Artist, Bauhaus, Design, Designers, Interviews with creatives, Painter | 28 May 2020
Jon Llewelyn — painter and designer.
We meet artist Jon Llewelyn to get an insight into his work as a painter and learn about his inspirations and the role home plays in his work.
Jon Llewelyn, Formworks Studio
Jon creates art that challenges the viewer’s sense of perception, depth and space, by exploring and exposing the relationship between bold geometry, 3 dimensions and colour. We love Jon’s carefully considered geometric style and wanted to find out more about him and his work.
How did you arrive at what you’re doing now?
My foundation course at Cardiff School of Art and Design when I was 18 was the catalyst for who I am today. It’s where I realised this was my path. Some time later my wife encouraged me to create art for our home; dinner guests, friends and family loved it and I was encouraged to put my work in the public arena. I’d always created art alongside being a graphic designer but I finally set up in 2017.
Tell us about your work?
The Bauhaus movement and its ethos and free approach has moulded and inspired me, particularly architect Le Corbusier and furniture designer Eames who made big impressions on me from my first encounters with their work.
“My work is about the relationship between forms, colour and positive and negative space.”
My work is about the relationship between forms, colour and positive and negative space. I always try to start on paper with a plan and am not the kind of artist who just sets out to see where their work goes. A plan helps get me in the right creative space and I then adapt and change my work if that feels right.
How do you generate your creative ideas?
I always start with sketches and a colour palette to provide a structure to work within. I don’t have a set formula or work to set patterns other than my daily list of tasks. My best work tends to come when I feel inspired which can be any time of day or night. When I have the urge to create I’ll often work on two or three paintings or prints at a time. I often paint in sections working on one area first and visiting a different area later.
Of course, I get dead periods too, when I can’t force myself to be creative. But generally, if there isn’t something in my head that I’m confident about I don’t try to force it. I’ve learnt over the years that when I’m in the zone I’m going to paint and I’ve got to the point where I know when to start and when to stop. It’s a meandering journey.
Sometimes compositions simply pop into my head and I’ve learnt over the last three years to trust my instincts, if something feels right I’ll do it, and if not I won’t.
Where do you find your inspiration?
The Bauhaus movement underpins everything I love: The minimalism, geometric shapes and play with light. I don’t want to replicate what they do but I do buy into their phrase that “less is more.” I’m currently steering my work towards more minimal shapes, their interaction and colour.
“I love modern furniture and lighting and I find everything about that world completely inspiring.”
Other inspiration comes from architecture, furniture design and 3D forms as well as design and interior magazines. I love modern furniture and lighting and I find everything about that world completely inspiring. Lighting in particular, French brand Jielde and the minimalist furniture of Bruer, Eames, Vitra and Kandinski, definitely inspires me to create artwork that could accompany it. I also love the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Coubusier and Strom architects and am a big fan of mid-century architecture.
Like many people I find magazines including Wallpaper, Living etc and Elle Décor great sources of inspiration particularly colour inspiration that I find from furniture featured in interior stories.
Has the current situation affected your creativity?
Definitely at the start. I found it difficult to find enough motivation to be creative. Now I’m over the shock I’m able to focus on the things that make me happy. I get a buzz out of people liking what I do and asking for work and there’s been a spike in requests recently which is brilliant.
I think the amount of time people spend online has rocketed and lots of people are starting to make home improvements. They’re thinking let’s get that art that we have been thinking about for months.
Do you work on your own or with others?
I always work on my own. Just me and my thoughts.
Where do you create your best work?
My studio is having some repair work done so I’m currently working in my home office. I feel comfortable there and often find my best work is made at home.
What role does home play in your creative practice?
An important one because it’s where I feel most comfortable. I’ve had a few pop-ups but as they’re temporary they don’t really help me in a creative sense. Having said that I rarely create anything with my own home in mind. My wife often wants my artwork up in the house but I like to focus on art from other artists at home.
“I hope that by pairing my work with interiors that inspire me it will ensure it sits well in people’s homes.”
I often create with architecture in mind and was recently sent photos of a client’s home for a commission piece. The photos of their home were incredibly inspiring, and it was a great way to work. I hope that by pairing my work with interiors that inspire me it will ensure it sits well in people’s homes. I saw an article last year in Elle Décor about Brad Pitt’s mid-century home which really enthused me to create something based on what I’d seen, so I guess home is important in my work.
What design challenges excite you most and why?
Starting with a blank canvas to create work I feel is the best it can be is always an exciting challenge.
How do you design for joy?
I love what I do so much I don’t feel like I’m working. I love to tell stories through my art, and I get a huge buzz out of completing pieces that just feel right — it gives me a euphoric feeling. Hopefully the viewer feels some of that too.
What does quality mean to you and how do you pursue it in your work?
I’m a total perfectionist!
I spent a long time finding the best Giclee printers, frames and gallery quality glass. When I researched print, Giclee print was standard for galleries such as the National Portrait Gallery and felt like the right choice as I wanted to use the best of everything. So, I found the best Giclee printer I could (Hahnemuhle approved which means they’re at the top of their game).
I source my frames from Germany. Non reflective glass is really important to me as I once had something framed for my home and the framer didn’t use non reflective glass so I couldn’t see the print! Again, I looked at the best suppliers and made sure I could get the glass cut to the nearest millimeter. The frames are amazing and the prints are truly lovely quality as I use 315 gsm paper. The glass is also UV protected so it won’t mis-colour and I use acid free tissue for the packaging so that nothing gets damaged. I also frame and glaze everything myself.
For me the quality of my work is a reflection of my standards. I like people to receive a first-class piece of work (as I would myself), so I deal with everything from a quality control perspective to be sure that everything is spot on. I believe the little things go a long way and want to make sure the finished product is the best it can be.
Where do you sell or show your work?
I don’t sell much work via galleries at present… I’ve sold through Auction Collective, set up by an ex Southeby auctioneer — they’re London based art dealers who source work they like and exhibit it via pop-ups. I’ve also been taken on by Modern Art Hire, set up by the well-connected interior designer Laura Fulmine. Laura asks artists she likes to join her and then exhibits their work via commercial projects: Photo shoots, commercials, advertising etc.
Much of my work is limited edition so I don’t want it everywhere. My ethos is to pair it with the right client so it fits the environment.
What item in your home speaks to you of great design?
Our Kartell Componibili Circular Storage unit. It’ s a circular unit with three levels. I love it! It looks very neat and is highly functional, we have one by our bed and one by the front door. It’s simple and very well made.
How do you approach sustainability in your work?
I’m very conscious of it. My packaging is 100% recyclable and bespoke to the item to ensure it’s the right size and there’s no waste. My frames are made of aluminum with a wood veneer and are recyclable while my canvasses are made from cotton and sustainable wood, finally the paint I use is predominantly water based and environmentally friendly. Small steps to make sure my products are as sustainable as possible. It’s a work in progress.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m painting in acrylic more this year alongside my limited edition Giclee prints. I’m currently working on a series of paintings entitled “contrast” where I’m exploring different atmospheric and textural paint effects in a minimal way.
“My plan is to expand my work into textiles and other related areas.”
All my limited-edition prints are digital works but lately I’ve been applying my methodology and ethos to painting in acrylic. My plan is to expand my work into textiles and other related areas.