The Truth In This Art Podcast - Insights for Artists, Creatives, and Cultural Leaders

Kevin Jay Stanton: A Conversation on Botanica, Tarot, and the Creative Process

Kevin Jay Stanton: A Conversation on Botanica, Tarot, and the Creative Process

Rob Lee: You're welcome to The Truth in This Art, your source for conversations at the intersection of arts, culture and community. I am your host, Rob Lee. Do remember to share, subscribe and leave us a review. Five stars would be great, but whatever you think we deserve to, you know, really help amplify and get these stories out there. Reviews, sharing, subscriptions. It gets us discovered. And yeah, it's great. Also, check out our Patreon. That exists as well. It's going to be in the show notes. And in addition, dive back into the archive with nearly 700 interviews. You're bound to find something that either you missed the first time or you should listen to again and really get that inspiration going. So thank you. Today, my guest is a freelance illustrator who weaves the threads of mythology, nature and symbolism into his art. My guest is the creator of Botanica, a tarot deck about the language of flowers. Please welcome Kevin J. Stanton. Welcome to the podcast.
Kevin Jay Stanton: Thank you so much for having me.

Rob Lee: Thank you for for making the time coming on. And it's one of those things where, you know, I like to really show where that connection point is that we didn't have a chance to to meet in person at the small press expo. But that's where I first became aware of you and your story. I was in that that panel, then the the terror panel, which I was like, this is great. So, you know, this would be helpful for myself as well. Welcome you, but could you introduce yourself for your own words and share some of your early inspiration that helped shape your creativity?

Kevin Jay Stanton: Definitely. Yeah. My name is Kevin J. Stanton. I am an illustrator that focuses mostly on, I would say, flowers, botanical art. I think my most popular project is Botanica Tarot, which is all about the language of flowers. Gosh, I mean, my first inspiration, I think unsurprisingly, I did a lot of projects on Van Gogh and Georgia O'Keeffe as a child. Good. So, yeah, that was kind of always there. I actually found a book that my parents bought me, I think, when I was eight. That's a book of beautiful plant photography. Just so, yeah, I've always I've always been drawn to plants and now spent my life drawing.

Rob Lee: I was waiting for you to do that turn of phrase. They're being drawn to plants and spending time drawing.

Kevin Jay Stanton: I saw it coming and I was very excited. I was like, will I pull this off? Thank goodness.

Rob Lee: As you were saying earlier, it's like, I talk a lot, but.

Kevin Jay Stanton: Yeah. Sometimes it doesn't come.

Rob Lee: So, so that's, that's, that's fascinating. Like, you know, having some of those like early reference points kind of show back up in this, like revisiting it as, as an adult, like, um, you know, I, I've talked about it on this podcast before that, you know, one of those early, early, early experiences. For me, I was probably, you know, a teenager, but, you know, like 14 though, like barely a teenager. And I would have like the small handy mics and we were in a very competitive school. So you're like, you might not be here next semester. Let me get your take on this thing. And I was doing some proto podcasting, like in the late 90s. That was a version of of this. And and even going further back, because, you know, and I've had to revisit this a lot recently. I wanted to be an illustrator. You know, I want to be a comic illustrator specifically. And, you know, just sometimes when you get the the response from the school, you didn't get in. And there's no sort of aftercare creatively. I was like, yeah, well, my color pencils out of the window. This isn't for me and I'll never engage in it. And, you know, I've been able to to revisit that and do it in a different way. I'm now writing. And, you know, the partner I referred to earlier, you know, at the con, we're both going there like and we got a lot of the con or the X-Star rather, you know, going there as folks who are writers of comics and enjoyers of comics and sort of small press. So that's really cool. And I'm happy that we bring this together.

Kevin Jay Stanton: Yeah, me too. I'm very excited. I'm glad you were at the panel, too. Yeah, absolutely.

Rob Lee: So talk about some of some of the influences you touched on on two of them already, but I I saw a bit more. So tell me about some of those those other, you know, influences and how some of these like elements from those influences show up in your work. Obviously, you have, you know, Keith that's in there. So some of the other that come to mind.

