In my opinion the greatest part of the artist as well as their art is the ability to capture and convey feeling. To evoke something within that touches us deeply. That ability is a huge part of what made me fall in love with ALL creative expression. To make tangible the intangible is not an easy task. To effect your audience in a specific way universally is even more difficult. In a sea of voices to be heard is a huge accomplishment. So when we come across artists that not only capture our attention, but let us into their world it’s a beautiful thing.
Today we got a chance to speak with Brent Schreiber. What he has tapped into is something beautiful and uniquely his own. Through a theme and an idea he expresses through his work as only he can. We won’t spend much time trying to explain things for him, but will rather let him do it for himself. So let’s get into this q&a shall we.
Ok so I’m curious. What’s the significance of the headphones?
The headphones which are present in the majority of my pieces serve as an expression of a unifying god /human concept in a simple inclusive way. We are overwhelmed with information in regard to what we should believe from conflicting sources, and it’s difficult to find your voice and peace. The headphones represent blocking that interference out, finding a connection and voice that’s yours.
Does most of your work make up parts of a series? If so what is the collective story they?
I have been working almost exclusively on the Listen series for the past four years. It is an ongoing collection using the portrait and figure to explore contemporary themes of god, faith, hope, weakness and the human spirit. It is also an exploration of a different side of faith. So often it is portrayed as a black and white pristine ideal – the search for faith or hope is hard. It can be ugly, dirty, difficult and lonely – most of all wrought with fear. There is no need for faith when life is easy… it is the exact opposite.
Do you prefer doing portraits? If so what about them fascinates you?
The majority of my work centers on the portrait and figure. I’ve always loved classical realism and the process of trying to capture a person or express an idea through them. I think the human body is something everyone can relate to as well as the experience shown through a portrait. Them majority of the models I’ve used have played key roles in my life and the goal is to share them as they are in that moment. I think all portrait and figure work unless commissioned are self portraits in the execution and choices made.
Who are some of your artistic influences, living or deceased?
The artists who hit me right in the heart are Alex Colville, Robert Bateman and Jeremy Geddes. Colville and Bateman are two amazing Canadian painters – Colville for subject matter and Bateman for technique. Geddes is from another planet – makes you want to cry looking at his stuff. In my teens and 20’s I was fairly obsessive with comic illustration and animation. I started refocusing on traditional figurative and portrait work in my early thirties. I absolutely love Graydon Parrish, Jeremy Mann, Vemeer, Phil Hale, and Rockwell – all for different reasons. For techniques and improving my process in regard to the figure Adrian Gottlieb, Anthony Ryder, Parrish, David Kassan and a few dozen more along with a whole library of classical artists.
How difficult is it marketing your work?
Incredibly hard – not getting the work out per say but getting it seen. All the digital access we have to people is amazing and it offers incredible opportunities but there is so much out there – it’s like being a gold fish in an ocean at times. The only path I’ve found is to be persistent with improving the quality of the work, keep putting it out and being ready for opportunities when they come. Choosing the proper venues in which you put your marketing efforts is also key.
What would you say is a common adversity you encounter when trying to distribute your art?
We have more artists than venues capable of showing the work. The gallery system has faced major changes in the digital age but is still vital to bring in and sell work to collectors. The artist is now more responsible and has the opportunity to market and sell their own work – it’s half the business. One of the drawbacks of the digital age is we are so used to seeing things on screen at no cost – the challenge is to get an audience to see and appreciate a piece of art in person and the work, cost and sacrifice involved in it’s creation as well as the final price.
Is it important to find your audience and market to them, or let your work reach whom ever it may?
It’s a mix of both. If you’re working strictly to fill a trend the audience can spot something phony. You have to be authentic in your choices and subject matter or you’ll hate the work and people over time will not respond. Do your best, fail, try again, be persistent and the audience will eventually find you – be you – we have enough clones. At the same time you have to market your work to promotions that make sense, move you further along and you have to be vigilant at all times. The number of digital opportunities are fantastic but there just as many liars, cheats and thieves… you have to protect yourself and your work.
Where would you say most of your inspiration comes from?
Simple boring answer – life. Experience, mistakes, trying to understand the monkey cage in my head. The people around me, the gifts they have given me and what they have taught me.
What’s your biggest challenge in being recognized for your work?
Your work has to be damn good … or you have to be a devious, brilliant marketer with a bucket of cash and know all the right people haha. Honestly it is getting off the approval bandwagon, worrying about likes, hits, money and just doing work that’s honest that you love… other people will too.
Any advice for other artists?
One of the hardest things is getting past your influences and finding your own voice. It took me 4 years to figure out what direction I needed to go in. If someone isn’t sure what subject matter or theme their work should take be patient – but never stop working. Failure is your best friend. Get a journal and use it, keep image files of things that register, read a ton and focus on what is important to you. Eventually something is going to emerge. When it happens be brave and don’t second guess yourself.
Advice for a young artist… draw, draw, draw. Then draw some more. There’s nothing more frustrating as a young artist than to have a concept and not being able to translate it because the technical skills aren’t there. Study as much as you can from life, get in as many live figuring drawing sessions as you can, take workshops and really study how forms are built and connected. If someone is really serious about their work be brutal with it – no one else is going to be. It’s wonderful when people tell you how great your stuff is but 99% of them don’t know anything about art and don’t see or understand the flaws and holes. Always compare your stuff to the work of the artists who you have on a pedestal and figure out how they do it.