Critique Collective

Critique Collective is your source for information and interviews about emerging and established contemporary artists.

Tag: artist

Breathtakingly Realistic Urban Reflection Paintings by Erik Nieminen

Erik Nieminen is a painter based in Berlin and Montreal who holds a BFA from the University of Ottawa and MFA from Concordia University. His work focuses largely on human perceptions of reality, particularly within the reflections of urban landscapes. Nieminen’s paintings can also be found online at http://www.eriknieminen.com/.

Afternoon Coffee

City Swish


Paul Weiner:
How do you find a subject and begin a painting?

Erik Nieminen:
I have always been fascinated by large cities. There is a certain dynamism and excitement to life in the city that I think has fascinated artists, writers, composers, filmmakers, etc. since the dawn of the industrial age. I view the city as a kind of construct, a fabrication that is intended to serve humanity in an organic, natural, fluid kind of way. I mean this in the context of it attending to natural human behaviors and tendencies, not in terms of serving a green environment. The city itself is a vast template for meaning, and it is inescapable that we absorb the meanings and intentions of the various images that we encounter throughout the urban fabric. However it is not these particular meanings that would generate a painting, as I do not intend for my paintings to have an outright describable meaning. The structure of the painting itself will create the meaning through the orchestration of an experience on the canvas.

I take thousands of photographs, documenting my experience of being in an environment. The photographs themselves are merely tools to use on the path to creating the eventual painting. Out of these photos, certain ones will jump out as being useful, but I keep all my photos as, years later, I will sometimes find something in an old photograph that has suddenly become relevant. I will then start to imagine the possibilities in combining these various subjects found in the photographs, and, at a certain point, I have a general idea of what I’m looking for. At this stage, I may begin doing several sketches, usually quite loose but sometimes more detailed, in order to get a firmer sense of the space I will be dealing with. Usually, I will wait at least a couple of months before starting the painting in order to see if what I initially envisioned is still worth doing or if it can be improved upon; it generally can. Then the painting can begin.

Taxi

Pillars

Paul Weiner
You mentioned how the “orchestration of an experience on the canvas” develops meaning. To that extent, do you feel that the experiences of your viewers and audiences determine the meanings behind your paintings?

Erik Nieminen:
To an extent, yes. The viewer will always take something unique from a painting, and, so, I agree that the viewer might determine a meaning for a painting. However, the painting need not rely on this to give it value. Marcel Duchamp once said (I’m paraphrasing) that an artist only has fifty percent of the responsibility, the rest being up to the audience. I do not necessarily agree. The artwork has its own autonomous existence, whether or not the audience places anything on it. The “meaning,” if we can call it that, of the painting is inherent in its structure, in its form, in its very existence. The meaning of the painting is to create a new framework in which to experience what we think we know. To that extent, the meaning lies in the experience of the painting, and, if viewers choose to pull social commentary or political statements out of it, then that is their prerogative.

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Camouflage

Paul Weiner:
Describe your affinity for reflective surfaces. What do these surfaces represent for you?

Erik Nieminen:
The reflective surface is a crucial component to most of my works. It is also one of the most prominent things that one finds in the modern city. Initially, I gravitated towards the depiction of reflection as a means of depicting the disconnect that one experiences in urban environments. I am fascinated by light, and, for me, it is light that defines form and creates space. A reflection is an ephemeral response to light, but, in a sense, it is disconnected from the gravity of our world. If we allow for the possibility that the reflection is a state of “non-gravity” (light itself does have gravity, in terms of general relativity), then the possibilities that arise from it in terms of making art are basically endless. In its sublime materiality, it allows a direct connection to the natural world as the primal state of glass is a liquid, and the reflection as seen through a liquid visually destroys the world we know. Part of my interest is in deconstructing the city and reforming it on my own terms. The glass reflection is a means to this end, as it allows us to see beyond ourselves and to twist and manipulate our vision of what is real, a visual truth, to break the grid of the urban environment.

The reflection and it’s primary material, glass, are elements that allow us to escape the mundane world. If art is to present us with an independent state of reality, something that is based on what we know but creates something that is ultimately unknowable, then a subject as rationally slippery as the reflection is one way to go about it.

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Paul Weiner:
As a realist painter, would you say that your art is more influenced by old masters like Caravaggio (or even Degas) or by more contemporary art movements?

Erik Nieminen:
Actually, my main influence is modernist painting from the early Twentieth Century such as the works of the Futurists and the Cubists. They posed problems for painting that have not yet been resolved, even though it has often been assumed that Art has moved past that. The masters of old are, of course, important, and really should be important to any painter, even those working in the absolutes of abstraction. In terms of more contemporary movements, for a time I was quite influenced by certain elements of the photorealist painters. It was a way for me to escape the modality of working in a somewhat neo-Futurist stylization or method. I found the best way was to do what would seemingly be the opposite, thus photorealism. Within a couple years, however, I started moving further away from the photoreal aesthetic and began defining the spaces of my paintings more on my own terms.

I do not adhere to any particular label, and, thus, I am not a photo- or hyper-real painter, nor am I a realist painter. If anything, I suppose I could be called figurative, but what does that really mean? The lines between figuration and abstraction are blurry, and, for the most part, don’t exist.

Paul Weiner:
How do you like the Berlin art scene?

Erik Nieminen:
The Berlin art scene is very vibrant, but very hard to put into a box, as there is a such a range of art that is always to be seen. A lot of it is quite experimental, as many younger artists come here to try things out because it’s cheaper in Berlin to get started on a project. However, there’s also lots of traditional mediums (painting, sculpture) on show, as well. Between the hundreds of galleries, several museums, or the occasional art fairs, if you want to see art, you always can. Most days of the week, you can find an art opening; however, I don’t go to openings all that often, as the type of socializing that one finds at such events isn’t necessarily something that I enjoy on a regular basis.

In any case, for the moment, I enjoy living in a city where art is always in easy access.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you find yourself interested in painting? Why do you paint rather than create, for instance, photography?

Erik Nieminen:
I’ve always been interested in painting. My father is an artist who focuses primarily on painting, and there are and have been other artists in the family, as well. I have, thus, been surrounded by painting my whole life, so it was only natural that I might be interested in it or, at the very least, see the importance of it.

The wording of the second half of your question is interesting and actually points towards my answer. You asked why I would rather paint than create, for instance, a photograph. The key word here is create, as you “take” a photograph, but you “create” a painting. I am interested in the act of creation. Photographs are interesting in their supposed documentation of reality, although it is debatable whether or not it really does create a document, but it restricts the person using the photographic device due to the structurally mundane nature of a photograph.

A painting has the possibility to take on whatever form it wishes, only limited by the capabilities of the artist. The photograph grounds its reality in that of the one in which we live, as it repeats the answers to the questions we know. Painting does the opposite. The use of photographic sources in painting is not necessarily problematic if the photo is used as a tool to manipulate our definition of veracity and to create a new space through painting. Because photography is so readily accepted as a document of something real, that is what makes it so useful to a painter who can turn the photographic veracity into a painterly de-simulation.

As for other mediums, such as sculpture, perhaps I will turn to that at some point. I have many ideas that might function in three dimensions, but I haven’t dug far enough into it yet to warrant doing it. Film is also interesting, as it’s actually closer to painting than photography is, but it’s not anything I want to focus on.


Please view Erik Nieminen’s work at http://www.eriknieminen.com/ and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Cult Films and the Master Director Jeremiah Kipp

Jeremiah Kipp is a film director working primarily within the genre of horror. Holding a BFA from NYU, Kipp has worked on numerous films that have been featured in many international film festivals as well as commercial films for the Royal Bank of Scotland and Canon. His THE CHRISTMAS PARTY was met by more than fifty international film festivals including the Cannes and Clermont-Ferrand. Kipp’s work can be found online at http://www.kippfilms.com.


