Artist’s Spotlight: Chris Ernst

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I’m delighted to introduce you to Chris Ernst, pop art painter extraordinaire! I met Chris in December at a craft fair put on by The Center for Contemporary Art. His work is so funky fresh and innovative. So without further ado, here’s Chris!

Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Chris Ernst: I have been a constant doodler for as long as I can remember.  I completed a few paintings in high school and knew it was a passion I would eventually follow but I first took a ten year break between college and grad school.  Once I graduated I began to pursue painting more seriously.  It wasn’t until 2011 before I really dove into painting and it wasn’t until 2013 before I actively began pursuing selling my art.  Now I can’t imagine a future without drawing/painting/creating.

Bruce Buns 1.1

Bruce Buns 1.1 – Acrylic – 12″ x 12″ – 2014

RO: What first inspired you to art?
CE: I think it probably started with my grandfathers.  Both were woodworkers and one was an illustrator to boot.  During the period of their lives when I knew them they were both at a point where they could concentrate on their passions.  I remember being amazed at my paternal grandfather’s work ethic – he would disappear for hours in his workshop.  I remember being very inspired by the process and care he put into the wooden banks he would create.  From a personal standpoint, I vividly remember being given a drawing assignment in the fourth grade and immediately tackling one of the hardest assignments available.  It was of a church steeple and I went all in – making sure I captured all the details, including every shingle.  The accuracy wasn’t there but the scope and fearlessness were evident.  I remember it was chosen as a work of the month and placed on display in the school.  My mom, who has always nursed my creative impulses, was so excited to see it in the school hallway and eventually framed the piece.  It is still hanging in my old bedroom.  All around it was a very exciting experience and something I can look back on and say, “That was the spark. . .”

RO: What types of media are your current favorites and why? Is there a different type of medium that you would like to try in the future?
CE: Acrylic painting is by far my favorite medium at the moment.  I love the immediacy of it and I am a huge fan of color so the wide palette is something that is very appealing.  I have also begun working on turning more of my drawings into paintings over the past year.  I am a big fan of lines and seeing them evolve from a simple pencil drawing to ink to an acrylic painting is a process I can study over and over.  I took my first screen printing class about a year ago and have enjoyed that as well.  There is something about being able to run 20 prints in a row that really speaks to the pop artist in me.

Mario Muertos

Mario Meurtos – Acrylic – 24″ x 24″ – 2015 (it will debut at my solo show at Trentworks)

As far as future mediums are concerned I have a solo show opening at a great gallery called Trentonworks.  The show is called “Urban Pop: 1989-1990” and it will be up in the gallery from February 2nd – 28th with an opening reception at 6 PM on Thursday, February 5th.  I have been working with a team to bring some pieces alive three-dimensionally, more as an installation, so I am super psyched to see how that ends up.

RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
CE: I believe in the deconstruction of pop art through the process of human fabrication.  The original inspiration for my process came from studying Andy Warhol during a high school art class.  Early in his career he would take an image, project it onto canvas, trace it out and then hand paint it.  As he moved along he got into screens and then had engineers and was removed from the process from a technical perspective.  However, I am inspired by that nascent period when he was still painting.  I believe that capturing the “artist’s hand” adds to each piece, from the slight imperfections to the balancing of colors.

Of course, the artist’s hand doesn’t touch the work without the original inspiration.  Lately I have been finding my inspiration in tons of influences from my childhood – everything from early 90s skate graphics to Star Wars to early hip hop.  My favorite pieces of the past year have combined something from these early influences with my own personal flourish, most often through the abstraction process of hand drawing and then painting the image I am chasing.

Tongue Tied 1

Tongue Tied – Acrylic – 40″ x 30″ – 2014 (currently up at VAM Art in Metuchen)

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
CE: I had to look this up because I keep a pretty detailed journal.  I knew immediately which work it was but wasn’t sure on the time to complete.  The winner is “Tongue Tied”, a 40” x 30” acrylic painting I completed in 2014 that is currently on display at VAM Art in Metuchen through the end of March.  It started off as a doodle at work and grew from there.  When all was said and done it was 30 hours of work and I was tired of painting but love the outcome.

