Insights Into the Head of the Illustrator Johnny Terror | Grailify
Insights Into the Head of the Illustrator Johnny Terror

Insights Into the Head of the Illustrator Johnny Terror

Influencer, content creator, creative - a few little words in an Instagram bio that you'll find all over the app and on your phone screen. For some, these words are the start of a long discussion about creativity, authenticity, and fake online worlds; for others, these words mean a lot and represent their creative hustle. It has never been so popular and at the same time so difficult to be creative on Instagram as it is today. How can you stand out from a million other people? How can you stay true to yourself and not become a pawn of brands and an easy target for people who love to hate people who love to share? Being an artist in these online worlds is very exhausting. It drains your energy and makes you doubt yourself as you are thrown into the mass of likes, shares and comments like a piece of raw meat. Johnny Terror's world is part of this online mess, but his art and work have found a balance to navigate between his own visual language, the tastes of his audience, and the likes of big brands and people like NikeLab, ACRONYM®, and Errolson Hugh.
As an artist, Johnny Terror is continually evolving his style, shifting from one visual vibe to another and shifting his output in the same direction his mind wanders. From neo-Tokyo worlds to ACRONYM® jackets, manga influences, erotic nuances and self-reflective illustrations, Johnny Terror is a true artist who uses his art to free his mind. At the same time, he exists and shares his images on an app called "Instagram," a platform that thrives on the preferences of a diverse audience that may or may not identify with an artist's vision. The easiest way to succeed on Instagram is to tune into your audience. If you look at the most successful accounts, you'll find a lot of monocultures with the same content. Either it's "just" sneaker pictures, "just" pictures of food, or just one of the previously mentioned. Few artists dare to break this mono-circle and create and upload content that may not get the same number of likes as the one image or drawing that is always a sure bet. Johnny Terror is part of that circle of creatives who create art for themselves first and the audience second. It's a trend that could grow and have an impact on social media in 2019.

Johnny Terror, can you please tell us who you are and what you do?
I am a cell-based shell, a cybernetic mind in endless simulation. I am an illustrator. I am an artist. I'm just a regular guy.

What does your normal day look like? Where can we find Johnny Terror in Berlin?
I usually sit at my desk a lot. I draw, sketch, work on things, write down concepts and stare at my laptop way too much. Sometimes I ride my bike downtown and go to bookstores, where I flip through all the books without buying anything and then put them back in the wrong places (not on purpose, sorry). In the summer, I often have a route of different benches where I sit down, draw a bit, and then stare at the people walking by. There's something very relaxing about watching things.

Berlin is pretty much in the spotlight right now when it comes to influencers and Instagram accounts. Would you say you're part of this Berlin generation of creatives, or are you living a different life?
No, that's definitely not me, I'm something special! That's such bullshit. I'm definitely a part of it. I still criticise it because a lot of it is messed up and pisses me off. But I'm still a part of it. I've never advertised products on Instagram, but I've had shoes sent to me, jackets given to me, bags given to me, etc. I could lie and say I don't care about these materialistic things, but that would be presumptuous and just a lie. I care a lot about fashion as a lifestyle and art form and I can't afford to buy everything. I wouldn't even have the time to buy things. The connections between creatives in Berlin are also great, but could be better. Much better. Less commercial product parties please. More unbranded art stuff. Thanks a lot.

It's pretty easy to see that you get a lot of likes and followers with your tech wear and sneaker focused illustrations, but you still choose to create a lot of more personal work and art. How hard or easy is it for you as an artist in today's digital age to create content and work based on more than just your audience's likes?
Creating something that perfectly suits everyone is impossible and depressing. I like diversity because it's like dreaming different dreams at the same time. Imagine dreaming the same dream every night. Come on, you don't really want that. You have to keep reinventing yourself to move forward and fight stagnation. I will always incorporate fashion into my art to some degree. It is part of my inspiration. But if I do something, it's because I like it and my brain forces me to do it. Whether people like it or not is not my responsibility. This often reminds me of Massimo Osti, who, when asked if hooligans and high-end fashion people wear Stone Island, said that he only makes the clothes. He can't control who wears them. And he doesn't care either.

