The relationship between one’s self and their craft is unique to everyone. In Juniper Moon’s case, art is so deeply intertwined with her soul that it feels fundamentally wrong to imagine a life where she isn’t creating new pieces or drawings.
It is an idea that Juniper is likely to agree with.
There is not a point in time that she can remember where she wasn’t creating art or using it as a tool to connect herself with the world around her. Developing and nurturing her art has become second nature.
“I’ve always enjoyed making things with my hands. Ever since I was a kid, art was my go-to form of communicating and expressing myself,” Juniper says. “I was never good at talking with people – even now!” Where her words would fail her, art shined through. “Riddled with anxiety, I would have a difficult time making friends. But while sitting alone at lunch, I started to draw and that helped me make friends!”
It is this ability to connect through her artwork that has impacted her greatly. “Art has affected my life in such a positive way.” She explains, “I am an introvert and struggle with social anxiety. Art has allowed me to reach out to people and create connections with people from all over the world.”
A lifelong companion that has been with her through the best of times and the worst, art has allowed Juniper the ability to find beauty in her surroundings and express that to others. She uses captivating colors and ensures that her subject catches the viewer’s eye right away.
“My interests and inspiration stem from inner beauty, music, color theory, and spiritual connection,” the artist says of the inspiration behind her enthralling creations. “The beauty of the natural world, the fascinating variety of shapes and colors, and the joy I feel when working on something that will end up being much more than the sum of its parts.”
As much as her life and interests influences her art, art has dealt a great deal of influence on her. “My life goes better when I’m involved with art,” says Juniper. “When I get involved, I get involved. It’s this impulse to create. I often wake up excited because of my current project!”
“I grew up inspired by ‘90s cartoons and anime,” she continues, discussing the inspiration behind her relationship with art. “I fell in love with storytelling and character development and that led me to study animation and multimedia design.”
The story of this comic is relatable to many, and from the heart, I want people to be able to connect with it and feel they are not alone in this universe.
Juniper counts her blessings for she is able to carve out a studio space in her home to create her art. While some artists are able to put their ideas to paper no matter where they are – subway car, plane, restaurant – a dedicated area helps the focus and flow of creativity.
“I am very fortunate to have a small studio space in my apartment just to create my art and music.” Describing the area, she says, “I keep my easel out of the way while I’m not working, and paint on the studio floor. I usually let Ein – my bunny – run around, but I have to watch her because she tends to chew the legs of the easel!”
When it comes time for Juniper to implement her ideas, the artist says she usually turns to acrylics, graphite, and pastels. “I love to create patterns and layers that explore the surreal and beautiful human form as well as expressing the complexities of mental illness with a transcendent fusion of fine art and illustration.” Juniper goes on to explain, “I feel like these mediums help me bring awareness to current issues through a blend of pop art and fantasy. My figures are expressive of various emotions that I feel through my honed technique and stylization.”
Her unique style, which her Esty page refers to as ‘Food for your anime alien ‘90s aesthetic’ is what caught the attention of thousands on social media.
“I have a planner where I loosely schedule my work week,” Juniper says, working through how she makes time for her art. “I have a day each week set aside for printing/packaging/mailing orders, a day for recording and editing YouTube videos, and the rest of the days I work on my art, promotion and other tasks related to my ‘business’. This gives me lots of time to come up with ideas.”
Diving into her process when asked how she approaches creating a new piece of artwork for herself versus when crafting a commission, she says, “Sometimes I will start with a random sketch and build up on it, oftentimes I won’t know what it will become until the very end. Other times I try to be more meticulous about the planning. I will get reference photos and search for inspiration from books, film, music, or nature. I don’t like being constrained too much in how I do things, because it takes away the fun of it for me.” Juniper describes it, “It is all very random and chaotic, usually.”
Back in April, however, Juniper put a pause on commissions. While she still updates her social media with new pieces, she adds notes to her follows to not be too hard on themselves during this trying time. She encourages that they go easy on themselves – they don’t need to suddenly develop new skills or feel stressed because they should be overly productive; she reminds them all that this is a time like no other and taking care of their mental health, especially now, is important.
