In Conversation with Ethr
In this week’s One + One interview, curator and writer Veronica Elizabeth Thomas talks to illustrator Jeremy “Ethr” Vernon.
His subjects appear to be strong and intense yet peaceful and light as if a gust of wind would send them wafting through the air. We admire his work and hatching technique and were eager to find out more:
VET: Why do you use the pseudonym Ethr?
E: My full name is Jeremy Vernon but Ethr, which is short for Ethereal, is a name I go by though. The alias helps, well at least I hope it helps to direct focus more-so on the art rather than myself personally.
VET: When did you first begin to illustrate?
E: I started drawing sometime during elementary school. I realized pretty young that it was something I loved and enjoyed. I’ve always been into anything creative since I was very young, from playing piano -and attempting to write my own pieces- to making stop motion animations, dabbling in graphic design, writing short stories, etc.
At some point I started to think about how I could tie everything I loved together, and animation seemed like the way which something I would like to do more of. Ultimately I gravitated to drawing and it became a form of meditation, navigation and a way to fluidly express myself.
VET: What led you to your hatching style?
E: My style is always evolving and changing. When I first started drawing I was determined to perfect cross hatching techniques. I enjoyed the challenge of not relying on shading or color to convey depth, manipulate focus, evoke emotions, ideas, and instead only utilize lines. Over time I decided that I didn’t want to constrict myself to a single particular style, and rather to stay true to where I am and where I’m going. Honest expression rather than forcing the art to be anything other than what it wanted to be. I believe what we create is a reflection of where we are and everything that we are. So my style has taken different forms, sometimes more fluid, open, free - sometimes more precise and intentional, and other times a process that consists more of chaos, deconstruction and reconstruction. These are at least elements that I process in-between the lines.
I think as artists there is so much going on within and around us. And we’re always examining and exploring the ways we perceive and project all of what we’re processing. I try to not constrain the flow of spirit and be open to being a channel, an instrument. It’s important to push ourselves out of our comfortability as artists.
In essence, the way the art appears at any particular moment is just a reflection of a place I am at or transitioning through. It transforms, grows, and shifts little by little.
VET: I noticed that the majority of your subjects are women, why? And how do you choose who you draw?
E: As a kid I had shared art with one of my relatives, and a comment they made altered my perception of art. Their suggestion was that “instead of just drawing these anime and video game characters that someone else has already created, why not instead draw black people, black characters and figures?”. From that point the core foundation of my art became about reflecting more representations of my own people. However I wasn’t interested in drawing men in the beginning because I didn’t feel that men needed representation, women did. I wanted to reflect in an honest and raw way that wasn’t hyper-sexualized like much of the art out there depicting black women and women in general does.
Being raised by and around so many black women my whole life plays a major part in the choice of women I portray. Seeing the sacrifices they make for everyone and the weight they carry. As a child it was my way of reflecting back my value and love for the women of my race.
I'm now in a space where I seek to reflect everyone. My goal has never been to focus on any one subject. Through art and other expressions, primarily I want to spread love, truth and positivity between all genders, races, and ages. There’s many stories to tell and subjects to bring light to.
VET: How do you decide which pieces receive color?
E: I’ve never been a painter but do enjoy it, whether traditional or digital. Painting is something I’m pushing myself to explore more. I’ll usually know from the start that I intend to give color to a drawing, or at some point during the process perhaps I’ll feel it could benefit from the addition of color.
I feel that among a lot of folk, drawings aren’t really viewed as being the same caliber as paintings. I think paintings are viewed a bit more as “fine art”, or what galleries may lean towards. Early on I felt I had a point to prove - that drawings shouldn’t just be viewed as the groundwork of a painting or colorized piece. That drawings stand on their own. I’ve encountered many people that suggest to paint instead of draw, that painting is more popular and is what sells. I believe there are people that see past the surface and can recognize the passion and practice it takes regardless of the medium, and can feel the artists spirit through their work.
VET: Are there any upcoming projects that we can look forward to seeing from you?
E: Yes, at the moment I am working with a team on an upcoming independent film that focuses on the exploitation and sex trafficking of black girls and women in Oakland, California and all over America.
Also collaborating on book illustrations with some amazing published African American authors, as well as working on a book title of my own on spirituality, art, and journeying. Other projects are too soon to speak on but much more in the works.