about these artists all together is their willingness to study the world around them and then combine things together. For me, it made me embrace being able to move from technique to technique.
So now, after having your “creative fire” lit by those artists, when did you begin to take your art as a serious endeavor to pursue?
I was motivated to take art seriously around the age of 15 when my high school art teachers encouraged me to pursue it. It was a huge push for me since I love art in general and knowing that I can make a career of doing what I love.
I like the piece of work you recently created inspired by the Marvel Comics Hip Hop variant series – the Danny Brown x Incredible Hulk piece is amazing. Have you contacted anyone from Marvel Comics about officially collaborating with their variant series?
Thank you very much. Haha, unfortunately, I haven’t been contacted by Marvel (yet). It would be cool if they contacted me since I have additional ideas for more variant covers.
What’s a typical day in the life of Oscar Joyo like?
My typical day is broken up into 3 branches but simply: (a) I get up, go to work, come back to spend time with my roommates, draw and paint, then sleep or stay up if I had too much caffeine throughout the day. (b) Drawing until I can’t draw anymore, drinking coffee, and researching more art. (c) Attempting to leave the house but stay inside because something about the drawing doesn’t look right.
Aside from working on this the comic, do you commission work? If so, where can people go to reach you?
Let’s look ahead to the future: 5.10.15. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 15 years?
Haha, I’ve thought about this quite a bit actually. Within 5 years, I want to have my MFA in studio arts or illustration. During that time I’d have a strong gallery, illustration, and web presence.I’m doing well as a freelancer and I’m able to split time as a fine artist and illustrator. In 10 years, take it even further with my presence and hope to be traveling a lot. At this point, start considering opening up a gallery or even opening up a fund for high schoolers or anyone who want to pursue art as a career. At the moment, I’m not sure what 15 years would look like but I do know it’s going to be very bright for me.
Could you describe Chicago’s art scene to me? Who are some of the people that consistently putting in work, representing the city? How competitive are the artists? Do you belong to any art collectives? Who are some the artists in your area that you feel people should be paying attention to?
The Chicago art scene, to me, is an expressive, colorful, and culturally accepting landscape. Even though you get to see it about it anywhere, the beauty of art in Chicago is that it transcends beyond the page. I see work by local artists’ work on apparel, buildings, videos, bridges, and such which helps make this place an open canvas for creativity. People like Brandon Breaux, Max Sansing, Sam DeCarlo, Antonia McMan, Hebru Brantley, Colin Van Dan Sloujs, and many others continuously put out work to make the city better. This city is filled to the brim of creatives from different walks of life that it makes me want to be a better artist so I can leave my mark. At the moment, I’m not in any collective but I’m not against being in one.
Some other names to look out for are Conrad Javier, Kayla Mahaffey, Joe Renda, Lucas Durham, Kevin Fagaragan, Alyssa Ecarma, Matt Wojtan, and Erik Lindquist. Of course, there are a lot more around the city so I highly recommend checking their Instagram and maybe you’ll discover more nearby Chicago. Trust me, there’s plenty of us.
Last question. Who are some people you would like to thank or acknowledge for supporting you over the years? Is there anyone you would like to shout-out?
Yes. First, I give thanks to God for giving me a wonderful family that continues to support me wherever I go and with all that I do. It wasn’t easy but I’m extremely grateful for their tireless love. My inspiring friends, professors, and colleagues from my Alma-mater, American Academy of Art, my friends and extended family around South Bend, Chicago and especially the ones all over the world who have been on my side. People who have followed my work for a while and have seen my progress. Huge shout out to Eric, Kane, Kevin, Peter, Stacie, Tyler, and Natasha for being weird and teaching me more lessons that I put to use every day (sorta). Most importantly, Bruna, Nyame, Mary, and Steve for really getting me into art.I don’t what you saw in me but thank you so much.I wouldn’t be here without you all.