I have written several articles in the past on the creative personality, navigating relationships when both members of the couple are in similar artistic fields, as well as the motivation and perseverance it takes to follow their dreams and stay the course in the art world, despite the odds against them. A topic that occurred to me, that I think would be of great interest, was the creative process. What do various artists think and do to get inspiration, to take a concept from inspiration to a show? What is their path like? How do these unique talents and dynamic personalities go about the creative process from different directions, but come to the same result of a finished, pleasing, and emotionally evocative piece? In this two-part piece, I will spend the first part focusing on 4 very different, fascinating, and forth coming artists, as well as one gallery owner on their role in the process from inception to show. In the second part of the two-part piece, I will focus in on one gallery Director, and his views on the process and psychology of working with artists, and of aiding the artists on their path.
The first artist I would like to focus on is Gus Fink. Gus has a completely unique style that is all his own. He strives to push himself into constant projects and new areas, and he has a genuine desire to be a voice and a role model that he wishes he had in the art world when he was younger. I hope that he will not mind my adding that he feels that his upcoming show is “the most important painting works he has done to date.” It is deeply personal and important, and that can only come across the work in a powerful way. Here are Gus’s thoughts on his experience and process:
“As an artist, I've started selling my work in galleries in 2001 and since then, I have had 15 solo shows, and been part of 25 group shows. The road till now had its ups and downs, and this September I'll have my first Solo Show in LA since 2009. Back when I was new to LA, and now I've been back several times on business. Back then I was just turning 30, and now am getting closer to 40. Lots has changed since then and I've had several solo/group shows on the East coast which is where my roots are. The Gallery side of my career is a piece of my career, and thankfully I could think of plenty of ways to be a full-time artist for over 18 years, without teaching and without freelance work. Just me, no agent, no manager. A guy in a room locked away from society taking blank canvases, papers wood etc. and turning it into something. Something that I love and hope others can see there is a special energy emitting from it weather subconsciously or not. It's making them spend money on the thing I pulled out of my head. I consider that alchemy, true alchemy.
You may be thinking what the heck does this have to do with galleries or what are you talking about. Well I'll get into that now. My next solo show is titled "Facebook Friends” it’s the only time I put a theme to a gallery show usually I just wrap, pack and hang my favorite current work with a few older works. This show I wanted to do something that is a full-on series. I've been known for my Antique Horror paintings that have gotten me many galleries shows, licensing deals on shirts sold into Hot Topic and more. But I've never done that technique or painting over people with modern day photos. Today everyone is a photographer to some degree. It's almost a worthless commodity because of the easy access. People slap selfies and pics of whatever they feel like it anytime they want. Facebook is this place that adults connect while really submitting their souls into online mode rather than having real human connections like we used to. So, for this show I'm grabbing profile pictures of different Facebook friends I have most of these "friends" I've never met in real life. Some I don't even know if they are who they say they are. Many do seem to be fans of my work and for that I'm grateful but I don't ever really feel like I have a small fraction of these friends in real life. Matter of fact I don't get a phone call from anyone ever besides my wife and brother.
So, I'm grabbing these pics, and turning them into art. I'm creating something new from a worthless selfie photo screen grab and then letting the person take me somewhere else. The goal with each is to turn it into something that pours out real raw emotion. So much of Facebook and social media is fake. It's people trying to be perfect. It's not who they truly are underneath or what they sometimes even look like up close and personal IN REAL LIFE. These new works are dark, chaotic, charming, psychotic, painful, and awe strikingly beautiful. Because they are the real RAW life made with materials and hands on tangible 1 of a kind original authentic genuine atom bursting off them with smells and taste. How did I get here with this idea for this show? Years of watching the world step back from each other. Years of keeping myself inside creating the world from my head and soul and consistently pouring it out for people to see mostly online but once a year or maybe more at a gallery show. So, by swiping these pics of my Facebook friends and turning them into a real raw work of art for people to see in real life and not on their screens. I'm again being an Alchemist, turning nothing into something, something into more, and making things move, shift and spreading the inner markings of my soul for people to be inspired. Let’s wake up to a more creative world. Let’s connect again. My show will be September 9th at the Dark Art Emporium in Long Beach California. I hope to see you there!”
