Artist Interview:
John Lisle
John Lisle is easily one of the most talented and creative illustrators in the game, who's effortless use of eye-catching colors, patterns, and shapes has catapulted them into the illustrative limelight. A Canadian-born Texan-turned-Brooklyn baby, they are constantly living and working to the fullest. And it shows. John's illustrations are dazzling, and absolutely mesmerizing (especially when it's a GIF!). His work also seems to be beautifully tied in to his own personal being. When you finally meet them, the feeling is like, "Ah, yes of course! This is John!" Browsing their website or keeping up with them on social media, John gives the feeling that their creativity knows no bounds, and always offers a fresh perspective. Incredibly well-dressed, well-spoken, as well as kind, John is your not-so-average Chik-fil-a lovin' makeup junky with a real eye for art.
Chris and Sarah wear the John Tee
shot by Vivian Loh, makeup by Bianca Linnette
in collaboration with WeWhoPrey and Too Short Creative

JOHN LISLE by Michael Burk

LOWLOW NYC: Your illustration style has seen such an evolution over the years! What made you start to break down your characters into basic forms and shapes?

JOHN LISLE: Thank you! I think, maybe to my detriment, I reach the end of one style and decide, ok time to start again from scratch on another! I think the solution is finding where they all meet. I like breaking things into shapes because I feel like illustration's power lies in abstracting reality. Realism is fun, but I think diverges from what is most fun about illustration: sort of putting a trippy lens over what reality really is, and showing what it could be in your fantasy mind.

You have a strong relationship with drag culture, what do you love about it? What does dressing up mean to you?

Oh I never thought it appeared I was that deep in drag culture, but maybe I am! I guess Patti Spliff, a prominent Brooklyn drag queen, is a friend and I have been recently putting her getting ready process on my instagram story a lot. I am admittedly obsessed with make up and make up application, I feel like like it's culturally becoming more and more of a phenomenon. It's really weird if you think about it, from like an alien perspective. The ephemeral nature of putting goo and powders on you face that will be washed off at the end of the day. I actually had people say to me, "I love that you're doing drag more lately!" and it makes me kind of laugh inside, because I am very much having more of a cross dressing moment, and don't really think I'm taking my make up and look to a drag place. But it's definitely on my list to do drag more, I've done it a few times in the past and it's very intoxicating to become the most bombshell version of yourself. There's a moment of putting on your lips and lashes and you get lost in a world of selfies for like 5 minutes. I feel like make up application is also sort of an ASMR moment, a way to just zone out and not worry about problems of the moment. It's like 45 min or an hour, or however long it takes for you to become full glam, and you can exist in this pupa state with yourself in a ritualistic self care sort of way. It's very escapist if you want it to be, I think that's why so many people get very into it, specifically young people. Sorry to go off, I could talk endlessly about make up, it has so many sociological tangents to go off on.

Who or what are some of your greatest inspirations?

Some people have commented that I have sort of a retro style that draws from past decades and modernizes it. I think you always have to draw from past ways of making art or it else feels kind of dead. I actually live in fear of organizing all my screenshots of artists inspirations, and I never really review them that much because their are so many and it immediately overwhelms me to manage any of these photos.

If you had to choose one for the rest of you life, which would it be: McDonald's, Dominos, Chik-Fil-A, or Taco Bell?

I love this question. Chik fil a hands down. Even if they hate lgbt people. It's funny, I showed my dad the chow down at chik fil a parody video as we were in the drive through. It's like....your food is that good. You hate me, but I am going to always duck in and out your establishment.

How has art informed your personal style, and vise versa?

I was drawing a bunch of little abstracted people with huge long legs and big pants for awhile, and then I was trying to have this big pants moment. They definitely informed each other, but I'm not really tall or leggy enough to really hit that look out of the park so it was short lived. Whenever I do drag I often get the comment that I look like one of my illustrations.

One great piece of life advice you've received and want to pass on to others?

I love self help, and youtube self help interviews. I've never before thought of giving advice. I think being kind to yourself is so easily forgotten, and remembering to live in the moment. I'm also totally into and believe in past and future lives, so I'm very comforted by the concept that you don't have to take life so seriously, you've had many lives before and there are endless ones to come. Enjoy your current form and try not to let the negativity sink your ship.

Find John at and @johnelisle

john lisle