RO: You’re part of a collective called Fresh Milc. What is it like to be part of an art collective and how has that influenced your art?
CE: MILC started off on a lark.  I was with a group of friends at a club in Brooklyn and there was another group there with matching t-shirts.  We were a little jealous so we decided to create our own.  I crafted a painting and then we turned that into a vector and eventually our own t-shirt.  We liked the process so much we decided to press up a bunch and sell them.  MILC was born.

The impact has been twofold.  First of all, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with some great friends, thanks for everything, Noah, Adrian, Bobby and Laron.  Sorry, I just had to give them a shout out.  Having them as a soundboard and fellow crafters of our vision has been an inspiring experience.

MILCY Doom

MILCy Doom – Acrylic – 12″ x 12″ – 2014

The second impact has been finding our mascot, MILCy D, as a muse.  As Warhol had his celebrities and Campbell’s soup cans I have MILCy.  I have completed well over twenty paintings of him at this point and launched close to a dozen t-shirt and sweatshirt designs with him.  Speaking of which, I need to get cracking on our Spring 2015 t-shirt.

RO: In addition to being a part of Fresh Milc, you are a staple in the New Jersey gallery and art fair circuit, including the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market and the Center for Contemporary Art’s Holiday Boutique. What would you say is the most important lesson (or lessons) that you’ve learned about the business side of art as a result of participating in these ventures?
CE: I was a business major in school and have always believed Warhol’s adage of “good business is the best art”.  So I have never had an issue with the “art vs. business” conversation.  If people see something they like and want to own it that is a beautiful thing, regardless of the impetus behind the creation.

The biggest lessons I have learned center on having multiple price points for your work and knowing your audience.  In particular, it is important to have price points that can provide an entryway into your art.  Being accessible from a pricing perspective is important to generating interest at fairs.  If you are priced too high it is a non-starter.  Knowing your audience is also very important.  You list two great examples in the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market and the CCA holiday boutique – two very different crowds.  Knowing your set up and which works are most likely to appeal to the appropriate crowd are important.  Of course, one of the most rewarding experiences is having work that is universal and sells to both crowds.

S&M - Acrylic - 12" x 12" - 2014

S&M – Acrylic – 12″ x 12″ – 2014

RO: I noticed that much of your work is in the pop art genre. What drove you toward this style of painting?
CE: It is a style of art that has just appealed to me aesthetically and, the more I delve into it, from a philosophical standpoint as well.  Warhol laid the philosophy but I think Roy Lichtenstein is the perfect embodiment.  His work with benday dots is pretty close to perfect but I also get the mindset.  I look at all the punk band stickers that are plastered on the stop sign outside the Court Tavern in New Brunswick and I just think it is fantastic – those stickers will wear and eventually fade away to only be replaced by the next layer of stickers.  It is disposable and permanent at the same time.  I love that.

RO: Is there a subject you have yet to approach/wish to approach in the future?
CE: Right now I am in grind mode prepping for my solo show at Trentonworks so it is hard to think what is next after the very next project.  I have another installation in Jersey City in March and I am hoping to incorporate a Jersey rock theme.  I will be doing different variations of a logo from an 80s punk band called The Circle Jerks but with a Jersey twist.  After that I am not sure, maybe do a series of more abstracted paintings and some political work.  These feel like nice touch points but will probably get thrown away once I have my next job in front of me.

DOC 1 (8 Bit Bullet)

8 Bit Bullet – Acrylic – 12″ x 12″ – 2014 (it will be in an upcoming show at Blank Canvas Gallery in New Hope, PA)

RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
CE: Great question – three things immediately come to mind.  At home I have a wooden bank and a jewelry box that were in my grandfather’s workshop when he passed away.  They mean a lot.  At my parent’s house in Manasquan I have a truck bed made by my other grandfather.  It is in a bit of disrepair but I can’t wait to have it refinished and let my kids use it.  I also have several Christmas ornaments that my fiancée made and I love bringing them out every year.  Oh, do handwritten notes count?  I have a lot of those that mean a lot to me and provide me strength and encouragement.

RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
CE: Invisibility, but I wouldn’t desire it for any nefarious reasons.  I am just curious.  I would love to be a fly on the wall for important meetings – what is a presidential cabinet meeting like?  How are NFL draft choices really made?  What about important NASA meetings?  I think it would help me win more bar arguments.

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
CE: A lesson I have learned is to have a great support system.  My fiancée Jamie is a great co-creator, sounding board and all around positive force.  I wouldn’t be where I am at without her or my family.

Also, some advice I have found along the way from some other folks.  Jack Kerouac wrote “what do I really know about it except you’ve got to stick to it with the energy of a benny addict” about writing and I think it applies to art.  Also, and I am paraphrasing, but one of the guys from Vampire Weekend used to get hung up on criticism.  But then he realized when people don’t like something they will just move on.   You don’t play music or look at art you hate over and over. But if they love something it will stick with them forever.  Art is like that.

Frank N Furter

Frank-N-Furter Has a Posse – Screen Print – 11″ x 8.5″ – 2014

Thanks for sharing your art and your insight, Chris! Love your style.

If you’d like to follow Chris and his art on the web, check out his Facebook, Instagram, Etsy shop, and blog. And if you’re in the area, come out to his solo show reception at the Trentonworks Art Gallery on Thursday, February 5 from 6 – 8 pm!

Inked: Checking Off a Bucket List Goal

For the past month, I’ve been caught up with the wedding and living that I didn’t realize I crossed off another item from my bucket list (well, three, but more on that in the parenthetical aside at the end of this post).

One thing I’ve been wanting to do for quite some time is get tattooed. A very generous friend of mine paid for my first tattoo as a wedding present.

The day of, I was super nervous, but everything went so well. The artist, Donny Manco, was fantastic! We kicked around two ideas and settled on the one I’ve had in my head for the longest amount of time—a dove leaving a trail of fire.

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Ink!

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The artist at work, making a stencil

The tattoo hurt way less than anticipated…except for the last half hour or so. The result was so worth it!

The finished product!

The finished product!

After healing and on my wedding day

After healing and on my wedding day

I’m so happy with my tattoo and am looking forward to many more!

(Incidentally, during the process of the wedding and my honeymoon, I checked off two more bucket list goals—getting married and seeing a Broadway play.)

Artist’s Spotlight – Eric Valosin

This installment of Artist’s Spotlight features an artist I’ve known since he was a wee undergraduate. It has been a joy to see his work grow over the years, and I am so happy to share his work with you all! Please enjoy this interview with a great artist and friend—Eric Valosin.

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Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Eric Valosin: I’d give the stock answer of “ever since I was a little kid” and tell you anecdotes about drawing for hours as a toddler at my mom’s office, but I’m starting to believe that I hadn’t really ever made art until a few years ago. I went through school as a painter, developed a lot of conventionally artistic skills, and made a lot of things that masqueraded as art. Conceptually I began searching for the intersection of art and spirituality, but went about it all in a very naive way. In grad school it was like the scales fell from my eyes and I truly saw art for the first time.

I started to see beyond the cults of personality, beyond the push to find your “voice” in some stylized gimmick, beyond the pretenses of rigid, over-aestheticized formalism. I felt duped. I started to discover the real power of art to encapsulate and grow out of a complete worldview. I started to learn not just how a medium is used but why it’s used indeed, how and why a medium is invented in the first place. I learned how to learn from my own work and let it propel me to deeper questions about the world around me. Most of all, I learned to be more genuine, giving up on making what I thought art was supposed to be, and instead simply trying to work through those deeper questions and respond to what materializes. Dynamically immersing oneself into what philosopher/theologian Paul Tillich calls “matters of ultimate concern” – and manifesting that into something others can experience – that’s art. It took me a long time to really grasp that. It also happens that that’s Tillich’s definition of religion as well.

Cosmos on Gray 1-0In terms of media, in grad school I also came to terms with the fact that I painted mostly by default. In order to get closer to the more interesting parts of life, I had to move beyond paint to whatever medium helped me best get at those big questions, which I also began refining. That led me to my current work with light and projection installations, drawing, and interactive new media, exploring the possibilities of mystical experience in a world that has begun transcending traditional transcendence, and whose space in more often cyber than sacred.


