Where Does the Art Stops & The Art Business Begin?

I tend to have an equal amount of respect for the hours of practice and repetition it takes to master any craft. The same appreciation for the work a skateboarder puts in as with any other skill. It takes a similar amount of time to do that complex combination of flips and kicks as it does strokes on a canvas or hours on a basketball court.

Mastery usually comes at the expense of time and effort. At the sacrifice of personal relationships and private time. Constantly, no less than a thought is put towards the respective craft. Most would say that they would do what they love for free, but still in the same conversation would probably also say that they would also like to be paid for this passion. Wouldn’t we all (insert eye roll emoji). However just like the mastery so many of us work towards, being paid takes time effort as well.

Someone told me once that every entrepreneur is at their core was still a creative. I actually agree with them for the most part. No matter what you do there will always be a need to be creative in any area that you want to stand out in. There is still that point though. In every business owners path to success where you have to decide how much is enough. When is it about the money and not the love.

That figurative line in the sand. Creativity & joy on this side, sales & marketing on this side. A good creative business owner will have figured out how to thrive in the gray area. That special place where you still find joy in all aspects of business ownership, no matter what that business may be. I have had the pleasure of talking with so many successful and some not so successful creatives. Being a writer, we often have the luxury of sitting back and observing from a far exactly how tricky running a business can be.

There’s the politics of the industry, the dynamics of personalities, not to mention the fickle clients who have high expectations but a vague idea of how to express the needs they have. Finding the joy in a world that seems bent on taking joy from everything is tricky. Much less keeping what you love joyful and revenue generating. Lets just say it’s a struggle we share on the deepest of levels with so many other creatives. Who like us are just trying to balance it all.

The art and the money are no doubt binary. One can exist without the other, but to grow and thrive both are needed. I know so many artists. Painters, musicians, writers, and the like who all make sacrifices in their crafts to pursue money. Making compromises in their creative processes to please clients that commission them for very specific projects. Those same creatives that find joy in their work, no matter who it is intended for have a disdain for commission works. They’re a necessary evil it would seem though.

A revenue generating necessity in order to do what you love for a living. When is it for love and when is it just a job though. When is the creative project just a monotonous and soul draining as a 9 to 5 job. How do you keep the pitfalls of the typical job from seeping into your creative passion? If I’m being honest I have no idea.

All I know and all I’ve seen from personal experience and observations it that it doesn’t even matter. You just work through the 9 to 5 moments. You keep doing what you love no matter how you feel about the job. Because doing what you love is a thousand times better than the soul draining, life force dulling alternative of the rat race. I don’t know a single business owner who would not rather deal with the ups and downs of ownership versus the endentured servitude that is standard employment.

I don’t think there is a point where you are either an artist or a business owner. The truth is you are eternally both. Bound in a sacred matrimony of work and reward for you very survival. So you relish in the fact that you are doing what you love. You appreciate that the alternative is far worse and the ups are far greater than the downs. You don’t draw that line in the sand. You instead thrive in the gray. Where there is more balance between the two. Where the passion for the art and business lie.

Artist Q&A: Toshihiko Okuya

There’s this myth in the west that some hold sacred. In the story the Babylonians supposedly built a city and in this city there would be this tower that allowed all the languages of the world to communicate. Pardon me for not getting all the details 100% correct, but you get the gist. At some point in the story our creator got concerned that humans had blasphemed by building the tower (he presumed was built to avoid a second flood). So in response to this blasphemous act the creator brought into existence multiple languages. People were then divided into linguistic groups, unable to understand one another. By doing this our vengeful creator put things in order, and reasserted himself to his rightful place I guess. If you choose to subscribe to these tales, I would imagine some part of the story is hard to explain. None the less one’s faith is important and stories like these ultimately helped shape our society and culture into what it is today.

I on the other hand feel that maybe the creator did not fully condemn mankind to being unable to communicate with one another. I mean to me creative expression is also a method of communication that transcends culture and language. Art is so subtly nuanced that there is room for many interpretations & understandings. No matter the language one speaks art in particular and expression in general “speaks” to us.

I was thinking about this story when I first reached out to Toshihiko Okuya. In a sense his work spoke to me. Even though we are both from two completely different parts of the world, I was still able to connect with him to some degree through his art. I would of course later connect with him via social media, but that’s a story for perhaps another day. His art (like other works of art), to me is in a sense universal. Images bring out emotion and everyone feels emotion. We are in a way united again through this emotion. So it would seem that in spite of our creators attempts to separate us we found a way. If you really have studied that book you’d notice that mankind usually finds a way. We usually always find… A way to unite.

So here we are. In spite of it all we have figured out a way to connect and perhaps understand each other. Our inner beauty, individuality, and intelligence all seen in works of art. I hope that like me you try to understand Toshihiko and his work that he has created. We truly enjoy it and hope you do as well, but enough about us. Let’s let the man speak a bit for himself.

Who were your biggest influences in your art, and what about these people had the greatest impact?

