Friday, December 14, 2012

Art and Insights

First off, here's a SNEAK PEEK at a piece I'm working on. 4'x4' on Birch Plywood... more updates soon! (click for larger view) 

Second, a student from West Virginia recently asked if I would help her out by being the subject of a school paper... she interviewed me, and I figured I'd post the interview here, because I ended up being really satisfied with how I answered these questions (miraculously). 

So if you're looking for a good long read or just some insight into my psychosis, here it is. :)

How did you know you wanted to be an artist? 

I feel like everyone has an innate desire to create art. Ask almost anyone, and they'll be able to tell you about a time when they were a kid and they created stuff all the time. I think I just never quit. I was always imagining new stories, writing my own fictional sequels to my favorite video games, and drawing endlessly.

What or who inspired you to go into art?

My earliest memories of drawing were sitting in church on sunday mornings. I would sit with the preacher's kids and we would draw ninja turtles and batman on church bulletins. Later in life, I was inspired by many great artists, and gained the motivation to try and make a real career out of it by learning about the beginnings of their careers. Realizing that my challenges and struggles were similar to those of such great artists was incredibly motivating. I knew that if they could do it, I could do it as well, with the right attitude and approach. I am a firm believer that 90% of success in life is about simply not giving up, and persisting in the pursuit of our passions

When did you begin working in Photoshop and why?

I started working in photoshop in 2000 in a graphic design class in high school. I continued to use it for design and photo manipulation, and soon realized artists were making amazing art with it as well. I got my hands on a cheap tablet, and started brutally experimenting, creating the most terrible art, using the worst practices and methods, and just climbed through the muck until I had something like "experience".... now its an extension of my art, not something I depend upon (fundamental knowledge of artist skills is so much more important than the tools you use).

Where do you do your work?

I do my work in my own studio area in my apartment. I have never had a luxurious space in which to work, and I don't think a lot of artists do, even though most of us aspire to some mythical dream studio. That was another big lesson for me, realizing that "if only I had a bigger desk" or "this monitor is too small" is only a legitimate concern in the most extreme of cases, because if you want to make the work, you will find a way. Carving out a space in my life for creating art, about two years after college [far too late if you ask me] was a huge step toward increasing my productivity. Keep sharp pencils in your face, a blank sheet of paper nearby, and remove as many obstacles as possible toward beginning your work.

What’s your technique?

I think my technique varies from project to project, but it always starts with several rough ideas at once. I think its important to move in baby steps, never taking on too much pressure at any one stage. Sometimes I'll sketch something and decide to create the final images digitally, sometimes I'll start digitally and then decide it would be a better drawing... the point is to be in a constant state of exploration and never feel pressure to make "the perfect line" or worry too much about mistakes. I generally save precision until the very end, and separate it the various decision points to keep things simple. I think about composition general concepts at first, then I think about making things look believable and "correct", and near the end I worry about things like texture, highlights, complex shadows, color theory, etc. Getting ahead of yourself is a big mistake, and rushing the process never helps.

Do you work from life, or from photographs or from imagination?

I like to think that even the most imaginative pieces, if you're making representational art, and you have any aspiration to create believable art, is inspired by life. Knowing how light, depth, texture, and color affect the world we see can only be learned from real observation. That kind of knowledge is not something you can remember easily, and having references is always important, especially when painting or drawing something you don't understand. I can describe a tree to you fairly easily, but to accurately create one, even if it is pink and made entirely of spherical clusters of leaves, you need to understand how a tree works, the unexpected visual cues you need in order to really go "wow, that's a tree".... I like to do a lot of studies before I dive into something I don't understand, because I always learn something about how a material, object, person, or animal looks after closely observing it in studies. Imagination is informed by reality, and I like to let my imagination set the goal, and my education [visual studies of life] do the work to achieve that goal.

What is more important; content or technique?

I think it is important that you have something to say with your art. The great concept artist Thierry Lafontaine told me one time that if I wanted to read a technical masterpiece of the English language, I should read a dictionary. A technical masterpiece in art is much the same way. No matter how many fancy words are there, without the human elements of expression, motive, purpose, and imagination, it will never be 'art'. Some of the greatest writers were simple in their style, a la Mark Twain, and art is the same way, a la Picasso or Matisse. A single stroke or an elaborate tableau with a rich narrative, art is about making statements. All of that being said about content, I think art without technique tends to do a disservice to the message. People that want to rub dog crap on a picture of the madonna and then call it art, well.... they're in a league all their own, and I don't often group them into what I consider great art. A marriage of technique and content is what will set people's emotions ablaze.

How important is the subject matter to your artwork? 

