Ines J. doesn’t create aliens.
In fact, her enigmatic and fantastic creatures are a part this world, not out of it—and with them she encourages the viewer to embrace strangeness as the real norm. We spoke with the innovative illustrator about her love of color, gender neutrality and more. Read on below:
Hi! Tell us a bit about yourself, what are your days currently filled with?
Hello! I’m a freelance artist based in Belgrade, and these days I’ve been working on some commissions (mostly tattoo designs) and trying to do my own projects in between as much as I can. Also I’ve been thinking about going on a short solo trip soon and getting inspired by some new experiences!
Your style, though abstract, is so masterful. Were you trained in any kind of art school or are you self-taught?
Thank you for saying that! I went to an art high school (I was in textile design) and was in Fine art at university but dropped out after my first year. What I make and share right now was never something I did in a school environment (except for doodling in class), it developed outside of assignments and expectations from my professors. Even though school made me miserable most of the time, I did gain some valuable knowledge that I appreciate – for example things about colour or composition.
Your work is so detailed and complex—how often do you finish a piece of art?
It depends! I can’t give a straight answer to this. I don’t like working on just one thing every day, because that way my days can start to blend together and become too routined. So I might work on one drawing for an hour, and then finish a painting I started yesterday, and then start a new drawing etc. Of course, the smaller works take less time and bigger ones can drag out a little, but as long as I focus well on each thing I’m making I feel like I’m doing the right thing!
You paint and illustrate what seems like mostly women—is there a reason for this?
I personally don’t see most of the characters/creatures in my work as women, but I don’t mind when other people do. I think this is one of those things I can’t fully understand or explain, I’ve just always gravitate more towards drawing characters with qualities that can be perceived as feminine.
Do you ever paint self-portraits? If so, what specific thing about yourself do you try to portray?
I very rarely do self-portraits, but I sometimes use pictures of myself as reference for a pose or lighting. And even then, I won’t look at the person I’m drawing/painting as myself and will try not to make them look too much like me. Sometimes I finish a drawing and see a person in it and think “that’s me” even if they don’t look like me—this happened with a recent bigger ink drawing in which a bald creature only has the same tattoo as me and that’s it. So even when I do put myself in my work, it mostly isn’t obvious or intentional. I would like to explore self-portraits more though! They can be helpful to me when it comes to self-awareness and feelings about body image.
Tell us a bit about your color palette—how do you use color to emphasize the familiar or the unfamiliar?
Oh wow! I have a lot of thoughts about colors. Even when I’m drawing a familiar, everyday thing in my sketchbook like fruit or a vase I want to play with colors and exaggerate them so that it can seem like it can be a part of another world. I want to see an ordinary thing in a new way, and colors definitely help with that. I like using cool colors for painting a body because reds and pinks just seem too intense and sensual, and that’s not the atmosphere I’m trying to depict. It doesn’t mean I won’t ever do it! I’ve had some personal “color rules” for a long time that I’m no longer following (I used to dislike red and yellow together) so I always want to keep challenging myself when it comes to that. But using colors intuitively feels the best for me, even though I’ve worked with them so much that I can visualize what might look right (to me).
What inspired the alien-like quality of your figures?
This is interesting because I was never really inspired by aliens in films/shows. I feel like they would almost always be treated as weird, disgusting, dangerous. So when I draw an alien-like creature, I want them to seem like a natural part of our world and just coexist and hang out with us. Even if they might look weird or gross to someone, to me they’re not “the other”. But drawing creatures like this is also in a way how I deal with feeling disconnected from myself and others at times.
Each of your pieces is very expressive, but do you have a specific emotion you hope that people feel when they look at it? Or, do you hope that different people have different interpretations?
The latter! I already have my own interpretation, so I love when someone tells me their view of an artwork of mine because it’s interesting to hear different perspectives. It also means a lot when someone can connect with something I made so much that it holds meaning for them. I’ll never get over that.
How does it feel when people get tattoos of your artwork?
It’s the best! When I get reminded of that, it blows my mind that there are people around the world living their lives, doing their thing, and I’ll never get to meet them but we are connected with a tattoo. But it can also feel kinda unreal because I only ever see them in pictures.
Finally, do you have any artistic goals for this year?
Yes – I want to make some bigger drawings/paintings, a lino print, do more observational/life drawings… and just keep learning!
Photos by Jelena Zigic