→ This is a difficult question. I think a lot of things, and people have influenced me.
Is there a coherence in what I’ve been crazy about in the course of my life? I will ask myself.
I was crazy about science fiction when I was in high school, and for a while I was also attracted to German Expressionism and Surrealism. I also read Georges Bataille‘s book even though I didn’t understand it very well. It’s kind of messy, and miscellaneous things are flowing into me, and I always feel confused.

Japan has a very rich culture and history. Do you try to highlight that richness in your work, or is it more introspective?

→ Rather, I take Japanese culture critically. Recently, racist and nationalist people have become more powerful. They support the war of aggression and colonialism of the Japanese Empire since the Meiji era and are trying to modify historical facts for their convenience. Although Japan was devastated by the defeat in 1945, it still advocates a Japan-centric, irreverent and exclusive way of thinking. Some Japanese culture is highly sophisticated, but I suspect that some are childish and distorted. If you can feel Japanese culture in my work, I think it’s because I lived in this country for a long time and learned naturally from an early age.

When I look at some of your portraits I feel as though I’m perhaps on a bench at a park watching people. Is it your intention to give us a glimpse of your subjects, or is more for us to get a glimpse of yourself? 

→ Sometimes I make it with some intention, and sometimes I draw it unintentionally. I welcome the viewer to receive any intent from the work. Whatever it is, it belongs to the recipient. I just want to keep drawing. I don’t feel like aiming for something or having any purpose, I just feel like I’m wandering around. And I think of the following. Why do I always think “I’m right and the other person is wrong”? Isn’t it necessary for me to think “I’m always wrong”? Do I maintain my dignity by hating or despising the other person? I seem to have multiple layers of myself.

What does art mean to you, or maybe I should ask what is the theme that you try to convey in your work? Is there even a theme? 

→ Of course art has an important meaning to me. But it’s hard to say what that means.
Henry Miller says “draw as you like and die happily”, and I feel that too.

I really enjoy the rawness of your works. To me they seem almost like sketches, but not. If that makes sense. Is there a deeper message in that rawness or is it just your style?

→ I think “the rawness” is important to me. I am more attracted to the underground roots than the flowers. The flowers are something of an idea and feel like a lie, but the roots seem to make me feel real and force me to see this world where I am.

Do you have a preferred medium to create in?

→ For now, the personal computer is my medium. From the viewpoint of “the rawness”, I think it is more appropriate to draw on canvas or paper, but for now, I am making works on a personal computer.

Art can be a very personal thing, both the art appreciators as well as the artist. What does it mean to you?

→ My eyeball and the brain connected to it currently occupy this space in the universe, and I can never give this space to anyone else. No one can occupy this place on my behalf. The viewpoint of this eyeball is unique to me. Everyone occupies such an irreplaceable place. No one can rob the place. So what kind of space does art occupy? I think from time to time.

 2020 has proven to be a tough year for a lot of people. How has your art helped you cope with it all?

→ COVID-19 has digged out the problems that the world is facing. The world is divided and growing inequality has emerged as a serious problem. Wealth is concentrated in the few rich and the poor are expanding. I think we’re already stuck, but if we want more economic growth, not only climate change, but also war and hunger will spread. I hope people move away from their obsession with “growth” and move towards the redistribution of wealth. Drawing has helped me for a long time. It prevents us from being (voluntarily) dominated by anything, rushing to occupy a higher position in the hierarchy, or getting caught up in the desire to gain greater power. I recently watched Jim Jarmusch‘s movie “Patterson”. What is depicted in the movie is similar to what I draw and live every day.

Has it been an inspiration or a hindrance to your work, and what should we expect from you in 2021?

→ I may have got some inspiration from COVID-19, but since I’m just painting at home, it’s not that much of a problem so far, except for the spiritual ones. Don’t expect too much. If possible, I would like to draw a different work each time.

Any advice for other artists? 

→ I think it’s about drawing as you like without following anything.

Artist Q&A: Camargo Valentino

There is this common misconception of what an artist is supposed to be. This romanticized ideal of the creative as this enigmatic person that lives misunderstood and rejected by society. Yet somehow this hero of creativity is stilll embraced by the creative world. Now I’m not saying that artists like this don’t exist. I’m more so saying that more often than none the artist is just a normal person. A person with an inclination to create. Camargo Valentino is to me perhaps both. Talented af, misunderstood by the mainstream, and yet one of us. Just a person trying to make sense of this fucked up hypocritical world we live in. Who just so happens to make very captivating works of art. 

Ok maybe captivating isn’t the right word.  Camargo Velentio’s work to me is much more than captivating. It’s a poignant and definitive expression of the attitudes of the west. The juxtaposition of the classic styles he’s studied, and the pop icons he references are stark reminders of America’s contradictions. The very figures we place so much stake in are used to show us exactly where our falasies lie. In works like the “The death of America” it is not America that is dying but rather the ideals of what America is that is reaching its demise. The old guard is conceding and sacrificing themselves for our salvation. So to speak of course. A stark reminder that times are changing.

