Her Creative with Jo Ley
When I went to Art school there were loads more chicks in my class than guys - fast forward ten years and the creative industry I exist in is heavily male dominated! A friend of mine recently asked the question - what happens between school and the work force that creates this gender imbalance in the creative industry?
Are we lacking female role models?
I checked in with some chicks in our industry that are fiercely creative and dedicated to their craft to ask them about the rolemodels they look to and tips for female creatives coming up. This is the first article in a series Her Creative and we had the pleasure to launch with the magical Jo Ley
Jo Ley how long have you been in the industry?
I have been freelancing for the last 5 years. My first commercial job was storyboarding an ad for laptops at a studio in London. I was in my last year of uni and supposed to be working on my final project at the time.
Do you have any tips for your chicks looking to get into the industry?
Don’t be worried about what others will think of your work. If you’re being genuine that will resonate with people. It took me a long time to migrate from a mentality of doing what I was told, or what I thought people wanted me to do, to doing what I wanted. It’s hard to own the things you’re really into because if you keep them hidden no one can ridicule you for it, but at the same time you can’t really connect with others without being honest. I used to think that my interests were separate from my artwork, but I never liked anything I made. As soon as I started incorporating elements of the things I love into my work, I liked it better, I felt better, and it didn’t matter if no one else liked it.
I remember my first year of uni reading John Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing’ and there’s a part about how women are raised to see themselves differently from men:
“A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. Whilst she is walking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping. From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman. She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life. Her own sense of being in herself is supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself by another....
One might simplify this by saying: men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object -- and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.”
This duality of nature resonated with me at the time, the idea of two versions of myself, the me who I am, or the internal self, and the other, reflected version: the perception I had of myself viewed by others. The disconnect between the two caused anxiety, not only about what people thought of my work, but of me as a person. I can only speak from my own experience, but when I started to be honest about who I was and what I wanted, I was able to form more meaningful and less stressful connections with others. I stopped formulating responses before I spoke, I said what was on my mind regardless of who I was speaking to. I found this confused some people, and pissed off others, but I didn’t have to be two people anymore, and the huge amount of energy that took was freed up to spend on things like being creative, being happy, not giving as much of a shit.
I don’t know if these experiences are something shared by other women in the creative industry, or why there are less women in the industry than art school, but for myself I can only say that to carry on in that vein would have been emotionally exhausting, and to pour love into your work, be it commercial or personal, you really need to be in a pleasant headspace. Otherwise what could be your grand passion in life will just feel like a massive drag. I suppose the summery of my advice (lifting from John Berger), would be to act, rather than appear.
What female mentors do you look to and why?
There are so many! It’s a really exciting time in the creative industry right now, especially animation and gaming, not just for women, but also for the audience. I’m seeing much more of a trend towards stories that are less conflict driven, and more emotionally explorative.
One example is Steven Universe, created by Rebecca Sugar for Cartoon Network. She is the first woman to independently create a series for the network and it really is worth a watch if you haven’t seen it already. It explores sensitive social issues in such a gentle way and it’s impossible not to be drawn into her world of people being super nice to one another.
Rebecca Sugar used to work on ‘Adventure Time’ (and I’m pretty sure she wrote that gorgeous end credits song), and a few of her Frederator counterparts are also some of my favourite artists. There’s the astoundingly hard working Natasha Allegri, creator of the Fiona & Cake characters. She also crowd funded her own mini series ‘Bee & Puppycat’, I think it was the 4th most funded film Kickstarter to date, and I’m pretty sure at the time it broke the record. It’s still in production but you can watch the first couple of episodes on YouTube (thank you internet!). She also worked on ‘Over the Garden Wall’, which is another must watch. The backgrounds alone are breathtaking.
Another member of the Adventure Time crew is Joy Ang. She paints the title cards that appear at the start of each show, and has kindly shared timelapses of some of them on her YouTube channel. Her personal work is really something special, a perfect blend of style and skill that creates a slice of a world you’ll long to inhabit.
My final selection is Madeleine Flores, creator of the comic ‘Help Us Great Warrior’ and guest storyboarder on Adventure Time for one of my favourite episodes ‘Little Brother’. It’s hard to describe the magical, comical atmosphere Flores evokes in her work, I don’t think I can do her justice. I suggest checking it out for yourself.