Jeannie & Kuya's
Magic School Buses
Toronto, Canada: where
10 mins: read time
Last time Jeannie Priscilla or Dajenesis was in town she planned a surprise trip. It was also a blistery January, so when she came back from BC this time I was only too happy to happy to spend as much time with her on art adventures as possible. That meant a commute out to Pickering where she and Kuya were each painting a Circus Bus. I knew she had painted a few in the past but hadn't yet trekked out to see them. This time I got to see the painting in action and see her first bus with the interior fully decked out. While she painted we chatted about the commission and what she has been up to in BC.
You are here with Kuya painting some party busses, but this will be your fourth bus. How did you get the opportunity to start this pairing with Circus Bus?
I was driving down the highway one day and I saw the Circus Bus driving beside me. I remembered the name and contact email. I thought it would be sick to shoot them an email and see if they wanted some art. I did, and surprisingly enough they were down. We met up and I gave them a quote. Then they let me paint the first bus inside and out. Since then, they have kept returning as a client and it has worked out really well.
What was the theme you painted on the first bus?
I did a dragon outside and I did a parrot bird [almost tribal design] on the exterior. The interior was more of an undersea theme. There was a mermaid and underwater creatures like fish and sharks. I try to stick with a different theme each bus so it’s not repetitive. The last bus I did, I only did the interior, it was a lot of animal prints. Then I did a Nintendo theme. So with this one I am doing a circus theme inside and for the exterior I am going to try and pay homage to my heritage and do Mayan designs. My parents see the bus often [the first one I painted the outside of]. I get people messaging me like “I just saw your bus driving downtown on the highway”. So I want them to see a Mayan bus driving by; I feel like that would make them really happy.
You are living in BC and have been there for about a year. What does it mean for you to have been able to come back in January and again now to work on a project like the?
It is honestly really amazing and exciting. I feel honoured that I have this opportunity because I didn’t even think they would get back to me the first time and let me paint a bus. So the fact that this is the third time coming back and that they are sponsoring my flight is so unbelievable. It kind of motivates me to make my own opportunities and not always wait for them to be given to me. At the end of the day all it takes is sending an email and the worst that could happen is they say no.
You have done other commissioned murals for schools as well as cafes. The latest thing I have seen you working on was different sort of commissioned design. You worked with Search and Rescue Aprons to design a brand t-shirt. How do you work with each group to keep your aesthetic and ideas but also get them the design they are looking for?
I might be given a theme or allowed to freestyle my own ideas. I still make it mine by keeping the feminine line work, but I manage to adapt that into different themes or whatever the client is looking for.
What attracts you to line work as an illustrative technique?
I think that growing up as a kid I used to do a lot of anime and cartoony stuff. That has still stuck with me to this day in terms of my line work. I would doodle in class and do little line drawings across the paper. I would always do that. The illustrative aspect comes from just drawing anime when I was growing up. I also think line work is a form of freedom for me. There is freedom in the flow of my hand, freedom in the marks I can choose to leave, the parts I can choose to highlight.
Do you still draw anime?
No! I should go home and look for my old notebooks.
Do you still watch anime?
No *Laughs* I should though anime is great!
You are the manager of the Casa Community in BC. How has living in that community informed your art practise?
It’s been expanding, in terms of not looking at what only I can do with artwork; but also finding ways to engage the community into getting more creative. It’s been about taking on projects and building collaboration. There is so much talent there and so much different talent. So in that sense I have learned a lot. It has also pushed me into trying new things. I want to get into installation pieces and expand my media now that I have other people who can help me with that.
You have some DJs and more artists that sort of bring people together so it can be a cool idea to explore merging all those worlds.
Yeah, we want to have our own festival. We actually want to have a festival in Squamish because we have DJs, artists, people who can cook amazing food, people who are overall good at talking to people and bringing it all in. There is a girl who can do graphic design and build a promo team, a social media team. This has all happened already when we had the Casa Community Market. Ever since we had that I have a better idea of what roles people can take on and really succeed in. I really think that we will have a festival one day.
What was the Casa Community Market?
We had a community market where we opened our doors to the pubic. It has never happened before because it has always been this gated off community and people think we are just drunk crazy idiots. The whole point of the thing was to showcase the talent we have and show the neighbours that we aren’t a piece of shit. *Laughs* That we are good people and can actually make cool stuff. We had live music, art, food, people showcasing jewelry, clothes, crystals. We had a yoga session. Everyone really came together and showed what they were good at. It was great.
Did the neighbours come out and get to experience that?
Yeah, yeah, it was sweet. We actually met a couple of the neighbours who were really into it. They were really happy we did it because it was the first time in years any one from the community has made an effort to do something like it. They were really appreciative of it.
You have a network of artists and friends in Toronto, who you have worked on projects with including a collaborative mural that you are doing with Tim Schijns while you are in the city. Knowing that you have this group of people you work so well with here, have you envisioned a way to continue collaborating with your community here while you are back in BC?
I have thought about having Toronto people come to Vancouver and collaborate on an art show or event. Something where we come together with the community and visiting party. I also want to bring the [Casa] Community and the space Studio Community together. So it is just this huge clusterfuck that I really wanna establish this network with, I am still trying to think of ways to do that.
What do you think draws you to a person as someone you want to work with. I think sometimes the people we work with end up being some of our closest friends. What creates those bonds for you specifically.
I think it is people who I can really just hangout with while arting. I feel like when I can really understand or resonate with someones art or style it really draws me to them and makes me want to not only be around them but learn about them. I feel likely doing so and drawing, or painting, doing whatever you really learn a lot about someone and what it is that they put into their art and what it means to them. You learn how it influences you and what drives them to keep going.
Have you ever gone to an art show and met the artists afterwards. Then thought damn! I am glad I met this person?
Um… Tim! Yeah I met Tim after an art show and we have been good friends since. It is also because I had been following him on instagram and was being a total groupie… “like omg you are Tim Schijns!”. Shout out to Tim.
How has travel and being able to come back here, being able to go to Cuba and Guatemala been important for you as an artist and for your spirit of creativity?
It is just nice in general to be able to get away for a bit and recharge. To be away from the madness that is everyday life, because you know you get so caught up in work and all these projects. But when you go away and not think about it all it’s really grounding and helps you find your balance again. I often feel like I get lost easily, that’s why I need to take trips. Even a little trip away to the Island or something, anything helps to just clear the mind and not think about it. Also I feel like it gives inspiration going away, just seeing little things like people, the culture, little in interactions on the street. Anything like that really.
Where would you like to travel to next for a taste of their arts or culture?
I want to go to California after my birthday. Then I want to go to Japan to see Eskape in January, or sometime next year. But those are the two next spots I really want to go.
Interview and photography: Alexis Venerus
See more of Jeannie's work at @dajenesis
See more of Kuya's work at @kuyaspirit