Spotlight on SketchBook artist Ian O’Neill

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My name’s Ian O’Neill, but mostly everyone knows be my online moniker, EzJedi. I’m a freelance Illustrator and Graphic Designer from Poole, on the South Coast of England. I was always scribbling away as a youngster, inspired by the early TMNT comics and my friend’s stash of super violent 2000AD Dredd books.

Back in Primary School some friends and I produced a short series of comics called ‘The Killer Eggs’. It was so popular that one of our teachers would actually use the school copiers to distribute copies around the various classes- despite the questionable content and obvious inspiration/plagarism of the Killer Tomatoes (which was pretty hip back then)!

After that I strayed away from art for all of my late teens; you might say I went through a rebellious phase as a young man. Thankfully I met my girlfriend who settled me down, only for me to rediscover my passion for comic and videogame art in my early 20’s. I actually felt so rusty when I first picked up a pencil again that I had to practice for what felt like forever just to get back to the standard I was at age 11!

ultra violence by ezjedi/Ian O'Neill
Ultra Violence by ezjedi/Ian O’Neill

Since then I’ve been working hard to refine and improve. I’ve no formal training or art education, so I’ve just tried to be logical and approach my weaknesses one at a time. With the wealth of resources on the web these days, anyone with the right level of determination and self-awareness can learn almost anything, as long as you’re honest with yourself about what you’re good at and what you aren’t.

I find inspiration pretty much everywhere these days; the obvious things like videogames, movies, anime and comics. But I’m also often inspired by music I hear, or locations I travel to. Most often my ideas start as stories, even for something that becomes a single illustration. But we’re all different, you just have to find a source of inspiration that gets you brimming with creativity! Although it’s taken me a long time to get it back to art, I have quite an active (read: childish) imagination. I create stories and visualise imagery in my head inspired by places I visit and things I see.

I’m also pretty interested in science, ancient history and geology, so I watch a lot of documentaries! These are a frequent source of knowledge, that often sparks some element of an idea for me. And of course, I get a lot of inspiration and motivation by seeing what the artists I look up to are producing. It’s important to not be too influenced by the ideas or style of others, but I’m an art enthusiast at heart. Nothing gives me more pleasure than enjoying the fruits of another artist’s labour.

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If I could give advice to other artists, I’d say “brace yourself, this is gonna get rough.” Being serious, I think the best advice I could give to those trying to improve and take their art seriously is to learn how to be resolute. For me, the journey of improvement has had it’s ups and downs. A lot of downs. It can be maddening when your hands won’t seem to obey your brain and put on paper/screen what you can visualise in your head. But you have to stay strong, no matter how frustrated you get. Take a deep breath, take a break, then try again. And again, and so on.

Also I’ll save those artists a lot of time and pain with this little tip: don’t compare your work, style, skill, ideas, etc, to the artists whose work you most admire! Unless you’re a freakishly gifted natural, it’s a surefire way to kill your morale and self confidence. Those artists you admire spent years, decades in some cases, refining their skills and practicing day after day. Instead, compare everything you do to what you did last. Then to what you did around the same time last year. As long as you’re improving and building confidence in what you do, the gap between the artists you love and admire and yourself will close eventually. If you do anything every day, you’re going to better at it. Eventually you’ll get good at it. After 10,000 hours you’re supposedly a master at it. I’ll let you know about that someday…

I guess overall what I’m trying to say is that although it isn’t easy sometimes, anything worth doing rarely is, so stick at it!

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