Art for beauties sake is a great and a necessary contribution to the culture, but it’s the messages that last. The work that speaks to the times. It’s that work that is ironically timeless. “Nothing is new under the sun” after all. Those who do not study history, yada yada yada…. I could quote old literature forever, but that’s not what we’re here for. Times change and new perspectives emerge. Relevant and fresh, speaking to the times. I honestly believe Camargro is one of those people. The fortunate ones. A person who effortlessly just tuned in and can say what we have been dying to say, but in a way that only he can. At the end of the day all we can do is shed light on talent. We just hope you see what we see.

Enjoy.

I think most artists are students first. So as student, what lessons do you get from who you’ve studied?
As a self taught artist, the majority of what I have learned has come from copying artists which style I admired. I can’t say that I have learned anything from let’s say “Velasquez” . I am no where as good as any masters but I have tried to mimic them to the best of my ability. I feel like I have so much to learn.


Also is there anything you are trying to teach?
No, more like I’m trying to learn.

It seems like you take a few cues from classic artists like Rembrandt and Caravaggio in your paintings. Are your interpretations of those cues satirical, or for more of a social commentary?
Both. Some paintings are done just for fun, just to paint. Others have social commentary. Ex. “The Death of America” was inspired by classical works of Christ on the cross but my commentary on this painting is the collapse of American society today and on how we are so divided as a country.


To me the pop icons you use add an aire of humanness to these characters, and hidden behind that is this sinister feeling. Is that point or is it more just you using figures that you somehow relate to?
It is not my intention to make the figures I use in my paintings come across as sinister or dark. Many people say this, but I believe these feelings come because of the colors I use. I am attracted to the chiaroscuro style of light surrounded by darkness. As we all know, many people fear dark landscapes which is why I think they feel this when looking at my work. As far as the figures are concerned, I grew up as an 80s kid which is why I believe I am so attracted to cartoons, comics, and pop culture and why I use them in my paintings.

What artists do you find yourself most drawn to (no pun intended)?
Mostly traditional classical artists narrative themes. Deigo Velazquez, Antonio Mancini, Caravaggio, Jusepe de Ribera, modern, and contemporary artists like Odd Nerdrum, Normal Rockwell, John Currin, and Aron Wiesenfeld. Artists that use the figure to tell a story.

In what way would you say they inspired you?
I am attracted to technique and feeling combined which they all have. It is not enough to be a good painter. The work has to pull you in and make you look. It needs to make you ask yourself “what is going on here?”. There are many great painters out there today but most paintings do not say anything besides I’m a good technical painter.

Would you say that your work is a reflection of you or of view of society?
Both. Every painting I do was inspired by something I was interested in at that moment. Some more serious then others. Sometimes a work is based on a character I am interested in at the moment, other times the way I feel inside, and others based on current events.

Art can be a very personal thing. How personal is it to you (feel free to elaborate)?
I consider myself a bit of an activist artist. I recently have felt the need to speak up more because of the current issues we face in America. Like I mentioned before, growing up an 80s kid has to do with the characters in my paintings along with the fact that I wasn’t quite able to enjoy my childhood as much as I would have loved to. It’s been said that I make up for that void by regressing to that time in my childhood with these characters in my paintings.

Any plans for the future or do you just create and let the chips fall where they may?
I have all the dreams of any serious artist. I want to be able to join a well known gallery and let the art world see and know my work. Unfortunately I have not done my part in putting my art out there to let it be discovered. It is my intention to do that starting now. I create for myself, but serious artists cannot be successful in the art wold without recognition today so I plan to start showing in as many places as possible. Hopefully making this dream a reality.

If you had to choose an emotion that was evoked from your work, what would that emotion be?
Curiosity. I would like people to like my work enough where they have curiosity to find out more about the artist and what the artwork means. Like how you did. I thank you for reaching out to me. It means a lot.

Any advice for other artists?
The only thing I can say is study the artists you like and practice practice practice. That is how everyone who has ever learned got better, by doing it.

The Kid’s Got A Story To Tell: Jaylen Pigford

It’s safe to say that we stumble on what we would consider great artists quite often. Talented and complex, with an ability to capture an expanse of emotion in their work. Yes Jaylen Pigford is that for sure, but he’s also a story teller. A young man coming into his own with so much to share. Documenting a story being lived, and the growth along the way. Showing us on his story on canvas. Honest and up front. It’s on display for your parousal. He is most definitely a rare individual amongst his peers. Though they all share the same urge to be appreciated, maybe even understood.

However Jaylen like alot of us feels misunderstood. Still, the kid with the heart and the cherry red vans has a story to tell. Born to stand out, he does it so eloquently with his paint brush. Faces have of course been changed to protect the innocent but the story he paints is largely autobiographical. Telling the tales of friendship, and heartbreak. Being honest in his own way, he shows you his thoughts. Yet when you see them, you are free to come to your own conclusions.