Paul Weiner:
How would you describe your role as a writer, director, and producer? How does your experience in each field impact the others?

Jeremiah Kipp:
I am primarily a director who puts projects together. Occasionally, I produce to help facilitate the work of another filmmaker who I believe in or write a project in order to film it. But I don’t consider myself a producer or screenwriter, rather a director who occasionally produces or writes. One project always leads into and informs the next, though, so I am sure my producing and writing has affected my directing. It is all the process of filmmaking.

Paul Weiner:
What genre of film do you prefer to work with?

Jeremiah Kipp:
I have found horror to be a flexible genre, very emotional and visceral. The roots are in fairy tales, where the heroes endure the unspeakable in the name of love or friendship, and their encounter with the witch pushes us into the realm of the uncanny. It could also be because I find the world to be an aggressive and strange place, where human beings have complex motivations. Drama can only take us so far, but horror and fantasy takes us beyond reality into something poetic.

Paul Weiner:
Do you have an ideal audience for your work or setting in which you would prefer the work to be viewed?

Jeremiah Kipp:
I know that the people who enjoyed my film DROOL tended to find CRESTFALLEN to be too mainstream for their taste; and those who loved CRESTFALLEN couldn’t make heads or tails out of DROOL.  Of course, you hope for that open-minded viewer that would be able to enjoy both films for what they are. Thinking of the audience while making the movie is critical for understanding what you’re trying to communicate to them. When I release the work, I allow the film to find its audience in its own way. They each have a life of their own.

Paul Weiner:

Describe your favorite piece you’ve worked on.

Jeremiah Kipp:
While I do not have an individual favorite piece, in the context of this interview I’d be happy to describe one movie to illustrate a point. THE CHRISTMAS PARTY is a project I made in 2003 about a little boy dropped off at a holiday party run by Christians, the kind who want everyone else in the world to be Christian too. I enjoy how the film polarized audiences. Some regarded it as a horror film, some as social realism. The French audiences took it as a satire of Norman Rockwell values, and the Christian audience viewed it as a cautionary tale. Ultimately, the film no longer belongs to me. It belongs to the spectator to interpret as he or she determines.

Paul Weiner:
What are you currently working on?

Jeremiah Kipp:
We are submitting a new movie to film festivals entitled THE DAYS GOD SLEPT, which has been described as a cinematic prayer set in a phantasmagoric strip club.

I also have a horror movie called BAGGAGE that plays out like an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents with a Grand Guignol twist. I was hired by horror personality Ro Dimension to direct his script. He played the tormented main character. Folks can either see the premiere screening at Monster Mania in Cherry Hill, NJ or order the movie online at http://youvebeenrobbedfilms.blogspot.com/

Beyond that, I have a new episode in the second season of the Web series IN FEAR OF, and I am in development on several new short fix and a feature, working with many of my wonderful collaborators from THE DAYS GOD SLEPT. I like to work.

Paul Weiner:
How do you feel about the use of gore in horror films, whether excessive or more tasteful?

Jeremiah Kipp:
If they push the gore to the most extreme and grotesque, a la Lucio Fulci, I find it commendable. It becomes an act of morbid excess, where everything is permitted. That is total freedom. I also admire the films of Val Lewton, which depend on a subtle tone of lingering menace lurking just beyond the edge of the frame. It all depends on what is appropriate for the movie, and if it is told with integrity. It’s middle-of-the-road stuff that just doesn’t fly, or if the gore is there because the filmmaker lacks imagination or is clearly going for a cheap thrill; it feels compromised or timid. The good movies know what they are and are uncompromising in that intent.

Paul Weiner:
How do you feel about today’s indie art scene in the context of the great commercialization that has taken place in the film industry?

Jeremiah Kipp:
Commercialization, in some ways, has stifled the possibilities of what movies can be. Some blockbuster movies these days play up as if they were two hours of watching thirty second advertisements strung together. But there is always a counterbalance. Alternative cinema provides a way to tap into other stories, and making movies has become more affordable. When the music industry as we knew it blew apart, it opened up new possibilities. I suspect the same thing will happen with movies. But it has happened before, and all art moves through cycles – all crafts, too.


Please view Jeremiah Kipp’s work at http://www.kippfilms.com/and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Berlin’s Diego Garcia Explores Gestalt Psychology and Interdisciplinary Artwork

Diego Garcia is a transmedia artist from Brazil who is currently living in Berlin. Garcia’s artwork covers a broad spectrum of artistic mediums, including music, video, and design. His work often deals with shocking and disturbing images while managing to retain conceptual integrity. In Garcia’s current series, Projekt Gestalten, he applies theories of gestalt psychology to the fine art world. Projekt Gestalten can also be found online at http://www.projektgestalten.com/.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you find your start in music and how has it translated to visual and video art?

Diego Garcia:
I started making music around 2003, mostly house music and electro. But, after a while, I got bored with it and started approaching more experimental styles such as IDM, ambient, techprono and downtempo. In the meantime, I was studying visual arts at my university. I was so scared because I thought that, at some point, I would have to choose between being a musician or a visual artist/designer. Then it hit me: “why do I have to pick one area if I can merge all of these types of art into one thing?” I think the turning point was at my final graduation project. I made a music-video, but, besides shooting, directing, and editing it, I also made the music and designed the whole visual art promotional material. Then I felt like a true multimedia artist.

Paul Weiner:
How do you usually begin a work of art? Is it different depending on the medium you’re using?

Diego Garcia:
Yes, it is. With music, I just go and start building up grooves that I like until I get something that I think is consistent. This process can be done in half hour or several hours. It really depends. Now, with graphic design, it’s a little bit more mechanic. If I am doing a project like a visual identity or an advertisement poster for a client, for instance, there are basic design rules in regards to visual psychology, color theory, and geometry that I need to obey. However, if it’s an artistic thing made just for the sake of art, all of these rules can be broken, of course. Now, if I am doing a video or a photographic project I usually already have an idea of what I want in my head. So, I make a little storyboard or sketches and start working from there. Sometimes it turns out the exact way that I wanted, like with the Lars von Trier project, or sometimes completely different, which also can generate very interesting results.
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Paul Weiner:
Tell us about the concept behind your Projekt Gestalten.

Diego Garcia:
Projekt Gestalten is the artistic name for my audio productions and my live act performances. The name literally means “construction project,” and I think that’s exactly what I do, regardless of the medium I use: I construct visual and sonic things. But gestalten also is related to the “gestalt psychology,” which is a concept I have learned while studying at my university. Its basic principle is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. So, basically, for you to understand something, you need to see the whole picture as opposed to trying to analyze specific things at first. I think that concept also applies in order to understand my work and maybe even myself. I make a lot of different projects with a lot of different mediums, and I am just trying to put all the pieces together.

Paul Weiner:
Do you like to work with ideas that are shocking? Take, for instance, your “Reality Remix 001 (Sausage Commercial X Pig Being Killed).”

Diego Garcia:
Yes, I do like to work with shocking elements and try pushing the boundaries of standard behaviors. The “Reality Remix 001” project is actually a particularly disturbing one. What I like about this project is that there is not too much shockingly graphic content in this video. Due to the very fast editing work, you cannot actually see what is going on for sure. What it makes it so dramatically disturbing is the sound. Hearing the pig screaming and, at the same time, seeing bits and glimpses of him dying makes you mentally visualize the whole scene inside your head without even having to actually see the whole scene. The juxtaposition of the candid happy sausage commercial just adds another layer to the project. It’s not like I made it all up; this is what really happens inside these meat factories. Despite being a vegetarian, I don’t like militancy, and the goal of the video is not to try to abruptly stop people from eating meat but to create a dialogue about the subject and make them think more about the subject.

