When we saw New York illustratorJon Contino’s work, we fell in love. So we wanted to dig a little deeper. It turns out that the born and bred New Yorker is stirred by his awesome (and crazy) hometown, the same city that’s all about mass consumption and frenetic rhythm. (We certainly don’t blame him, we love it here too.) Inspired by mid-’90s street art, his graphic designs reflect a postmodern sensibility that’s evident in his typographic art. But illustration is not the only thing keeping him busy. The illustrator is also the proud cofounder and creative director of CXXVIclothing company. Read on to hear more about his inspirations—from seaside East Coast towns to ’90s graffiti art to the Coney Island boardwalk, the man is New York all the way. —Laura Randaccio(@LauraRandaccio)
Lifestyle Mirror: Is there a specific place in New York that inspires you? Jon Contino: The Coney Island boardwalk probably hits all of my favorite things about New York in one shot.
LM: Is there a product or object you are obsessed with? How does it influence your art? JC: I hate to say it, but my iPhone has been the core of my days since it came out. Everything I do is collected and documented with my phone and I basically use it as a traveling reference library. I'm always ready to go on a project when I have my phone... which is always.
LM: Street art is everywhere. Is there a specific artist or piece of art that has inspired your illustrations? JC: The graffiti crews of the early to mid-’90s were big influences on me and my obsession with lettering. When I started playing in hardcore bands in my teen years, there were a handful of guys who did graffiti style lettering for all of the bands and I thought that was such a great style. There's no one specific artist, it was more or less that era of music and troublemaking represented by the graff style that has inspired my work.
LM: If you had to compare you recent art works to a specific song or music genre, what would it be? JC: If hardcore existed in the 1920s it would be my work.
LM: Would you ever collaborate with a tech company? Is there a specific tech product you love? JC: I'm always open to new ideas and working with a tech company would be pretty great. Maybe a campaign for Canon scanners; I feel like that kind of collaboration would lend itself well to promoting technology but still communicate a really unique style.
LM: In your art there is a strong fusion of old and new world aesthetics. What attracts you about each? JC: The hard-working, hand-made nature of the early 20th century has so much character, but the clean modernism of a chic Manhattan lifestyle is so beautiful. I love taking both ideas and blending them together. You wouldn't think the two styles work together, but they really do. Actually, if you walk across the island of Manhattan, you can actually see how one style evolved into the other. My work just brings them together in the same time period.
LM: Do you travel to get new inspirations form different cultures around the world? If so what was your latest trip and how has this inspired you work? JC: I'm not a big traveler, but I do love visiting old American cities. I feel a strong attraction to places like Newport, Rhode Island, and Salem, MA. Old, East Coast, seaside towns always have such rich, interesting histories. I could spend months there and never get bored.
LM: You are also cofounder and creative director of menswear brand CXXVI clothing company. What are you working on right now and what is your favorite piece of the latest collection? JC: I just wrapped up the final designs for our brand new extended bag collection. I'd have to say the rucksack is my favorite out of all the pieces. It's a real step up in terms of detail and craftsmanship and I think fills a void that people have been looking for when it comes to a backpack.
LM: What are other clothing brands that you admire for their design? Is there a specific item you recently bought from them? JC: I'm a big fan of Imogene + Willie and Rising Sun Jeans. I just picked up a pair of Imogene + Willie Barton Slims and they're already one of my favorite pairs of jeans ever.