I think he gets it. For such a young man, he may just get what this whole creative thing is all about. Honest expression. Let the chips fall where they may, but be honest.

Skulls are often a symbol of mortality or death, but I don’t think that’s not Jaylen’s intentions. The depictions in his work are more homages than obituaries. He wants to more so immortalize his subjects and give them the freedom of anonymity. In that anonymity the audience gets to decide who those skulls represent to them. The faceless are given a face not by Jaylen but by his audience. For the audience, conversations can then be had and perspectives shared anonymously.

Fuck the glaring eyes and the judgements from our pasts that can hinder progress. Channel that shit into digestible works to be admired, even related to. I mean who can really understand unless you’ve lived it. Then again you may not even see it the way “I” did. So appreciate this piece of me that’s on this canvas. We talked alot about his intentions once he decides a painting is done, but mostly his goal to leave what the piece means to his audience. Like lyrics to a song. The words articulate a thought, but the audience deciphers it how they choose. That’s freedom. That’s expression. That’s what we think of the work of Jaylen Pigford.

A Present Retrospective: Lamonte French

It’s been a few years since we last sat down with Lamonte French and it’s true what they say, time does fly. Especially if you take a step back and look at the bigger picture. That’s usually when you recognize how much someone has grown, and what they’ve overcome. Progress after all can be difficult to measure. There is no scale by which to calculate how far one has come, or to measure the trajectory of ones success. It’s only when you revisit what they have done that you really get an idea of the extent one has grown. It’s not really our job to measure that progression, but instead respect and appreciate it. We have never been in the business of speculating. It’s so much more respectful to let the artists work and philosophy speak through them. Which is why it is so important we do what it is we do. So we say our piece sure, but we also let the artist say theirs.  The only thing we can say with absolute certainty about Lamonte French is that he has been busy and focused on his future.

Last time we spoke to Lamonte it was still early in his artistic journey. Even then hearing him talk you could see his vision. You understood he had a plan and he was determined to see it through. In that regard I suppose not much has changed. Alot can be said about consistency and persistence, to stay steadfast on a path and sticking to a plan. The plan that bore fruit from almost conception. We got to hear more about his plans for the future and what he has on his itinerary. What I found more engaging was his ideas for how his style would evolve. Instead of sticking to the neo expressionism he has made his signature he plans of going past that, and I think if you are a fan of his work you will appreciate that change. Often we get so wrapped up in a specific period or phase that an artist goes through we forget to appreciate what the artist goes on to do. Everyone loves Miles Davis from his Bebop days but a lot of people overlook what we think may have been his more influential era, which is his fusion era. Bitches Brew, In A Silent Way, and albums like that were equally as important to the jazz movement. Perhaps in the same way we may find that Lamonte’s growth in style has an equal importance when looking at the big picture.

Black Thought from the Roots has a bar in one of his songs (Twofifteen). “No man is an island but I’m a cast away….” is the line I believe. I mention the bar because I thought of it when Lamonte so readily gave credit to his team he put together for helping him succeed in the ways he has. It’s important to have a group of individuals we work with in this community of the arts that is often treacherous to navigate. We are all “islands” in our own right I suppose, but we can’t do it all alone. The artists life is often isolated, secluded and maybe a bit hidden from the public. When you are so engulfed in your work it helps to have a trustworthy team to help on the mission. It was refreshing to hear someone so focused and driven recognize that it’s not just his hard work, but help from others that play an equally important role.

Lamonte is still early in his career, but I’d be remiss not to show respect to what he’s accomplished in such a short period of time. Vision and persistence are traits he may have gotten from his days of being an athlete, but he has evolved and grown into an entirely new version of himself. One that expresses freely in the hopes that it reaches everyone willing to experience it. We will continue to follow his journey and we hope you do the same.

The kid is talented after all.

“You have to have a vision that you can hold on to for a long period of time…”  – Lamonte French  

Artist Q&A: Yoon Miseon

The world is getting smaller. Not literally of course, but in the reach/impact that an individual can have. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of the creative. The artist. Emotions and experiences though different, still can be related to universally. The human condition is after all a mosaic of experiences that make up the places we live.

Emotions and feelings are the universal languages. So it should be no surprise that we related so much to an artist like Yoon Miseon. So much emotion is put into each piece. For her it’s somewhat theraputic. A way of working through her past troubles that may still be a burden. Again this is something I think people everywhere can relate to. Especially myself. At a glance it’s obvious there is more to her work than the mere image, but let’s allow her to give us the bigger picture.

Enjoy…

What made you decide to pursue being a full time artist?

I spend most of the day doing work or thinking about things related to it, and when I spend time related to work, I get answers from him and new things happen.

Do your pieces always start out as sketches, or do you also work more free form at times?

Unconditional sketch. Whenever I come up with a feeling or idea I want, I do sketch each time.

“Why do I have to look at the’ human relationship ‘in an unsteady gaze.”

In your portraits (which are amazing by the way), there is so much emotion. The texture and colors all help to set a mood of depth and reflection. Is this the emotion you intend or is it just what the subject evokes?