There are some videos like “Boi da Cara-Preta (Black-Face Ox),” which is my most viewed video on YouTube, that I would not consider too disturbing. But, it turns out that Boi da Cara-Preta was disturbing to other people. The video is an animation showing kids being devoured by this black-faced ox. The music is a remix that I made from a very traditional children’s lullaby with the same name. The melody is very tender and calm, which can be heard at the end of my version; however, the lyrics always have disturbed me, even since I was a kid. It goes like this: “black-face ox, take away these little children who are afraid of scary faces.”

I’ve received so much backlash for this video, and even some aggressive and hateful threats. I think it’s because most people associate this song with their childhood, and they search for it on the internet in order to relive happy moments. Instead, they end up stuck with my video. It was never my goal to shock people, just to translate the lyrics to their literal meaning.

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Paul Weiner:
Why did you choose to move to Berlin?

Diego Garcia:
It always has been a goal of mine to move to Europe at some point. Initially, I was thinking about going to London to do my Masters in arts over there. However, after spending a week in Berlin, during a backpack trip of mine, I fell in love with the city. It is such an amazing place to be. It’s so artistic, and I like how people are more open-minded around here. Plus, I can do my Masters in Berlin for a fraction of what I would pay in the UK. I also would have to admit that the music scene and the clubbing scene played a big role in my decision to move to the city. I truly feel like I am home in here, and I am already very inserted into the scene within only a few months of living in Berlin. It is funny because, in Brazil and in a lot of other places in the world, I’ve always felt like an alien because of the way I think, behave, dress, etc. But, in Berlin, it is like I have found my mothership back again!

Paul Weiner:
How would you describe the art scene in Berlin?

Diego Garcia:
The art scene in Berlin is vibrant, but, at the same time, it is also frustrating. I love the fact that there are so many art galleries around, but I also think that the market should value the professional a whole lot more. I see ads from these really big art galleries in Berlin seeking art assistants with years of experience, fluency in a lot of languages, and a college degree to work on unpaid “internships.” I mean, not everything is about money, but artists also need to eat and make money at some point. The only projects that I would work for free would be the philanthropic kind or the ones that are way too good to miss out on.

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Paul Weiner:
So, it sounds like you work with clients for graphic design. Would you ever work with clients for your video work or do you prefer to keep it purely experimental and fine art based?

Diego Garcia:
I think, if I could choose, I would always work with experimental/fine art projects, but I also have to make some money to support myself, and that’s not always possible with only making conceptual works. I actually briefly worked in a sound design agency back in Brazil specialized only on making big TV commercials; they even won the Golden Lion Award at the Cannes Festival at some point, and, honestly, I had a blast working there. Sometimes we had boring projects, but, even so, we could get more artistic by coming up with sound effects or recreating music to use in it. I remember when we had to hire a professional opera singer to come up and record a version of the song “Casta Diva” for us to use in a potato chip commercial. But, of course, if I would work with only this, without having my conceptual side projects as a cathartic output, I would go crazy. The same thing goes with video. I could do more commercial works, but I would never stop doing artistic projects in order to dedicate myself exclusively for that. Now, with music itself, I would never ever work with pop artists or with musicians that I don’t like for money.

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Paul Weiner:
Would you ever consider adding painting, printmaking, or a more traditional form of art to your repertoire?

Diego Garcia:
Yes. I would like to do that in the future. I had some classes back in college where I was taught more traditional techniques, but I still would like to learn more. I don’t like to rely on the computer to make art all the time. In the future, I would like to wok with watercolor paintings or something like that.


Please view Diego Garcia’s artwork at http://www.projektgestalten.com/ and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Christian Duvua Gonzalez Blurs the Line between Abstract Painting and Photography

Christian Duvua Gonzalez is an artist from Coral Gables, Florida working in mediums of abstract photography and painting interchangeably. More of his artwork can be found online.

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Paul Weiner:
Your abstract paintings and photographs are very similar in aesthetics. Do you purposefully look to create photography that fits together with your painting?

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
Yes. On some of my abstract paintings, I channel through the vision from some of my photography and create a unique style of painting. However, I feel abstract expressionism gives me the opportunity to connect with the freedom I seek as a painter.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you find subjects for your abstract photography?

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
I have to thank my dad for giving you the answer for this question. I remember like it was yesterday when my dad told me this for the first time. When I was about 5 or 6 years old, he said, “Son you have to look both ways when crossing the street.” Well, I took that to heart, and I added up, down, and all around to that equation. I feel that art is everywhere, all around us, and all we need to do is open our minds to pay attention.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us how you begin a painting.

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
Well, I can tell you what I don’t do when I start a painting. I don’t start with an empty canvas. I don’t believe that anything is empty; everything possesses the ability to open your mind, from a white canvas to a stain on the ground. I start my paintings in a relaxed state, usually with a glass of pinot noir and some music as I let the mood take over.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you prefer a certain type of board or canvas to paint on? Also, do you print your abstract photography in a way that it can be viewed with your paintings?

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
I love all surfaces, from wood to canvas, and even linen napkins. I feel every surface has an inner shape screaming to come out. Allowing it to come to life is the reward. I try to separate my photography from my paintings to show the meaning behind the vision, but, in some of my photography, I try to make it simple for the viewer to translate the connection between the two.

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Paul Weiner:
Could you name a few artists you’ve drawn inspiration from?

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
I have been influenced by different artists from different eras as I’ve gotten older, but there are few that have impacted my mind in a personal way. I find inspiration by Albert Kotin, Barnett Newman, Hans Hofmann, Robert Motherwell and Gerhard Richter.

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Paul Weiner:
I noticed that a lot of your artwork has geometric themes to it. Would you consider your work styled on geometry?

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
Yes. I have a huge passion for math and equations. I feel that geometry plays a big factor among artists, as it helps guide the structure of a subject.


Please view Christian Duvua Gonzalez’s artwork and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Gert Scheerlinck Repurposes Obsolete Objects for Painting

Gert Scheerlinck is an artist from Belgium who paints on a wide variety of diverse materials. Finding inspiration in obsolete materials like CD cases, Scheerlinck incorporates vast new textures in his abstract paintings. The artist has recently exhibited at the Gaanderij Academie Beeldende Kunsten, and his artwork is also available online.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you usually begin a painting?

Gert Scheerlinck:
Let me start by explaining that I not only paint on canvas, but I have used different carriers such as rubber (1), styrofoam (2), plastic, glass tile (3) and CD cases (4). However, regardless of the carrier, I usually get inspired by something I find or see. It might be a rusted piece of iron, a blistered wall, a torn down billboard, or one of the many old doors seen in Barcelona. Finding or seeing such an element often starts me off painting. Throughout my years of painting, one thing that has always been a source of inspiration is anything decayed or withered. Once I have started the artwork, the real challenge is to stop at the right moment and let the painting speak for itself to make it more powerful.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you use a conceptual process to create your ideas or do you base paintings on intuition?

Gert Scheerlinck:
My early artworks were mostly based on intuition and always abstract. Because of the material or structure,paint mixed with sand, the result was very unpredictable. I knew the painting would never turn out how I pictured it at the very beginning. It was a lot of scraping, scratching, and hard work to come to a point where I was satisfied with the result. In my later paintings, I felt like evolving more towards conceptual work. I started painting series. Some good examples are the street fragments (4,5) and the project, R.E.F.L.E.C.T.I.O.N.S. Both started off as a concept, but, in the end, intuition took over while painting.