Kevin Jay Stanton: Well, you know, it's funny thinking sort of what you were saying, thinking about things that engaged you when you were younger and then only later you sort of realize you're following that. The book that I mentioned, Flower Photography, it was not until I was at least halfway into making the major arcana for Botanica that I realized every photo in that book is photographed on a black background. and they're like richly saturated photos. And truly like a year into this project, at least, I was like, oh, my God, it's so crazy to see, you know, where that came from. And also my mom collects Russian lacquerware boxes, or at least did when I was a kid. And there are also rich paintings on wood. with black backgrounds a lot of the times. And so it's funny to see that crop up. But I mean, as a kid, I adored, I still love Pokemon. And I don't know how much that actually shows up or not. But I was also completely obsessed with reading encyclopedias about the natural world. I have a book on minerals that I I was just at the beach this past weekend, and I think about this book I had that was all shells. I think it was literally just photos of shells. And I loved mythology as a kid, and I continue to love mythology. So, yeah, and fairy tales, too. I read a lot as a kid. And it's funny to see I'm working on something right now that is sort of like not a modern fairy tale that sounds very pretentious, but it is very inspired by the sort of the like short, moralistic quality that a lot of like fairy tales have where it's like, maybe you shouldn't have done that. You know, that's the, that's the kind of crux. And yeah, I mean, I love video games. I love collecting like magical items in video games. That's definitely cropped up a lot, too.

Rob Lee: So I mean, I'm hearing like whimsy and I and I love them. You know, I one of the things in doing this and really just putting a lot that I have towards it, like, you know, you get to a point where it's like, all right, time to be serious. It's not. And, you know, every now and again, I'll buy books and I'm you know, I'm not an art person. I think that's one of the things that kind of works here. I'm I'm someone that's curious. You know what I mean? So. And being curious, I'm bringing in influences from different places and making comparisons or connections that are the approved connections, if you will. And part of that comes from just reading kind of like odd things and looking at things from a different standpoint. So I'm reading this book right now about failure, but through like the lens of design. And I'm like, oh, right, intentional failure. Um, to a degree, yes, like that failure isn't bad. And the the the person who wrote this book, he's a photographer. So he's taking images where people kind of like botched it. Like, oh, cool. OK. And it's just like you learn from it and things of that nature. And, you know, it reminds me in many ways of, you know, how you get stronger, right? Like when you're you're doing a fitness program or lifting weights, what have you. If you're like, I can't lift that, you know, be you know, be safe. Don't injure yourself. But sometimes you don't complete a rep. It lets you know what the parameters are. Yeah, definitely. And you get that up next time. Are you getting stronger things of the sort? And I even remember speaking with a jazz musician a couple of weeks ago, and I was like, so you guys are just comedians, right? He was like, tell me more. And I was like, you're going to have to be more clear. I was like intimate settings. You're out there like working through your your your work or what have you. He's like, OK, I'm hearing this. I'm hearing this and I'm making connections. I think that's sort of the value that's there, that that's sitting there. And, you know, it all comes from sort of curiosity. I was probably I probably was annoying as a kid, just asking all types of questions. So why?

Kevin Jay Stanton: Me too. Oh, my parents used to call me the sponge because I was all, I would be like in the other part of the house and I would be listening to whatever they were talking about. And I also just, I, similarly, I, I think I, curiosity is a really nice word, I think, to describe, uh, my interest in things too. Um, I just love to learn. I'm that person who someone will ask something random and I'm like, no, I actually do want to know, you know, like, But what is the population of this town? I don't know. Will I ever use it again? No.

Rob Lee: I was one of those guys that I would do really well at like six degrees of separation, especially when it comes to. Oh, it's like, you know, he was this person. And the thing that's really funny about it, my partner doesn't remember any names. So she's like, you know, the person that was in the thing. And I'm like, yes, you like it, do you? I do.

Kevin Jay Stanton: Actually, I say we're read in that one film.

Rob Lee: And I do remember what they were doing. So that's very fun. Let's delve a little bit into Botanica. So like it obviously, you know, you know, I was in I was sitting in a panel and, you know, just sitting there like enthralled, like it was funny. I pulled out my notepad and literally I was like, all right, KJS. I was just like trying to shorthand every person I wanted to talk to. So, yeah. Can I think you were touching on it a bit there, but can you unpack sort of the inspiration behind Marian botanical art with like mysticism, right? Like of of tarot cards, because, you know, as I was saying earlier, I think that I'm, you know, an enlightened individual. I think that I've gotten some of the you know, the good spirit of the mysticism. Yeah. For my creative practice, you know, thanks to the loving love of a person. So what was the thinking of bringing these two, you know, sort of ideas together?

