An Interview with Jay Montgomery
The Illustrative Sage
by Max Eternity
Max: Hello Jay, Welcome to AD Mag.
Jay: Thanks for the invite to an interview.
Max: I’d like to start by asking a question that always comes to mind whenever I have the chance to talk with another artist. That question being, how did you become and how long have you been, an artist?
Jay: I have always been an artist from early childhood from drawing pictures in church while my Dad gave the sermon. As like most kids, they like drawing, but I immediately took an extended interest in art that lasted beyond the childhood fascination.
I wanted to be better at something when compared to my brother. He was always better at everything. I have always been interested in creating things. Having something to show for my time and working with my hands. My parents always encouraged me with my art, even though they were far from being visual artists and barely understanding my fascination. I took lots of private lesson classes and got an art scholarship from my high school to a college of my choice. It wasn’t a full scholarship but it certainly helped. So to answer the question I’ve been an artist ever since I was about 3 years old I guess, I’m currently 38.
Max: When I look at your work, your illustrations, I first see a Normal Rockwell influence. Is that an accurate attribution?
Jay: Yes, Rockwell is one of my influences for sure. I loved his Saturday Evening Post covers. I remember the first time I saw his work. It was at my Aunt and Uncle’s house when I was about 5. They had a coffee table book of his work and I always looked forward to soaking in the details whenever we went over.
Max: So, in addition to Rockwell, who are some of your influences? Whose work do you admire?
Jay: As my style has developed I have many other influences, like DaVinci, Michelangelo and contemporary illustrators like Brad Holland, Mark Hess, Anita Kunz, Teresa Fasolino, Matt Muhurin and many more. I really love the work of Mark Ryden, Cliff Nielson, Frank Frazetta , Craig Frazier, Greg Spalenka, Bill Mayer, Steven Lyons, Gregory Manchess, Barry Jackson, Sam Weber, James Jean and the list goes on.
Max: I understand you’re a teacher, you teach at SCAD Atlanta? Could you tell us how that came about? How do you manage both careers; freelance and teaching?
Jay: Teaching is a big part of my life and career. In 1998 I began my first part-time teaching position at my Alma Matter; Portfolio Center. From there I had the opportunity to teach part-time at the Atlanta College of Art. In 2005, ACA merged with SCAD.
Going through the re-application process with SCAD helped me to re-access my priorities and focus on a new career path centered on teaching illustration. I was grateful and enthusiastic to be accepted as a professor of illustration at SCAD in 2006. The new college set the tone for me to step it up in my teaching abilities. Helping the students achieve their goals and dreams helps me achieve mine. I feel I have been getting an education while being paid for it. I’m truly thankful for the continued SCAD experience. That’s one of the reasons why I chose SCAD as the college to pursue my MFA in Illustration starting this Spring.
Juggling freelance is quite a challenge when teaching 3 classes. I still manage to make more money doing freelance, but teaching is something steady and long-term hopefully. Teaching has made me a much better freelance illustrator in every aspect. It’s tuff bearing the traffic to and fro SCAD and then coming home to my second job working nights and weekends. The most important thing is that I really love what I do. I don’t see it as work. I show my students what I’m working on and hopefully they get something out of it. My talented students work in a variety of traditional and digital mediums. I like teaching and working in both.
Max: As you might already know, AD Mag was primarily established to provide a forum for the art and artist coming from digital and emerging fields. Still, when I saw your work, I liked it so much that I decided it needed to be shown here. In a way that’s fine, because the magazine also seeks to present a certain amount of content that might be derived from both traditional and digital avenues. I talk about this some in my TADAE creative subset hypothesis. So correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m guessing that you use traditional methods and mediums? Still, are any of your pieces created using digital tools; to what extent?
Jay: Ever since my college days I have used the computer in the creation of my art. It’s almost unavoidable with printers, scanners, faxes, copiers, and of course Photoshop and Illustrator. Now with the internet and email even the most traditional artist has to deal with digital. In the field of illustration 99% of all clients expect work to be delivered digitally. So even if you do purest oil paintings you still have scan it or take a high resolution digital photo and color correct it, then email or upload the files via FTP. It all ends up digitized at some point.
As for the creation of my earlier work I first did an oil painting at about 50-80% done and then finished it in Photoshop and Illustrator and even Painter. Then as deadlines got tighter and budgets got smaller it was a natural progression to become 100% digital. I still wanted to retain the traditional feel of my work in some cases when it’s appropriate. I have always enjoyed working digitally with the freedom of multiple undo’s and many versions of the same work allowing for experimentation without losing a stage in the process.
With illustration it just makes sense to be digital with all the quick last minute revisions the Art Director asks for. I teach and use regularly Photoshop, Illustrator, Painter and Poser. I still enjoy and create art traditionally, especially in the last 2 years.
Max: And for our younger audience or for someone new getting started into the field(s) of art, any special comments or advice?
Jay: The computer can’t draw for you. It is essential to get a very good foundation in figure drawing and all the basic dry and wet mediums. Draw constantly to stay sharp. You probably hear this all the time but a website is your best promotional device. Spend a lot of time on it and make it easy to navigate, clean and simple and let the work shine. Get pricing help from the “Graphic Artists Guild Handbook Pricing and Ethical Guidelines.” Don’t give your work away unless it for charity or other worthy cause. Always be service oriented in dealing with clients, never snobby or elitist. Never miss a deadline. Don’t worry about finding a style, just do the best you can on each project and a style will find you. Don’t get into art or illustration for the money. Do it because you can’t see yourself doing anything else for a career. Be true to yourself, but ask for guidance and be patient.
Max: Wow, that is excellent advice; words that every artist needs to pay attention to.
Well Jay, the interview comes to a close now. But, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to have this chat. We are all the wiser for it.
Jay: Thanks for the opportunity I wish AD Mag the best. Make sure to check out my blog.
Max: We most certainly will!
- Max Etenrity, 2009