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By getting regular feedback from various authorities in the art world, I realized I could rise to a higher level. I thought I started from a concept, but I was often driven by a study or a mere object such as a picture or a piece of junk. It took some thinking and self-reflection, and when starting a new project (8) I could see the difference myself. The entire concept of my recent artwork is a crossover between abstract painting and the representation of incomplete objects. Instead of painting on the found materials, I now glue them on the back of cd cases. On the in side of the case’s front, I paint a dysfunctional object. Because of its incompleteness, it has become completely useless. This is the first time that I have deviated from only painting abstract work. This object, being incomplete, is the key to not deviate from. I don’t allow myself to paint anything else. It gives the painting its story. When both back and front are finished, I assemble it all as one piece like a window into the world.

Paul Weiner:
What is the strangest material you remember painting on?

Gert Scheerlinck:
It is not so much a strange material as it was an experiment for me to paint on a different carrier. That’s why I painted on styrofoam (2), rubber (1) or even glass tile (6). I have always been intrigued by how paint, often mixed with matter such as sand, reacts on a material other than canvas. That’s also how I came to start painting on CD cases. I wondered how my paintings would look like on the backside. Since you cannot see through canvas, I thought of glass or any other transparent material.

How did I end up painting on CD cases? Again, it comes down to using a material that will cease to exist. CDs are bound to disappear. Since we have digital music, a CD will no longer be the carrier of music but something that is no longer of use. When you take away the CD, what will become of the case? Both the fact that I had to paint differently, namely, the result would be on the back of the carrier, and the fact that a CD case would become a useless object, intrigued and inspired me.

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Paul Weiner:
What types of paint do you prefer for painting on CD cases, rubber, and other diverse materials?

Gert Scheerlinck:
When I was about 15, I loved painting with my father’s old paint from, which he used to paint on wood. Because it was oil based paint, it took a long time to dry. When I started at the academy, I could choose between two teachers. I took the one who understood what I wanted to achieve and who wouldn’t force me into painting only figurative works. He was a big supporter of acrylic paint because there were many benefits associated with it, including fast drying speed. I’m rather impatient. When I’m working, I don’t want to take the time to let the paint dry. When I have an idea, I need to be able to put it on canvas or another material almost instantly without having to wait too long for the paint dry to put another layer on it. I‘ve always stuck to acrylic because I’ve never felt the urge to switch. It works for me.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us a bit about how you originally became interested in painting.

Gert Scheerlinck:
Although it seems like a simple question, it isn’t. I can’t give you any other answer than that I’ve always been a painter. During my first two years at the academy, I studied fine arts. It was actually a nice introduction to various techniques. I was drawing using charcoal and crayons or painting with either watercolor or acrylic paint. Although I learned a lot, I wasn’t happy. If felt like I was losing two years because I wanted to paint the whole time. After those two years, I could finally indulge into paint. I became more and more interested in Arte Povera, Informal Art, and admired artists like Antoni Tàpies, Alberto Burri, Bram Bogart, Cy Twombly, and a master painter closer to home, Raoul De Keyser. I’m starting to get recognition now, but during my first years, I had to explain all the time why I used tape, rope and other non-artistic, sometimes downright dirty, materials, and I didn’t use oil-based paint. Apparently I wasn’t a “real” painter. It happened again only just a few weeks ago. Someone posted a comment about one of my painted cd cases, “for me, this is not a painting.” It confuses people. I’ve always had an interest in installations and assemblages, as well. That’s partly why I assemble and paint on cd cases; I want to cross both worlds. I don’t even exclude further deviations from mere painting, but paint will always be present.

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Paul Weiner:
Where have you lived throughout your life? Do you think the cultures around you have altered your painting or not?

Gert Scheerlinck:
In lived in Aalst during my art studies. Aalst is an industrial town about a 30 minute drive from the capital of Belgium, Brussels. Aalst is famous for its carnival; the writer, Louis Paul Boon; the very first printer, Dirk Martens; priest Daens; and painter, Valerius de Saedeleer. Originally, the city was poor and had many abandoned and dilapidated public houses. Although there is a lot of industrialization and decay in my paintings, I can’t say that the city has had a big influence on me. I do not think she has made me who I am as an artist, disregarding the art school I attended in Aalst.

I’d rather name Barcelona as my main city of influence. To me, Barcelona equals creativity and inventiveness, and the city is always very alive. For the past eight years, I’ve been going there on a yearly basis to find inspiration and working material on almost every corner of its streets. In Barcelona, I even asked my wife to marry me after being together for over 12 years. If someone is responsible for pushing my boundaries and driving me forward, it’s my wife. I owe a lot to her support.


Please view Gert Scheerlinck’s artwork and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Unconsciously Intuitive Artwork by Davon Foots

Davon Foots, A.K.A GX-4000, was born in 1993. He is a self-trained, contemporary artist based in San Francisco working in numerous fields and mediums of art including digital design, illustration, and collage. Davon incorporates a wide variety of historical art inspirations to create his own distinct artwork. More of his artwork is available online.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you view your artwork as a conceptual or intuitive process?

Davon Foots:
I often find my work to be somewhere in the middle ground of conceptual and intuitive. I say that because my pieces start with a groundwork concept due to the collages and images I lay out first, but the design work and hues are formed unconsciously. That’s where the intuition comes into play, conveying the psychedelic side of the art. I feel as though I rely more on my imagination and creative ability in each piece rather than mechanical skill and execution.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us about how you begin a new painting.

Davon Foots:
Well, basically, I sort through a couple of magazines, find some images I like, lay them out, get a nice composition and format, grab the pens, and add a couple of comprehensive lines. Then, I lay in watercolors and ink, detail, and a final outline is directed to allow the colors to burst more. My work is all constructed based on impulse, so no piece starts with a sketch or set idea in mind.

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Paul Weiner:
What style would you say your artwork is in?

Davon Foots:
That’s always the toughest question I often get asked by viewers at shows because I try to touch so many different areas in my art. I’ve always been inspired by surrealism, graffiti, 90’s cartoons, pop art, and vintage decorative art. I try to convey distinct aspects of each style simultaneously to create my own unique style. Although it’s really hard to categorize, if I had to break it down, I would say it falls between the lines of underground lowbrow art, and contemporary pop art.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you like the Bay Area art scene?

Davon Foots:
I would say the major things I love about the bay area art scene is the underground heritage, the diverse cultures, and just all the positivity of living in a big city with the small town vibe. The number of indie artists is on the rise and more galleries are starting to open up to emerging and contemporary styles, allowing artists to showcase their talent in a nice setting.  The bay is a dwelling for so many unique individuals, your bound to discover something new from any person you meet. I’m pleased to see that the art scene is still young and fresh,  and is growing fast, and soon to give big markets like L.A and NYC some stiff competition.

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Paul Weiner:
Where is your ideal place to show your work?

Davon Foots:
Well, I’ve shown in a number of distinct settings, art fairs, street events, live collaborations with DJs, boutiques, pop-up shops, and even cafes. The best thing about doing various events is that you get a certain vibe and gathering at different venues, and it allows you to test your work’s versatility, to see if it reaches out to all different types of people in all age groups, genders, races, and demographics. I plan to work my way up to more mid-level galleries and maybe some urban fashion shops around the bay, just to get a better platform to show and market works.

So, if I had to answer this directly, I would say my perfect location to display would be an urban clothing shop or up to date contemporary art gallery in the inner city. However, had you asked me this question a year ago, my perception would have been a lot different.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you like the gallery art system?

