Jodi Magi is one of the most unique women I’ve personally had the pleasure to get to know. The first time we conversed, I was in awe of her illustrative talent absolutely, but truly, I was, and still am entranced by her stories. Incredibly gifted and passionate, she is authentic and direct. In a world that is often dosing along on cruise control, Jodi finds a story to tell in everything around her.
My reaction to Jodi’s storytelling allowed me to put on a brand new pair of eye glasses where I was able to see things through a whole different lens. Jodi reminds us that there is a place inside all of us that is asleep, and when someone like herself comes along, she awakens us, and shows us what we can do if we pay attention to our thoughts and our ways of expressing those thoughts. We can learn to speak loudly, gently, forcefully, or persuasively, and our voice can be powerful. Put on your 3-D glasses when you spend time with Jodi! You’ll be glad you did.
I’d love for you to get to know her better too! You will admire her I am sure, and you will find something in her stories that you will easily understand and recognize, if you look closely, and listen with your eyes.
Q: Tell us who you are and what you do
My name is Jodi Magi and I do many things, all of which have the common denominator of being related in some way to the visual arts field.
Q: How do you work?
My creative work (other than teaching) is in many mediums including animation, digital compositions, paper and mixed media collage, pencil, polymer clay, acrylic and oil paint.
Q: What role does your art work have in society today?
That’s a big question for me. The late, great art critic Robert Hughes said “One of the great projects of art, is to reconcile us with the world”. This quote resonates with me completely.
Let me elaborate by explaining my approach to art is very much influenced by having worked as a graphic designer for many years whereby my creativity was channeled towards manipulating the audience to do or feel a particular thing for the commercial and communication purposes of the client. After I decided to concentrate on my own art and left the design field behind, I realized I was still very much interested in communicating ‘something’ to the audience. I mean, as opposed to the type of art approach which is more personal expression of a feeling or emotions.
I am obsessed with ‘the message’ and how to convey that through symbols, colors, recognizable nuances and associations… this type of art is sometimes referred to as ‘narrative art’ as it tells a visual story.
The question ‘what role does my art have in society today?’ for me it is the same as ‘What is the story which needs to be told today?’
All of my work has similar themes which are inter-related. Basically I am using art to process and visually discuss topics which pre-occupy me – such as the power of the media to influence our behavior, our opinions and our perception of the world; how our economic model is in conflict with our ability to sustain ourselves yet we see ‘consumerism’ and ‘environmentalism’ as separate concepts rather than one directly effecting the other; the influence multi-national companies have on governments and therefore policy which roles back into the global economic model winning over the global environment which the future generations will inherit.
I believe it is the responsibility of the artist to generate discussion and hopefully to compel change.
Q: What inspired you to begin working in your favorite art mediums?
I would say oil paint is my favorite medium, though also the most challenging which is probably why it is my favorite. Nothing comes quickly or easily with oils for me, but I am generally happy with the end result. The reason I decided to try acrylic painting first, then oils was that I I needed to get my hands dirty after sitting in front of a computer for a decade as a graphic designer.
I think of painting like a form of alchemy. There is a magic which happens in a series of moments. At the end I sit back and look at the finished work and almost can’t understand where that painting came from. “Did I do that?” It is a lovely thing…. and very hard work….
Q: Where do you most enjoy creating and working?
At the moment I am currently living away from my home in Melbourne Australia where I feel most creative. These days I find myself living half way up a 60 floor sky-scraper with windows which barely open overlooking city and desert in the Middle East. This isn’t my ideal work space for a few reasons so I am training my brain-box to respond more to the time rather than the place, otherwise, I wouldn’t get anything done. When I say ‘time’ instead of ‘place’ I enjoy creating at any time a good idea comes to me, regardless of where I am. I guess, the time of creating becomes the same as the place.
In a perfect world, I would love to live somewhere surrounded by trees and have my own studio – but I think living here and not having that is good training for me to discipline myself. Us artists can be great procrastinators – there is always a reason why not to do something. At least this way, by focusing on the moment rather than the place, I have no excuse – it is up to me.
Q: What do you like about your work?
