Jono Dry is a South African artist who lives in Cape Town.  His genre is Photorealistic Surrealism which is obvious when you look at his website.  His work is absolutely stunning.  I actually found Jono through New Zealand artist Bruce Mortimer who didn’t know Jono at the time, but suggested that I take a look at his work.  I did and moments later, I contacted Jono.  What you see below is the cool chat that resulted.

MICHAEL: Hey Jono, First of all, you have a great name.  Very distinctive.  Is there a story behind it?

JONO: Hey Michael, thanks! It's not the most exciting story. My full name is Jonathon Dry (my parents can be a bit eccentric and chose to change the spelling slightly). Growing up, most of my friends called me “Jono” and I thought it was short and efficient, so I started signing my work as "Jono Dry."

MICHAEL: Cool.  It totally works.  Your work is incredible.  It looks like photorealist drawings.  How do you describe it?  What's your process? Do you begin with a photographic image?  How does it work? 

JONO: Thanks! Well, my goal is photorealistic surrealism, but some works lean more toward Realism or visa versa. I usually work from a reference image and manipulate it as I'm working on it with pencil. If it’s a difficult juxtaposition, I'll work on it in Photoshop before drawing. This whole process got me into photography because I try to take my own photos for my references where ever possible and I happened to fall in love with the art form.

MICHAEL: Is it true that you're self taught?  How can that be?  You've had no instructional training at all?  How did you learn?

JONO: I have pretty much been drawing my whole life. I’m self taught in the sense that I didn't study art. I have had many teachers from artistic friends to my mother and father to an amazing art teacher in high school all of whom have pushed me to be the best that I can be. As far as technique goes, I have slowly just developed what works for me through trial and error. "Self Taught" is quite a relative term.  I really have had and still have a lot of "teachers." I hope that doesn't sound to pretentious.

MICHAEL:  Of course not.  Why do you like Surrealism so much?  What’s the attraction?

JONO: I feel there is a lot more freedom with Surrealism. I enjoy the idea of having no limit with my work. When the only limit is your imagination, it becomes a wonderful challenge to see how far it can stretch. It feels like I'm constantly exploring and pushing the boundaries of my own imagination with the goal to find something worth spending time, bringing to life in the form of a drawing. 

MICHAEL: What's your usual routine like?  Do you work in the morning or at night?  Do you listen to music while working?  Is the process more emotional, intellectual or spiritual?

JONO: I usually try to work throughout the day. Starting in the morning and working through into the evening. I am easily distracted though, so frequent coffee breaks and social visits cause my days to be quite broken up. Music is a big part of my life, so there is always something playing loudly while I work or a new audio book if I find something I can get lost in. I spend a lot of time lost in thought while I work, but I try to keep my process as intellectual as possible with influences from the emotional and spiritual facets of my life. 

MICHAEL: You’re in South Africa. Where exactly are you?  Is there an art market there?  Are there many galleries to sell your work?  Are you part of the art scene?

JONO: I live in Cape Town and there is a pretty big market for art here. Cape Town is a very creative city and there are constantly new collectives and initiatives popping up. There are more galleries than I can keep track of and the art scene is pretty big. I’m not sure if I am a part of it. I guess I’m an active artist in Cape Town, so by those standards, I’m part of the scene. This city is very well saturated with artists.

MICHAEL: With Apartheid now gone, what’s it like in South Africa now?  I would imagine things are still very tense and new.

JONO: That’s quite a tough question. Some say Apartheid isn't gone. The after effects of such an oppression are long lasting. There’s still a huge disparity between privileged and underprivileged members of society from the Apartheid government. So things are still tense and at the same time, there are some beautiful pockets of equality that can make you hopeful.

MICHAEL: Given that, what role do you think art really plays in the world?  I mean, aren't there more serious things to be concerned about?  Shouldn't we be talking about how to solve some of the problems in the world?

JONO: Art has only has cultural value, so I think its role is to illuminate aspects of culture - whether it is to shed light on something that needs to be changed, something that needs to be preserved or just to say something that needs to be remembered or honored. There is value in art’s ability to provoke emotion and if there is a "more serious" issue, art has the ability to bring awareness. When you ask, "Shouldn't we be talking about how to solve some of the problems in the world?" I feel that good art is exactly that.  It’s a conversation between the viewer and the artwork and there is the potential for a lot of power and value in that. It’s enough to inspire change.

MICHAEL: Finally Jono, What does art mean to you and what are your goals for the future?

JONO: That’s a tough question. Art is how I make a living, so in a very real way it means survival and freedom to live the way I want to live. It’s an opportunity to express any thoughts, concerns or observations about life around you and with the way that sharing art online has developed, you find large groups of people relating to you and reaching out to you. It’s an amazing experience and it’s very hard for me to put into words what art really means to me.  Maybe I should draw something to describe it some time.  My goals are to take this career as far as it can possibly go in all its facets. Exploring new mediums, concepts, pushing the boundaries of what I know best (Realism/Surrealism in graphite).  Hopefully as a result of my growth as an artist, I will see growth in my career like exhibiting in art capitals around the world etc.  I’m quite open to see where this takes me.

MICHAEL: Thanks Jono.  Cool chat.

Check out Jono Dry at