This is Marie Jane, the young, talented and incredibly reliable freelance Illustrator.
Born in ’95, MJ has been creating art non-stop all her life, putting all that she’s learned into everything she does. She’s taught students, organized art shows, performed at the Art Gallery of Ontario, painted murals abroad and her talents were recognized by DC Comics Editor, Ellie Pyle, Former Disney Artist, Kurt Lehner, Famous Actress, Ashley Leggat, and many others.
Check out this feature of MJ by New York Times Best Selling Author,
Tosca Lee who interviewed MJ about her work and the creation of Tosca’s Character Card Series designed by MJ.
To see the original blog post of 2017, click here.
MEET ARTIST, MARIE JANE WORKS
20 JUN MEET CHARACTER CARD ARTIST, M.J. WORKS
As we were getting ready to release Firstborn, we wanted to create some amazing swag for readers. We found Marie Jane Works, a talented young artist who creates character cards (among other things). She designed beautiful cards depicting eleven characters from the series, and one fun bonus card. We asked MJ to tell us more about her art and her creative process.
Q: What’s your process for deciding how to depict a character?
MJ: Depicting characters is one of my favorite things to do. The more time I have, the more I explore sketching them, developing concepts, and researching references that may help me bring the character to life. Working with Tosca was especially great because, even though we were under a tight deadline, she did all the reference research for me, providing very detailed presentations on who each character is. From there, I just have fun and draw!
Q: Have you worked with authors before? How do they differ from other clients?
MJ: I am currently working with four other authors from different genres and they are all wonderful. Because authors spend so much time creating their stories, they are very understanding about the creative process and what I need to create illustrations for them. They are much more open minded with sharing ideas and treating the project as more of a collaboration than a job. It’s quite rewarding.
Q: How long did it take to create each of these Progeny character cards? What was it like bringing a character from a book series to life?
MJ: I was really excited when I got the job to illustrate Tosca’s characters because I adore the genre. Costumes, masks, diversity—it was all super fun. I worked on each character over a couple of days, roughly about six hours in total for each card. Some took longer than others during moments of art block, or when Tosca and I had to figure out how to approach certain changes.
Tosca’s story was the first work I’ve done for an author who already had some character designs. I’m usually the one to design the characters around the story, but it was very interesting to receive the written descriptions and renderings of the characters. As I read The Progeny, I can’t emphasize enough how cool it was to read about the characters I worked on. It almost felt as though I was reading about my friends or people I know personally. I have become familiar with them in a unique way that no one else will experience since the familiarity came with the process of bringing them to life. Very exciting.
Q: Tell us about some of your favorite projects.
MJ: I love everything I do, but my favourite project right now is actually a comic issue about my original creations. It’s still a work in progress, but I have teamed up with Zelpha Comics who has helped write the story and will be publishing it on completion. It’s a fantasy story that will focus on my Harpy creatures who face all kinds of challenges in an unusual world. The story will have a bit of everything from drama, romance, adventure, mystery, action, you name it. I am hoping this will be a start to my long-term goal of creating a graphic novel series on my favourite original character of all time, Skylar Fox. The comic issue about the Harpies will be featured at Niagara Falls Con by Zelpha Comics.
Q: How did you get started?
MJ: I started when I was just a kid. I always knew that this is what I needed to be doing to be happy in life. I was doing commission work as early as high school. After I went to college and worked with people in the creative industry, I realized how much improvement I actually had to do to keep up with the immense competition. I spent all the time I could improving in every way and then, on the first day of 2016, I quit all my side jobs, decided I was done being a student, and devoted my full attention to making my illustration business grow.
Q: Who has been most instrumental in encouraging your creative endeavors?
MJ: Definitely my parents. They are not familiar with the creative industry or how it works and, although there were many times they had doubts about my career choice, they believed I had what it took and offered whatever support they could. It’s hard starting a business, but another source of encouragement came from people who follow me on social media, particularly through Deviantart, when even my oldest drawings would get loads of support from friends and followers and really gave me motivation to keep practicing and get where I am now.
Q: You’ve been at ComicCon! What’s that like??
MJ: Fan conventions are a lot of fun! I’ve been to so many already and I look forward to going every time. If you haven’t been to a convention like Comic Con, go! You’re missing out and I highly recommend giving it a shot. I am usually in the Artist Alley part of the conventions selling prints and artwork. It’s so rewarding having people walk by and ask me questions, discussing projects, and pointing at my booth impressed with what they see. I have made some of my best contacts at conventions. It really is a great environment and, although it’s an exhausting couple of days that kill your feet, it is worth it every time!
Q: What advice would you give artists trying to make a living through their work?
MJ: It is so hard to make a business out of something like this that you have to want it so bad that you will do whatever it takes. Make sure that your interest in art is more than a hobby and accept that it will take years to develop your business. You must have excellent time management skills and be self motivated. You have to have a thick skin and be ready for rejection. You have to practice all day everyday. This is not a nine-to-five job, this is a wake up-sleep job. A lifestyle.
Q: What tools/programs do you use?
MJ: I am huge on multi media! My studio is full of so many different tools, some times I have difficulty deciding what to use. I have a giant drawer occupied with colored pencils alone, haha. My favourite program to use is Photoshop. It’s the easiest to paint on and will be even easier when I get around to purchasing my own Cintiq!
Q: Favorite art supplies?
MJ: So many! I love Copic markers and water colors for traditional work. I love colored pencils on tanned paper and ink on everything. I always like line art, you can tell most of my illustrations have it. I am not crazy about acrylic paint though. I will paint once in a while if the client wants this, but I avoid it when I can.
Q: What do you like to listen to while you’re working?