Davon Foots:
Personally, I have a lot of dislike for the gallery art “SCHEME” only due to the mass number of artists competing to get space, which usually leads to galleries being booked months to years in advance. There’s also this new trend of galleries that prefer you to pay to show your work, which I think is wrong because, without the artists work and the backing of his or her followers, you would have no show, just a nice, empty lounge to relax in.

I think the good things about the gallery system are that it allows you to get a bigger network, connect directly with artists and art enthusiasts, and bring out your competitive nature. You’ll see another artists doing some of his best work in order to get into shows and fill the space, and, in turn, you get motivated to create and do some of your best work.

I think the gallery scene is a love/hate relationship for any creative person, depending on the situation. Without the galleries, artists would have no place to take their work to the next level. Without the artists, galleries would have a hard time getting a crowd and making money. So, essentially, we need each other to thrive.

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Paul Weiner:
What is the largest piece you’ve ever made?

Davon Foots:
The largest piece I’ve created was only about 5ft x 3ft. It was a huge, trifold collage piece I made specifically for a group art installation called The Asylum. The Asylum took place in May of this year, the same month I featured works in Catapult Art Magazine.

I usually don’t go larger than 2 feet in my work because I focus a lot of attention to detail and line work, and its also more time efficient. When I do decide to make larger pieces, I usually focus a lot more on color and abstractions, losing lots of detail. I do plan to gradually make my works larger as I begin to grasp and get a hang of my style.


Please view Davon Foots’s artwork and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Jeffrey Thompson’s Patterned Abstract Paintings and the Wonder of Mathematical Systems

Jeffrey Thompson is a painter from San Francisco who relies on a mathematical, grid-based concept in order to develop abstract paintings. Recently, Thompson has exhibited his work at the University of Southern Oregon and in the SF Weekly for their “Masterminds 2013.” His art is available online at http://jtarts.com/.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you usually begin a painting? I’d like to hear about how you plan (or don’t plan), develop concepts, and engage in problem solving.

Jeffrey Thompson:
Ideally, each painting informs the next, so I usually begin the process by reviewing any relevant past work. At the outset, I make some general decisions about the way forward. I decide, for example, whether the new work will try to expand on any previous effort, or explore different territory. If the surface I’m planning to work on has a predominant characteristic, horizontal or vertical, I decide how to treat it in the composition. That is, I decide whether to employ it, or to somehow defeat it.

When I begin to attack the canvas, the process is largely mathematical. First, I determine the basic interval upon which the surface is based. For example, a 30″ x 30″ surface would likely use a 3″ basic unit. I then break down the composition based on those dimensions. I may then further divide the surface into smaller regions or grids. When establishing the drawing, I’m typically trying to emphasize the relationship between the painting surface and the layout.

At the point when I have the drawing in place, I make some fundamental choices about mediums, color, and content to cover everything from paint to the source materials I’ll be using in the collage. These collage elements are critical, as they determine a great deal about the overall impact of the piece. Newsprint carries a lot of populist imagery that, when broken down, becomes increasingly ambiguous. I find this desirable up to a point. Through experience, I’ve discovered that, if these materials are broken down too far, all meaning is obliterated. If not far enough, they seem to endorse more than is necessary.

I should note that I’m not after a specific message here. Rather, I’m trying to incorporate elements of the culture as a whole. Ironically, my objective is not unlike a good newspaper. I see myself as a kind of visual editor seeking an objective and balanced overview.

In contrast to newsprint, I sometimes opt for finer, clay-based papers in the collage, which typically come from fine art magazines or professional journals. These materials emphasize subtle color and advanced typography, and when using them, I focus on those elements.

I spent much of the past twenty years working with type and color as a graphics specialist and journeyman lithographer. My career in design and printing influenced my interest in graphic or text-based imagery and also financed my work in fine art.

I most often work with a combination of acrylic, oil, and enamel paints. I layer the acrylic paint first, with the solvent-based paints on top, in order to create a more or less stable paint structure. These paints are used out of the container in an unaltered state, although I do mix for color. I apply the paint directly, frequently manipulating it with pallet knives, spatulas, and other tools, rather than relying on brushes exclusively. The paint is alternately removed, sanded, or reduced and reapplied until it achieves sufficient density and form.

While the work is underway, I often photograph it in order to make decisions about direction, proportions, content, etc. When problem solving, I will use whatever tools are readily available, or most appropriate. This includes everything from mirrors to Photoshop. My only rule when using these tools is not to rely on any one of them too much. In order to see the work objectively, I will also hide it, turn it to face the wall for a period of time, or simply look at it upside down to take it out of normal context.

The final step is, of course, finishing the work. This is often the most subjective part of the process. It involves deciding that some or all of my original goals have been met, and that what has been achieved cannot be taken much further without losing what has been gained. It may also include approving any discoveries I may have made along the way. I will almost always embrace a positive random occurrence or other happy accidents.

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Paul Weiner:
Since your process relies on a mathematical process based on the surface you’re working on, how do you think it would change if you were to paint on a non-rectangular surface?

Jeffrey Thompson:
I have occasionally worked with random shapes when I come across what I call found surfaces. This has led to some interesting adjustments, but, in terms of an intentionally irregular or curved surface, I don’t think much would change. A two-dimensional grid can be applied to any non-linear shape. Even an irregular cloud like mass can be mapped and diagramed.

I will admit that type of presentation is less appealing to me. I don’t, however, think this is simply bias. I believe that the rectangular format is somehow intrinsic to the way we think about things visually. A theatre uses a linear proscenium; televisions are linear; and even books are rectangular. Some of that is a by-product of technology and tradition, but I think some of it is hard-wired in us.

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Paul Weiner:
What is the ideal forum for displaying your artwork? Do you prefer it in a commercial gallery, museum, public space, or other art space?

Jeffrey Thompson:
The ideal environment for this work would, in my opinion, be a permanent installation that would be site-specific. I have envisioned the work, especially the horizontal abstractions, in some sort of fixed setting along the lines of a viewing chapel or chamber, where the experience could be fully integrated. These paintings seem to thrive in intimate spaces and often take on unique and personal narratives and associations within this type of space.

That being said, I have found that work from this series seems to adapt well to most environments. I have shown the work in spaces that range from intimate local galleries in San Francisco’s Mission District to large academic environments such as the one at Southern Oregon University. In each, the work takes on a unique and compelling personality. In the case of a recent commission, the work seemed to transform before my eyes after being installed. As comfortably as it fit in the studio, it seemed equally at home in its intended environment. I think because the work is essentially geometric in nature, it not only echoes the surface on which it lives, it also naturally embraces and compliments the architecture of the room in which it is hung.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you happen upon the striping and grid formats that are prevalent in your recent works?

Jeffrey Thompson:
This format evolved out of a combination of early influences from art school and my professional exposure to commercial graphic design standards. While studying lithography and etching under Kenji Nanao and Misch Kohn, respectively, at Cal State – Hayward, I became aware of the significance of the grid as an integral, albeit silent, partner in the printmaking process. Everything involved in the planning of a print, or painting for that matter, relies upon and is constrained by the essentially rectangular format of the process. This encompasses every aspect, from the paper to the press itself. The vast majority of litho stones and most etching plates echo this format, and, so, the planning involved in printmaking necessarily becomes an extension of that underlying geometry.

When my career extended itself into the commercial environment, this relationship only grew. Everything produced in a commercial print shop relies heavily on the geometry of the press and, by extension, the grid. Later on, as commercial lithography came to rely almost entirely on computer-generated graphics, the underlying grid became more and more significant. This is especially true in print design for publication, where every square inch or millimeter has a defined value, both literally and figuratively. A full page ad in the New York Times is valuable real estate, and the designs created for that environment are necessarily based on columns and margins, which are themselves based on the underlying grid.