Kevin Jay Stanton: Um, I think, well, I've used a, um, I would say it's a medicinal herb, maybe, deck, for, until I made Potatica, basically, called the Herbal Tarot. that I bought as a teenager. I was very lucky, despite living in what at least felt like a small town, having like a magic shop in town. And it was the first, maybe not the first one, I think I had three ultimately as a teenager. But I was really drawn to it. The thing that I liked about it was that it was you know, botanical imagery with traditional waitsmith imagery. So kind of a combination. And they talked a lot about like the I would say the properties, more medicinal properties of plants. I don't know, to be completely honest, not to drag this time. I don't know how often that actually like really resonated. You know, the herbal quality resonated with the meaning of each card. But I knew for a long time, I really wanted to make my own Aero deck. And it was every iteration I've made has been botanical in theme. The difference, though, is that I think, you know, you always see it's hard to sort of like strike out on something that feels new. Sometimes that's a it's a very like naked process. And So the two decks that I tried to make before Botanica were botanical in nature, but they were extremely Waitsmith oriented. It was kind of shoehorning plant and plant meanings into more traditional illustrations. And I petered out after I think I did three in the And I made one of the second one. And they just, I don't know, I very quickly lost interest. Now looking back, I think it's because I wasn't really making the deck I wanted to make. I was making a deck that I thought other people would like with elements of what I wanted to make. And then I sat down to do, I think it was a gallery show somewhere in Brooklyn. I could not tell you what the theme was. It might have just been completely open-ended. But I ended up, I'd been drawing in my sketchbook some plants on solid backgrounds and made a few. A couple of those made it in as majors. I think the star and the emperor are both original. And then I don't know, it just clicked, you know, it felt like the right move. And so I just kept making that until it was over.

Rob Lee: Great. I think, you know. So so one of the things that I'm doing and it ties to one of the things you touched on. So this this semester, if you will, because I got to think in things in terms of semesters now, I'm teaching for the first time and teaching podcasting. And I had to revisit things like my novice, like a person that doesn't have any experience. And some might say I am a novice. But in going back into it, I, you know, talk with, you know, my students on You know, if you're going to do something, don't do it for other people. You'll eventually find them, but do them for like make the podcast that you want to do. And I kind of heard that with you and kind of getting to that point of this is what I want to make, not sort of, well, maybe these people are like, and I can wedge a little bit of my stuff in there. Yeah, yeah. It's like you got to figure out, like, what's the thing for you? And even when I'm doing this, you know, it might be someone who's a really cool person with a lot of clout, but it's hard to fake enthusiasm. It's hard to fake interest. It's hard to fake curiosity. So, you know, for the folks that I've had on, I think I shared the number before we got started of how many people I've interviewed. You know, it's interest there. It's a desire there. And it's not like, well, we've got to go through the doldrums and bring this person on and talk about their new book.

Kevin Jay Stanton: Yeah, I mean, especially when you're doing, I think, self-generated work. You know, if you're lucky or if you even want to, you know, engage a publisher or, you know, whatever other entity might help you bring it to fruition, you will probably have to shave corners off of, you know, your most pure vision. But I think that's an even stronger reason to make it exactly what you want to make to start, because then more of that will make it into the final product. Which, by the way, is not to say that Beehive shaved any quarters off of Botanica. They were very kind and let me basically be like, so I'm going to go over the top. And they were like, I guess, yes, let's do that. But you know, a lot of projects, I feel like almost all projects that we end up consuming in some way have been um shifted yeah sometimes for the better sometimes for the worse but um self-generated i really now now that i've had a positive experience but um i think it should be indulgent why not

Rob Lee: Yeah, I mean, this is not related, but it does relate to, you know, sort of the being indulgent thing. So, you know, I'm a child of the late to the mid to late 80s until the 90s. And I it's just a movie. I don't I don't it's a movie that I don't think I'm even old enough now to watch. But I went through the documentary for RoboCop and. Oh, yeah. Like the six hour documentary RoboDoc and listening to old RoboDoc.

Kevin Jay Stanton: That's so good.