I study and express the balance between my insecure view of human relationships and the general (called normal) form.

As a freelance artist is it difficult to find balance in art for arts sake versus art for profit, or are the lines sometimes blurred?

It is very difficult to get that balance. I think it is probably a big problem for all artists.

Your work seems very emotionally charged. Is it therapeutic or taxing to put so much into each piece?

This is the reason why I was working to heal the mental trauma of my childhood. So I feel that these feelings are inevitable for my work. As I mentioned above, balancing between my crooked uneasy gaze and general intact form is only part of the future.

I was reading in Toner Magazine where you said that you were inspired by “human shapes and geometric objects that are balancing in imperfect forms.” So in a way your art imitates life? Maybe the better way to say it would be that your work is more a reflection of you?

My long – lasting psychological pressure made me very disturbed about all things or relationships around me. That part has eroded all my parts and I am balancing it by expressing it in my paintings. I analyze my unstable gaze, express my balance, balance my thoughts on the next artwork.

How do you hope your work impacts others? Is that even the point at all?

If the form I express is emotionally communicated to another, it is surprising and interesting in itself.

Some artist do what they do with a goal or primary motivation behind the hard work. What’s yours?

Finding a working in a working is a “truth” and takes as much time as possible for the working.

Are you close to that goal?

I keep going.

Any advice for other artists?

Living as an artist is another way to identify myself. I want you to feel the endlessness and to move forward.

Artist Q&A: Brent Schreiber

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.

Artist Q&A: Dean Christie

The beauty of art is not just in the statement it makes, but also in the limitless forms it can manifest itself. How even in adulthood that our experiences as a youth still inspire and drive us towards our passions. The artist conundrum of today seems deeply rooted in the balance of creation vs exposure. To exist in the realm of creative expression is not easy. What’s even harder is to exist in this realm while striving to make a living in that space. Dean Christie (The Deanist) is someone I think is a great representation of our times. The artist in the purist form. Trying to balance artistic integrity and marketability. In these times of double taps and swiping left or right its often a challenge to find your target audience. Dean Christie has definitely found his niche and in doing so I think is closer than most at finding that audience.

Dean Christie has somehow found a way to blend a wide array of colors in specific geometric patterns that come together in an aesthetically pleasing way. This attention to meticulous detail has not been lost on his mass produced lapel pins, which are unique and vividly eye catching. There’s always that appeal in work when a artist takes something familiar and spins it into a piece unique to the artist and his/her individuality. It’s a very human thing to be drawn to the familiar. Its also very human to seek originality as well. Dean Christie‘s work is that balance. Let’s call it individual familiarity. I like that, but lets get to his perspective. We hope you draw as much inspiration from his insights as we did.

How did you develop your technique?

It all started when I was a kid. I used to make these pencil drawings of animal heads and human faces and inside them create playful free-form patterns. I subsequently forgot all about these sketches and in adulthood I did stencil / spray painting and created miniature military sculptures out of insects to some success. Then one day I re-discovered these old sketches I made as a kid and one in particular, that of a self-portrait piqued my interest. So, I decided to paint it in full color on a large canvas and that gave momentum to the body of work I have now. In a way it came full circle and I re-discovered my innate technique from childhood.

You’ve found a cool way to market your work with lapel pins. What made you decide to take that less traditional route of marketing yourself?

To be honest, I just wanted to see my art in different scales and also being used in a more practical way. It interested me a lot to give people access to my designs that might not necessarily see it through the traditional routes. I think paintings on white walls that only a limited geographical range of people have access to is an old paradigm. Now, its all about being experiential, being able to engage with art and accessing a global audience. What better way than to adorn yourself in a lapel pin that is essentially a miniature representation of the original artwork. I took great care in making sure it was an exact reproduction of the line work and as close in color match as possible. I was rejected by numerous factories that refused to make my pin designs due to the complexity and sheer amount of colors used. But, I persisted and found someone that was willing to take the challenge and they came out great. As an extension of this concept, I’m currently working on a 3D vinyl model of my Vader design to share with a completely new audience.

What was the inspiration for your technique, any particular artist inspired it?

As I explained in the previous question, the inspiration came from within. In a way it came from a pure place – the mind of a child’s ability to play, draw and imagine without influence or care of judgement from others. If I had to post rationalize it, I think it was to make something beautiful out of chaos. The beauty being the color palette and the chaos being the line work within, the overall effect creating harmony. There is enough darkness in the world, I wanted to make beautiful things.

Are all your pieces done by hand , or do you draft them up on a computer?

They are all conceived by hand as sketches with pencil on paper and all the paintings are oil paint. But as my work has evolved and my curiosity to see the designs manifest into different mediums has progressed, I’ve needed to learn how to digitize these pencil sketches. I’ve tried to skip the ‘hand on paper’ step but its not the same feeling. If you look closely at my work, you can see the lines aren’t completely straight or connected, the curves aren’t mathematical and they are asymmetrical because they are born from the imperfection that is inherent in human eye-to-hand coordination.

