REAL GEEK GIRLS: Illustrator and Comic Artist Jenn St-Onge
The goal of my “Real Geek Girls” series is to show the world that girls truly can be geeky. For some, that seems like an obvious observation, but there’s always that one person, almost always a guy, who will talk about how girls are fake geeks who don’t know what they’re talking. Girls are just doing it look cool and lure in geek guys. They don’t know what it’s all about when it comes to “geek culture” and they’re somehow just there to be admired by geek guys. I’m here to let the world know that girls DO know what we’re talking about. We can be and we ARE just as geeky as the guys. Every now and again, I’ll interview a new geek girl just to highlight how many of us are out there, how real we are all. We come in all shapes and sizes and love a many geeky things. I’m going to show the world that there are real geek girls, and they know as much, if not more than the somehow more revered geek guy.
Meet Jenn! She’s an incredibly talented illustrator and comic artist who puts her own unique twist on what she loves. I got to interview her and learn a little more about her, including the fact that she’s a crazy cat lady! You can check out more of her work at: jennstonge.ca and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Check out the interview below:
What does being a geek mean to you?
I think that the term has come a long way since I was a kid; whereas it used to mean a bit of an outcast or someone with weird interests, I feel like it’s really come into the mainstream as a way of describing someone being very deeply passionate about something. I don’t think knowledge or experience are necessarily the biggest parts of being a geek, so much as having a sincere interest and desire to learn more about the subject matter.
What’s your take on the fact that we still see people saying girls are being fake geeks?
I’m a bit of a feminism geek so not that surprisingly, I’m not a fan of the notion that girls cannot be fans of something purely out of interest and that it’s only to impress people (namely, men). Girls are such passionate, intense fans! I know women who love Doctor Who, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, you name it … a ton of fandoms that have traditionally been male-dominated spaces but that have become equal if not more saturated by female fans. Girls are the ones who buy a lot of merchandise, who write huge fanfics, who are just generally very vocal about what they enjoy. I think we live in a culture that is used to looking down on “girl stuff” and so to have us sort of infiltrating these fandoms is not a positive thing to a lot of the guys who are already there.
You graduated from Seneca College in 2012 from their Independent Illustration program, was there ever anything else you wanted to study in school or were you set on illustration from the beginning?
I’m one of those people who was praised for showing an interest in art from a young age, so it really bolstered a desire in me to do something with that and to be successful with it. I used to write about as much as I drew and wanted to do something with both those skills; I’ve unfortunately really let my writing slide! I went through a few different career ideas in high school, from video game designer to mortician to sex ed teacher. I still think most of those options would have been really fun!
You say you’re a crazy cat lady, how many cats do you own? What’s their names?
My husband and I are never having children because we ended up adopting five cats the first five years we lived together (we are officially at capacity, I think). Our oldest is a black and white girl named Loki, then there’s our doll face Persian, Fawkes, our rotund black cat, Piggy, our grey and white barn cat that we brought home from our wedding, Barney, and finally, our tiny but full grown black cat, Valentine. It’s a full house but we love them all and seem to have found a setup that more or less keeps the peace.
Tell us a little about Finding Molly.
Finding Molly is my second comic job and my first with EMET Entertainment. I had very little experience when I replied to a call for artists on Tumblr and the past six months have been such a learning curve for me. When I was first talking to my now-editor, she really liked a series I did of people and their cats and that was really what got the ball rolling for the idea of doing a story about an artist and all the cats she meets. Written by Justine Prado and coloured by Carey Pietsch, Finding Molly follows the kinda mundane life of the titular character, who is a recent art school graduate with no direction. She ends up housesitting/catsitting for an assortment of interesting characters and unexpectedly finds a niche for her art. I think it’s a great story for anyone who’s finishing school and maybe not sure where they’re about to go with their career … The truth is that you never know what might suddenly find its way into your life and become your livelihood!
What do you base your illustrations on mostly?
