After having a major back surgery in April, the life of Jona Tellez-Giron changed dramatically. Not too long ago Jona was out and about, playing drums for The Vision of a Dying World and The Paddle Boat, skateboarding and working several jobs. Now he spends most of time at his home in City Heights, waiting for an estimated 1 - 2 years for his back to heal properly before he can go back to working full-time.
All the extra free time has given him the opportunity to hone in on a craft which has until recently been laid by the wayside in his busy life: Painting! We were only able to capture a handful of Jona's paintings, due to his recent success at local art shows at places like The Boat House (RIP) and Agitprop gallery in North Park. Action Jackson Promotions has organized several benefit shows for Jona and his fiance Sarah, to help them get through these trying times.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in South San Diego. Well sort of. I lived in T.J. for the first 16 years of my life, but attended Mar Vista High in Imperial Beach, so therefore I guess I would say I come from South San Diego, or Imperial Beach.
How long have you been making art?
About 13 years. When I was young I would just sit in front of the t.v and watch Looney Toons. I was really into the Taz Manian Devil, so i would just draw and re-draw him over and over till I realized I was good at recreating images; Thats when I decided to start making my own characters.
When did you become involved in the San Diego music scene:
I met Keith Milgaten at Mesa College back in 2004. We where both attending this digital media class at the time, and it was apparent that neither of us were too interested in it. We both sat all the way in back and one day he showed me one of his many music alter ego's Abbreviated Daylight. I immediately wanted to play music with him. After playing with him for a while I met his older brother Jackson and long-time childhood friend Jeremey Scott. Shortly after meeting them they asked me to play drums in their band The Vision of A Dying World. Over the course of five years we did numerous tours and countless local shows. Later, Jeremey started the Paddle Boat and again asked me to play drums with them, and I did until our first tour, at which time I came down with a bad stomach bacterial infection. When we got back I quit both bands to help myself recover physically and economically, at which time I began to focus more on my own visual art, and also my own music project, Jona, End the Whale.
Is there a difference between the artistic satisfaction you get from making visual art and musical art?
Definitely. Playing music to me has always been a way to express and release a lot of tension and emotion in my life. Visual art is more meditative for me. Both allow me to feel like I get lost in the art and I am able to let my mind relax and take me where it wants to go. Lately, visual art has been taking over my life, whereas in the past music was the biggest artistic means in my life. This is not to say that music is not important or no longer a part of my life, it's definitely something that I would like to pursue, it's just that visual art has been my chosen medium as of recently.
How has your recent back surgery affected your life as an artist?
It's given me a new perspective that art is not something that will happen on it's own. Art takes a lot of work and this surgery is pushing me to make more art. Surgery made me realize that life is short and stuff doesn't just come to you, everyone has to work at what they want to achieve in life. In a way, it's a positive experience because it's giving me the drive that I' felt I was lacking.
What kind of a responsehave you received from your recent work?
I've only had a few art shows, which have all been collaborative with other people, but for the most part, I've only received positive feedback from people which is giving me the confidence to continue pursuing this career. People seem to really like my cartoonish style and solid colors. I've been told that it seems familiar to people even when they've never seen my art before before. I also get questions about the eyes that are in my art. I love the statement that eyes make. I like to think of it as if I'm watching over everyone through my art and also to remind people that we ARE being watched by unknown eyes. Whether you want to think of it spiritually or by the government. Haha
What are your future plans for Jonart?
I'm learning how to screen print right now and I would really like to focus on this medium for awhile. Eddy Miramontes has been gracious enough to take me under his wing and teach me all about print making, which he studied for six years. I have a vision for multi-colored screen prints of my art so I can recreate my paintings without re-painting each one over and over. I'd love for my art to be on t-shirts and on people's walls. I'd also like to bring live screen prints to art shows here in San Diego.
What is your favorite food/ dessert?
Well, unfortunately the bacterial stomach infection that I had two years ago when I quit the bands has come back, so my diet is extremely limited to hard fruits, brown rice, veggies, and tofu. No sweets or flavors aloud. When I am in good health my favorite desert is a vegan candy bar that I get from Whole Foods called Mahalo, and my favorite meal is my fiance, Sarah's amazing vegan/gluten free lasagna.
Come out to SODA BAR on Wednesday May 19th for a show of Jona's work, and these bands: Jamuel Saxon, Illuminauts, Primitive Noyes +DJ Jane W. Suggested donation: $8, 9pm.
Interview by Keith Milgaten
Photos by Brian Wingen