When did you start illustrating and what were the first objects, characters and worlds you created?
I started drawing as a small child and never stopped, but I think it was in the first or second semester of my graphic design studies at the Berlin University of the Arts when I started calling my drawings illustrations and myself an illustrator. I honestly can't remember the first paid illustration I did. I think it was a badly done, terribly paid cover for a SoundCloud track. But it was also the time when I started studying all the manga and art books I owned and spent hours scrolling through dystopian, futuristic mood boards on the internet. Basically, I got up, drew cyborgs, girls and fashion pieces I couldn't afford and went back to bed.

When did your love for Japanese culture begin, and what were the most important influences from that scene?
I lived for 10 years of my life in Düsseldorf, a city in the deep west of Germany. There is a big Japanese community there, so my life was connected to Japan. When I was younger, I was influenced by the "boring" obvious things like samurais, ninjas and sushi. Later in life I tried to focus more on art like Hokusai, Buddhism, Japanese architecture and Japanese food without sushi. I am really looking forward to visiting Japan for the first time soon. But I don't think I will fall completely in love with Japan. The people there are so nice and well-mannered, and I'm just so cheeky. They treat me well but kick me out after two weeks (understandably!).

Is there a day when you don't draw anything and could you imagine life without your art?
Yes, those days do exist. Sometimes they feel like lost time and sometimes like a well-deserved break. But I couldn't imagine a life without art. Maybe one day I'll lose my hand and won't be able to draw anymore. Then I would draw with my left hand. If I lost that hand too, I would paint with a brush in my mouth. It's not necessarily about drawing. It's just about expressing the thoughts that are stuck in your head and need to get out. The train never stops. There are no stops. The train just rolls on at top speed.

Besides your personal art, you have done a number of interesting projects for bigger brands. Can you tell us about your favourite projects last year and what it was like working for brands like Nike and Solebox?
Working for Nike ACG and Solebox's React 98 was a very valuable experience. They showed me how these things work and what is and isn't possible in terms of brand collaborations.

Of course we will also talk about sneakers and streetwear. Tell us Johnny, when did your love for Acronym start and what is your favourite piece of clothing from the brand?
I discovered Acronym during a random foray through the depths of the internet. I came across several dark cybernetic gothic tumblrs. It was on a site called OTAKUGANGSTA that I first saw images of Acronym garments. I could not locate the source of the images and began to do a reverse image search using Google. Eventually I found the site Acronym Archive, which unfortunately no longer exists. My mind sparked when I saw all the collections and browsed through each piece. Finally I found the current official website and saw the prices. I told myself that I would work hard and maybe in 10 years I could afford a piece from Acronym.... There were three pieces that immediately caught my eye. One was the P23-TS. It was a pair of trousers that strongly reminded me of the karate trousers I wore as a child. This was a charcoal grey military gabardine version of them. The other two were the J1A-GT jacket, which I own, and the J39-S, a black trench coat with a big pocket in the front. It looked like it came straight from the future trenches of the human resistance fighting the Skynet AI bots.

The streets also talk about you even getting your J1A-GT straight from Errolson's hands? Can you tell us a little more about that?
Yes, that's right. It was shortly after my flyer collaboration for an Acronym party in Paris. It was really nice to see the studio and talk to Errolson face to face about art appreciation and inspiration. He was really humble, which I didn't expect from a fashion czar like him. He gave me some really good advice for life that still makes sense to me today. I admit, though, that I was pretty nervous. Funnily enough, that was only three months after I first discovered Acronym. Sometimes good things happen in life.

Is there a sneaker that best represents Johnny Terror or your mindset?
The Acronym x Nike VaporMax Moc 2 "Light Bone", which is actually nicknamed "Johnny's Icy Passage" - funny. It's light, it's futuristic with its VaporMax sole and its colours are absolutely gaudy. But most of the time I wear my shiny polished black leather boots....

What are your dreams and goals for 2019? What can we expect from your output this year?
I'm lousy at resolutions. My two current ones are to clean up my room and travel to Tokyo. I think I can do the Tokyo thing. Like I said, the train just keeps rolling. I hope my result will surprise even myself and most importantly be fun. Those are the essential things that keep you going.

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