Here are Studio Cult, we're thrilled to announce our new Artist Feature series, and even more excited to interview John Karel!
If you've been hanging out on the internet in recent years, you've probably come across John Karel's work. Known as @jjjjjohn on instagram, his low-poly animations are everything we love about y2k computer graphics and vaporwave aesthetics married with present day meme culture.
We got to ask John our most burning questions. 🔥🌱🦖💿
What's your name and where are you from?
My name is John Karel, I’m from Lancaster, PA and currently live in Philadelphia.
What lead you to start making low poly style art?
I’ve always liked the way low poly 3D models looked like, probably from the nostalgic factor of growing up playing Nintendo 64 and CD-Rom computer games in the 90s. But the real reason is more practical, making all the 3D models I use requires a style like low poly that’s fast and easy to work with.
What are your greatest artistic influences? May you please tell us a little more about them?
An influence that I've been thinking about recently is Pop Art from the 1960s (Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenberg, Tom Wesselman, etc). The playfulness, the use of ordinary consumer objects as subjects. I think the issues Pop art addressed are as relevant today as they were in the 60s, if not more so… media saturation, celebrity obsession, mass produced commercial products.
May you tell us more about your skeleton character? What's the story behind that guy?
I created the skeleton early on in my gif-making, in 2014, with the intention of having a cartoon character that I could use over and over again in gifs. I chose a skeleton because it’s so universally relatable and timeless, goofy skeletons can be found in art dating back to antiquity. As for the skeleton’s character itself, it has no backstory, official name, or gender… it just is what it is, a 3D model in its digital world, open to whatever interpretation the viewer has for it.
What are your favorite kinds of animations to make and why?
My favorite kinds of animation is one involving a technique I’ve never used before. The act of learning how to do something new, either by closely following a tutorial or haphazardly experimenting on my own, is always very satisfying (at least when it works out, when it doesn’t there’s nothing more frustrating).
What programs do you use to make your art?
I use Blender for the 3D animation (I previously used Maya until about a year and a half ago) and the Adobe suite of programs for drawings, editing videos, etc.
How did you start accumulating your Instagram following? What advice do you have for other artists trying to get their work exposed online?
I started accumulating my Instagram following by making work for Super Deluxe, the now defunct weird comedy production company owned by Turner Broadcasting. I made work for Super Deluxe’s instagram and they would tag me in the posts, which would send new followers my way. Before that I had grown a significant social following on Tumblr, largely thanks to being featured on their radar feature. The best advice I can give to any artist out there trying to get their work seen, is to make a lot of work and to put it all out there. There’s no secret method of gaining followers, though luck is undoubtedly involved.. and the best way to increase your chances to get lucky and have the right people see/follow/share your art is to make more and more and more work.
What challenges do you experience when creating art?
The biggest challenge I have right now is having too many ideas, a lot of wasted time trying to figure out what idea or project to work on next.
What does the future hold for you? Any cool projects you are currently working on?
My future hopefully includes more of what I’ve been working on. I have a longtime collaboration with my friend Gavin making videos for his choose-your-own-adventure style music album/live show, which still has a lot of work needed to finish but is really great and I’m determined to see finished. Also I have more plans/ideas for the skeleton, my fast food dinosaur characters, and a comic/illustration collab with a friend which I’m really excited about.
What's your favorite meme right now?
Anything with Keanu Reeves.