An Interview with Janina Larenas
July 27, 2016
Growing up, what did art mean to you and how did you find yourself drawn to creating?
Art was always such a casual and normal part of my life that I didn't even realize I wanted to pursue it until I got into college and immediately signed up for all literature and art classes. In fact, growing up I was surrounded by friends and classmates who so completely excelled in illustration that I didn't even consider myself an artist. I was deeply immersed in the DIY punk scene growing up, which insists that you can learn to make or do anything if you can figure it out with the materials you have. So I taught myself to make books in high school using paperclips, dental floss, and the cardboard from the back of my school notebooks. The first prints I did were these weird monotypes using photocopies as a resist and slabs of watercolor drawn out on glass- a sort of makeshift lithography technique before I even knew what lithography was. And a few years ago I booked myself an embroidery show without ever having done any kind of embroidery. So my entry point into art has always been wanting to learn a new skill and a strong desire to puzzle it out.
How were you trained and who/what are some of your influences?
Eventually I declared as an Art Major with an emphasis in Book Arts and Printmaking at UCSC, where I trained primarily with Paul Rangell, Richard Wohlfeiler and Rebecca Ramos. All three of them strongly influenced my development as an artist. I've always been inspired by scientific illustration: Ernst Haeckel, Albertus Seba, John James Audubon and his engraver Robert Havell Jr., Maria Sibylla Merian, as well as contemporary artist Walton Ford. I'm also heavily influenced by old book illustrations, particularly folklore, religion and alchemy. And Hiram Coffee, who gave me the courage to start showing art again.
What do you find yourself being inspired to create lately?
I've been focusing on immersing myself in natural science. I took the California Naturalist Program through the arboretum last year and plan to work on an illustrated field guide to the Upper Campus meadows with Brett Hall. I also received my AAUS certification for Scientific Diving from Moss Landing Marine Lab last summer and have been volunteering with Reef Check California. My goal for the next year is to focus more heavily on science illustration, both the field guide and translating some of my underwater photographs into watercolor illustrations of California sea life.
How do you feel you have changed or are changing as an artist?
Mostly my confidence levels have changed. I know how to communicate better when working on collaborations and I know how capable I am of realizing my creative goals. Having that kind of trust in myself has been a huge change in my artistic life. It's also allowed me the freedom to focus on what excites me, which has lead to a more cohesive and comprehensive portfolio.
View Janina's newest work next Friday at Stripe MEN from 5-9 pm