Rob Lee: I think it's on like ScreenBox and Peter Weller is wild. He's just talking about being method the entire time, neckerchief, the whole thing. Right. And I'm listening to it and I'm hearing about this sort of vision of these are the different cuts that we had to go to the MPAA about. That movie had nine different edits to it, and it changed the rule of how many times you can edit a movie before it's like completely, finally rejected. And it's like we went over the top with the violence initially. And I was like, oh, and then we scaled it down. The idea was go to the furthest extreme and then scale it down. And it is something about that where, you know, I own the DVD, the sort of collector's edition. The runtimes are exactly the same. The cuts are so minute. But it's just like, oh, we're going to use this shot versus the shot when, you know, Murphy's arm goes flying off. Right. You know, but sort of having that approach and basically is like, I guess this can sound hokey, but being brave, being courageous in whatever your creative pursuit is, and then you have to scale it back. Sure. But at least you have, you know, sort of that as the baseline.

Kevin Jay Stanton: Well, I think you said it, too, that it's more important to have like. your unadulterated version slash vision, and then it will find people. I mean, it's harder to build any audience online right now, especially, but I do think that that's very true. A lot of the creators I follow are making, you know, the most indulgent webcomic that is like hyper-specific to their interests, or even like one of my favorite people on TikTok She just talks about, she makes like jokey Skyrim videos. And I'm like, she's making this for me only. And I'm so glad that she, you know.

Rob Lee: Thank God. That's great. Much like I did an interview a little while back with artist Beth Evans. And it's literally like, yeah, I'm talking about these very specific feelings of very specific situations in this comic. And I'm like, I felt seen or I don't know. Then I know someone I'm least one or two people removed from someone who had that exact experience.

Kevin Jay Stanton: Yeah, definitely. No, I think it's very important. I think I might have mentioned it in the panel, but, you know, I had been given career advice as I was leaving school that I would never be able to make a career just drawing plants and hands. I was doing a lot of plants and hands, lots of symbolism. And, you know, that did, I think it was true if, because at that time I, really thought I was going to be an editorial illustrator. And I do think that would be maybe too specific. But I think I took it the wrong way, which was basically like my interests will not appeal or be viable enough. And they weren't for a long time. But I think one of the successes of Botanica is it is hyper specific in its excitement and indulgence of just plants. Plants and symbolism and mythology, you know, is things that I love. Yeah, it's cool in that way.

Rob Lee: I dig it. So I want to touch back on a little bit with sort of, you know, the, you know, the, the, the small press Expo in my awareness, you know, you, and, and that, I'm like, I'm, I'm, you know, I'm a novice when it comes to tarot. Uh, how, how, how was it like engaging to, to an degree in what you did? Cause like, I find that particular convention to be, or Expo rather, to be a lot different than some of the other ones, like even the smaller ones that are in the region. I'm like, oh, I was able to network. I was able to book like five interviews through that. Whereas other ones, it's like, who are you again? So, you know, speaking of sort of being there in an environment like that, or being around, quote unquote, your people, talk about what that is and being able to be in community and in, I guess, sort of fellowship with your peers and even people who are buying your work and supporting your work.

Kevin Jay Stanton: I mean, I think SPX definitely is one of the, I wouldn't say I do a ton of conventions, but SPX has always been just like this warm, inviting place where people like to talk about your work on top of, you know, supporting you by buying your work. I think there's a level of engagement that is hard to find a lot of the time. I mean, my first SBX, I shared, and I don't think they let you do this anymore. I shared a third of a half of a table. And, uh, and actually I ran into, uh, I, this sort of speaks to it too. I, I was only at the show for half of Saturday this year. Um, I had a signing and then the panel and then I had to race home because I screwed up my schedule. Um, but even in that time, I got to run into the two people that I shared that, you know, third of table with, Ian Densford and Alec McGovern. And it was such a, like, nice kind of full circle moment, even though I've seen them since. But to be there, God, I think maybe a decade, maybe 2013. Oh, yeah. But are excited about your work, I think is so important. And I know for me personally, a lot of my networking has come from those kinds of conventions. And so it's always really nice to see people that I'm even actually, I wore this shirt on purpose, which listeners won't be able to, but it was a person who they'd come to my table last year. And apparently, I think in like 2019, I'd come by their table and asked if they had this shirt in that size. And they came back and said, I do have that shirt if you're still interested. Now, I have no memory of anything. I have a terrible memory. I have to write every single thing down. But I was like, yes, absolutely. You know, like I love this shirt. And I think SPS really fosters that, which is really nice.