“Due to the pandemic, I have had a to put a lot of projects on hold,” she says, though there is still a bright side. “But now I have lots of time in the studio working on the release of my debut graphic novel, and I am beyond ecstatic to share my passion with all of you!” she reveals.
“I have gotten a lot of positive feedback when showing some of my art for this project and am beyond humbled by the response. I also have a lot of amazing opportunities coming up this year that will help me grow as an artist and also help grow my personal brand.”
Juniper isn’t rushing to release it right away though. Like many artists who are perfectionists, she wants to be sure everything is right before sharing her story with the world. “I don’t want to just release my comic before I feel like it’s complete. I want my audience to be taken on a journey through this universe and be enchanted by the artistic visuals that will truly bring my story to life,” she enthuses. “The story of this comic is relatable to many, and from the heart, I want people to be able to connect with it and feel they are not alone in this universe.”
I was taught that it was good to be diverse, but at the same time I found that it could actually be a problem to not have a ‘style.’
This idea isn’t new for any of the work that Juniper shares. Whether it is within the art itself or through her notes and captions like the ones she had written during the pandemic, Juniper has continually been open and honest with her followers and the spectators of her art. She has discussed her good days and her bad days, candidly talked about her therapy sessions, and repeatedly checks in on how others are doing.
“Art has given me the freedom to express myself and has allowed me to feel comfortable and confident by just being myself. I believe a lot of people would love to try and create art as a form of therapy but are unable to due to expenses and lack of ‘expertise.’” This gave foundation to an idea that has been floating around in her head.
“I was thinking about possibly starting an art therapy club – I want to tailor a bunch of photographs and create lists of prompts for people to draw and grow internally, and also learn a new skill in the process,” Juniper describes. “I believe that working on something that one feels is ‘weak’ everyday can help people feel better about themselves, especially once they see the progress they’ve made.” Speaking on a note everyone can relate to, she says, “People like to only work on what they are strong at but it’s important to work on their lesser areas as well.”
Her often open, candidness also comes through the form of sharing her day’s mantras. “I’ve always wanted to create a space where I can help people tell stories, empathize, bond and heal through art. I’m also a very empathetic person.” The artist goes on to say, “So when I read a text that sticks with me and I create something where those feelings match, I pair them up to illustrate a narrative that I hope… makes people reflect on their own feelings.” In fact, she views the words as a companion to her art, both aiding the other in order to connect with the observer.
“This association of both text and art offers the opportunity to the viewer to start a conversation around the text. By attaching feelings to my artwork, it also allows that person to feel something beyond what the text would have been alone.”
Letting her feelings show in her art is something she’s been keen on since she was young and watching films. In 2017, Juniper began to share a piece of a personal project titled, ‘Neurotica’.
“I’d like to complete Neurotica – it’s my sci-fi/fantasy comic I’ve been developing for the past five years,” she comments before thinking back to what inspired her to inject so much vulnerability into her pieces. “I remember when I first decided I was going to be an artist. It was the first time I watched a film by Hayao Miyazaki. I was six and it blew my mind.” The color of each scene and the care with the films’ characters struck a chord with her. “I’d never seen so many beautiful colors, movements, and strong characters that inspired me. I wanted to recreate those feelings, the inspiring characters. I wanted to create what I dreamed to be like.”
This idea that came from those incredibly powerful feelings have given her an inkling of what else she’d like to create as well. “I’d like to make books of my art to inspire young people!”
Juniper’s art will no doubt help others, including inspiring artist, to find their own voice and style within the art world, the latter of which she has struggled with over the years and has learned to decide what that means for her.
“I think the biggest challenge I’ve been facing as an artist is the notion that artists now have to not only be original, but they also must have their own signature aesthetic,” she says. “People tend to focus a lot on an artist’s aesthetic, the signature look of their work, and personally, it’s something that had caused me a lot of frustration in my career,” Juniper confesses. “I was taught that it was good to be diverse, but at the same time I found that it could actually be a problem to not have a ‘style.’”
