“Are you man enough?” Jack Reynolds, AKA Ren, poses this relatable question in his new zine, Bummer
The artist, illustrator and designer talks us through his recent zine – a lockdown project that questions the notion of masculinity.
- Ayla Angelos
- 6 July 2020
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Since graduating in 2012, Jack Reynolds – who goes by the alias of Ren – has been working on various commissions in the design and art direction realms. “However,” he tells It’s Nice That, “illustrating and creating personal artworks has been something that has remained a constant throughout.”
Moonlighting on his more illustrative practice, this part of his creative output is perfectly balanced alongside his commercial work. As it’s not his main source of income, either, he sees it as an opportunity for experimentation. “I have the freedom to pick and choose exactly what I would like to take on and communicate with my work,” he adds. A further aspect that he enjoys is the ability to produce something in “complete isolation” – a contrast to the highly collaborative process found within his creative directing roles for global campaigns for brands like Adidas.
“My work focuses on social issues that feel relatable to everyone,” he continues to explain. By shifting focus onto themes of acceptance, freedom and expression, as well as “how we need to be more connected to one another as humans,” Jack’s work is engaging from concept to execution. This approachable aspect is achieved through a more simple and direct tone of voice, paired with a “sense of immediacy” and pace to everything that he creates – “embracing imperfections and covering up my colour blindness with overly vibrant colour combinations.”
While looking at his most recent project, Bummer, all of his intentions – and dynamic colour palettes – become clear. Like many, Jack decided to conjure up a new project while in lockdown, aided by publishing house Side Orders, which reached out to see if he’d wanted to make anything. “It was the perfect time as a bunch of shoots and campaigns that I had been working on were put on pause,” he says, and with just a handful of commercial projects going forward it was an ideal time to start on something new. So, putting his mind towards a new personal project, he began to question: “What are all of the men around the globe secretly doing behind closed doors?” This query was the start of Bummer, a zine filled with artworks exploring the notions of masculinity, body positivity, love, lust and pride, with all profits going to All Out, a global movement fighting for equality in the LGBTQ+ community.
As for the process, Jack pulls inspiration from the mundane moments of everyday life and morphs these elements into something more “comical” or “sexually suggestive”. This is achieved through his simple facial gestures and character positioning, where each has its own narrative but, when pulled together as a whole, create a larger story. “If any of the pieces felt like they destroyed the balance then I cut them from the project,” Jack adds, “but that only happened with two drawings”. With a variety of tools at hand, Jack uses pens, paint, markers and gouache, and even an iPad to develop his characters and colourful, cheeky scenes. “It felt like the best way to get all of my thoughts out instantaneously without the need for scanning or cleaning up, which meant I could focus purely on the stories that I wanted to create.”
An example of such stories can be seen in his favourite image combination of 3’s A Crowd and Pardon [pictured below]. The first sees a trio of characters, two of which are involved in some passionate kissing. The third character, however, seems shockingly left out. Jack explains how this piece “questions the idea of monogamy”, and asks the viewer to question their thoughts of open relationships and whether it’s something they’d consider. “The type of treatment really spells out the narrative in a way that’s almost quite elementary, as I’ve intentionally only used primary colours,” he says. Pardon, on the other hand, sits to the right of the page and depicts a typical everyday moment, “however they might be clothed”. This pairing is favoured for the reaction that Jack hopes to punctuate from the imagery, and also because his old zine Bears appears to be on the wall of his character’s bedroom.
Above all, Jack hopes to get his message across with humour. “Are you man enough?” is marked on the back cover of the zine which, in Jack’s eyes, brings up memories of past experiences. “Being ‘enough’ of anything is something that I feel people ask themselves regardless of gender or sexual orientation,” he concludes. “I remember when I came out at the ripe old age of 23, people would somehow question my masculinity. An idea that feels absurd to me now seven years later, but one that’s never really left the back of my mind.
“These are the types of questions I like to ask in my drawings, using them as a catalyst for positive change within the viewer’s mind.”