The next artist I would like to introduce you to is Julie B. Julie is so creative, so willing to try new things, and most importantly, so giving of herself to others. I have personally experienced her taking genuine joy in sharing her tricks of the trade with me, and her willingness to help others create in ways that it has taken her years to cultivate through trial and error. Her joy, her attention to detail, and her fearlessness, shows in her work. Here are Julie’s thoughts:
“One of the things that I love about creating art is the variety of mediums and processes that can be utilized. In art school, I took as many different classes as I could and have been able to experiment even more over the years. I think that most anyone can benefit from creating art. The experience is both mentally stimulating and meditative at the same time. My big passion is animals and they work their way into most of my art-from traditional mediums to crafts to game art. While some of my work is a little darker (for example: "Death of Life" sculpted skeletal birds inspired by the Pacific Gyre garbage patch) most is upbeat and whimsical. I prefer to create work that will encourage a smile and allow the viewer to glimpse an alternate world of animals where a pangolin is a professor of geography or a sugar glider rules the underworld.
My process involves a lot of researching animals and gathering reference material. I try to keep true to their core form before adding an anthropomorphic spin. With some of my pieces I have a defined vision but with many their story develops as their faces and character comes to life. I really enjoy doing sculptural works and have been on a "needle felting" kick lately. It is a time-consuming process that involves poking loose fibers with a barbed needle until it takes shape, but it is a wonderful way to replicate the softness of animals.
I have been fortunate enough to create miniature versions of people's spirit animals or beloved pets- bats, bunnies, dogs, cats, giraffes, lemurs, sloths, goats, bears, bird’s, tardigrades and more. I am very grateful to be able to use my art to give back to some of my favorite animal charities when funds are tight. I have deep respect for the many sacrifices that these organizations make to care for our most vulnerable. There are some great galleries that have given me an opportunity to share my work in a public setting. I currently have a piece, "Benny", on display at Hyaena Gallery in Burbank.
Julie will be participating in a number of group shows this year at Cactus Gallery in Los Angeles. “DOLLMAKERS VI” is scheduled to run September 9 - October 5, 2017, “DIA DE LOS MUERTOS X” is scheduled to run October 14 - November 4, 2017,, and TINY TREASURES" in December. She will have new work this autumn for the relaunch of Artbot Gallery at its new location in Alexandria, Virginia. Lastly, in 2018, she will be showing for the first time in Scotland for a "Through the Looking Glass" themed show at The Inverarity Gallery.
The next artist I have the pleasure of introducing you to is Jeremy Cross. Jeremy is energized by many different artistic endeavors and mediums. He does not like to stay in any one style or space to long, to keep his creative juices flowing. He has a unique style that evokes something from the viewer that cannot be denied. Most importantly, he is incredibly humble, generous, and giving to his fans, most recently cultivating a project with fellow artists that makes their work affordable and accessible to those who want to own a true piece of creativity. Artists involved are challenged to only use items they can buy from a 99-cent store, and I must say it is some the most creative, interesting, and even downright funny things you could imagine. The first auction was just held on eBay, with more promised to come, and I could not help myself from grabbing a few pieces from this initial launch. Here are some of Jeremy’s thoughts:
"I wish there was a magical moment of inspiration. Some ethereal light of extra-consciousness that brings with it the vision for new works. That’s the dream, right? But It doesn’t work that way. The reality is gritty, time sucking and sometimes painful. If I'm working on a piece for a themed group show that can either make it easier or so much harder. Trying to find your way into the theme. That balance of wanting whatever you do to feel like your stuff while tangling well with the theme of the show. For the work that I do for myself, that usually ends up becoming a solo show, the process is completely different. I never try and come up with a theme for the series. I just work. I paint and sketch a ton of work and if a common thread begins to run through it, then I know I'm on to something and I run with it from there.
I do a lot of sketching, Sketching helps to figure it out. I take my sketchbook and head to an empty dive bar and drink and sketch. I burn through pages trying to find the right angles, lighting, ideas. I draw things that I know are going to suck, ideas that are downright dumb, you push through those because they often yield something unexpected. Once I've found that chink in the armor of the piece, I refine it again on paper. Then draw it yet again onto wood. I’m an oil painter primarily and I begin with thin washes of colors saturated with Liquin, this allows the sketch to remain visible while I build up layers. But I also play with pyrography quite a bit, some sculpture, multimedia (writer’s note: one of my favorite styles of his) assemblage, elaborate framing etc. Each of those has their own process, their own agenda and flow. I can’t stick with one medium or approach for too long, I get bored easily.