RO
: What first inspired you to art?
EV: In the sense above, I was entranced to realized that art had the breadth to contain the wild diversity of my interests. It was more than aesthetic. It gave me an excuse to live a very curious life (both in the sense of being driven by curiosity and in the sense of sheer oddity!). In the name of art I could on one day find myself making shadow puppets, the next reading Heidegger. One day teach myself Greek, the next day JavaScript. One day talk to a monk, the next day to a fire juggler. As a child I was drawn to the idea of creating and exploring a world in which anything was possible. As an adult I realized that art lets you explore the impossible in the world that already exists.

RO: What types of media are your current favorites and why? Is there a different type of medium that you would like to try in the future?
EV: I have a complicated relationship with light. It’s the perfect mystical medium, paradoxically both particle and wave, present only by way of absence/contrast, a rigid, constraining universal constant that somehow also seems to be flexible and constrained by other forces. It inherently tends toward the sublime when used right, and with all the religious metaphors and scriptural allusions, you end up with a medium preloaded with more spiritual content that you can shake a censer at.

ValosinHyalo2Arch1However, it’s also by far the most difficult and finicky medium I work with. I often use it in ways that require a high degree of optical precision, like blending painted color with digitally projected color, or projecting onto glow-in-the-dark paint. In many of my installations I spend hours fighting with ambient lighting, calibrating colors, and negotiating with gallery staff as I try to get the balances just right. In a recent show I spent an entire day fine tuning a projection, only for the gallerist to change the lighting on a photo at the far opposite corner of the gallery, instantly sending me back to the drawing board as I watched my piece suddenly optically fall apart. I try to go out of my way to be pleasant to work with because I know how much patience, trust, and flexibility some of my work can demand of a curator or institution, and I’m grateful for every opportunity to try to prove it’s worth it!

Lately I’ve also gotten more and more into interactive new media. Interactivity and user-definability is increasingly at the forefront of contemporary life. As I pushed my questions about technology’s role in spiritual experience, I found myself getting into creative coding, hacking Xbox Kinect sensors, programming Arduino’s, and crashing Maker Faires to pick people’s brains about LEDs and transistors.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the tech spectrum, I’ve began experimenting with gouache in my drawings. Someday I’d love to get into holography too; talk about a perfect contemporary expression of Plotinus’ mystical notion of “formless form!” Most of all I enjoy tampering with convention and inventing entirely new ways of working when known mediums and techniques seem to fall short.

RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
EV: A lot of my work begins as a response to a site. The 14th-Century mystic Meister Eckhart said that if you love a painting on a wall, you love the wall as well. I’ve found you cannot make paintings if you don’t at least consider walls; In fact, many great artists have made entire careers of exclusively building walls, so to speak. Once I know what space I’m dealing with and set out some goals or a challenge to tackle, there are four criteria I keep in the back of my mind for all of my work.

Firstly I want to engage with what’s known as apophasis, or “negative theology,” which is the branch of mysticism that says that in order to get at the unknowable God, we must negate all that we can know. This leads me to create visual negation or paradox like in UnKnowledge and Triptych, or make marks by way of erasure like in my Cosmos on Gray series. Sometimes the apophasis is more subtle, like how the anamorphic, pixelated imagery in As Above, So Below falls apart when you try to approach it.

Secondly I want to merge the old and new in terms of media, pushing traditional mystical strategies through high levels of contemporary mediation. That might mean hand drawing a scannable QR code like in my Meditations series, digitally projecting onto a painting, or even merging the physical and virtual self, considering the body itself as a medium like in Somatechne or Venae Cavae.

