Pro Juice Profiles: Guerrilla Artists on the Cutting Edge of All Things Digital | Joanne Fong aka JoFoLand
By Ariel Nishli
Tastemakers and fans of delectable digital eye and ear candies have spoken. They want to know who designed the choicest treats on their Pinterest boards, the animators behind the most viral of videos, and what VJs concocted the laser art spectacle at last weekend’s rave, let alone who produced the unworldly beats spun by the DJ.
To answer the call, we’re running a series profiling five of today’s hottest indie digital artists. Each was selected to reveal craft secrets to the world on KoldCast TV’s Pro Juice, a show that brings the best tips, tricks and showcase clips to legions of creative types from the world of digital media.
Hosts Arlo Enemark and Nick Calpakdjian bring their fast-talking, shoot-from-the-hip style to talented artists who peel back the curtain to show you how the magic is made. Pro Juice has an indiegogo fundraising campaign in the works to bring you Season 2, a truly innovative multi-platform production for which they’ve lined up an impressive cadre of talented new digital artists.
Joanne Fong aka JoFoLand
FIFTH of 5 in the Series: JOANNE FONG AKA JOFOLAND
Jo Fong is surprisingly soft-spoken for the force behind such soul-stirring imagery and animation. Surreal, contemplative and cleansing, her work is a reminder that style and substance go hand-in-hand. It’s sad at times and even ventures into the violent and surreal, yet retains the sensibility of an anime comic book. Regardless of whether the subject matter is genocide in Indonesia or a sad, young robot that’s just very far from home, a trip to JoFoLand is never short on humanity.
Interviewed by Arlo Enemark with her partner Juan Serrano in Episode 2 of Pro Juice, Jo explains her illustration and animation process in a reserved, soft-spoken, articulate demeanor, teaching any budding artist that developing your inner world is a far greater undertaking than making a splash. From JoFo’s work alone, it was clear to us that her inner world is far more tumultuous than the cool exterior she presents, so we took a deeper look inside.
Click to play Episode 2 of Pro Juice
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What are the most formidable challenges facing independent digital artists today?
In my experience, the most challenging part of being an independent artist is gaining exposure and being able to network sufficiently in order to sustain a steady flow of work. All the bills need to get paid! With so many other artists on display throughout the Internet, it’s easy for your work to get lost. You must always be thinking of innovative ways to be seen.
What are the benefits and drawbacks to working as a “guerrilla artist” rather than as a “company man” for a major label, design company, or advertising firm?
Obviously, the flexible working hours are a bonus but it also requires discipline and planning, which I am still getting used to. I usually do a bit of work on the weekends as well because when you work from home, it’s always difficult to leave work “in the office.” It’s always on your mind.
I also like the creative freedom you get from working independently, which is sometimes missing when you are working as part of a large team on someone else’s project. The biggest downsides for me are the business aspects: all the paperwork, contracts, financial concerns, and communication issues that come with working for yourself.
How did you get started as an artist and what kept you going?
After studying visual communications and working as a graphic designer for a year or two, I realized that I wasn’t passionate about design the way that my colleagues and fellow designers were. I took a year off, doing very little besides working in a bookshop and partying, and then decided to pursue a Masters of Animation at RMIT. Since graduating, I’ve worked as an animator on documentaries, TV shows, video games and some corporate gigs.
Getting that first job is always the hardest, but the industry is quite small in Australia, so as long as you have the skills and dedication to pull off that first project, other jobs will follow. My main motivation now is the joy and satisfaction I get from seeing my work up and running whether on a big or small screen. After months or sometimes years of production, to finally see the finished product is always an exciting moment.
How important is a show like Pro Juice in helping to promote independent digital artists’ work, as well as provide new opportunities to emerging artists?
I think Pro Juice creates a great opportunity to showcase the work of unknown artists’ because as I’ve said, exposure is key in sustaining yourself as an independent artist. It would be great to see shows like Pro Juice gain a wider audience to show the public the quality and diversity of what is being created here in Australia. We need to expand the creative industries here instead of outsourcing production work overseas.
How has the digital artistry landscape evolved over the last several years? In what direction do you see it going?
We’ve now arrived at a time when technology is no longer a barrier to artistic creation. Whatever you can conceive can be created. Also, with the evolution of so many social media tools, it is also much easier to find collaborators with the specific skills you need on your project.
In terms of business, with the crowdfunding resources now available online, the industry is becoming more democratic. My dream would be that crowdfunding keeps evolving and an environment is created such that people will pay for what they want to see created, rather than be force fed the same old sh*t. The artists themselves will be better off financially and able to focus on what they are good at and love, rather than delegating time to jobs just to pay the rent.
What are some of the most innovative projects you’ve worked on and have seen?
One of the first projects that my partner [Juan Serrano] and I worked on was a documentary called Strange Birds in Paradise. It was great to see animation used to lend depth and personality to personal stories that were, at times, violent and very dark.
More recently, I love that the musician Gotye has used his success to promote independent Australian animators with a series of video clips for his latest album Making Mirrors.
Tell us a personal story, point of view, or anything else you’d like to share with the world!
I’d always been interested in art and animation, but when I left high school I didn’t have the confidence in my abilities to follow a “freelance lifestyle”, so I studied graphic design instead. However, after realizing that design wasn’t for me, and slowly working towards a career in animation, I learned that “freelance” wasn’t such a scary word! Having lived and survived some years as an independent artist, I can’t imagine my life being any other way.
Ariel Nishli is the Editor-in-Chief of The Sixth Wall. He’s got a big apple in his heart but moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. After graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2007, he worked in the motion picture literary department at ICM, then moved on to feature film development at Parkes MacDonald Productions. Ariel’s wardrobe has steadily devolved from designer suits to worn out slippers, as he now focuses on screenwriting and journalism when he’s not obsessing over this magazine.