Is there a deeper meaning that you try to convey in your work?

There are two main concepts embedded within my art. Firstly, I like to reframe the beauty of the strange or macabre. I take images that elicit fear or aversion and then use my art to render them harmless by making them look beautiful. This seduces you through geometry and colour and makes you look at the subject in a different light. A skull, snarling wolf or Vader’s imposing visage all looks quite beautiful when you change the context of fear we normally associate it with them.

Secondly, to find your voice. The name I go by ‘deanist’ alludes to the fact that I’m trying to be as ‘dean’ as possible. To become a specialist in doing my style. Just as someone who writes novels is a novelist and someone that does art is an artist, I’m just trying to do me as much as possible, hence the name deanist. No one else can be a deanist, just as much as I can’t become a karenist or johnist. Just truely do you.

Any artistic influences that inspired you?

Everyone and then no one. First you get inspired by everyone and then you have to forget it all and find your unique voice inside. Once you find your voice you get inspired by everything that makes up life again.

Is your choice in subject matter purely for marketability or is there another aspect to it?

All my subject matter has a core theme– illustrating that one canre-frame the beauty of the strange or macabre.’ So I aim to redefine beauty by shedding light on common symbols of fear and mortality. My work contains images of predatory animals in states of attack such as wolves, tigers, snakes, owls to symbols of our mortality such as skulls and also characters that epitomize human darkness like Vader or Batman. Then I flip them with beautiful color palette and shapes. It just so happens that these images from the dark side are cool as fuck and thus also marketable.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your road too where you are now with art?

There will always be the conundrum of trying to balance art and income. Which means painting what you like with painting what’s marketable. I think we are in a very fortunate time in which social media can help connect you with your niche. People who love and resonate with what you create. What that perfect balance is I haven’t figured out yet, so maybe ask me in a decade.

What’s the most valuable lesson being an artist has taught you?

You will always have people that no matter what you do will love your work or on the opposite spectrum hate your work. So don’t bother catering to what people say, what is trending or what other popular artists are doing. Just stick to doing something that makes you happy and that authenticity will come out and live in your work. As long as you stay true to your vision you will always find people that it resonates with.

Also, don’t be afraid to reach out and DM other artist about questions, collaborations etc. You might not get a reply from half the people you reach out to but from the ones you do you can form amazing relationships and birth new projects. This is how the #tigerswitchproject came about. I reached out to different artists to collaborate on completing half a tiger head and what started out as a small group ended up with over 70 artists from around the world participating in it. I’m planning on releasing a book of the tiger collaboration artworks this year.

Any advice for other artist.

You have to find your own path. From my experience if you ask 10 artists what their path to success was, it will be different and specific to who that person is. So all you really have control of is being you and then any peculiarities innate to you will become your strength in the long run. No one can do you better than you.

Artist Q&A: Jeston Rodriguez

“What happens in the dark, comes to the light.” I think that’s how the saying goes anyway. The idea that no matter what we try to hide will come to the surface. This is not to say that this darkness I’m speaking of is to be taken literally. It’s speaks more to the art work of Jeston Rodriguez, our latest participant in our q&a series. Her love of the macabre is hers, but she sheds light on it in her work (darkness coming to light). Often what we keep private or in darkness has a way of coming out.

We can’t hide from ourselves and there will always be that hint of our private selves that make appearances. We get a glimpse of that darker fascination in Jeston’s work. The beauty in the darkness that draws us in. Her interest in ghost stories and folklore are expressed through vibrant color and rich detail. The color adds a playful aspect to what initially seems dark. Creating a window into the world of the talented Jeston Rodriguez. We hope you enjoy her work and unique perspective as much as we have.

Your work has a sort of dark undertone. What is it about the macabre that moves you to emulate it in your art?

Who doesn’t love a good scare? Since I can remember, I’ve been curious about ghosts and scary stories. The fascination stayed with me growing up. It used to be about being scared but soon turned into a fascination with death. I collect folklore, visit cemeteries frequently, and work as a part-time funeral assistant. I’ve even considered going back to school to be a mortician. I definitely romanticize the idea of what happens to you after you die. There’s something peaceful about it to me. Not in a religious sense, but rather in what happens to your body, your consciousness, and your energy. I try and share that interest with others through my work.

How much do horror films play in inspiring you?

Ha. I’d say a good bit. I love all types of horror movies, and I won’t ever turn down a B-list horror. The first scary movie I saw was at my neighbor’s house, where her dad let us watch The Exorcist. I was eight and had nightmares for weeks. My mom was pissed. I think what inspires me from horror movies the most is the build-up, like right before they show the monster. The vulnerability that the character is going through, the ambient music—that’s what I really enjoy. I hope to convey the same uneasiness in my work.

Your depiction of the women you paint balances strength and femininity. Is that the point?