Meditation 1.1 (Thusness Elseness Omnipresent) AdjustedThirdly, I try to blend the old and new conceptually as well. Each work reflects the tension (or synergy) between the medieval metaphysics (and far earlier) which underpin most of our religious paradigms, and contemporary philosophy which has largely been regarded as secular and humanistic. It gets hairy once you play out the practical, ethical implications of religion after globalism, the death of Nietzsche’s God, and the mess postmodernism made of Platonic idealism. I don’t want to be naive about the sticking points of declaring God in today’s world. I think its entirely possible and exciting though to find inroads into a complex, new, relational metaphysics.

Fourthly, I want my work to be interactive, to cause the viewer to move, to make them more aware of their own body and the space around them. The body is paramount to our experience of God.

I try to imagine anything is possible and then google later to find out otherwise! When all this comes into alignment and is working well, it amounts to a highly mediated, sublime experience that’s both confounding and enlightening.

I think the last part of my creative process involves looking at what I’ve made and really critically evaluating it. I want to see what worked, what didn’t work, and find all the really good happy accidents that might lead me to a new experiment. There’s a constant back and forth between ideas pushing my work and my work pushing my ideas. Some of my best work has come out of co-opting prior failures.

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
EV: I have a few pieces that I’ve been working on for a couple years, many still in the idea/prototype phase, but I tend to work relatively quickly. A lot of time goes into research, experimentation, and preparation, but with installations most of the elbow grease has to be applied in a limited time frame. In a perfect world I’d plow through one project at a time, mostly because the longer I stew on any one project the more likely I am to intimidate myself out of it. For practical purposes though I always end up with several in progress at any moment and some get shelved for a while. But then there are those projects that really just take a long time.

I very much enjoy process. I’ve done several pieces in which the process becomes the end product like my earlier projection piece It Is, and a few that don’t technically have an completion point at all, like my performance/installation piece Circle. I like the idea that the meditative energy of creating a work can somehow translate into a meditative process of viewing.

RO: What subjects do you like to work with? Any subjects you’d like to see more of in your future work?
EV: As we’ve already been teasing out, each project of mine explores some corner of the unfolding terrain of a sort of postmodern (even posthuman) mysticism. I do tend to come back to a few themes and references: stained glass, circles, mandalas, sacred geometry, shadows, the body. As I move forward I’m always looking for unturned rocks in the conceptual terrain. For example, I’ve been starting to mull over what religion looks like from a non-anthropocentric viewpoint. I’m also very deliberate in letting accidents and experimentation lead me to entirely new places.

Valosin_AsAboveSoBelow1RO: I notice that you work a lot with the subject of faith. How has your faith shaped your work? On that note, do you feel you have a different experience in the art community because of your faith (access/limits to certain venues or connections? Different responses to your work than, say, a more secular artist)?
EV: I grew up Christian and was very active with various faith communities through college. I’m the son of a church secretary, and now the husband of a United Methodist minister. Proud of those roots as I am, I began to be very disillusioned by the politics and dogma of religion, and I’m appalled by the atrocities of hate and exclusivity so often committed in the name of God. I started to poke holes and find logical inconsistencies in the faith of my upbringing, and that’s where this artistic practice began. I want my faith to be alive, relevant, and socially responsible. I want to connect to God as God is, not as I have concocted God to be. I still consider myself a Christian, but I’m probably not quite your typical United Methodist anymore. I also saw a severe lack of quality artistry in the church. I crave a collaboration between art and religion that doesn’t water down either. A lot of my efforts outside the studio go to mending the gap between the church world and the art world.

My dual citizenship in these two worlds (as if they were truly separable) have certainly afforded me some interesting opportunities that would otherwise not be available. This past July I completed a commissioned interactive new media installation for a church and held a special contemplative service revolving around my work, as well as a discussion forum on art and faith. In November I’ll be installing a solo show at Andover Newton Theological School outside Boston, and teaching a continuing education class on art and worship at Drew Theological School in NJ. I actually anticipated more dead ends and glass ceilings because of how stigmatized religion can be, but I think if you’re doing something well enough and being genuine, people respect that. I do have to be very intentional about where I place my work and walk a fine line between being provocative and polemical. But then again all artists do to some extent.