I feel like if you had asked me this question a year ago, I would’ve had a very different answer! Between my comic work and commissions, I seriously have so little time for anything else, so I try to do fun little things as warmups/cooldowns. I find that those drawings are either fashion or fanart based. For my fashion drawings, I take a lot of inspiration from the people I follow online with interesting hair and makeup, or unique style. For my fanart stuff, I tend to focus on shows like Steven Universe or Sailor Moon, but my video game and comic interests also sneak in from time to time; I’m a big fan of Legend of Zelda, Bioshock, and Silent Hill, and I seriously need to do more art based on that!
What are some of your favorite illustrations you’ve done?
I don’t mean to say this in a jerk-ish way, but this is actually really hard to answer. I wouldn’t choose my favourites based on the content so much as if I tried something new/different with a piece and it was successful. I still really love the cover I did for my Princess Cappuccino comic (a short I did for the OATH Anthology, which is due to be out in the spring), along with the Jem and Helena Rose cover mockups I did just for fun. I also did a pretty cute design for my holiday card this year, which features all of our kitties!
Do you look up to any illustrators or other artists who may have given you a stronger love for illustrating?
If we’re talking historically, I love Erté and Macoto Takahashi, who are both amazing for their fashion design and character style. When it comes to contemporary artists, I love (deep breath) Rebecca Sugar, Sophie Campbell, Paulina Ganucheau, Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr, Maya Kern, and Arielle Jovellanos (okay, I’m gonna leave it at that). I’ve also met a ton of artists online who I’ve become friends with who continue to blow me away with the work that they’re producing (friend shout-out in no particular order to Elizabeth Beals, Alex Rodway, Victoria Evans, Susan Nguyen, and Arif Kudus!)
If you were given a job to illustrate comics for Marvel or DC, which would you choose and why?
I feel mostly because I loved both Teen Titans and Young Justice, I’d have to go with DC. I’m actually not that big into superheroes, though! (Unpopular opinion, I know) My dream job right now would be to do cover work with IDW on their Jem & the Holograms comic, or with Archie Comics on either the All New Archie or The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina series. I love stories with a more realistic setting but a bit of a dark edge to them, and bonus points if there is queer representation and/or witchcraft.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
Oh no, I am the worst at this question. To pick something off the top of my head, I’d want the ability to teleport because I’m terrible at driving and flights are expensive!
What are some of your favorite comics?
I’m waiting on the final chapter of Dark Horse’s Zodiac Starforce, which features amazing writing by Kevin Panetta and gorgeous art by Paulina Ganucheau. Probably not surprisingly, I’ve really enjoyed the Jem & the Holograms reboot and am seriously pumped to read Dark Jem #1 that’s out this month.
Do you do any requests for illustrations?
As a general answer “no”. I get a goodly number of people who contact me asking me if I do requests and if I do, to draw them, even though I don’t know them and haven’t found them through mutual interests (ie. fashion). I will give a soft “yes” to suggestions, such as if I’m talking about a fandom I’m part of and have not shared art for, I’m not totally against people suggesting characters or whatnot in those cases. I can never guarantee those types of drawings! I would try and do them for warmups, but my warmups really vary in time and detail so even though I might want to do a specific character, I might not be able to devote the amount of attention I would have liked so I just won’t do them.
Are you working on anything right now or will do in the future that we can look forward too?
I’ve got some new things in the works for 2016! I want to really focus on doing more comic jobs, both interiors and covers, and I really want to start a webcomic. That last point has been on my to-do list for the longest time but I’ve got some ideas lined up along with writers to collab with, so maybe this year will be the year! Another idea I’ve been musing upon for a while is a pinup colouring book, so depending on my extra time in the upcoming months, that might be a thing as well!
What’s your advice for all the geeky girls out there who are afraid or embarrassed to show off how geeky they are?
Chances are, people are going to make you feel bad for passionately enjoying something, but those people are The Worst and not worth your time. Don’t be scared to be a fan of something you don’t know everything about; despite what some gatekeeper types will tell you, there’s no entrance exam to be in a fandom. And lastly, be honest with your interests because more likely than not, there are a ton of other amazing ladies who like the same thing as you and would love to share that with someone!