Rob Lee: It's it's great. It's one of my favorite to go to. And this is this is only this was only the second year that I've gone. But oh, wow. You know, again, being able to interview Warren like early. So I was just like, oh, yeah. And, you know, doing that and being intentional about it, but also you know, going for curiosity and the plan as far as going to the next one is probably we're just going to stay in Bethesda, go to all of the sports bars because I'm a food snob.

Kevin Jay Stanton: So I don't know what we got here, but I mean, if you want recommendations, there's a dim sum place near there. It's like a it's not a secret, but

Rob Lee: It is good. I'm good to know. Good to know. If you have a car, you have to drive back. I'll Uber everywhere. It's fine. OK, you're good. After this, I'll tell you. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. Because it's, um, you know, and I, and I look for that, like, you know, I had, um, this, this is slightly related, but the, you know, the thing you were, you were mentioning as far as it feeling warm and inviting, like not only the sort of setup, it's, you know, it's a, it's a different vibe. Like I went to, um, a convention that I've gone to six in a row of, and, um, I didn't get that. It felt more, you know, see the state. Yeah. And and I actually was escorted out. Wait, what? Of a panel that had a really weird rule about the seating. They didn't have the proper capacity. And I was like, I'm not going to wait in line. I'm already in the room. Why would I step out to get into a line that I can't get into the panel I'm already going to sit in on? And judging by my size, you you wouldn't have probably seen me. I'm six four. So it's like I'm a lot like, yeah, we're going to get security. They looked at me when they said it. It was six of us. So, you know, it was kind of like, I'm here. I'm wearing an anime. I'm wearing a Yu Yu Hakusho shirt. Like, who am I threatening like?

Kevin Jay Stanton: Yeah, seriously. And also, like when you're already in the room, is it not just easier to be like, OK, right.

Rob Lee: Sure. And, you know, you start speaking common sense. But, you know, the funny thing about it, you know, going to SPX, we ended up it was a it was like a black horror panel. And yeah, going to like SBX, we were able to go to a different horror paddle. And I was like, Oh, right. This was the thing we missed out on. Great. Oh, my God. You know that. And but yeah, I think, you know, that sort of convention in the setup, it was it was just great. And being able to I think you're the second of five people that I've booked interviews with from that. And I got Jonathan Bayless initially, who was very funny. We were joking about being aquariums, which was something she was like, oh, also a New Yorker, you know, have you? Oh, yeah, yeah. And my partner is the same age and from Brooklyn. So she's just like, oh, where's he from? Which part? Yeah. Like she's a park slope. So. Oh, OK. Yeah. Like so let me let me let me close out on this sort of question before I get to those rapid fire questions, because you said something earlier that I definitely need to get some extra context on. But before I go into that part, I want to round off sort of the main conversation and talk a bit about sort of like openness and community support. Like we were touching on that a bit. But, you know, I think You know, and I'm relatively new to having sort of the the Patreon, the GoFundMe, all of that sort of stuff and getting this this work funded to have some of that indulgence, right, that we look for. Talk a bit about sort of sharing parts of that creative process and being transparent. And I see some of the BTS stuff, you know, of like, this is where we're at within the process. So talk about that. And your role is being like an illustrator, being the person that's like taking from here and putting on I guess the pad or eventually the card.

