Ms. Jenny Bannock was kind enough to grant me an interview session with her. Her work focuses on characters, and is very costume oriented. This helps to create a unique viewing experience.
Hello, Ms. Jenny Bannock, thank you very much for taking the time out to speak with me about your artwork.
Sherry (S): Firstly, what made you interested in drawing? Some people start drawing when they are kids and they continue on from there, while others start to draw later on in life – which were you?
Jenny (J): I was one of those kids who drew from moment one. I used to draw nothing but horses and unicorns for years, until my parents challenged me to draw “something else for goodness’ sake” (read: “Don’t you ever draw people??”)
S: I read in your profile that you went to a small community college to get your AA in Fine Arts, and then to a state university for a BA in Theater Design (which was unfortunately left unfinished), did these schools help you much to define your craft? Did they teach you anything that you have found useful?
J: They both definitely helped; the good thing about the community college was that the classes were small and the professor believed in teaching techniques, which I needed. At the state uni, I got a really solid grounding in costume design, color and lighting from working in theater. As a result, when I started working on my current series, I was able to meld those aspects together.
S: For those of us who aren’t too clear on this, what exactly is an AA in Fine Arts? What does it entail - what sorts of jobs does it prepare you for?
J: AA is Associate of Arts. It’s a two-year degree that often serves as a stepping stone to a BA. Most companies looking for degrees from their employees will take an AA over someone with no degree, though it doesn’t hold up as well as a Bachelor’s. Basically, it shows that I did actually go to school, and that I did follow through with a course of study. Beyond that, it’s not very useful, I’m afraid. The community college that I attended had one professor who was the ENTIRE art department. Art was a kind of ‘side’ degree that was tacked on to Liberal Arts. Still, I definitely did the work, and I did take something away with me. The nice thing about having it is that it shows prospective employers and clients that I have some formal training. Talent can only take you so far, but some companies will be more inclined to hire someone who shows they’ve done more than ‘draw as a hobby’. It shows you took your art a little further.
S: Does you desire for creating costumes for plays and movies influence your work heavily? I’ve noticed in your work that there are a lot of very costume-driven characters, not to mention you say you a ‘love affair with Historic fashion and costume.’
J: Yes! I sew, knit, and crochet, and I’ve always loved creating working (not simply decorative) clothes for Renaissance faires, different periods of reenactment, and theater. Knowing how the garments are constructed, and the differences between one historic period and another, has helped me immensely when designing characters to draw. For instance, I have a trio of images that show three people in full court dress—two men and one woman. I was able to show their personalities through their clothing without resorting to over-the-top poses; Nemerenth is uncomfortable in his outfit, his brother Iyan is very much at ease, and Daene looks like she wants to be elsewhere. The way someone wears their clothing says a lot about them. So does the color and choice of accessories.
S: For your Merchant Road works, are you planning on combining the stories of Neelie, as well as the images into a book and selling them in that fashion?
J: I hope so. Neelie was a side character in one of the novel pieces that inspired the art series, but when I started Merchant Road, I wanted someone who I could explore in more detail. She wasn’t already heavily featured in the planned novel but I had a handle on her, and now she’s gone off and become a main character in her own right. I would love to assemble her tales and the images into a book; if I did, I would definitely rework the vignettes some more, though. I don’t think they’re complete enough in their current form.
S: On your website, you say that you are first and foremost a character artist, but, do you have any plans to start a comic for either Merchant Road or your up-coming project?
J: I actually started this because my comic attempts have been less than satisfactory. I don’t want to give up on the idea completely, but it’ll be far in the future if it ever happens at all. I’m not happy or comfortable with setting up dynamic panels; it’s one thing to do an action piece, but another thing entirely to do action over and over and over again. I have a LOT of respect for people who do it all the time. Since I keep ending up with talking heads anyway, I figure I’ll stay with the format I have now. :)
S: You say that you influences are American comics, Japanese manga and anime, as well as historical outfits and costumes, but who, or what comics/manga/anime have been major influences on your style?
J: Manga/Manwha/Kung-Fu: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Bleach; Aria; Rebirth; Alichino; Full Metal Alchemist; King of Hell; anything by Yu Watase or CLAMP. (Shut up! I like them. XD)
American Comics: Meridian; Sojourn; the new Drizzt series based on the books by RA Salvatore; Danger Girl (the old version, not the current one); Sandman. I also read a LOT of webcomics, and though they don’t directly inspire me, they help me look at new ideas and expressions.