That’s a happy accident. I’m glad the women I paint come across as strong, probably a reflection of the whole fight-or-flight reaction people experience. My response to something threatening or scary happening has always been to double down and get ready to fight. It’s what comes natural to me. I guess that response unintentionally made its way into my work. I’m cool with that.

As an artist who does commissions, do you find those commissions as challenging, or as rewarding as your non-commissioned work?

I find commissions a million times more challenging. I’m a procrastinator, so working on deadlines is always tricky, especially when I’m multitasking projects. Commissions have definitely helped me work on my time management. On top of that, trying to make a piece with little guidance or a lot of guidelines can be hard; I don’t want to miss the mark. I want to wow the buyer without completely losing my spin on the concept. I put a lot of time, research, and effort into these paintings. I want the buyer to go away with something they will truly love, keep them coming back for more. No doubt though, the hardest part about commissions is creating something I don’t want to part with. Rare, but it does happen.

Who are some artists (old or new) that inspired you?

Where do I start? Stephen Gammell, my first love, the guy whose art started it all as far
as horror goes. Caravaggio: that lighting, though. Norman Rockwell for his storytelling. Gil Elvgren for his strong, sexy, female subjects. J.C. Leyendecker for his gorgeous portraiture. Sam Spratt for his story of how he started, not to mention for how he’s simply amazing. Michelle Avery Konczyk for being a watercolor queen. Emokih for her haunting subjects. Madame Talbot for her devotion to hand-drawn illustration.

Being an up and coming artist, what motivates you?

It’s weird to think of myself as an up-and-coming artist. I’ve been creating since I was two, so I’ve been afraid of becoming stale or burnt out, which I felt like for a few years. My motivation, as cliché as it is, was a New Year’s resolution. I decided to stop worrying about being rejected, to stop trying to create what I think people wanted, and to create for myself. Not going to lie, doing that Instagram “Top 9 Challenge” last year and realizing I’d made only 12 paintings in 2017 was a huge punch in the gut. I felt as if I couldn’t call myself an artist. So, I decided to change the way I think of myself.

What’s your favorite music to listen to when you paint?

I like really lyrical, emotional, haunting music, something I can sing along to. I like to call it “whiney boys whining” music. Brand New, Florence and the Machine, Twenty-One Pilots, Dead Man’s Bones, The Civil Wars. That or I’m binge-watching Gilmore Girls for the nineteenth run-through on Netflix. Depends on the day.

Is there an underlying message in your work?

I think the message changes with each painting. To be honest I do a lot of storytelling to myself when I create the paintings. I make up back-stories for the characters, which make them feel realer to me. I love hearing what others think my paintings are about. It’s cool to see the paintings in a different light, though I do try and give the paintings some guidance. Usually, I title them in a way that gives viewers hints on what’s going on.

What is it about portraiture that you enjoy?

In all honesty, I just really like painting faces. If I had to dig deeper, it relates back to a time when getting your portrait painted used to be only for those who were financially fortunate. The paintings are full of personality, sass, and vulnerability. Thinking about when photography became more popular, it blew my mind that most people didn’t have their photos taken until after they’d passed on. Death photography is gorgeous, by the way, since even in death people have a presence. I want to capture ordinary people while they are still here, their experience, in a way that shows how extraordinary they are.

Any advice for other artists?

Keep creating. Don’t let rejection set you back. Hold yourself accountable because no one else will. Try and experience as much art as you can. Learn from other artists. Make connections and hunt down opportunities, which won’t just fall into your lap. Enjoy it. It’s scary as hell but so worth it if it’s what you want in life.

Artist Q&A: Ief Peeters

There are alot of different types of painters. I guess what I mean is people create for different reasons. It’s one of the things we think makes each artist so great. Each unique view adds a precious piece to the mosaic of expression we are all a part of. For the Belgium artist Ief Peeters it’s a desire to express one’s perception of reality. “Molding it according to one’s own insight and desire, with the means at hand.” Not making art to please the wishes and wants of the spectator. Instead why not dare to step into a dialogue with the audience. Only using texture, form, colour and light. It’s up to the spectator to enter inside this artistic conversation. The intention is to go further then what was immediately visible. To “show the frailty of the concept and the model.”

Though his focus is primary portraits, he paints various subjects and styles. All of which have this beautiful depth to them. That depth was what attracted us to his work. An accomplished student, artist, and teacher. Ief Peeters lives the art life. Teaching commissioned painting, drawing and expositions at the Art Academy are part of his professional life. In his creative life he paints what he chooses, as well as doing commissions from as far as the United States and Canada. Intelligent and calculated in what he chooses to portray in his work, his perspective is all his own. The talented Ief Peeters. Let’s see what he has to say.

Is the deconstructed style to bring focus to specific parts of your pieces?

Indeed it is. That is exactly the point of the exercise. By leaving out features, the negative shape of the limbs in this last series of drawings, it appeals to the perception and fantasy of the spectator. The ‘shadowy’ parts consist of a strong clair-obscur. They function as a build up, and try to catch the attention of the spectator for a bit longer. So to speak, it was an attempt to create somekind of a game, an interaction if you will, between the duality of the empty and ‘flatter’ line parts and the volume in the faces. Light vs. dark and line vs. volume. Those parts accentuate one another.