I like that my works feel like my friends. Once I have made them, they are their own separate entities with their own lives to get on with, almost like that didn’t come from me at all.
I like that my works feel like my friends. Once I have made them, they are their own separate entities with their own lives to get on with, almost like that didn’t come from me at all. If they were people, I think they would be interesting to talk to.
Q: What do you most enjoy about teaching?
It is real.
Art is soulful and the world is a richer place because of art in all its forms, so helping people to develop that love and ability to express themselves through art is incredibly rewarding. Also, I enjoy the human interaction of teaching without which I think I would be in danger of being a complete hermit and losing the ability to speak.
Q: How do you get into the mood to be creative?
Hmm… A try not to rely on the ‘mood’ because a lot of the time I would probably choose to watch an episode of ‘Vikings’ or a documentary on the French Revolution or something…
For me, the hardest part is starting a project because apart from paper collages which only take a couple of days, most of my work takes weeks, sometimes months. I am very bad at ‘little projects’ and it is something I am working on because after a couple of days it goes from ‘fun’, to ‘work’. This isn’t a bad thing, and the sense of fulfillment at the end is worth it for me, it is just that it is very important that I am completely committed to the concept or ‘message’ of a piece if I am then going to spend so many hours bringing it to life. So, for that reason, finding the angle or the story is the hardest part – that is the starting point.
I ask myself ‘What am I trying to say in this piece?’ ‘What do I want the viewer to ask themselves?’, ‘What do I want them to feel?’ and this takes some introspection and quiet thinking time. At the same time, I am also considering what I feel like actually painting or depicting so when these elements over-lap, I can start working on the composition and concept sketches. Once I feel like this is resolved to the point where I can start I can mockup a digital version, project it onto the canvas, outline it in pencil and start the painting or ‘creating’ part which takes a while.
If I don’t feel like working, I try to trick myself with little bribes. Like ‘If I do this, then I can do that’. I am a huge fan of incentives.
On a day to day aspect, I keep a little book which I try to carry around with me and every time I hear a quote which I think could be a starting point of something, or an artist to research, I write it down. You never know when something might be useful, and that way I am not ‘re-inventing the wheel’ every time I create something, it is more of a layering of interests and a development of ideas and threads.
Q: How has your artistic creativity influenced your life?
It has taught me discipline; It has helped me understand and gain an acceptance of myself; It has acted as an escape hatch from reality; It has served as a bridge between myself and strangers; It has helped me stay sane; It has complicated my dreams of financial security and a conventional life, but lead to an alternate understanding of what is really important; It has given me a voice.
Q: What advice would you give to those who may wish to begin expressing themselves through narrative art?
Never underestimate the value of research. Research other artists you are into, research stories which intrigue you, feed your curiosity. Google and YouTube are your friends.
Collect and surround yourself with visual inspiration, whether it be postcards, computer print-outs, posters, books, photos. Immersion is key.
Brainstorm and develop your concepts in quick, rough drawings which serve only to bookmark that idea. Don’t get bogged down in technique in the concept stage, you should let your ideas flow without impediment. If you need to, write notes for yourself. Use whatever mode of record feel right for you.
Try to push your idea beyond the first stage. Add layers of meaning beyond the obvious, though be aware of the difference between ‘random’ and ‘intentional’.
In the development stage, consider the importance of symbols in communicating a broader meaning to the audience. Learn to look at your work objectively – from the perspective of that guy with the hat on the other side of the street. Ask yourself ‘What would he take from this?’. Narrative art relies on the clues the artist provides for the viewer to complete the puzzle, so you have to be aware of how the clues can be interpreted.
Consider how the size and placement of elements effects their interpretation.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
Jodi is teaching at Artful Gathering Online Art Retreats 2015. Narrative Thinking Through Collage.
Jodi Magi s an Australian fine artist, illustrator and educator.
Originally from Perth in Western Australia, she has been living in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates since early 2012 where she teaches graphic design and illustration to Emirati women at Zayed University.
To learn more about her and her amazing life and artwork, visit www.JodiMagi.com and www.JodiandFinn.wix.com