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Jem tunes & 'toons Message Board Backstage Pass › still art: the art you can sit back and relax to... Sharon Knettell

still art: the art you can sit back and relax to... Sharon Knettell

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Steve S.
Group Organizer
Phoenix, AZ
Post #: 27
Today we have an interview from the person who attracted you to the Jem toys you were suppose to buy: Sharon Knettell!

She was to design fantastic looks for the characters in hopes you kids were to look at the toy boxes one last time before purchasing that doll.

1. Could you please introduce yourself from a Jem point of view?
I was a budding rock star and contacted my agent for posters and new packaging for my look-a-like doll.

2. Could you please tell us what artwork you were doing before Jem and what you are painting today?
Fine arts- I was a fine arts major at the Boston Museum School- the illustration for major advertising agencies in New York and the rest of the country an also I did editorial illustration for magazines like Playboy, Ladies Home Journal, Cosmopolitan etc.
I have gone back to my fine arts roots and am
doing figurative work in pastel and oil.
My website is­

3. How were you contacted to do the box art for Jem?
I had done work for Hasbro previously. They were unhappy with the artwork they were getting from illustrators all over the country. The illustrators were not able to give Jem the feel, vibe or body language of a rocker.

4. Was your art done by hand or computer?
All by hand -they were airbrush over colored pencil.

5. I read somewhere that you, like Jem's animation writer Christy Marx, were also given prototypes of the dolls. How much did that affect your art as if you didn't have them?
I followed the dolls closely. I had an assistant who shopped for identical fabrics- took the dolls to a dressmaker and had the costumes made to fit certain models. The dolls were shown to a wig maker who made the wigs. The line drawings of the instruments were blown up and glued to fomecore and jigsawed out so they could be used as props.

6. Did you get all their accessories as well?
Just line drawings.

7. Did you have a certain feel or style that was to be accomplished with the final artwork?
Yes. I wanted to get the feel of a performing artist from the head to the turn of the toes- not just a pretty girl in a sparkly costume.

8. Did the main box colors of pinkish-purple, red, orange, and yellow also affect the art considering it was going on the box itself?
Yes. I did color studies of each box cover to see what work best. Nothing was left to chance.

9. If the box colors had been different, like blue and green, would it have affected the art as well?

10. Though it's expected the dolls that played instruments had poses like that, it's also nice to note the style changes for those that didn't. Example, my favorite piece is the Danse character who holds a radio and does an 80's hand gesture with the other hand.

(Thanks to Beverley Hooton for scanning and cleaning up this image!)

Is this where accessories come in to capture those fine details?
Yes- the accessories were an integral part of each character. In my mind each of these characters were a real person so I would act out the poses to get the right feeling. I would then show the pose to the model. I would say, she has a real bitchy vibe- I want a pose like this to reflect it.

11. In general, could you please explain how fine details affect art?
-The details- the small hand gestures, the angle of the head, a precisely placed sparkle gives each figure its personality.

12. I saw another website that featured your art on it, that explained how skin textures and shadows came into the artwork. Does that just come naturally for you?
I have always done figurative work, I could say it is easy for me but there is decades of hard work and knowledge behind it.

13. Do all these fine details come easy to learn through school or is it an artist's individual talent to place them in play?
I am NOT one to say that talent is unimportant- it is. It really depends on the school- however some schools are better than others. The details do not work unless you have had a thorough grounding in drawing and figurative work. I have seen many amateurish artists think that by placing a ton of eyelashes on a face it makes it work. It is still a poor drawing.

14. What can one learn at an art institute?
It depends on the art institute. Some are a waste of time and money. You MUST look at the curricula and see that the major emphasis for the years you are there is figure drawing, figure drawing, figure drawing- all from a live model. There is no way around that. Make sure you know who the instructors are, Insist on seeing examples of their work.

The rest depend on your focus. Fine art figurative painting requires an intensive grounding with top notch teachers- the same with digtal art.

I cannot comment on abstract art as it does not interest me.

15. What does one have to implement individually through creativity to give their art those final touches?
The basics had to be right- the stance- the feeling. You have to identify with each character and it becomes intuitive.

16. When given the dolls, were you told which ones were the good girls and which ones were naughty?
Yes- the three original dolls were the good girls- the next three were the naughty- but it s apparent from their costumes.

17. Did that influence in impression as in facial tone and even body posture?
Absolutetly. I felt out all the poses and got into character- a bit like acting.

Steve S.
Group Organizer
Phoenix, AZ
Post #: 28
18. When the second season came out, like the Holograms' Raya, and Misfits' Jetta, were you requested to change the style any or just draw natural?
No- if you can draw well you have the tools to create the subtle differences.

19. Were you told Synergy was a hologram computer synthesizer when asked to do box art?
I honestly don't remember.
20. Have you seen the Jem series?

21. What do you think of the series?
It was fun and refreshing- really novel for the times.

22. Back in the 80's, computers weren't as high-tech as today. Would it be easy for a production company to make a new Jem animated series with art so detailed?
I know so little about computer art- it would be impossible to comment.

23. Do you think it would be wise to do animated Jem using so much detail like yours, or 3-D art, or do you something think traditional 2-D is still great in storytelling?
It is a different generation- it is impossible to conjecture.

24. Were you saddened when told the doll production was stopping and you wouldn't be doing any more Jem art for Hasbro?
Yes and no. It was a blast to do but it ate up so much time. I am really doing now what I started out to do in art school.

25. If asked, could you draw Jem characters in that same style quarter of a century ago, today?
Sure- but better.

26. Any final words to say to Jem fans, especially those that have custom art on their own dedicated Jem websites?
Each fan has to express their own point of view and make Jem their own- in their art. Make your own stories, be her costume designer- she is your own Lady Gaga! And where do you think Lady G got her ideas!

Thank you Sharon for your time!

And a loud shout to Shout! Factory for restoring the original art to us fans who have along waited for it! Thanks, Brian Ward and all others involved!

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