Eventually, I took this fundamental premise and adopted it as the basis for a series of paper collages. This soon expanded to larger and larger paintings. There was something compelling and universal about the structure, and I quickly discovered that the potential for variations on this theme were numerous.

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Paul Weiner:
Would you consider your work as expressionist, purely aesthetic, conceptual, or something else?

Jeffrey Thompson:
This is probably the hardest question to answer, and I would gently resist any temptation to put a definite name on my work. I suppose it would be ideal if others cared enough about my work to decide that for themselves. Frank Stella, whose early black, linear paintings were a big inspiration to me, considered his work to be minimalist and post-painterly abstractions. I, of course, would be thrilled to have my work associated with either of these disciplines although, technically, I lean towards a more painterly approach.

However, I believe what truly defined Stella’s work was his ability to reinvent himself and his paintings throughout his career, thus defying a strict classification. My greatest desire would be to emulate that ability, to continue to grow my work and reinvent my process over time. However, if pressed, I would say that I am generally an abstract painter who leans heavily on aesthetics, conceptualism, and expression, not necessarily in that order.


Please view Jeffrey Thompson’s artwork online at http://jtarts.com/ and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Connecting 3-D Printing and Nature: Andrew Werby

Andrew Werby is a sculptor and the founder of United Artworks. Werby has worked with a host of tools throughout his career, from traditional lost-wax casting processes to cutting-edge 3D printers. Further images of his artwork and information about his business can be found at juxtamorph.com.

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Paul Weiner:
Explain your idea of a “juxtamorphic” style.

Andrew Werby:
While I love art history, particularly the artifacts of ancient and distant civilizations, I felt the need to create a form of art that derived directly from nature, without reliance on my – or any human’s – cultural background. To me, anyway, natural objects speak a language of their own, which is independent of any artistic style developed by man. People have certainly used natural forms to develop styles of ornamentation before, generally abstracting and conventionalizing them. The Greek acanthus leaf is an example – in art history, one can see it progressively degenerate through generations of copying and reuse until its original vitality is entirely dissipated.

By capturing natural forms directly and using them in combination with each other to concentrate their innate power, I’m trying to build an aesthetic system like a mathematical proof, starting from what can be considered axioms: the natural forms that have surrounded mankind since its beginning. If we have any clue about what beauty might consist of, it seems to me, it has to be based on them. By carefully considering these forms, searching for affinities, mating one with another, and building up a work of art based on respect for their formal values, I’m trying to circumvent the unfortunate human tendency to identify, classify, and dismiss all this beauty without really seeing it for what it is.

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Paul Weiner:
Would you say that this attempt to build a “system like a mathematical proof” has in any way determined your affinity for computer printing over less accurate casting methods?

Andrew Werby:
I didn’t mean to imply that making a piece of art in the Juxtamorphic style was as automatic and predetermined as going through a mathematical procedure. What I meant was that in constructing an aesthetic system from first principles, using the works of nature as “givens”, I felt I was building on a firm foundation, in the style of a theorem. The actual process of making art this way is very much a matter of trial and error.

In opting for this digital method of constructing sculpture, I’ve actually had to relax my standards of accuracy a bit. The traditional casting process will accurately reproduce everything one can capture in a rubber mold, which includes detail finer than a fingerprint. But no 3D scanner I have access to can capture detail like that; there’s always some loss in translation. And while detail is concentrated when one starts with a large object and scales it down, often I’m going in the other direction, with a consequent loss of detail. There’s also some detail lost in 3D printing itself,depending on the part’s scale and the type of printer used. I think this is justifiable in view of the flexibility afforded by a digitally-mediated process, but it’s still a sacrifice.

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Paul Weiner:
Could you explain the process you employ for a 3D printer?

Andrew Werby:
Different 3D printers require somewhat different inputs and are suitable for different purposes. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, which have to be considered when choosing one for a particular project. For instance, the color printer I use allows me to use photographs on the surface of my pieces, much like projecting them onto a blank form, except that the color on the surface is an integral part of the piece, and is built along with the rest of it. I have another one that prints in clear plastic. These prints are a lot more durable than my color prints, but the detail on the surface, which is better, is harder to see because of the clarity, although that does produce some interesting visual effects. Another printer I’ve been using prints small objects with extremely high detail in a resin that’s suitable for investment casting, so I can transform these prints into jewelry or other parts in a range of metals.

Paul Weiner:
What kind of programs do you use in order to tell the printer what to make?

Andrew Werby:
There are a few different steps to my process. The first is 3D scanning, to create a library of forms that become my primary source material. Each scanning system consists of the hardware that actually captures the scans, and the software that enables it to work. I use a variety of these, ranging from simple touch-probes that record a single point at a time to laser scanners that can capture a whole object in great detail.

Once I have some scans to work with, I use one of a series of programs to combine, mirror, duplicate, scale and distort them in various ways, and to subtract one from another. My favorite program for doing this is called Geomagic Freeform. It’s a hardware/software system that has the unique ability to convey a tactile impression of the objects one is working on by varying the resistance of an articulated arm that’s used to manipulate them, so it’s a lot like using a real tool on a physical material, and is excellent for making subtle transitions from one surface to another. I also use more traditional CAD (Computer Aided Design) software for tasks which require hard geometric forms and measured relationships between them. Often I’ll use a combination of different software programs on a single piece to deal with different aspects of its intended function and appearance.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you make the transition from bronze casting to 3D printing?

Andrew Werby:
The techniques of “lost wax” bronze casting traditionally were something that was left to foundry technicians to execute, based on a clay or plaster model that an artist would deliver, often at a much smaller scale than the large metal sculpture they’d produce. This led to a certain level of disengagement on the part of the sculptors, and to sculptures that lost something in translation. Fortunately, I was taught bronze casting by some sculptors who had revived foundry practice as a hands-on skill that artists could master themselves. One of the things we learned was mold-making. This was a revelation to me; I loved the idea that I could capture the surface information from one object and create another one in a different material, like wax or bronze, that still displayed the exact configuration of the original. I became particularly fascinated with doing this to natural objects, since they display such a mysterious richness of texture and detail. Soon I’d amassed the beginnings of what would become a formidable mold library, initially drawing on the resources of my school’s departmental collections, and had begun casting sculptures that combined all sorts of different animals, minerals, and vegetables.

I carried on with this for a long time after graduation, building a foundry of my own and expanding this basic technique into various other media. When personal computers started becoming powerful enough to combine photographic images, I delved into that a bit, but as a sculptor I was unsatisfied with making only 2D images, although I was intrigued by the ease and seamlessness of the transitions I could achieve in digital photo-collage. I started wondering if I could do the same thing in 3D and create actual sculpture from virtual models of natural forms. But everyone I spoke to about it at the time told me it was impossible, at least for an individual artist without corporate backing. I kept researching this, however, and my timing was right, because companies making CAD software and hardware peripherals were waking up to the mass market that was created with the spread of powerful personal computers, and making products available at much lower prices than before. I discovered some relatively inexpensive tools that allowed me to prove the concept, capturing a seashell in 3D, importing and manipulating it in a software environment, and then using a small CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) milling machine to carve it into a piece of wood.