RO: You have taught several workshops revolving around art, worship, and even artist statements. Is there any subject you particularly love speaking about? Is there a past class that was a favorite or the most amusing?
EV: When it comes to teaching I’m most passionate about conceptual development. I find there’s tons of fantastic formalist instruction on how to make art (which shouldn’t be undervalued), but it’s rarer to learn how to think about the art you make. Only the luckiest of BFA students learn anything about parlaying their technique into a meaningful, robust studio practice that’s truly impactful to the world. Most students don’t get that until grad school, even though it’s in some ways primary to even deciding to learn to paint or draw in the first place. It’s about helping people flesh out their world-views and the implicit meanings and relationships their work gathers, and then respond to that in the studio.

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This particular storefront project was a collaboration between Eric and Marc D’Agusto.

One time I taught a 4-session workshop using experimental drawing to discover how the medium itself carries meaning even before subject matter. I agonized over how to accommodate a potentially large audience without sacrificing individual attention. I ended up teaching to one lonely student, who misunderstood the course description in the first place! She was preparing for an upcoming artist talk at the time, so we ended up adapting the class material to help uncover what her work was saying and help her talk about it. I attended her presentation and she did very well, and I started to see how important it was to be able to interpret and speak about one’s own work. That’s what led me to offer an artist statement workshop. That one ended up being a packed house!

RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
EV: I am particularly attached to a painting I have that my grandfather made. To be honest I don’t even like it all that much as a painting, but it’s a reminder to me of why I looked up to him. He was a carpenter who built the house my dad grew up in, as well as a veteran who earned a purple heart. He was always getting into something that piqued his curiosity and painting was one of his many, many hobbies, among bee keeping and coin collecting. I also inherited an old Gibson guitar and electric mandolin of his. When he passed away we found tubes for glass blowing stuffed in the rafters of the basement that he had been meaning to experiment with someday!

I can remember him sitting with me looking at a new drawing of mine when I was young and saying, “Well, that’s really good there. You’ve got your lights and your darks… don’t be afraid to go darker.” The painting I saved of his has particularly good contrast. We used to joke that if you asked him what time it was he’d teach you how to build a watch. But I hung on every word. He was a real renaissance man and in that regard very much a role model for me.

RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?Valosin_UnKnowledge2
EV: Hands down, the power to stop time. 24 hours would be more than enough if every now and then one of those hours could last a couple days. Of course I’d have to be exempt from my own stoppage of time. What a waste that would be, being able to stop time but never knowing it because you’re stopped right along with it! …Come to think of it, maybe I already have that power.

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
EV: I’ve found there’s no wrong way to make art, but there is a way to make the wrong art. Context is hugely overlooked, but it’s what makes a Miró a masterpiece instead of a scribble, or an Allison Knowles more than just a meal. As an artist you have to push deeply into your own “matters of ultimate concern,” but you also have to consider how all those matters fit into relationship with history and the world around you, including the matters of other people’s ultimate concerns.

Life is full of complexity and relational interdependence, and every single person’s worldview is in some way valid, perhaps especially those with which you disagree. After all, we live in a world made of meta-histories and socio-cultural paradigms that have allowed all those worldviews to exist, and for that reason they all represent some real truth about that world. Where they clash and intersect is where life gets intriguing. Art is not just drawing or painting; it’s learning to play at those intersections.

Thank you so much, Eric, for your insight and for giving us a window into you journey!

If you’d like to check out more of Eric’s work, visit his Web site here.

Artist’s Spotlight – Robert Garcia

When I first met Roberto Garcia a few years ago, what stuck out to me was his incredibly easy-going and fun personality. As I got to know him, I realized he had much insight as well. These qualities make their way into his artwork. Enjoy the interview with my good friend, Roberto Garcia!

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Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Roberto Garcia: I’ve been creating art for as long as I can remember. As a kid I’d take my toys apart and combine them. GI Joe’s with Transformer body parts, and stuff like that. Then I tried my hand at comic books and portraits. Recently, I’ve been working with acrylic paints, markers, and newspaper. Let’s see where that goes.

RO: What first inspired you to art?
RG: Hmm. I suppose it’s just something I had to do. Writing, drawing, and music just called to me. It didn’t hurt that my mother had all kinds of books on hand at home. I was just moved to do it all the time.

