Thursday, 10 November 2016

Illustrators Arise: Junissa Bianda

Well, hello there, artsy folks! How are you doing? Hope you're well 'cause I've got some great news: it's time for another edition of Illustrators Arise! Woohoo! In case you're unfamiliar with it, Illustrators Arise is where I introduce my favourite illustrators from all over the world every month through an interview so you guys can read along and get to know them too. This year has been all about showcasing Indonesia's best illustrators and this month we're going to talk to an illustrator who creates adorable children and have a passion for Indonesian folktales. Meet Junissa Bianda, a young illustrator currently pursuing her education in San Francisco. It was through instagram that I found her works and fell in love at first sight. Her adorable style and light use of colour is absolutely refreshing. Growing up with six siblings, she always identifies herself as a story-teller among her brothers and sister. Now living in California, Junissa spends her free time jogging, cycling, cooking and exploring the coffee places in SF.

Hello there, Junissa! Can we start with when you first started drawing and what made you decide to become an illustrator?

It all started at an early age for me. Back in kindergarten, my mother had put me in various art classes such as painting, paper crafts, knitting and even enrolled me to a drawing competition using crayons. I didn’t win, I was dead last I believe, but that didn’t break my spirit at all. It wasn’t something that I was forced to do, yet I love drawing from the very start. Throughout my years, I was torn between fine-art and illustration, even until I graduated my bachelor in UPH studying DKV. Then it occurred to me, I want to learn more than just graphic design, and I want to test myself by studying abroad just to see what it’s like to have my own full responsibility. I visited many university websites and one caught my eye, that is the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. This school had established many well known illustrators, and as I saw all the works that they produced, it made me decide to be an Illustrator.

If I’m not mistaken, you are currently studying Illustration in San Francisco. What made you enrol in the program and would you recommend it to other people?
What made me enroll in the Academy was mainly because I want to test myself if I’m good enough out there, and also to earn new knowledge. Not based on art skills alone, but managing my life alone in the city. It did build up my character both as an artist and as a person. I do recommend studying abroad, but it does require a lot of self discipline.

What kind of materials do you usually use?
For manual, I use colored markers and gouache on mix media paper. In digital I mainly use Photoshop.

On your website you say that you want to re-introduce Indonesian folktales to get children excited about reading books. Why do you think this is important? Which folktales do you want to re-introduce the most?
I grew up reading Indonesian folktales actually, and I loved hearing most of the stories. It’s a shame that kids nowadays have little knowledge about it. Right now in the Academy, I’ve made one of Indonesia’s well known folktale titled “Timun Mas” as my thesis, and I’m planning to publish it once I graduate. Hopefully if the market likes it, I’ll publish another one. One step at a time :)

Your little project “Nice to Draw You” looks so adorable! What inspired you to start this project and what have you learnt from it?
I've always wanted to do this for a long time, but never found the free time to start. What get it going was actually the jet-lag I got from traveling back to Jakarta from San Francisco. So I drew around 5am every single morning, and it took me an hour for each piece. The purpose was to make my friends happy of course, but to also practice. The more I draw, surprisingly the quicker I become.

Although you technically live in the US at the moment, you still manage to land a job with Erlangga. Would you mind sharing about the collaboration?

Erlangga’s project landed at the most perfect time for me, which was during at the start of my Thesis. They first reached out to me through email, then we start emailing back and forth about the deadline etc. There was no obstacle at all, time difference actually helped, weirdly. The finalization of the book thankfully was at the time I had a summer break in Jakarta. It will be released at the end of the year, very excited.

Your illustrations always manage to tell a story and you have an apt for character designing. Would you ever consider writing and illustrating a book of your own?
Thank you, and yes. I was also considering to make an educational children's book using my own characters.

Aside from story-telling, you seem to have a gift for creating novelty prints to be used for merchandising. Are you selling them? If not, have you ever thought about the possibility of doing so?
I’m considering that to be a side career in the future. For now I think that I would probably approach more into licensing my prints, or for small commissions.

What does the future look like for Junissa Bianda?
Graduate first from the Academy. Then publish more books I hope, and we’ll see from there.

If an amateur illustrator comes up to you and ask for advice, what would you tell him/her?
You have to love what you do, if not better not do it at all. Self discipline and don’t be afraid to explore new techniques or medias.

A little note from me

One of the first things which attracted me to Junissa's works was the simplicity of her style, which doesn't take away from the cuteness level of the characters that she illustrates. Her more cartoon-y, disney-esque style is quite different from most Indonesian illustrators who tend to lean towards the anime/manga style—including myself. I absolutely love how Junissa's illustrations can always tell a story yet at the same time applied to many uses and items. Her passion for story-telling clearly shines through and, after learning of her love for Indonesian folktales, she becomes more and more impressive. Geography doesn't seem like an obstacle to her, be it for job opportunities, making friends or pursuing her education—which I think shouldn't limit us as a person either. Really looking forward to reading her Timun Mas thesis when it gets published!

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