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I really like the CNC process, since it allowed me to expand what I could previously only do with casting and approach carving in much the same way. One is fairly unconstrained in the materials that can be used, and the scale of a part can be as large as the machine allows, while the level of detail is largely dependent on the time one is willing to spend carving it. I could use it to create models for casting in other materials, or create a final part in a permanent material like wood. The machines that do it are relatively simple, and I was able to build some for myself that extended the size range of the parts I could make. I’d found some 3D scanning equipment that was faster and produced models with better detail, and discovered software that let my imagination loose on them. But to carve something with a CNC mill, the tool has to be able to reach every area of the part’s surface, and there are some constraints on the designs one can accomplish. I found myself constructing things I couldn’t carve, and thinking about 3D printers.

There are quite a few different varieties of 3D printers. At the low end, they are basically just CNC machines with a hot-glue gun instead of a spindle, although they use more rigid plastic as a feedstock. The layers of material they deposit are individually visible on the surface and tend to obliterate all but the strongest surface textures. And the forms they can make are not unconstrained; the hot plastic, if not completely supported, will droop to the bottom of the build platform. I couldn’t see any particular advantage to using them instead of CNC carving.

However, there are some other technologies, like powder-bed printing, where a layer of powder is consolidated selectively and another is added on top, that allow the piece to be supported by the unconsolidated powder as it’s built up layer by layer. This allows a lot more freedom in design. Another method involves shining a laser into a vat of liquid photo-reactive polymer. This requires support from the bottom of the vat, but not nearly as much as the hot extruded filament, so the supports that are used can be easily detached.

A third technique also uses photoreactive resin, but cures it using a projector from underneath, which allows it to build particularly fast, since a whole slice is exposed at a time. By making each slice very thin, it can produce very fine detail fairly quickly. This resin is suitable for “lost wax” casting, since it burns out cleanly in a mold, so I’m able to cast it in bronze, just like the wax I started out with.

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Paul Weiner:
Would you consider your work fine art sculpture, design, or somewhere between the two?

Andrew Werby:
My work can be arranged on a continuum between purely artistic sculptures and completely functional designs. I don’t make a big distinction between art and craft; my most influential teachers were among those artists of the 20th century who worked hard to obliterate that divide and I basically agree with them about the uselessness of segregating the two. I might make something that has no earthly use except as an object for contemplation; in that case there’s nothing else to call it but fine art. I also make things which can be put to some kind of use – a vessel, for instance, or a piece of jewelry. Its functional aspects may not be such as to overshadow its basically decorative nature, so it would rank somewhere in the middle. But I don’t forbid myself from acting as a designer first and an artist second, if the task warrants it, and in that case the intended function will largely dictate the form I produce to accommodate it. That would be placed on the other end of the spectrum.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you enjoy making work that functions as a tool more, less, or equally to making work purely for aesthetic pleasure?

Andrew Werby:
I like doing both things. I don’t feel any compulsion to be purely an artist or exclusively a designer. Perhaps these different things are satisfying in different ways, so I do one or the other as the mood strikes me or the need for it presents itself. It’s good to identify an unmet need and fulfill it, so for instance I’ve launched into a project of designing the ultimate electric cello, which is more or less a pure design effort, where the goal is to achieve as good a sound quality as possible while preserving the ergonomics of the acoustic instrument. In the course of making a piece I often find I need some tool or machine that doesn’t exist, so in order to do something I’ve set my mind on, I’m obliged to shift gears and go into tool-making mode.


Please view Andrew Werby’s artwork online at juxtamorph.com and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Ruthie Schneider Vast Library of Photomanipulation

Ruthie Schneider creates photomanipulation artwork by sampling from a vast library of her own photography in order to create aestheticall pleasing compositions. Her abstract compositions are also available for viewing online here.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us a bit about how you got involved in this type of photography and manipulation.

Ruthie Schneider:
Up until about two years ago, I had been doing primarily street photography in my travels and still life photography of things that caught my eye in my environment. I was somewhat bored with my work. I had been to a painting workshop out in Oregon and was experimenting with abstracts. My closets are littered with unfinished paintings!

When I saw what one could do with post processing methods, a light went on in my head about merging an existing photograph with another, or several. This is a challenge, as I have to visualize the shapes and composition of the images, and make a decision as to where the strongest elements are. I go through a process of changing the rotation, RGB curves, contrast, and such until I find two or three images that work.

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Paul Weiner:
Was your photography similar stylistically before you began using digital tools?

Ruthie Schneider:
Not at all. I was raised on the Zone System of photography back in the 70s and followed in the footsteps of the “f/64 club.” After I sold my darkroom equipment and focused on raising babies, I transitioned into doing travel – street and still life photography.

Digital manipulation has totally opened up a new world for me, one which allows me to utilize both my painting skills and photography to reach a happy medium. I actually feel as if I am producing a canvas. It is always a pleasant surprise to see two, three or sometimes four images merge to produce a totally different result.

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Paul Weiner:
Is your photography influenced at all by abstract expressionism in painting?

Ruthie Schneider:
Absolutely! That and my keen awareness of shadows, textures and light.

Paul Weiner:
How do you balance raw camera images and Photoshop as tools for abstract photography?

Ruthie Schneider:
Well, I actually don’t use Photoshop for my work. I use a free online app called PicMonkey, which I use for enhancement and occasional manipulation. I have a huge library of photographs from my travels and day to day stuff. I have photographed many unfinished, abstract paintings that my daughter and I have done that are languishing in our house! I also utilize images of various ‘textures’ as you will; rust, peeling paint, shadows, etc.

When I set out to make a new image, I pick something from my library that perhaps doesn’t make it on its own, but that can come to life when merged with a texture or painting.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you find a subject for your work?

Ruthie Schneider:
As I mentioned, I draw upon my vast library of images that go way back. I revisit photos that need help!

In my travels and walkabouts, I like to shoot from the hip so that, often, I leave out what is happening at eye level. I enjoy this method as it gives a skewed look. Since I have started merging, for lack of a better term, I also shoot textures.

I had a grand time behind Walmart, photographing all of the pallets with plastic shrink wrap that had water droplets beading everywhere. There were also flattened boxes with layers and layers of color and texture. Old cemeteries have endless opportunities, and we are fortunate to live in New England, land of historic graveyards. Other places that have wonderful subject matter are airports. Cleveland comes to mind, but just about every airport gives me great inspiration, especially when spending hours hanging around while flights are delayed. Farmers markets, food, and dogs in the street strike my fancy as well.

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Paul Weiner:

Is your chief concern aesthetics or are these photos all connected conceptually?

Ruthie Schneider:
I have groups of images that share the same element of texture. For instance, I will use a photo of a shadow and merge it with several scenic, still life, or street photos. So, you will see that connecting theme, but that would be the only connected concept.

Paul Weiner:
What types of cameras and equipment do you use?

Ruthie Schneider:
I keep it simple. I am not one of those with two cameras and long lenses hanging around my neck—the smaller and lighter, the better. I began with a Nikon D40 when I first started using digital, and it was strictly for travel. Right now, I am totally enjoying a Fujifilm X100, which reminds me of a Leica, extremely quiet. It has a fixed lens, which forces me to compose more carefully.


Please view Ruthie Schneider’s artwork and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Stephen Mauldin’s Experimental Painting Techniques

Today’s interview is with Stephen Mauldin, a painter and instructor living in Oregon with great interest in creating new painting techniques to express content he has developed for over forty years. Mauldin holds an MFA with a concentration in painting and printmaking from the University of Idaho as well as a BA in art from Oklahoma City University. He has exhibited his work in many galleries throughout the Northwest and beyond. Read the interview, and then find more information and artwork online at http://www.mauldinart.com.

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Paul Weiner:
How has your experience as an educator affected your artwork in terms of process and aesthetic preferences, if at all?