Kevin Jay Stanton: Yeah, I mean, I think that again, social media now, I think is a lot more difficult, but I can literally track at least one trajectory of my career from conventions, from community and not in a, I feel like sometimes think it's like, okay, I'm going to, I'm going to meet up with this person, and then this person is going to put like, it's never that clear. Yeah. But I remember at MoCA in New York, I remember meeting someone who many, like, way, way later introduced me to, like, an opportunity that led to me meeting one person, which led to, you know, like, I can see that, like, sort of connection. But even beyond that, I think, you know, even beyond, like, the career part of it, I do think that there's so much importance in just like being open and sharing. I think I understand why sometimes artists online can be very proprietary, I guess I would say. But as somebody who has benefited so much from the kindness and openness of my idols and art strangers, I always try and be equally open. Because, you know, the thing is, like the beauty, especially when things are like going well, the beauty of being a freelance illustrator is that all the different ways that, you know, you connect with people, you connect with projects, and in ways that you could literally, you could never, ever, you know, set out to, like, do a, you know, draw a line between. And I think that's wonderful. And I don't want to be an end point in someone's sort of, like, connective journey. I would like to continue. And I learn about that all the time. There's another illustrator whose work I love. You can see the original here. Very slowly. Leanne Flug, she, I would say she's a bit younger than I am. We're both botanical illustrators. And I think she was one of the first people who I ever saw, instead of waiting to be asked, who her manufacturers are, where she gets her shipping supplies. She just puts it all up front. It's on her website, it's in her shop. And because of that, I've also started to do that just because it's so clandestine. There's so many ways to do things, especially nowadays. But when you're starting now, you could get taken for a ride by some company or you could just truly have no idea where to start and it feels like everybody else is sort of speeding ahead and they're still at the starting line. So yeah, I put a lot of weight on that. I guess to your other question about patronage and process, I love sharing that. Truly, my… My favorite part, I think, probably, of Botanica is I expected people would like the art because it's plants, you know, and I have confidence in my ability to paint plants, but to see people so excited and genuinely invested in not just the meaning of the plant, but also how I got there, why I picked I don't like right here is one of the unfinished paintings. Like, why did I pick those cups for the three of cups to match olives? Why did I pick olives? And I think that was probably a big draw of my my Patreon. Now I'm sharing previews of the upcoming expansion to botanica. But yeah, it's been really exciting to share the process, both like the actual painting process, but also I put so much thought into my work, sometimes obsessively, you know, to have people respond to that is really special.

Rob Lee: That's that's great. And I try to do that same thing. I like what you were saying, like not being a sort of you know, end point when when someone's on that journey for like information for lack of a better term. And, you know, when I do this, I'm like, I use this, this and this, you know, I tell you, and it was like, hit me up. I like, you know, I forget certain some of the connective details. I have a pretty decent memory, but I forget some of the connective details. So it's like, oh, right. I should put the Patreon in the show notes. Right. Yeah. Let me just do that. Or But if someone is like, hey, how do you do this or hey, can you make a connection or can you do any of these different things? I'm there for that purpose because, you know, I'm the way that this podcast in this community grows and always feels weird to say it is through collaboration is through folks saying, hey, I'm open to talking about my stuff and sharing some time with you in this platform. And I'm not going to be a jerk ass about it. You know, I am the greatest.

Kevin Jay Stanton: No, I, I agree. And I, I also, I, I truly love, like, I get inspired by the people I follow all the time. So to hoard any knowledge that I might've gained from, um, scrolling on Twitter and seeing, I saw somebody post a way to use one tool in Photoshop that has changed my workflow? And like, why wouldn't I share that? You know what I mean? Like there's something like that, which to that person may have been just a quick, you know, video, just a quick tip. Um, it's something I use every day. Um, and I, I would like to be, um, you know, when I can, sometimes I can't share things when it comes to like my publishers, but anything that I, you know, have access to, I also try not to like pay well enough, you know, like if someone sends me a DM, and it's like, what kind of acrylic do you use? I'm like, you know, this is the brand like this, I don't think there's any harm in sharing any of that, really, you know,

Rob Lee: I agree. And I'll close on this piece before I get into these rapid fire questions. It's like a lesson I learned from a chef. Like I was saying, I make those connections, right? I was there in the chef. We were filming a pilot for a TV series, like this sort of man on the street. And I was said man on the street in my sort of like social network and my friends in IRL. And I'm like, hey, can we, you know, go through this mushroom stew that you make? And it's like 28 ingredients in it. And he was like, oh, these are each thing have no problem with showing it. And I was like, you're going to show me how to make it. He gave me a cooking lesson in this video. It was great. Right. That's cool. And I'm like, do you care that everyone's going to be able to see all of the ingredients? He was like, no, because they're not going to know the sort of technique that goes along with it. He's like, I'm happy to share it. But, you know, what I do is what I do. And I was like, there's something in that.

Kevin Jay Stanton: And even then, it's not going to be the same soup. You know, like even if you share some of the technique, people's tastes change. Like you can't really copy that.