Diversity is my salvation. This extends to everything. In addition to creating traditional artwork I am also an experienced curator (I’m now working with my 3rd gallery - The Dark Art Emporium in Long Beach Ca. "Requiem" my first curated show for them opens this Nov.), I play guitar and sing, I write, I make furniture out of old wine barrels and soon I’ll be adding Vaudeville performer to that list as I transform into "The Divine Reverend Swine" as the host and MC of the "Sideshow Revival" beginning Aug 27th at Alex’s Bar in Long beach.” In August he will be in the “Troma Show” at Hyaena Gallery. In September, he will be doing the “3am Show” at Hudson Hughes Gallery. In October he will be doing the “Occult Show,” at Future Gallery. Lastly, in November, he will be doing the “Underworld” show at Copro Gallery. “Each divide in the path, each distraction breathes new life into the next. Keeps me going back fresh to the beginning of each stage of a process. If variety is indeed the spice of life, then I’ll take my life spicy as hell."
The final artist, that I have the genuine pleasure of sharing with you is Camilla d’Errico. She is quite simply a breath of fresh air. Her work is beautiful, full of life, love, awe, and tranquility. Her unique style is instantly recognizable, and I am willing to bet you have seen her work, even if you were not aware of her name before now, although I would bet that many of you have. She has a positive attitude and love for her fellow man, and she wants to share that belief and way of living with others through her work. While successful, she is humble. While talented, she feels she can always be pushing herself to learn and try more. While busy, she finds time to teach and share with others looking to express themselves, through numerous endeavors. Here are some of Camilla’s thoughts on her process, and how she came to her upcoming show:
“I love being an artist because I basically get to exist in two worlds. I spend half my day in my creative world, I fall into it like Alice down the rabbit hole. I focus on the creation of my paintings pouring emotion and soul into them, forgetting about anything else in the process. The other side of my life is reality, which is nothing like my little rainbow world. That side of my life is full of emails, schedules, meetings, social media, contract negotiations and planning for the future.
The problem with being an artist is that the door to my creative world isn’t always that easy to find. A lot of people ask me where I get my inspiration and where my ideas come from, which is an incredibly difficult question to answer. If I were to visualize my inspiration it would be a labyrinth where I walk in and try to make sense of random thoughts, ideas, images and I open door after door to see if behind certain places is the piece of my soul that I want to render in the real world.
A few months ago, I secured a new solo show with Corey Helford Gallery for March 2018 in Los Angeles. I was so excited, because I adore the gallery owner and the space, and it’s an honor to be asked to be in the main exhibition area. However, I hadn’t been able to create a theme for my show until recently. I tried for months to sketch and come up with visuals that I wanted to paint, but one after the other my ideas felt hollow. This happens to artists all the time; the artist block. I didn’t know how to get around this giant negative boulder that had erected itself in my creative mind.
It wasn’t until my recent trip to Rome that I had a break through. I realized that this year I had been focusing on all the negative aspects of the political climate that has overtaken America. I am Canadian and live in Vancouver BC, but I have deep ties to the USA, my friends and family live there and I’ve seen a change in the country that has been hurting me deeply. Politics are an ugly thing. Maybe I’m too sensitive but I really felt like the message of love was being lost somehow. When I was in Rome I heard a saying “We all live under the same sky”. Then someone mentioned how Canada is a mosaic of cultures that make up the country, we embrace everyone’s unique cultures under the big red and white flag. In that moment, I knew exactly what I was going to paint. My new solo show will be a mosaic of humanity. I want to convey the message that skin colors don’t matter, we all bleed red, no matter what race you are, what size you are, who you love, we are all part of this amazing world. Unity, diversity and humanity are going to be the themes of my solo show because they are what I truly and deeply believe to be what my soul needs to express.
It’s hard as an artist to work on deadlines because there’s no guarantee that we can generate ideas exactly when we need them too. I do love being a painter and pushing myself to new creative limits as well as helping others who want to become artists. Part of what I center my career on is helping inspire and teach new artists. I spend a lot of time on the creation of my How To books and on my online classes with Creative Bug, and Skillshare.
I went through a lot to become a professional artist and if I can help others through my experiences then I want to work hard to share and help them grow and learn. I don’t think people really know just how much it means to me when they tell me they’ve started painting again because of me, or that they also had the same hardships developing their skills. I’m also opening my studio to the public for the first time this year. It’s my sanctuary but also a place of inspiration and color that I want to invite fans and aspiring artists to visit. The goal is to begin doing lessons in my studio in person as well as online. I’ve been working very hard towards this goal so seeing it come to fruition is one of the highlights of my year.