Being faced with this idea, she did some searching and self-discovery to create something that would make her stand out, according to the artist. “It wasn’t until I stopped thinking about having a style that I could actually start developing one. Because I love experimentation so much, I’m still not sure I have one.”
But I’m at a point now where I know I eventually have to say, ‘Nobody’s ever going to see it if I’m going to wait for this thing to be perfect.’
Juniper isn’t put off by this idea or concept that she needs to develop a style to be successful or an artist. “My best advice to budding artists would be to not focus on it. Experiment with different mediums and make sure you have the basics down pat. If you practice every day and get good at the fundamentals, the rest should come with time.”
Despite her years of practice and execution, there are some things that Juniper still grapples with and works to overcome. She says that while there are multiple things she struggles with, one of the most prominent is getting her ideas onto paper.
“Creating is always a struggle for me. It’s a struggle because I want to make sure that everything’s perfect,” she reveals. “The ideas and concepts come easily but putting that down on paper is challenging. But I’m at a point now where I know I eventually have to say, ‘Nobody’s ever going to see it if I’m going to wait for this thing to be perfect.’”
It becomes especially difficult when she hits a roadblock in her creative process, something that many creative minds know can put a hinder on the development of the craft and be extremely discouraging.
Juniper shares, “One of my favorite ways of overcoming art block is listening to music. Music is my escape.” She says of this method, “I get so much inspiration from other forms of expression through the eyes of other people. Nothing is more inspiring than watching other people describe their passions…”
Through her art, Juniper is able to incorporate her other passions with her audience. A fan of science-fiction and fantasy genres, she includes some of that mystic and magic into her pieces. “There are times I want to draw things with a message, but other times I just want to draw what I dreamed I could be,” she says. “Other times, I will let my hand/brain do their thing.”
Some of this comes from her love of anime and animation when she was younger. “Growing up I wanted to be one of the strong, pretty girls I saw on Sailor Moon, but it made me sad that I didn’t see a lot of cartoons that looked like me.” From this came the basics of what she still does today. “I developed my technique early on by just drawing myself as a character from my favorite TV shows, the same way so many kids grow up drawing superheroes. Maybe sometimes we draw what we want to become.”
Most of my artwork isn’t necessarily made to convey a message, but rather it is a visual representation of my emotions at the time.
Though artists can do this at any time they want, Inktober – an event during October in which artists complete a drawing every day from a prompt list – lets them expand the limits of their imagination and of what their subjects can be.
“My favorite aspect of participating in Inktober is to focus behind improving my skills and developing positive drawing habits for myself.” Juniper admits, “I am not a fast drawer, so challenges that require me to create an ink drawing and post it online every day for the month of October can be intimidating. I’ve been using the prompt list, which is very interesting and helpful, and it takes me out of my comfort zone!” She teases, “I’ll be doing it again this year, so stay tuned!”
When TEENPLICITY asked Juniper to look through her catalog of pieces and pick out a favorite, she hesitated.
“I have an issue with the word ‘favorite’ because it seems so final,” she explains. “Every piece that I’ve created was tied to my emotions in some way – it’s hard to choose just one.” However, there is a creation that sticks out to her. “There is one piece called ‘Moon Shoes’. It has been sitting in the corner of my studio for about two years. Everyone that sees this piece asks me if I will ever sell it. But I can never bring myself to part with it.”
It is the emotional connection that keeps her holding onto it. “There are pieces that are made just to look good… and then there are others with tales behind it. ‘Moon Shoes’ was created during very dark times in my life. When I was battling with depression and feelings of hopelessness. It’s a strange piece compared to many of my other pieces, but it makes me reflect on that period in my life and realize how far I’ve come,” Juniper says.
It may be surprising but ‘Moon Shoes’ isn’t a piece that she lists as the most personal to her. “I find that I get most attached to doodles in my sketchbooks. They convey this sense of spontaneity and carelessness that I can never seem to replicate when I’m actually trying to,” Juniper ponders. “Often, I also find that whilst doodles are simple, they resonate more emotion somehow than my other drawings. It’s almost like they look softer, rawer, and more authentic.”
Her toughest piece to create, however, is one she is still working on.