Stephen Mauldin:
I can’t say that my teaching experience has affected my process or aesthetic preferences. Teaching basic design and color theory has certainly deepened my understanding of basic design principles and the intricacies of color, but I think what teaching does most is to keep things fresh. All the knowledge and skills one uses as an artist are eternally fresh for each new group of students. Their enthusiasm for receiving that knowledge and acquiring those skills prevents one from taking it all for granted. Plus, one continues to learn as one teaches. My knowledge of art history ,though still limited by most standards, I think, has expanded exponentially over the years due to teaching.

The deal is, I’m a single-minded guy. I think it was Matisse who said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that every artist has one idea they refine for a lifetime. That’s certainly been true in my case. I’m still addressing the same issues I was nearly forty years ago when I left undergraduate school. I bring more life experience and artistic experience to bear on those issues, but the core issues are still the same. Where I live and what I do for a living has never had any immediate impact on my work as an artist. If I hadn’t taught, I think my work would have still taken a similar path.

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Paul Weiner:
As an artist who has been trained in smaller art markets like Oklahoma City and Moscow, Idaho, how do you feel about the commercial art system that clusters around major cities like New York and Los Angeles?

Stephen Mauldin:
In the digital age, it seems a little silly since most things can be done anywhere now due to the internet. However, not many people are going to buy a large, expensive painting over the internet, sight unseen, so galleries are still necessary. The key issue, though, is the “critical mass” of collectors necessary to sustain a commercial art system. That’s what New York and L.A. have that other cities don’t. That allows them to create the gallery infrastructure that draws collectors from elsewhere, as well. That’s one of the biggest complaints here in Portland, Oregon where I live. We’re known as a creative magnet and there are thousands of working artists here with more arriving every day, but there are nowhere near enough collectors to support them all (not even including the collectors who occasionally travel here to buy art). It’s a frequent complaint in Seattle, as well.

The downside of the system is that it lets a handful of people define what is the “best” art of any generation and limits the variety of art being seen by the public. There’s art being produced every day all over this country that’s as good as anything made in New York or L.A., but few people see it because of this system.

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Paul Weiner:
You mentioned the rise of the internet as having an impact on art collection. Since many patrons are unwilling to buy expensive paintings online, do you feel that the value of contemporary art is diminished when it is sold on a store like Etsy?

Stephen Mauldin:
Not necessarily. What I was suggesting is that I doubt many people are going to drop several thousand, or tens of thousands, of dollars on a piece of art they’ve only seen online. Much of what any piece of art offers is too subtle to be seen online. If the piece can be sold for a few hundred dollars, people are more likely to take a chance. On the other hand, I think serious collectors prefer to see the art “in the flesh,” as it were, since they are more discriminating by and large. That said, much of what is on sites like Etsy is what I would call “wall décor,” not to be mistaken for Art. As my basic design students learn, Art has three essential elements: subject, form, and content. Subject is what the art depicts; form is how it is organized; and content is what it communicates. Wall décor usually has the first two elements, but is often thin on or completely lacking the third. Also, whereas collectors are usually most interested in content, people who buy wall décor are usually most concerned about whether it will match the couch. There may very well be some excellent art on Etsy’s site, but I doubt if many serious collectors rely on Etsy or similar sites to add to their collections. Frankly, I wouldn’t expect anyone to buy work off of my site without seeing it first.

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Paul Weiner:
Could you explain your concept for your String Theory series?

Stephen Mauldin:
The String Theory series didn’t begin with a concept, per se. I experiment with paint frequently. Robert Henri noted in his book The Art Spirit that mastering a medium does not come from being taught what he calls “stock phrases.” He suggests there, quite accurately I think, that mastering a medium comes from thoroughly understanding the properties of that medium. To that end, I am constantly playing with paint in order to more fully understand what it can and cannot do.

So, one day, while paying with paint, I taped an ultra-fine straight pin to the end of a palette knife, dipped it into some paint, cocked the palette knife back, and slung a very small quantity of paint onto a piece of paper. The resulting mark was absolutely electric, playing out into lines smaller than a human hair and crisper than one could ever create with a brush. It immediately struck me as the perfect visual signifier for the “strings” of string theory, electric little knots of energy. With the paintings in the String Theory series, I took that idea and married it to those issues I mentioned earlier. The face is actually derived from a mannequin head I bought while in graduate school, which has come and gone in my work ever since and is used to signify some sort of “higher intelligence” in the universe. What I’m trying to suggest is a universe teeming with intelligence on multiple levels. By the way, a palette knife breaks in half after about two hours of slinging paint like this, so I had to devise an alternate tool.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us about this alternate tool you’ve developed!

Stephen Mauldin:
I wish I could tell you that it’s something amazingly complicated that took natural engineering skills to develop, but I simply stuck the pin in the end of a Colour Shaper. They’re like paint brushes with some form of rubber shaped like bristles instead of having actual bristles. I had bought a bunch of them years ago but found that I didn’t like them. They had been laying around the studio for years, so when I was looking for a solution to the failing palette knife problem, they were there, and they worked. They wear out, too, but it takes months instead of hours. I prefer one particular type that’s hard to find, so I just bought about $150 dollars worth of them in case I can’t find them in the future or they’re discontinued.

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Paul Weiner:
How would you define your style of art?

Stephen Mauldin:
I don’t know that I really have a “style” since my work changes rather significantly every few years. The issues stay the same, but the way the paint is applied changes dramatically. In the beginning, I used brushes and applied paint directly to canvas or panel, as most painters do. Then I started shaping the canvas over objects and applying paint with an airbrush to simulate the play of light and shadow on those objects, stretching the canvas after the fact. That was continued on rip-stock nylon for a while to get finer detail. After that, I made all the marks for paintings on glass first, and then collaged them into “paint assemblages” of sorts. Next, I used a tool designed for putting stripes on picture frame molding to draw directly with paint and produce pieces infused with a dense web of spirals and arcs to suggest the patterns of sub-atomic particles. That was followed by extruding thickened paint into actual webs that were about a half-inch deep. Later, I stamped the image onto canvas using rubber stamps that I carved myself. Now I sling paint with pins.

Actually, it dawned on me recently that I have always been led by the paint. As I have played with it over the years, it has continually revealed new things to me and suggested new technical directions. Ben Shahn said, “The painter who stands before an empty canvas must think in terms of paint.” Over the years, as I’ve addressed the issues I do, that’s what I’ve done – thought in terms of paint and how I can make it convey more clearly what I’ve been trying to communicate.shadow1

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Paul Weiner:
Is there a certain type of paint you prefer? Also, would you consider your revelations about paint and its application to be equally important to the actual products you create?

Stephen Mauldin:
I’ve used NovaColor acrylics for thirty years. I started using them when I worked with an airbrush because they’re slightly less viscous than tube colors and require less thinning to be sprayed. It’s a high quality, heavily pigmented artist’s color and is much less expensive than any other brand I’ve found, so I’ve stuck with it. They’re great people to deal with, too. Producing the electric little mark that I’m so infatuated with now is all about viscosity. If the paint’s too thick or too thin, all you get is little dots or a big mess. Curiously, only the warm colors with NovaColor will do it. I think it’s the properties of the pigments, so I’ve taken to modifying the cool colors with Utrecht’s extra stiff colors. I tried gel mediums and everything else I could think of with no success until I stumbled upon the Utrecht solution almost by chance.

I don’t consider my revelations about paint to be of much importance since they would be of little use to anyone else. They’re a reflection of my temperament and have resulted in painting methods that are extremely time consuming and mind-numbingly tedious by most people’s standards. Actually, the importance, in my mind, lies not in the products or objects I create, but in the content contained therein. The paint and the objects are only means to an end.


Please view Stephen Mauldin’s artwork online at http://www.mauldinart.com and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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