Jonathan Jui | Paperlike Sessions London 2019

In Summer 2019, the Paperlike team set out to the UK to interview some of the most inspiring up-and-coming digital artists in London. These are the Paperlike Sessions, and today we're bringing you our interview with Jonathan Jui.

In this interview, Jonathan recounts his journey from an investment advisor and family man to comic artist documenting life with his wife and kids.

Transcript: Interview with Jonathan Jui.

Jonathan Jui:

My name is Jonathan Jui and I was originally born in London, but I was raised in the States. So I grew up in Ohio and I am currently an investment director at a small family office. I basically manage investments for a family. That includes real estate, small operating businesses, yeah, it's just a little bit of everything. Oh, my art. Yeah, sure. Sorry.

Jonathan Jui:

So I am not an artist by trade. I only started three years ago and that coincided with when my son was born. The reason why I started was because once you're a parent, you quickly realize that everything is just flying by and you're forgetting moments that just happened even earlier that day. What I wanted to do was to make sure I had those memories recorded and written down. So I started drawing comics of those moments that I didn't want to forget about.

Paperlike:

Do you remember when it first started or what was the seed of the idea?

Jonathan Jui:

Yeah, I guess it was a moment when I was changing his diaper and he started peeing on me. I was like, I don't have a camera to really record this, but I kind of want to remember it and writing about, obviously it doesn't have the same effect as a cartoon. So that's kind of how it all unfolded.

Jonathan Jui:

Yeah, it was a definitely a little bit of both. I've always been a huge Tintin fan, always was really into the X-Men. So comics and graphic novels are definitely my thing, but it just also struck me as a medium that blended text and images quite well.

Jonathan Jui:

Yeah, there was a lot of relatability from the beginning because I guess as a parent, it's a pretty universal process raising a kid and a lot of similar frustrations and rewards throughout that process. So, even from the very first comic I would get a few comments from other fans, other parents that were like, "Oh yeah, I totally know what you're going through." It was a really nice feeling and I think that helped spark my motivation to keep going with it and sharing them as opposed to keeping them to myself.

Paperlike:

At any moment, has it kind of helped you in the parental world? Because obviously when you open up to this, you kind of end up having openness about pretty much everything. So by having that, you maybe had an issue where actually you managed to kind of solve it from either someone that you met through doing this or just by being part of that community?

Jonathan Jui:

Yeah, I think it's kind of a two way thing. On the one hand, me doing the comics is a very introspective kind of looking at things in hindsight and sort of synthesizing what had happened during that day or as a parent, my philosophy how I want to raise my kid. But at the same time, you're right, we've kind of built a nice community through the Instagram account. I do get parents, when I run into a problem and I'm drawing a comic about it, giving me suggestions about, "Oh, you could try this," or "This is what worked for us." I think it's evolved in such a nice and supportive community. That totally was something I landed on. If you asked me three years ago whether it'd be like this today, I totally would have never had thought.

Paperlike:

Did you ever sketch or something before?

Jonathan Jui:

No.

Paperlike:

It seems very interesting you would pick a medium which you actually haven't really used before.

Jonathan Jui:

Yeah. I guess it's kind of the interest and passion that it kind of keeps you going. It's a medium I've always admired and there are always a lot of hurdles or I made up a lot of excuses about why I didn't want to start because I thought I sucked or I don't have the time. But once you find something that you're really passionate about, in this case it was the subject of documenting my child's life. It's all you really need.

Jonathan Jui:

Yeah. So definitely, it's how you want to prioritize things really. But for me it just ends up falling into a time schedule where, I go to work, I come home and I obviously want to spend time with my family and my child. Then I guess after he goes to sleep is probably the two hours in a day when the parents can sort of do what they want and catch up on house chores and such. So I think I've decided to dedicate that to artwork and the housework. I think the things that have suffered are probably my physical health.

Jonathan Jui:

Yeah, it's definitely I've had artist's block or you go through a stretch of days where you're so tired or just there's nothing really funny or special kind of jumped out at you. So it definitely, I have had those days. I don't know, I just go to sleep or just wait a few days, something will definitely happen when you're a parent.

Jonathan Jui:

When it revolves around being open about yourself, that's okay. But being open about my family, which involves my wife, my child, there are some boundaries that you kind of want to be conscious about in terms of what you're willing to share. Fortunately my wife is okay, but I will admit that when it comes to sharing my child's life, he's so young, I can't really ask for permission. I do want to protect his privacy to some degree. So that's kind of always been an area that I've been a little bit conscious about. So I do use a pseudonym as opposed to his actual name online and I've kind of stopped posting actual pictures of him and just recreated him, just the comic form.

Jonathan Jui:

Yeah. So I have occasionally done prints for people who, I guess for some more generic situations they found them quite relatable. But I have actually also Kickstarted a choose your own adventure parenting book, which involved using my cartoon illustrations. I basically wrote the text for the parenting journey for the first two years. You make decisions along the way.