RO: What types of media are your current favorites and why? Is there a different type of medium that you would like to try in the future?photo1
RG
: Writing is my favorite medium, but I love painting with acrylics. Something about what you can imply with the colors. I’m no expert, I just enjoy it.

RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
RG: I like to explore my world and see what it gives me. It could be an article, a scene, a photograph, or a moment. I try to complicate whatever it is that inspires me, and present it in a thought provoking way.

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
RG: I spent a year on a really terrible piece of art! It was pastel chalks, acrylics, an actual poem glued to the canvas, and it was horrible. I finally let it go, but after that I painted four to five pieces that I really like. So, I guess I had to get that ugly out. Haha.

RO: Your chapbook, “Amores Gitano,” was recently published, which is very exciting! Could you speak a bit about putting together the chapbook as well as the publishing process? How would you describe the feeling of holding the chapbook in your hands for the first time?photo2
RG
: Most of those poems came from an erotica themed reading a friend of mine put together. I worked them and worked them, and sent them to the editor of Cervena Barva Press, and the rest is history. It’s a fun book because it morphed so much as I revised it. They could be read as poems of desire and longing, or the artist’s struggle with art, and the muse. I was fortunate to deal with a professional press, and they made everything smooth and painless. When I finally held the chapbook in my hand I was like, Wow!! The publish date was right before AWP, and the Cervena Barva press had issues for sale at their table, so it was surreal. I was at AWP Boston and copies of my chapbook were on sale. Wild!

RO: Your chapbook has a Spanish title, which means “Gypsy Loves.” Please speak a bit as to why you chose to have a title in a foreign language for an English market. What does that title mean to you?photo4
RG
: Might seem cliché, but everything sounds better in Spanish, and French. The title is a nod to Garcia Lorca. These are passionate poems full of longing, searching, and the mysterious. I had an English title for the book, just in case. Thankfully Gloria Mindock, the Editor/Publisher at Cervena Barva Press, insisted I stay with the Spanish title. I think it captures the feel and passion of the poems. I should also add that the title is in no way a slight to the Romani people.

RO: How does your background as a writer inform your visual art? Conversely, how does your background in visual art inform your writing?
RG: Sometimes a line of poetry will spark an image, and I find myself kicking a painting around in my head until I put it on canvas. However, art greatly inspires my writing! I write a lot of ekphrastic poetry, and flash fiction pieces based on art work I see.

RO: Every artist has subjects that pop up again and again in his or her work. What are those subjects for you? Is there a different subject you’d like to tackle in future work?
RG: Race always pops up in my work. As I study race relations in America I’ve begun to realize why. Everything in America is hypersexualized, and hyperracialized. So in a way it is inevitable for an artist to either write/draw about it, or avoids it. Relationships are also a subject that comes up in my work. I find interpersonal experiences fascinating, and that comes up a lot.

photo3RO: If you could spend an evening with any writer, living or deceased, who would you choose and why? On a similar note, if you could spend an evening with any visual artist, living or deceased, who would you choose and why?
RG: Wow. Can it only be one? That’s impossible. However, I’ll cheat a little. I’d really like to go back, and hang out with the Harlem Renaissance artists, the whole crowd, at one of those big band jazz swing clubs!  I believe that the artists of the Harlem Renaissance are the American version of all those European writers that wrote under communist, and dictatorial regimes. The conditions they endured, (racism, brutality, being marginalized, economically) and they still produced amazing work. Yes, definitely the Harlem Renaissance.

RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
RG: I like to collect old stuff, but nothing handmade that I can think of. I have an old Olympia typewriter from the 60’s.

RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
RG: Easy, a healing factor. Wolverine is one of my favorite characters for that reason. Yep, indestructability, if I could have a second, The Force! I want to be a Jedi slash Mutant!!

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
RG: I’d like artists to know that working at your craft every day strengthens the muse. It’s nice and whatever to think about the muse. However, hard work is the best muse. Or maybe it is the best thing we can do for the muse. Thanks Michelle!!