“The hardest piece I started creating is a 40” x 36” mixed media painting. While it is not finished, it is representative of my style,” she says before confessing, “But the creating process is really, really grueling. Tens of thousands of unmixed colors laid down in small strokes, painted over bright white canvas for luminescent light reflection.” Juniper did a massive amount of prep work before her brush even touched the canvas. “I spent months collecting photographic references and color samples, then I worked up a composition that included all the elements required. This piece will probably take me months to complete but I am looking forward to the journey.”
Work twice as hard in the beginning, because that’s what it takes – no one will do it for you.
The journey she talks about is the one surrounding her painting but there is a larger journey at work, one she is currently on as she continues to grow as an artist. Down this road, she continues to share her work with others.
“I don’t always have an intent when creating something,” she begins. “Most of my artwork isn’t necessarily made to convey a message, but rather it is a visual representation of my emotions at the time.”
Putting all of one’s emotions on display for the world to view and appreciate or critique is a daunting task for anyone. Juniper is aware of that aspect every time she shares a new piece.
“Displaying my art can feel like stripping naked and standing in the middle of the street for all to see. You’ll be judged, sometimes quite harshly. You’ll be rejected, sometimes for seemingly arbitrary reasons,” Juniper says, acknowledging that these aspects come with art. “When the work is authentically you, how can you not take it personally?” she asks. “But sometimes you hear people’s interpretations that give you a different perspective on your work, and help you see it in a new light. It can be a moment of self-reflection and help you find out something about yourself through another person’s perspective.”
When she’s not doing an art show, another way to garner an immediate reaction is on social media, like Instagram where Juniper currently boasts nearly 3,000 followers. Social media is a double-edged sword, according to the artist. “With social media, I am able to be my own boss and reach as many people as I want, the way I want. But social media can be very toxic to your mental health.”
Discussing how it’s affected the way she approaches and creates art, Juniper says, “I had to learn to do [my] art for myself and to stop comparing myself to others. No matter what style or medium I try, there will always be someone ‘better’ in one way or another, but I’m the only one who can produce my style of art, with my perspective and influences.”
A look back at how her art has evolved over the years has Juniper sharing the confidence she has in herself and her work. “I feel like my style is becoming ‘mine’ and that’s a place I’ve been struggle to reach for nearly a decade. I’ve been experimenting with oil paints this past year and really enjoy creating larger pieces that allow for more detail and complexity.”
A reflection on what has surprised her the most about what she’s created as she has grown as an artist brings about a fact of life as an artist.
“I think there is a point where an artist must consciously choose to allow their art to be a true extension of themselves. Authenticity, or lack thereof, is a major hurdle to overcome…”she says. “It wasn’t until I stopped thinking about making it ‘perfect’ that I could actually start being true to myself.”
Juniper shares happily, “I’m so blessed to have reached a point with my art where I feel like I am able to express myself freely!”
Another thing that she has learned over the years doesn’t actually utilize her art talents, though she learned this because of her art. “I’ve taught myself so many skills I didn’t expect I’d need to learn about – more of the administrative side: managerial skills, business skills, and so on. Most artists I know joke that only 20 percent of our jobs are creating art and it’s true!” she exclaims in agreement. “I wear more hats than I’d expected I would, but it’s worth the precious moments I get to create through my passion.”
Through her passion, over the years Juniper has created an endless amount of art. While she recently redid an old piece on Instagram, she does admit that she can be critical of her work. “For example, I uploaded a video on YouTube years ago giving viewers a look into my old sketchbook. And while editing the video, I wanted to delete it because I could see that in the beginning of the book, my skills weren’t as strong as they were at the end of the book. But looking back, it gives me the opportunity to see the growth in my work, and helps me find what I want my art to reflect or not. It’s really nice to see my personal growth in my skills and career.”
The growth Juniper has experienced is immeasurable. It is a lifetime of lessons and skills that she is grateful for. She has learned some of it the hard way, and through that, she knows exactly what she’d tell her younger self.
“I would tell my younger self that, ‘Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you’re doing, you will be successful.’ Don’t have an ego. Work twice as hard in the beginning, because that’s what it takes – no one will do it for you.”