When I was lucky enough to visit The Superman Celebration I was able to meet with a fantastic artist. Jon Pinto. Jon designed some of the artwork for the 40th celebration and he also had a booth in Artist Alley.
I was determined to buy some of his artwork and I was so glad that I got my hands on his Superman artwork. I ended up spending some more time chatting with him and glancing through his art folders. Everything was amazing!
I love speaking with artists and creators and I didn’t want to take up too much of Jon’s time at the celebration as he was a busy man! Jon did agree to an interview though and I was very keen to dive into his artistic mind.
Jon, thanks for being such a big part of the Superman Celebration and for answering my questions.
First of all, please could you give me quick bio of yourself? Just a few facts about yourself to introduce you to the reader. No Social Security numbers or your Mother’s maiden name!
I was born in New York and raised in Northern New Jersey (Dumont). I was a self taught artist until I went to college. I briefly attended The School of Visual Art in New York as well as the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon Art in Dover New Jersey before finally getting my degree in Illustration at the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida.
When did you first realise you had a passion for art and when did it evolve from a hobby to a career?
I started drawing at a very young age as most kids do. I just never stopped. It was a goal to be a professional artist very early in life but it was in 1995 when I first started to get paid to draw. I was in my second year of art school and Disney hired me for a new program they were starting up in the theme parks.
Your art style is so life-like, almost like a photo. Was this technique something that took a long time to master and how do you create the image?
I always find it interesting when people say that as I don’t see it the same way. My goal is never to just reproduce a photo but to create something new and I actually think my drawings are pretty loose in most respects as I want the drawing and the visible in the finished piece as well as a looser style of painting. I think you can see that when you look closely but from a distance it all tightens up into a more “detailed” picture. I didn’t plan that, it just happens. As far as the technique goes, it kind of grew organically as I got older. I think every artist is a “stew” of all the artists that influence them. You mix in all the bits you take away from who you admire and it becomes your own. I never feel that I have mastered it tho.
What was your first creation you made that when it was finished, you were truly proud of? The piece which inspired you to turn your skill into a career.
There are two actually. I did them when I was very young. One was a picture of Cap’n Crunch copied from a cereal box and the other was a portrait of my father. I still have both of them.
Now, I adore the piece you designed for the 2018 Superman Celebration. When I decided to visit Metropolis I was determined to get a copy and I’m so glad I did, The detail is incredible and just screams nostalgia. How long did that take to create and how does it feel to know that your art is hanging on so many Super-fans walls?
That one took a long time. The planning of it started back in 2016 and I did quite a few studies before settling in on the final design. I don’t usually work that far out but this one was pretty close to my heart and I wanted to do it justice. I also wanted to incorporate quite a bit. Not just because I like to complicate things but it was a conscious decision to make it different from the original poster that was (magnificently) pretty simple. There is an homage to Thomas Peak in the background and a much more obvious homage with Superman himself. It evokes the cover of Superman #1 which was fun as Superman was celebrating his anniversary as well as the anniversary of the movie and it’s a pose that (I don’t think) people have seen Christopher Reeve in before. The actual painting took some time as well as it usually takes me about 3-4 hours to do each portrait, so you can do the math on this one! As far as how I feel about knowing it’s hanging up on peoples walls? Well, that is humbling and an honor. The whole reason artist make pictures are for people to see them and I don’t take that lightly.
I can remember looking through your portfolio while we talked in Artist-Alley and you had such an impressive catalogue. Do you have a favourite, a piece that you love to share?
Favorite? That’s always a tough question to answer. My usual answer is my next one is always my favorite/best piece as I hope to always be improving but I will finally admit here that I have a few I find special to me at least. The Superman print, Indiana Jones and The Rocketeer.
You have created art for many different movies and pop culture characters. Have you ever been in a situation where the person who portrayed the character has acknowledged your creation?
Yes! It’s always awkward for me at the time as I am not a very clever conversationalist and I do get star-struck as well. I don’t seek out for anyone to notice my work but it has happened and they have all been gracious about it.
You travel to many Cons across the States (I am waiting for you to come to England!). Do you have a Con you get excited for the most and do you have any cherished memories?
I would get very excited to do a con in England!! Or just to go to England honestly. Otherwise there are several I look forward to each year. I particularly like WonderCon in California and C2E2 in Chicago but they are all usually fun. Lot’s of memories but a favorite one is when Neal Adams came to my small table early one morning before the show opened to the public and stopped and complimented my work. This was a big deal to me because when I was 15 and first showed my samples at a convention I went and showed Neal. I was also very unaware that Neal has a reputation for being brutally honest!! And he lived up to it. But he was right and for him to then compliment me was almost like a validation. I was also very honored to meet some of my other comic book artist heroes such as George Perez, John Byrne and even Jack Kirby.
Cosplayers are a huge part of the Con experience, when you are at your desk displaying your art, do you get excited to see the characters you have drawn and do you have a memory of a favourite cosplayer?
I do get excited about certain characters. Usually when I see something obscure. I don’t know if I have a favorite. Maybe Josh Boultinghouse from Superman Celebration. He is SUCH a nice guy!
I have seen photographs of your Fortress Of Solitude where you create your art. It’s gorgeous! How do you get in “The Zone” to work and do you have any specific musical style playing when you create?
Oh! Was it the new one?? I just moved and I love my new space. I just like to get comfortable when I work. I usually will have something related to what I am working on playing in the background. Superman: The Movie seemed to be on an endless loop when I was working on the poster. If it’s my “real work” that I am doing at the time, I like my music playing. Stuff I grew up with mostly. A lot of Crowded House too.
If you could be personally mentored by any artist that has ever lived, who would you choose to be your creative Obi-Wan?
Oh man! I only get to pick one!?? I already stated the “stew” theory right? Ugh! Ok, and this is only because you made me pick one. It would be Norman Rockwell. His staging, composition, use of color is astounding. And if you ever see a real Rockwell painting you would be amazed how “painterly” his work really is and not as photographic as people think.
If you were given permission to own any piece of original art (legally!) which would you choose to hang from your wall?
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade art by Drew Struzan! Not only is he one that inspires me but I have seen the original and it practically glows!!
What are you currently working on and are you someone who can work on multiple projects at once or do you prefer to dedicate all your attention to one goal?
I always work on multiple projects at one. I have to considering my “day job” art duties and even my own projects as they are usually in various stages of development from either rough thumbnails, gathering reference or the actual painting process. As for what I am working on now? You have to wait and see. I would hate to say something and then have to put the piece up on the shelf for a bit because I hit a wall or something.
Finally, what is your dream project? Your Sistine Chapel.
To actually do a real major movie poster. Indiana Jones or Superman preferably. Or to finish the comic book I have been working on.
Jon, thanks so much for your time. If you ever come to England for a Con I will be the first person in line to see what else you have created and I am very curious about that comic!