Jonathan Jui:

Depending on, whether if you're sleeping with your child and you want to change their diaper in the middle of the night or not, I mean maybe your bed ends up being all wet in the morning or you end up sleeping through the night more peacefully. So it was a fun project, but that was another time when I did have to print out a lot of the illustrations as a result.

Jonathan Jui:

That's definitely an interesting process. It was difficult, but to some degree I had that Instagram platform which I've built to kind of fall back on to begin with, which was obviously something you can promote or say, "Hey I'm working on this project, do you want to support me?" So I think that was the main crux of it.

Jonathan Jui:

But I did have to put together effectively a proposal of sorts when you're building your Kickstarter page that easily lays out what I'm trying to do and why it's interesting for other people. But I think word of mouth is kind of what's most helpful in terms of if you make something so compelling, so funny, so interesting having some samples and illustrations of what I've done in the past that other people can relate to, then it sort of snowballs into its own little thing.

Paperlike:

I guess it also really helps when you've got your target group in a way.

Jonathan Jui:

For sure.

Paperlike:

Or a support group. They look after your children, part of their job lists or part of their personal job is to be a very supportive individual.

Jonathan Jui:

Yeah, yeah. No, absolutely. When you can identify with someone and I mean misery loves company, I guess is kind of the thing. When you're a parent there are some very miserable moments. Everyone still feels, I think, very fortunate and blessed about having the children in their life, but it can be difficult. Bonding over that with someone is definitely a very strong, forms a very strong relationship. You want to support each other as a result of that. So yeah, that definitely was very helpful as well.

Paperlike:

What was the result of the [inaudible 00:08:48] and the response, I guess?

Jonathan Jui:

Yeah, the response was great. I did manage to fund it successfully. So I did a small run of the book and off the back of that I found an agent, which I signed with in the US and they're now pitching that book in the US to publishers. Then an editor from China also contacted me for a similar book. So yeah, it's definitely going in a way that I never would have imagined and yeah, I'm really excited about what's to come.

Jonathan Jui:

For me when my son turned three, which was earlier this year, that was a sort of big watershed moment for me in terms of do I want to keep going with this? It kind of goes back to the issue which I talked about earlier about my son's digital footprint that I was creating. At that point, it was 30,000 to 40,000 people kind of following his life on my Instagram. When he's five or 10 years old, would he want that out there? Are there moments when his friends would make fun of him? Those are all things that we're very conscious and I really questioned whether I wanted to continue with it or just make it all private.

Jonathan Jui:

But at the end of the day, I think it's about choosing, I mean it's also a very integral part of my own life. So I've kind of resolved to be more conscious about the moments I choose to share and the actual pictures I decide to move away from on a permanent basis. Again, it's kind of about the positivity and the community that you build with these other parents and helping each other out. So I decided to continue on. But that was the moment where I really questioned whether I wanted to continue.

Jonathan Jui:

I think it's the practice makes perfect sort of piece of advice I never really agreed with. I think perfection is kind of a very philosophical concept and idea. I think practicing makes things permanent. So it makes things go quicker, but to me it's just that's one particular one that always stuck out for me. Yeah. So my wife and I just found out she's pregnant a week ago.

Paperlike:

Congratulations.

Jonathan Jui:

Thank you. So I think what's next is I'm probably committed to doing comics for another three years because the last thing I want is my second child to be like, "My brother got all these comics for three years of his life. Why don't I have any?" So I think at the very least to be fair, I'll probably continue. I think it'll be interesting to document the dynamic with the family of four and their relationship. So I'm quite excited for that, the challenge, but I imagine I'll be pretty tired.

Paperlike:

I never thought of that where it's like, "Oh, yeah, the second kid is going to feel so..."

Speaker 3:

Not only that, and the pregnancy.

Jonathan Jui:

Yeah, and the pregnancy, the process. Yeah.

Speaker 3:

[crosstalk 00:11:46].

Jonathan Jui:

Yeah, for sure. For sure. Yeah, it's definitely going to be a whole new area of parenting that I haven't really comiced about or documented yet.

Paperlike:

I guess now, you've had the practice run.

Jonathan Jui:

Yeah. To some degree. I was just saying, I'm more scared the fact that I know what's to come because the first time around is sort of like, I'm not sure what to expect. Ignorance is bliss sort of thing. But second time it's like, I know I'm going to be really tired, I'm not going to get any sleep. I'm going to have to go through potty training again, changing all these diapers. So not really looking forward to it, but I know it'll probably be really fun.

Jonathan Jui:

My main platforms on Instagram, at Jonajooey, and I do have Facebook and Twitter. But I also have a blog, which is called babasfieldnotes.com and I post a lot of my comics there and I guess on a monthly, it used to be a weekly basis, I write letters to my kid directly, but I think that's also something I've debated whether I should make private. But for the time being, it's still on the public domain.

Paperlike:

Amazing. Thank you so much.

Jonathan Jui:

Thank you so much.