How long have you been painting?

Ha! As long as I can remember, there were colour pencils laying about everywhere. Drawing on paper, on the floor, and – much to the dismay of my parents – even on the walls of the house. Also, some of the teachers in high school weren’t very amused when class was over, since some of the desks had a new pattern. Using oil paint came much later, during and after art college. Since the handling and working with oil paint is something you don’t learn overnight, it took years of practice to be able to apply it in the kind of way the results were something I was more or less satisfied with.

What is it about portraits, and “portraying the vulnerability behind the presumptuous glance?”

Well, in my honest opinion, portraiture is something one could and should discuss about for hours. This artform has such a long history and tradition.. not only in the ‘why?’ but also the ‘how?’. A long time ago portraiture art was the preserve and privilege of those who had the financial means to commission them. When one takes a look at the amazing portraits created by Caravaggio, Velázquez, Ingres…I can’t but stand in awe for such insight in how they managed to portray their patrons. Portraits are as close to the human condition as possible. They can show us a wide range of emotions, ranging from the subdued to the boisterous, and everything in between. And I do think that showing the vulnerability is a risk being taken. As an artist as well as the art you show, your model, the fact you decided to show. Because when it comes to it, you are also showing yourself through the art you and long story short: in the end it is the spectator who decides if it works.

What was the initial inspiration for the style you’ve used as of late?

Well, there were periods in which I played around with lots of colour, to create contrasts. To stimulate the eyes of the spectator to move across the canvas. However, at one given moment last December, a decision was made to leave all colour away, after taking a long look at one drawing in my sketchbook and thinking it could actually work quite well by itself. Black. White. Form. Contrast. And shadows. Despite so many artists claiming they create original pieces..that’s a load of bullshit, because in one way or another, ones insight is influenced by impressions you take with you before expressing yourself in a work of art. Doesn’t matter if it is being latent or rather manifest. Picasso and Braque would have never created their cubist pieces without the art of Cézanne. And he, in his turn, would have never started his analytic approach without the fuel of the Impressionists. And so on. Art history can and should be seen as a pedigree. One style or movement feeds the other. Interaction, you know? This last series of drawings I made can be perceived as the derivative combination of so many styles and artists …and without a doubt I would have to mention Klimt, Mucha, Schiele, Delaroche, Spilliaert, Gérôme and Caravaggio. Absolute geniuses who had a tremendous impact on my approach to art.

Do you have people you know model for you?

Absolutely. I have to mention Nele, Céline and Angela. Fantastic people to work with. I have known them for quite some time, and they know perfectly what I look for in a pose or look. We arrange a photoshoot, so directions can be given and tell them what is being looked for. Lighting, pose and look. That’s what it comes down to. And just a fraction of the photos are used as a reference. Even though no projector is being used to ‘track and trace’, I do use the print outs as a guide. Sometimes a grid is used, and sometimes it’s just freehand sketching.

Who are some of the artists you enjoy right now?

There are so many styles and artists whom I respect and get touched by. A few names were already mentioned earlier. Going to a museum or exposition..or even reading about and enjoying pieces by artists like Bernini, Richter, Kiefer, Corot, Pollock, Klein, Duchamp, Derain, ..and so many more is always such a pleasure.

How does teaching effect you work?

Well, I teach drawing, painting and art history, and the interaction with the students and some of the colleagues is an absolute pleasure. The different approach to what art can or should be yields quite some interesting and lively discussions. Also, it is such a gratification to see people create, and assist them in the process of finding their own signature. Hands down, if one can say he or she doesn’t see their job as work…that is something to feel very lucky about . Observing my students at work, it motivates not to stick to just one subject. And to keep experimenting. Just..do. You know?

The absence of color allows one to focus on the subtleties in each piece. What would you say your intent is with that technique?

As in so many cases, less is more. And your observation is spot on. In this series the emphasis is set on the form, while the chiaroscuro focuses on the facial expression. It is so much fun to play with these contrasts, and I hope it catches the attention of the spectator for a bit longer. Even though this way of working doesn’t have to become the ‘leitmotif’ of what is to come.

How would you describe your work?

A passion. And it would be unimaginable never to be able to draw or paint again. It’s very difficult to put a name to it.. but without doubt it is a melting pot of so many influences. Obviously there is a bias ttowards figurative art, and influenced by classical poses. This is such a difficult question..I have never given it that much thought at all, if I’m honest. Let’s stick to and eclectic contemporary figurative style.

Any advice for other artist.

Stop mucking about, and do. Even if one fails a lot in their attempts. Frustration is inherent to the process. So if one is always content with what one makes, you’re doing it wrong. And yes, those hundreds of failed attempts one has when starting out..they do serve a purpose. In time it will yield work you can be completely not unhappy with.