I work alone in my studio so I love connecting with people through social media because it can be a lonely life otherwise. I am always so humbled by what my supporters tell me. I didn’t realize that art had such deep impacts on people until social media became such a powerful force in our lives. I’ve cried more than a few times when they’ve shared their stories with me about how my art has affected them. It’s incredible. So even in all my ups and downs, crazy busy work and convention schedule I work hard to be the kind of person and artist that they are happy to support and I want to give back as much as I can.
I hope that my new body of work will inspire them and connect with them. I want to fill this world with beauty and love and acceptance.”
Camilla is appearing at San Diego Comic Con booth 4723 from July 19-23, with lots of new artwork, releases, apparel and other show-exclusive goodies. Her 4th artbook from Dark Horse Comics Femina & Fauna 2nd Edition just hit store shelves and online retailers. On August 4th, Camilla releases a new painting collection and honeybee themed goodies for a fundraising initiative in partnership with Planet Bee Foundation. And for those living and traveling in the Vancouver Canada area, Camilla is opening her art studio for tours, events, workshops & more to supporters who request an invitation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Take advantage of that amazing opportunity!
Here are some thoughts from Bill Shafer, owner of Hyaena Gallery in Burbank, California. Bill has had many budding artists, and many the ones featured in this article show, and continue to show in his gallery. Bill has a very specific agenda, to create a space that allows the artist who might not have a “voice” that is the right fit for a traditional gallery, but is a unique and important voice nonetheless. I have been introduced to many unique talents through his gallery, whom I may have very sadly missed out on being exposed to otherwise. Here are some of Bill’s thoughts on choosing artists for his gallery, and for monthly themed group and solo shows, as well as his role in the process throughout the way.
“I truly feel that the purpose of an art gallery is to put forth an artistic point of view and present that to the public. It’s like the way FM radio used to be before corporatization claimed that industry. You would tune into a specific DJ or radio show because you liked the music they played. You related in some way to the DJ’s taste and it would pay off when he/she turned you on to some new group that blew your mind. In an art gallery setting, the artists are the rock stars. A good curator builds the trust of his audience and constantly introduces new blood into the scene, but in a way, that makes sense with your point of view. There are so many galleries across the country that seem to go by a strict playlist: known artist, famous artist, group show with an easily marketed theme, nostalgia tribute show, known artist, etc.
When I book art exhibits at Hyaena, I’m looking for artists that excite me. If I see something in the work that moves me on the right level, then I know I need to exhibit the art. I try and work closely with the artists, but never to the point of directing them as to what to create. I want to see what is in the artist’s head, not their interpretation of my vision. Some curators go the vanity route and try to influence every aspect of an artist’s show. I think if you let the artist shine, then the public will see what you initially saw in the work. Nurture and support, I feel, are more valuable than directing the talent. Now, with artists new to the game, I will always offer suggestions on how to produce a successful exhibit. Price-wise, if you have at least a few pieces which are affordable to the casual collector, this will help garner some quick initial sales. It will also help to highlight and help sell the bigger more important pieces. In my experience, beginning collectors often start small and gradually work their way up the art ladder. As such I try and nurture the collector along with the artist. Having prints of the work will insure that every level of collector is looked after and help the exhibit be more successful for the artist.
With group exhibits, I like to find a theme which will inspire the artists above all else. My rule is that if the artwork is good, the public will respond. As such, I will often overlook “easy” concepts in favor of things that will inspire the artists. I keep the shows intimate, with 15-20 artists, so that each piece can be highlighted. I see group exhibits at other galleries with an artist list 50+ deep…that feels more like a party to me, with the focus more on spectacle rather than the art. My starring role comes into play with the hanging of the exhibit. That is a strange art unto itself. There are places on the walls which are natural focus points and I try and create a narrative and flow that people will respond to. If no one notices that part, then I’ve done it well. Outside of that, I work on promotion and sales. My goal is to make the artwork accessible to everyone. I guess the bottom line for me is to simply trust the artists and to celebrate the art…it’s why we’re all here.”
I hope that you have found this first part of the two-part series interesting. I genuinely anticipate that you will have a greater understanding of the unique paths and processes that each artist takes to end at a finished result, as well as some insight into each of these unique voices. The psychology that goes into each of their planning and processes, the messages they are trying to evoke, as well as the genuineness and openness they have of their gifts, with their gifts, and for their fans. They are a pleasure to get to know, and you will not regret getting to know their work. My hope is that you feel a greater sense of connection with them from understanding each of their processes and intentions. Please join me in the second part of this two-part series where I interview Matt Kennedy, of the prestigious La Luz De Jesus Gallery, and his new endeavor of Gallery 30 South.