Rob Lee: Right. You just get influenced by it as they say in Austin Kleon books. Exactly. So in these final moments, I want to do rapid fire. Then we'll close out there. So let's see. So don't overthink these. I always tell everyone, don't overthink. Oh, God. OK, here's the first one. What is your, like, favorite tool, like something that you can't live with, that you can't live without in like your studio? It's like, is it a certain sort of like writing instrument, drawing instrument or what have you? I mean, don't be obvious. Like, yeah, you know, I need like for me, got to have a microphone, I guess. Right, right. Which is kind of dickish. It's like, look, that's the fault.

Kevin Jay Stanton: Oh, sure. Yeah. So I work traditionally and digitally. I would say, traditionally, I have this tiny metal-cased mechanical pencil that I bought from Muji a long time ago. It is the only pencil I want to ever sketch with. And for, gosh, for digital You mean beyond like the actual tool I use of like an iPad?

Rob Lee: No, that's fine. It's an iPad, yeah. I'm really interested in this mechanical pencil because, again, it goes back to the Austin Kleon thing I was touching on a moment ago. And yeah, about the analog-to-digital loop. It's like you got to shake your things up.

Kevin Jay Stanton: Yeah. Oh, it's literally right by my right hand. It's you can see it's the sticker has worn down quite a bit. I love this pencil.

Rob Lee: That's great. I mean, like, I only really use Zoom recording gear. So like I have a PodTrack 8, we're recording this through, I have a Shure microphone. Yeah, it's kind of that, you know, they haven't sponsored me, cowards. But, you know, that's what I use. That's what I use. So you mentioned Pokemon earlier. So I can answer this in the really challenging way or make it video game related. Which one do you prefer?

Kevin Jay Stanton: Let's go for challenging. Let's live a little. What's your favorite Pokemon? Starmie. Really? Yes. Starmie is incredibly versatile. It learns at least a move from a ton of different types. Yeah. And I also think it's it's cool as hell. I think it's really weird. But I will say I do have a bunch of plushies and my this might be my other favorite. It's Ditto as Trubbish. Nice. And he always watches me while I work. And I think he's very cute. So, yes, those are. I like that.

Rob Lee: Did you play any of the the games like the the Game Boy games back in the day?

Kevin Jay Stanton: Oh, yeah, I, I, I, I went to a mall tournament for Pokemon Blue and Red.

Rob Lee: Hell yeah.

Kevin Jay Stanton: And I did get that Mew, of course, because I had to. Back when they still like, you know, hooked your Game Boy up and transferred, you know, a legendary Pokemon to you. Yeah.

Rob Lee: That's that's great. I mean, the you know, the fanboys out there, the nerds out there going to like, Oh yeah, I got that. I mean, those those that's pretty much my beginning and end with Pokemon games. Like I had the cards. Oh, really? Oh, it was like, you know, whatever that that that year was when I guess it went from Japan to here, what have you. I mean, let's say maybe 98, maybe 99. Like my parents got a little earlier, maybe a little earlier. My parents got us all the cards. Oh, wow. It was just like, you know, all like the sort of ones that you can get. There are some like this is a necklace now. This is platinum now that in in red and blue. So, you know, me and my brother, we both had one. It's like, sure. Sure. The game with your brother is and I want to keep playing this one.

Kevin Jay Stanton: You're like, no, I actually had a Japanese copy of Silver. Could not understand any of it. But I, I, I loved it. It was before it came out in the States, and I I do not know how my parents let me spend my allowance on that because. What was I going to do with that, you know? What was I doing?

Rob Lee: I mean, you get those those imports, that sort of era, like, you know, me and my brother were really into sort of the more action oriented stuff. And that was what pulled us in because, you know, we're not, you know, karaoke, right? But when that Pokemon theme comes on, it's like you almost have to do like, you know, almost got a thing.

Kevin Jay Stanton: Oh, 151.

Rob Lee: So this is the last the last rapid fire question. And I'm always curious about this because, you know, as a person that sort of looks for those those hacks and those things that folks do to, you know, kind of like give themselves space. Yeah. What, if any, are your restorative or practices or rituals like, you know, getting the day started, you know, working on something creative? It can it can be a challenge sometimes of like, damn it, this is not I'm not working through this or it didn't hit the way that I was hoping it might have hit or what have you. What do you do to kind of like, you know, refill your cup, if you will?