MJ: I listen to a lot while I am working and it isn’t always music. Sometimes I like listening to audio books, play Youtube videos with motivational speakers, news and trending topics. Some times I will binge some of my favorite shows or play documentaries on history, crime or conspiracy theories. When I have art block, I will play speed paints or tutorials by other artists to get back into it. When I can’t think of anything, I’ll put something random on from Netflix, haha. Because I work at the same time, I miss a lot and avoid playing things that will distract me from my focus, but this rarely happens.
>> Get your own set of Progeny Series character cards designed by MJ! Buy HERE.
ALSO! Check another Interview with Marie Jane in early 2016 hosted by Lucia Cacciacarro, a Graphic Designer that gathered research on a successful illustrator that was presented at a conference at Seneca College as an example for Student’s and Professors in the creative arts programs to look to for inspiration.
So, Marie Jane. How old are you, and where are you originally from?
“I’m 21. My name is pronounced Mary Jane and I am from right here in Toronto!”
What’s your favourite piece of work that you’ve done so far as a freelancer?
“Hmmm, I have two in mind. My Elemental Enterprises, and my Dawn of the Dragons.”
What is your brand personality?
“I find that it is Convenient, Unique and Unbiased.”
What makes you different from other Illustrators?
“That’s easy, I am flexible. Though I like to follow a formula, there is never rules that I prioritize over the happiness of my clients. Their satisfaction holds more value to me than anything else. I am caring, enthusiastic and affordable. Though I sympathize with my clients, I expect the same from them and always approach business seriously and carefully so that all needs are met.”
Who are your target audience?
“My Preferred type of audience are those in the creative industry in need of concept art however, typically, I provide work for anyone in need of creative skills.”
What are your goals for the future? In terms of work and life.
“Well, as many people already know, I have a character that I’ve been working on since I was a child named Skylar Fox. One of my biggest dreams is to create a graphic novel based around her and if I’m really lucky, I would love to see a TV or movie series come after. I also want to learn more about animation. As for life, well… besides making a living off of my skills, I would love to immigrate to the states. I really love to swim but Canada doesn’t offer any nice beaches.”
What are you doing when you’re not creating? What are your hobbies?
“Well, art is still my hobby. When I get free time, I work on Skylar, find work online for inspiration, and watch movies and videos to educate myself further in the world of entertainment. I am always creating! Besides art though, I have always been a huge lover of the sea. I keep a lot of fish tanks at home, go mermaiding as often as I am able, and plan my next tropical beach vacation. I also enjoy writing! Not professionally though, just for fun. A lot of the time it’s fan fiction (laughs), but that’s another story for another time.”
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
“Hmmm…probably that I’m not crazy about graphic design. Don’t get me wrong, I adore looking at it, it’s awesome art. I just don’t have as much fun creating it. I find it kind of boring.”
Where else do you sell your work?
“I sell my work on my website and social medias. And every now and then I appear at events and conventions. I love being part of all that talent.”
What else should we know about you and your work?
“That I am incredibly easy to work with. I don’t think you’ll find anyone as open minded as I am. I love all work, different types of mediums and I love to learn everyday. I’m very confident in my capabilities and I want to take on any challenge.”
Do you admire any other artists?
“Oh my, yes. I follow a lot of talent that make me so jealous! Some who come to mind from the top of my head are Cyarin, ArtGerm, and Loish. But I also follow a lot of artists behind Disney and other animation studios.”
What’s your favourite colour?
“Since white doesn’t count, I like turquoise/teel/aquamarine.”
Do you remember why you started to like art?
“As a kid, everything I was interested in had a relation to being creative. Movies, music, drawing, making crafts… Every artist started with an inspiration but for me, I think a lot had to do with being distant from my brother and sister. Both were interested in very different things, so I made company with myself through characters on TV and in books.”
Have you ever had an extremely difficult client? How did you handle it?
“I have had my fair share of stubborn clients in the past, but most of it was all due to miscommunication. All of those experiences taught me that I have to work with my clients as though they are my partners and we have to tell it like it is from the very beginning and make sure that everything is clear and all expectations are met from both parties.”
Where and how do you work best? What’s your ideal work environment?
“My favourite place to work is in my studio. I like to have all my supplies at arms length and my computer ready if any research is needed. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t work anywhere else. I love company as well so as long as I have a good surface area to work, I’m ready to go.”
Can you describe someone outside your field who inspires you and tell us why?
“I get two people in mind right away. My father and one of my friends. My dad is a broker and, like me, he’s self employed and it’s hard. I never met anyone who works as hard as he does, puts up with as much as he does and is still able to be such an involved dad who does as much as he does. I adopt a lot of his habits and he is so forgiving, I swear, you can hurt someone close to him and he’ll still find forgiveness in his heart. As for one of my best friends, she inspires me because she’s just so sunny all the time. It is impossible to be negative and angry around her, even when you’re complaining about something, she’ll throw in a joke and finds a way to make it funny. She always looks for the positive in every situation and talking to her keeps me extremely motivated.”
What makes you angry?
Any achievements that you want to share?
“Yes! I just recently finished self publishing my first art book ever called The Art of Marie Jane Works! You can purchase it on my website.”
We have to end the interview, do you have anything else you want to share?
“Um… I think I want to give an honorable mention to Japanese animation and Disney. Both deserve a lot of credit for where I am today and I have to mention that for this interview. Other than that, thanks so much. I appreciate you having me!”
Since the conference, MJ is still going strong, creating works for her clients and slowly making her way to the top as a successful freelancer. Hopefully, MJ will have the honour to work with you in the future and be a part of your team in creating amazing things. To learn more about MJ, follow her on her social media accounts to support her journey on this difficult but wonderful path.