10 x 10" acrylic and hair on masonite, 2012
What are you working on in your studio right now?
I'm working on a series of paintings that are taking the shape of eleven 9 panel paintings. Each of the paintings is 8 x 8 inches with a lozenge shaped painting in the center. It's so new I don't even have pictures of any of them, nor have I really made sense of what they mean, though lately I've been thinking a lot about dogma, in particular what they call Russell's Teapot. I'm a skeptic, or at least I try to maintain a healthy amount of skepticism about everything. I can usually formulate a counter argument to any idea I have. Anyway the recent heads, especially the ones that look like Olmec heads or avatars, came out of one painting I made in 2007. At the time I made it I didn't know it would lead to these other paintings. I was working on a pretty diverse group of paintings, charting the territory that I've been exploring lately. Working serially is rather new to me, it's freeing in a way because it allows me to repeat ideas but remain inventive.
new work in progress (8 x 8" each)
Can you describe your working routine?
I wish it was more regular than it has been lately, I paint compulsively at times but this is not one of those times and I'm actually working on these new paintings very slowly. I do try to work every day but the kind of creative work I engage in varies from one day the next, right now I'm doing a lot more extra-studio work, work based on paintings. I've begun a few projects that are exclusively for an internet audience via my Tumblr page. One of those projects I've been posting lately is related to the toast heads, they're sort of opposite toast heads, made with photo editing software from photographs of the paintings, I've flipped and reversed the color of all 70 paintings. It makes for an eerie kind of negative picture. I like the idea of reversal, opposites - avatars, weirds and familiars. Also, looking at my work in reverse got me to open up my pallet a lot, I realized I don't always have to be so literal.
Top: Biddy Early, 2011, 10 x 10 inches acrylic on masonite
Below: Thaitanic, 2012, 10 x 10 inches acrylic on masonite
Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
I rent a three bedroom apartment and the space that would be a spacious dining room for normal people is my studio. I covered the floor with pieces of masonite to keep floor clean. I usually work paintings flat on the floor so covering it was necessary if I want my rental deposit back. Living just down the hall from my studio has it's advantages, I can work whenever I have a spare moment, or I can just go to the studio to sit and think. It's also nice because I can make some moves and then walk down the hall to my office and do other work while they dry. It's just natural to me, living with the work while it's being made. The disadvantage to this relationship is that I've developed way of working that involves a little bit of tinkering, then wandering around the apartment doing other things, gathering the wash, checking facebook, reading a book. It's a way of working that's in a constant state of being distracted.
The other thing about working the way I do (on the floor) is it invites a lot of garbage and dirt and imperfections into the paintings, which I've come to like, even embrace. I sweep up a lot but hairs and debris still get into the paint, and occasionally I'll keep hunks of paint from the bottom of containers or even from the floor to use in a painting later. I've even gone so far as sweeping up and dumping the dirt onto a wet surface. It gives the work a sense of having lived a life. I like the beleagured underdog, the defeated yet proud. So most of the figures in the paintings I make are losers.
Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
Once you've been working as an artist for a number of years two things happen. 1. If you're honest about your experience and your work you end up becoming more and more yourself; less and less your heroes and 2. your work begins to flow naturally out of the work you've made in the past. I keep stacks of paper around and lots of half full notebooks and one of the things I do with them is get into hour long drawing sessions where I just make as many drawings as I can in an hour. It's constantly surprising to me when I look at old notebooks or old drawings just how long ago I first came upon a certain idea, just when I think an idea is really fresh I find it's been in one of these books for years. The exercise of making as many drawings as you can for an hour always produces new work somewhere down the line because at that rate you can't be totally aware of what you're doing, you can't give yourself a chance to edit. It's a good idea to make work this way, to be totally wasteful, just put it all out there and sort it out later (if ever).
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
This question took me the longest to answer, because I remember when I was younger being stuck and feeling like I couldn't resolve me and an idealized version of me. I gave up on the idealized version of me because I realized it was too encapsulated. It was holding me back. I'm pretty young but realizing I won't have time in this lifetime to make everything I imagine is kind of difficult and really there's no way to resolve this. Which ideas are worth pursuit and which ideas get scrapped, sometimes it's an easy choice, sometimes it's less easy to decide.
Untitled, 2010, 24 x 24 inches, acrylic on masonite
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
Nothing good can come of complete freedom, art needs parameters, even artists who we think of as being completely free had their own set of parameters. The closest I can get to complete freedom is challenging myself to make 100 drawings in an hour, or 100 photoshop documents in an hour. The results are always surprising and they always lead to insights into my process and how I work. But again, there is a restraint in this challenge, two actually: 60 minutes and 100 results. I don't think it's possible to work more freely than to spend 6 seconds on a single idea before moving on to anotheridea. Of course even this exercise has its own parameters.
What does the future hold for this work?
Well, I'll keep making it. I have a solo show coming up next year, I'm pretty sure what I'm working on now will be in that. If you really want to keep up with me you can follow me on twitter @mrhopthescissor or check my website. I'm also on facebook if that's your thing.
Top: Sleestack, 2012, 10 x 10 inches acrylic on masonite
Below: Cali Blockhead, 2011, 10 x 10 inches acrylic on masonite
Is there anything else you would like to add?
One last thing, yes. Since you originally contacted me we've had a pretty devastating flood here in New York, I wrote a bit about it and I'm selling paintings and drawings to benefit flood assistance. For a reasonable price you can purchase something via my blog. All of the money from the sales will go to an organization called Occupy Sandy. They seem to be doing some good here on the ground, getting people the things they need to begin cleanup and recovery. The sale will conclude at the end of this year.