Kevin Jay Stanton: Um, I go out in the garden. Now. I'm very lucky that we found a place that I could build a couple of raised beds in Brooklyn. And I'm truly like, I'll be like, I'm gonna leave the house, you know, and go step in that. And that always kind of like clears my head. Although, There was one time I was, I was really upset about something career wise. And my boyfriend Kyle had been like, Oh, you know, why don't you go like, just take a moment, they'd listen, you know, they were like, you should go into the garden and just, you know, spend some time there. And so I did do that. And I felt amazing until I saw We just built them and I planted a very few things and then I saw saffron that I planted was actually blooming and I wasn't even expecting it to grow until like a year later. So I burst back into the house crying again because I was like, there's still beauty in the world, you know. But they were like, what happened? I could still be surprised by things. Um, you know, completely rational. Um, um, but I, I, my, my secret, I do have a secret weapon for this. Um, I think you probably would have to like anime is, you know, sometimes people aren't exposed to anime at all. It's hard to be like, you should watch this. But, um, There's an anime about making an anime. I don't know if you know it. Do you know this? I'm going to look this up. It's called Keep Your Hands Off of Eizouken. And it's about three girls in high school who want to make anime. And it's a… I have chills thinking about it right now. I cannot watch this a lot because it is so special to me that I can never, like, you know, wear out the tires on it. But it's… two of the girls have, like, a lot of passion, creative passion to make what they want to make, and the third girl is all business. And it's such a well-studied, well-rounded look at not just the fun of making something, but also… the trials and tribulations that come with it. And then also how to overcome those, how to, um, make something that's not perfect, uh, but still make something. And I mean, honestly, Rob, it, it truly like, it's something really special. And I've talked to a lot of people this year who have felt kind of burned out and it is like my number one recommendation just because, um, I think it's it's so it's earnest, but it's also honest. And I think it's something special in that regard. So if you like anime and you're feeling kind of low, I would watch. Keep your hands off of Daisuke.

Rob Lee: I'm here for it. I definitely need a because, you know, my partner is a little older than me and she would reference stuff from a certain era. And she was like, do you ever watch Jim and the Holograms? I was like, nah. And now that's what I watch when it's one of those times where it's like, It's always cartoons. It's always something like animated that I don't know, just gives me sort of that juice when, you know, I'm kind of like down about certain things. Yeah, time. And I don't think I've shared this in a podcast for a long time. It was Phineas and Ferb. And I was like, really, man, a never ending summer. This is great. And, you know, something on the Disney channel, because it's like kind of it's been all you know, is cheesy, is peppy, all of that stuff. But it's so counter to this. And even, you know, sort of like any animation is something that feel if it feels so foreign. from what the day to day is, if someone were to animate like I'm based in Baltimore, right? So if someone were to animate like me in Baltimore or things that I know, I'm like, all right, it better be like a sassy cat or something that pops up. It's just too close to real life. I don't know if I want that.

Kevin Jay Stanton: I don't want to see this. So.

Rob Lee: That's pretty much it for the podcast. So, one, I want to thank you so much for coming on and spending some time with me. And two, I want to invite and encourage you to share with the listeners where they can check you out, your work, social media, website, all of that good stuff. The floor is yours.

Kevin Jay Stanton: You can find my work on my site, which is As I mentioned earlier, I am working on an expansion of Botanica. It's all about plants and their interactions with animals based on real interactions in our world, which is very fun. And it's 33 new cards, which I'm very excited about. I actually, right next to me, have all of the unpainted panels stacked on my desk. um and uh yeah i'm on uh twitter i'm on instagram and i also have patreon where i talk about my process um i think that's

Rob Lee: There you have it, folks. I want to again thank my guest Kevin J. Stanton for coming on to the podcast and sharing a bit of his journey with us. And I'm Rob Lee saying that there's art, culture and community in and around your neck of the woods. You've just got to look for it.

Creators and Guests

Rob Lee
Rob Lee
The Truth In This Art is an interview series featuring artists, entrepreneurs and tastemakers in & around Baltimore.
Kevin Jay Stanton🌿✨
Kevin Jay Stanton🌿✨
Illustrator with a green thumb. Created #botanicatarot, WIP on #thespellswordsarmoire. Co-curated #1001Knights & #BurlandFur. Repped by @jessicamileo. He/him