I think subject matter is where I get to really show my own interests and passions. While art is universal in many ways, and would be appreciated by anyone in any culture or time, subject matter is where I can say "hey, I like this beautiful figure I drew" or "Mario Brothers is awesome, and here's something I thought would be neat".... its my opportunity to express my interests, and add my own unique point of view. I think if you like trains, you could be a painter, a writer, a toy collector, an engineer, or a conductor, and that's just how you choose to experience that interest of yours. I like a lot of things, from Jim Henson's creations to old world fairy tale books... and art is sort of the conduit through which I enjoy those things, because its how I enjoy spending my time, its the challenge in life I'm most interested in tackling, and the subject matter changes from time to time, as my interests come and go.

Do you work certain hours each day or only when you are
inspired to work?

I have a fairly strict routine. I'm not sure what that will be like when I stop working full time as an art director, which I definitely aspire to do one day, but right now, I enjoy a great deal of structure. I work from 9 - 6, dinner and TV until about 9, and from 9 until I drop, I work on my various art projects. I think it was the great motivational speaker Jim Rohn that said you should always be working harder on yourself than you do your day-job. That really stuck with me, and I've tried to do that every day since then. That being said, I also try to take it easy on the weekends, and I balance my work routine with as many outside experiences as I can. All human innovation, scientific, artistic, spiritual, whatever.... they all stem from juxtaposition. Having some big ideas marinating in the back of your head and then going to the zoo or some crappy amusement park, or having a conversation with the crazy lady that lives on the corner, they all inform the creative process. The combination of seemingly unrelated things sometimes creates wonderful ideas. So I keep a pretty structured schedule, but within that structure exists time to be random and relax... but always on purpose, with intent, and I try not to let my goals ever slip completely out of my mind.

What motivates you? 

I'm motivated by a lot of things, but I think the biggest motivator in my life is my desire to surprise myself with my potential. I just like to see what I can do, how far I can push it, and how far I can go on this crazy adventure of a life. I'm motivated largely by the fact that I love and appreciate the temporary nature of life. I like to work hard because I have the rare and beautiful chance to be a person in the first world, with both hands, good eyes, and almost no real obstacles other than my own challenges and goals. I like to take a minute sometimes just to appreciate how lucky we are to be on this earth, and sitting in classrooms on student loans, or getting paid 100 times more than people in other countries for significantly easier work. We're lucky to have running water. We're lucky to have food, literacy, and shelter. When you think about how many amazing things have actually worked out for you in your life, you can't help but feel that there's something almost divine about it, that you've been given a chance at something marvelous and miraculous, and nothing should get in your way of taking full advantage of that. You owe it to those that never got the chance, you owe it to your parents, and your future children, and anyone that ever tried hard to help you be awesome at something. Being motivated is incredibly easy to me, because I don't see any other option that I consider to be a moral and fair way to live.

What do you think is the most important influence in your art?

I think the most important influence I receive is from other artists that move me emotionally. I try to view every television show, every movie, every bad billboard or corny commercial as an opportunity see what makes me tick. Whatever makes me tick probably makes others tick, or at least I can then appreciate the differences between me and other people. I think the most important influence I give to others with my art is hopefully just a sense of sincerity and appreciation for whatever my subject matter is. If I can convey to someone the love or disgust or fright or anxiety that I want to convey, then I've done a good job. I generally like to just make people happy, or inspire people to think "what if..." when I make something. I think there's enough negative stuff to meditate on, life is hard enough and sometimes scary enough without me adding to the pile. I'd rather not be white noise, I'd rather bring a little light in a sometimes dismal world, and just remind people to take a moment to appreciate things and be present with something, enjoy something for its inherent beauty, or its unexpected surprises. Just take a minute sometimes, breathe, and like something with your whole self. If my art can accomplish that in people, I will feel like I've really accomplished something. 

Where do you feel your art is going?

"If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans." - Woody Allen

I have a lot of long-term goals, and I work toward them incrementally every day. I imagine what my life will be like one day in the distant future, but its always just so hard to really piece together. By focusing on what I can do NOW to get me where I want to go, today, no excuses, no delays, has been way more fulfilling than fantasizing too much about abstracts. I want to tell great stories, through art, and through the written word, and I want to give as much as humanly possible back to others that want to create, and try to lift them up and help them surpass me. I think so long as I'm creating, imagining, learning, and bettering myself, I'm already "there" and anything else is just a massive bonus. My large projects such as writing a novel are all happening in tandem with my art, same as the places I want to see, the people I want to meet, and the life I want to lead... it's all unfolding now, not later, because I always focus on what I can do today to live up to my full potential and be a happy person.

1 comment:

Jacob said...

well said sir. It's really cool to see where you've come already and know that in 20 years your stuff will be even that much more incredible. Glad you are pursuing your dreams and making cool stuff daily.