Celebrating the icons of pop culture
Artist JBG focuses his attention and creative talents on the pop-culture moments that keep us all entertained. We caught up with him to talk about his current obsessions.
You’ve always been a big fan of drag — which queens are currently inspiring your drawing?
Right now I’m really interested in drag beyond Rupaul’s Drag Race. With the show becoming even bigger than before – reaching an even larger audience, snatching trophies at the Emmys – there’s an interesting conversation happening. It’s good to remember that drag starts with your local queens and your local scene, and extends to the entire world. Drag also goes way beyond the selection that we get to see showcased on the show.
Drag as an art form is a very large and rich spectrum. It’s really so satisfying that Drag Race has acquired the cultural reach it has now, and I’ll always love doing my weekly Drag Race drawings, but I’m really looking forward to drawing more of the ‘Non-Ru’ girls.
Right now, I’m super obsessed with Virgin Xtravaganzah from the UK, Bambi Mercury, Ghost and Hungry from Berlin, Lady Galore and Obesia Grande from Amsterdam, Bijou Bentley, Meatball, Muffy, Evah Destruction, and Imp Kid in the US, Yuri Guaii from New-Zealand, and Gogo Starr from Iceland. Also, fierce bio queens like Creme Fatale and Lucy Garland.
Of course, one of my muses remains my dear personal friend and drag mama, Spanish drag superstar and adoptive Parisienne, the incredible Mariska Stardust.
The world of porn has been another of your go-to genres. Which porn stars are currently catching your eye?
I have to admit that I watch a lot less porn than I used to somehow, but I still try to keep an eye out for newcomers and what’s going on in big studios.
I’m really into Doryann Marguet, a fellow french man who may look like the cute boy next door but can get incredibly naughty! I’m really fascinated by him, also because he’s bisexual and stars in both gay and straight porn. He shoots for the biggest French straight porn studios, which I think is amazing and a sign that maybe the French industry is becoming more open-minded on that subject.
Titof, another french bisexual porn actor managed that in the late 90s and early 2000s, but Doryann really seems to have managed to reach even a larger audience very fast. It’s sad that some studios discriminate against performers who do both. For example, I also loved the few gay scenes Bo Sinn did, but he stopped very quickly – apparently under pressure from straight studios.
I’m also crazy about Leo Kage. Otherwise, Henrik Sommer from TimTales has quickly become my favourite super-muscly power bottom – I love his intensity in his scenes.
Maybe I’m going through a twink phase, because I’m really into Blake Mitchell, Joey Mills, Corey Marshall, Sean Ford, and of course the new generation of beautiful Bel Ami boys – Helmut Huxley, Andre Boylen, Joel Birkin, Hoyt Kogan, Peter Annaud, and Lars Norgaard.
I also love a good porn comeback, and am so happy that my dream daddies Dean Phoenix, Daniel from Sean Cody, and François Sagat are back.
Finally, as far as other newcomers are concerned, I really enjoy Max Arion, Luke Wilder, Max Adonis, Daymin Voss, DeAngelo Jackson, and Donte Thick.
You always seem to be pretty much bang-on trend when it comes to pop culture. What are some of the things that you’re currently binge-watching or getting obsessed about?
I just love keeping track of what’s going on, and pop culture is definitely a huge source of inspiration for me. One thing that has become a huge part of my life now is podcasts – I’m just completely obsessed. I used to love talk-radio when I was younger, and this is a fantastic new version of that combined with a hybrid of investigative journalism and documentaries. There are just so many good ones now, about so many diverse subjects, that it’s actually a bit dizzying.
People who follow my art will have noticed that I’ve started to draw a lot from this source of inspiration – mostly Georgia, Karen, and Steven from my beloved My Favorite Murder, which I even went to see live in Dublin. I’m also inspired by Katya and Craig’s Whimsically Volatile, and my favourite above all – My Dad Wrote a Porno. I must have listened to each episode of this one about a hundred times. I’ve actually been debating doing a weekly Belinda Blinked drawing inspired by My Dad Wrote a Porno, but sadly the new season started right when I was moving and couldn’t draw much.
I’m basically a sucker for any quality true-crime themed podcast, but I also love comedy. I’m completely obsessed with the outrageous dark British humour of Dear Joan and Jericha by Julia Davis and Vicky Pepperdine.
Otherwise my TV favourite recently has been Sharp Objects on HBO. I’m a huge Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson fan, and also really admire Jean-Marc Vallée’s work, it was pretty perfect all-round.
I also still have to catch up with The Handmaid’s Tale, which was one of the most beautiful and challenging pieces of work I’ve ever seen on television.
When people approach you for commissions, what sort of subjects do they generally want you to draw?
It usually comes down to three types. People want to see themselves as an uber-sexy version of themselves – so it becomes a very erotic and exaggerated avatar – or they want me to illustrate the famous people or characters they’ve had fantasies about for ages in specific imaginary scenarios. Alternatively, they want to see themselves in erotic or explicit situations they’ve never dared to admit to.
At the beginning of the discussion, when establishing what they want and expect from their commission, people are pretty shy and take a while to reveal what they truly want. I guess it’s only natural, most of us can’t share our deepest darkest fantasies with a complete stranger – people assume the other person will show disgust or mock them. But I always tell them – just look at my work, it speaks for itself, I draw very explicit situations and it takes a lot to shock me, almost to the point that I think I’ve heard it all. They completely relax once they realise that there won’t be any judgement on my part – although, it has to be reasonable and within the realm of the law.
I’d never draw something that makes me uncomfortable or something that’s illegal – that’s just my prerogative as a human being and an artist.
Ever had any really weird requests?
I used to share all my uncensored work on my tumblr, and I have to say that the audience on that medium is a bit broader and can get a tad darker. But most people have remained pretty vanilla with me. I guess the weirder requests have been to illustrate some really pornographic scenarios between existing people like Prince Harry having sex with another famous man – I’m just not into this kind of celebrity hentaï.
I always have at heart that if I draw a sexy or nude version of an existing character or an actor or famous person, I design it in a way that they wouldn’t be embarrassed when they see it – that they’d find it naughty and good fun at best. For example, I did a series of nude versions of the male Avengers for the release of Infinity War – I drew Captain America showing his ass. I hope that Chris Evans would maybe be okay with it if he ever came across it one day, that he’d have a little chuckle out of it.
I think there’s a difference between that and, let’s say, a super-explicit cartoon of himself in the middle of a torrid moment of passion with all the other heroes, complete with throbbing appendages, gaping orifices, and exploding bodily fluids. That’s just not what I do.
Some of your designs are available as t-shirts – what is it about a drawing that means it will translate well onto a t-shirt?
In a very selfish way, I mostly decide it based on what I’d like to wear myself and can’t necessarily find. I usually end up buying lots of samples to check the quality of the goods, printing, and material, and I end up wearing them constantly.
It’s also great advertising, and a conservation piece at parties or bars when people ask you where you got it, and you tell them it’s your design. I’m always very proud when that happens. I also think that the ‘cool’ factor of a t-shirt is a bit regressive – it’s a relaxed, casual clothing item – a humorous touch and pop-culture related subjects always work great.
T-shirts are so classic and interesting because they’re a very effective design tool to showcase yourself and your tastes to the world – when walking down the street, it tells a story to strangers about who you are and what you like.
Any plans for an exhibition of your work?
Sadly, not for now, but once everything settles in my life and things go back to normal I’d really love to have one. It’s a great occasion to meet the people who like my work, and for them to experience the drawings up close and personal.
But, before an exhibition, I really want to finally get to editing a book that’ll gather all my uncensored work – watch this space!