 

And thank you, Roberto, for sharing your insights! If you’d like to follow Robert’s happenings, visit him on Tumblr and Twitter.

Artist’s Spotlight – Nancy van den Boom

Today’s Artist’s Spotlight features talented painter, Nancy van den Boom! She and I took part in an artistic challenge last year, and I was always blown away by the texture and expression of her pieces. Enjoy the behind-the-scenes look at her craft.

Nancy_Artist Photo

Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Nancy van den Boom: As a kid, I was drawing all the time, like my Dad did. I looked at him a lot when he was sketching in his free time. I am painting since 2009. Before that I did clay modeling and filming. When I discovered painting, I was hooked! I used pastel, too, and acrylics.

RO: What first inspired you to art?
NVDB: Is it ok I answer I just love to paint? It is part of my system, my life. It’s my passion. I have to pick up that brush and paint! It makes me feel good. That is inspiring!

IMG_6214RO: What types of media are your current favorites and why? Is there a different type of medium that you would like to try in the future?
NVDB
Oil paint is my favorite type of medium. I feel most comfortable with it. Lately I am working with acrylics too. It is so different.

RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
NVDB: I look outside, and I think the light is wonderful, or the skies are dark and tempting! I decide to paint outside! Nature and being outside are big inspirations.

I prepare my “shopper on wheels”! I need to take a lot with me: canvasses, paint, medium, brushes, cloths, field easel. Oh and I need to take something to drink and eat too! I wear my painting coat, which looks like an abstract painting after 2 years of painting outside. I am very fond of my coat! I am getting impatient, the paint is calling me….

IMG_2082I take my gear in the car and start looking for a good spot to paint. It is lovely to do that search and when I find the right place with an interesting composition, I  get excited and put the easel up in the field. I prepare the palette, looking at the landscape and sky. Outside I work quite fast actually. I use a big brush to keep it loose and quick.

Painting a portrait is a lot different of course. I paint a portrait from a live model or with a picture for reference. Preparing a portrait starts by sketching with charcoal, but quite fast I take the brushes and paint! I like to find out during painting and not filling in a sketch. With portraits I build up the painting more than painting outside, but mostly I paint wet-in-wet, which means I paint the scene or portrait in 1 session. Sometimes I work on the painting some more in the studio, when the paint has dried a bit. For certain parts of the painting, that is better possible when it is a bit more dry.

RO:. What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
NVDB: I think when I got my first commission on a portrait of a family, consisting of 5 people. It was quite big, 120 x 100 cm.

I wasn’t very experienced and it was quite a struggle but I enjoyed it a lot. I worked for 10 days on it. Very different from painting outside, when I work about 2-4 hours maximum on a painting of about 30 x 40 cm.

BaaiRO: Your paintings are so vibrant and wonderfully textured, whether they are the result of you painting outside or in your studio. Do you find you that you have a preference for painting either indoors or outdoors?
NVDB: Painting outside I prefer definitely! Being outside, in the space where we live in the Netherlands. Often I look for a lonely place. It is just wonderful. Standing in nature, choosing my subject, seeing the sky changing all the time, and the light is wonderful. And then, on top of that, paint what I see!

RO: What is your favorite subject to paint? Is there a particular subject matter that you would like to paint more of?
NVDB: I like lots of subjects to paint: animals, people, landscape, interiors, still life. I would like to paint more of portraits, landscapes, seascapes, dogs, ….. 🙂

RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?Drie-palen
NVDB
I own handmade pieces of my family: my kids, my parents, my father in law, friends…I cherish these works. I collected quite some during the years. In December, we added a wonderful impressionistic work by Hans Versfelt to our home collection.

RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
NVDB: End wars and starvation, for obvious reasons.

Brug-over-de-DeijeRO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
NVDB: I have to be patient to prepare before I start painting. Often I start too quickly (passion!). When I prepare the composition with more attention, or look better at shapes and colors than I thought I was already doing, it improves a lot. It’s all about looking hard and taking time to be at the spot where I am. That is just wonderful in itself already!

Thanks for sharing, Nancy! If you’d like to see more of her artwork, check out Nancy’s website and Etsy shop.