Anime/Cartoons: Louie the Rune Soldier; Grenadier; Angel Links; Cowboy Bebop; Samurai Jack; Clone Wars; Record of Lodoss War.
S: A little along the same thread, but, do you have any particular comics, manga, or anime that you are currently reading? Any indy books catch your attention?
J: I’m reading the Drizzt graphic novels as they come out—it’s like a guilty pleasure, and I much prefer them to the original novels (couldn’t stand Salvatore’s prose. Ugh.). I don’t have as much connection to comic books as I used to, but I try to keep up with a few, mostly ones I listed above. For anime, I just finished watching the second season of Gantz, which was hideously violent but had some amazing character designs. One nice thing is that I have just recently been introduced to some indy comics—Monsterguy, Last Days of the Flare, Captain Drew and His Crew of Two and some others—through ConnectiCon, so I’m eagerly awaiting new episodes.
S: What about games?
J: Character designs in video games ALWAYS inspire me. Final Fantasy is a big one, though I’ve gotten away from using those games for inspiration simply because it’s evident in my work when I do use them. I’ve always drawn my tabletop roleplaying characters, and looking at the art done for Exalted and other RPG systems will give me ideas.
Most of all, the Suikoden video games were the final inspiration for Merchant Road. Each one features 108 playable characters, and each one has full illustrations for each character in various static but interesting poses. Considering that there are five games in the series, that’s 540 illustrations MINIMUM, and that’s not counting the non-playable characters who have also been illustrated. Each one is completely different! They’re all unique, identifiable as each character, and I don’t think any of the poses are completely replicated. That blows me away. I want to do something like that.
S: For historical costumes, what time period if your favorite? Me, I’m partial to the Ancient Grecian, and Victorian styles.
J: Definitely the Italian Renaissance, the English Tudor period, and pre-Civil War American West. I also love using Persian and Assyrian elements in my more exotic designs. I have made clothing for the European Middle Ages, Italian Ren, and early Victorian.
S: Can you tell us about your time at Connecticon? You seem to have had a lot of fun, but it must have been tiring being the Board of Directors, and secretary for the Art Colony!
J: It was a blast. I had never attended a convention before, so it was a real learning experience all around. I was exhausted by the end of the year, and got to the point where I just wanted the con to be OVER, but now I’m already thinking about how to work next year. :) I had a great opportunity to meet artists I respected (and found out there were some who respected ME, can you believe it??). Totally worth the blood, sweat and tears of planning it.
The funny thing is, I became the Art Colony Secretary by falling into it. I like being someone with some power but not ultimately in charge, and that role was perfect for me.
S: Could you tell us a little bit about your experience as a writer? What forms of prose interest you the most? What forms of prose wouldn’t you write if you had the choice?
J: I can’t decide if I’m an artist who writes or a writer who draws. They’re both equally important to me, and one feeds the other. I am currently trying to publish a space opera (sci-fi without the science) novel I wrote with a friend, as well as working on two of the stories set in the Merchant Road world. When writing, I tend to come up with fantasy more than anything. I will write (and have written) just about every genre, but I least like solid reality. Non-fiction is one thing, but for me, writing fiction grounded firmly in reality seems silly. We live it already; why go out of our way to create a story about ordinary things?
S: So, sorry, I have to ask, how did you come up with the name ‘ChocoboGoddess?’ Is this the same Chocobo that are in the Final Fantasy games? Personally, I’ve been wondering about that since I first watched you on deviantArt. How about ‘Divine Bird?’ This is a refashioned ‘ChocoboGoddess?’
J: Heh, you’re right on all counts. I chose “Chocobo Goddess” when I first needed a screen name for Fanfiction.net. I like chocobos (my Final Fantasy Tactics game has an entire army of them) and I thought it would be cute and funny to be their goddess. The name has stuck all these years. However, when I started to work on things that I wanted to sell, I needed a name that wouldn’t contain a copyrighted or trademarked word. A friend once referred to me as “that divine bird, the Goddess of Chocobos” and I loved it. My logo is also a kind of stylized bird that is somewhat loosely based on the chocobo.
S: Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions. It was a pleasure. I look forward to seeing where your work takes you in the future.
J: Anytime! It was fun thinking of the answers to your questions. :)
I would like to say thank you once again to Ms. Bannock for taking time out of her day to complete the interview. It is easily seen that her work will grow and mature into some very detailed characters, with amazing costumes. Her work can be found at Divinebird.com, at Chocobogoddess.deviantart.com, or the photo section of CommissionArtCentral’s page. Ms. Bannock is willing to accept commissions almost all the time. If you are interested, please check out her page for commission information.