Felice Grodin

February 17, 2014

3_new frontier

Looking at the abstract drawings of Felice Grodin, I get hints of punk and hip hop and old bricks and crystals, smoke and vine and thorns and robots and concrete. And I couldn’t tell you exactly how or why, but there’s something deep going on here, both fast and slow, meticulous and dynamic.

Grodin’s drawings are just so essentially urban, they have this electric density to them. A weaving of organic forms with  geometric ones, the dynamic interplay of elements is mesmerizing. Her vocabulary is singular, evoking graffiti, and  structural drawing, framed within the dynamic qualities of abstract expressionism, there is an emergent quality as well, like a hidden set of rules guiding spontaneous forms, so that the pen in hand is expressing almost digital concepts.   There are several different forces at play in the work, different species clashing and working out mutually beneficial movements.  One move looks like free form  ink or paint strokes, having been traced, the resulting line drawing extruded to add a graphic like dimensionality. The result is and is not organic. Maybe not so much organic, more the interpretation of organic form through a mechanical process.   I can always appreciate someone with the discipline to reduce  the elements at play to only what is necessary for the expression. Refinement should make you smile, so feast your eyes, my friends, and smile.

 

4_networked

5_data streaming with an alien species

6_united states

8_The Collaboration_

1

Can you tell me a bit about your background? 

I was born in Bologna, Italy – my dad was in medical school studying ophthalmology.  Since his courses were in Italian, I always thought how challenging it must of been to study medicine in a foreign language.  My parents always traveled so we moved back to New York and then San Francisco and then South Florida. Because I always liked to draw, I had wanted to be an artist but decided on architecture since it was both a science and an art.  I did my undergraduate studies at Tulane University in New Orleans.  Immersing myself in that city for five years had a deep effect on me.  Both its physicality and culture have an underlying entropy and vulnerability.  Experiencing Mardi Gras had both an exhaustive and regenerative quality that I think are the underpinnings of my work.  From there I came back to South Florida and settled in South Beach in the early nineties, which at the time was the beginning of its resergence.  It had similar aspects to New Orleans, but with the beach and the ocean, everything was bathed in the brightest sunlight and hidden within the deepest shadows. It was very sensual.  These cities were not about affixed places or spaces but rather ritualized fissures of possiblity. I decided after being influenced by the experience of these types of cities and spaces, the space in between, that I would go back to school and focus on ‘anti-architecture’ for my Masters degree.

What came first for you, art or architecture/design?

I don’t think either came first – it was a sensibilty that arose from my experiences of the city.  I think that I was interested in how to explore, represent, trap and intervene within fluid spaces… Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities came first…

How did your art practice develop? When did you decide to start showing your drawings?

I had done a studio in grad school that also effected me greatly.  It was taught by Leslie Gill and explored the cross section of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, the city of Butte, Montana and in my specific case, Jackson Pollack.  There was a mixture of violence, toxic erosion and Manifest Destiny.  Out of the studio I created a set of notational studies of Pollack’s Arabesque.  I was trying to see if there were patterns or tendencies – where he might of stepped in and out of the canvas or where he would congeal the paint strokes to create a darkness or depth beneath the surface .  The tools that I used were standard technical ink pens, mylar paper and gesso but used in a visceral way.  I eventually started to my own paintings and then drawings of them – cartographies.  When I had done enough to warrant some feedback, I started showing them to people..

How did your formal education inform what you do? how was it valuable, or conversely, was it ever confusing or misleading?

My education informed everything.  Being able to think spatially is something that I have learned. It is a medium that is both something we can control and alternately something that we have no control over.

How long did it take you to develop your drawing process? 

I’m still developing it!  But I would say that the initial body of work took a few years just to get a handle on.  It’s funny to work backwards in the traditional sense – first painting then drawing.  But what’s cool is that the paintings occur very quickly.  Sometimes in minutes.  The drawings can take months.  It’s so interesting for me to experience thoughts, narratives and technical decisions along the way.  It’s process on acid-

What artists have influenced you?

Tintoretto, Jackson Pollack, Francis Bacon, Louise Nevelson, Daniel Libeskind – particularly his Micromega drawings.  My contemporaries here in South Florida have also had a great influence on me, especially Samantha Salzinger and Gean Moreno.

Your drawings have this tension between ordered space and emergent or chaotic form. To what degree is your architecture background informing this interplay? Is it a conscious effort to express something essential about Urbanism? or is the process more organic and intuitive?

The concept of emergence is something that I have read about in the last few years.  I’ve been following some writings and lectures on new materialism and speculative realism.  What’s interesting is that these philosophical perspectives are questioning the interrelation between knowledge and reality.  I think advances in science and technology has had a profound effect on this and in the most extreme cases, there is the recognition that certain forms of high tech exceed the human range of processing.  Thus notions of the post-human have arisen out of this context. By that I don’t mean of innovation in the newest gadget, but rather high speed algorithmic flows of information and value exchange, the manipulation of matter at a microscopic level and the notion that traditional forms of civic governance as well as urbanism have now to contend with virtual space.  These render boundaries, borders and one can argue the Classical body obsolete. But then what forces push these porous boundaries and borders, and how does the body deal with both high and low frequencies? Therefore what is relevant for me as someone with an architectural background, is that I find these issues spatial as much as representational.

How long does a drawing take you typically? 

Anywhere between one month for a smaller one and two to three months for a very large piece.

Can you talk a bit about the process of these drawings?

The base paintings are intuitive as well as scientific.  I take the inherent properties of ink as I release it from the container to a board or mylar.  Sometimes I like to do a kind of automatic calligraphy.  Other times I mix two colors to see if a third condition emerges.  Lately I’ve been layering and composing more than I had in the past.  From there I draw a plan in ink and develop line weights and colors.  Usually a hypothesis develops as to the suggestiveness of the piece.  I will assign a title at this point in most cases.  I then extrude the drawing into an oblique projection.  There is an algorithm that is developed – a code as to groups of lines or colors and how they become systems that have tendencies within the drawings.  It’s like I’m translating the force of the painting into a cartographic map.  But the map has a life of it’s own – it’s both descriptive of something else and simultaneously exceeds that description.  There is a presentness about the final drawing.

Pencil? Pen? yes or no underdrawing? any drawing aids/tools?

I use technical old school drafting pens.  I use layers (three steps as discussed above) to produce the work.  No drawing aids but since the drawings are freehand, I take the liberty to erase a errant line every now and then.

How fixed is the piece in your mind before you start? Does the drawing take it’s own spontaneous direction, deviating from the plan?

I have no fixed idea but sometimes the hypothesis is stronger than others.  The drawing is in a constant state of manipulation always deviating without a plan.

What kind of research do you do? Are there lots of preliminary sketches before the final drawings?

I read things that I’m interested in and sometimes I’m able to make a lateral leap into the work.  For example, when I was in graduate school I was immersed in the writings of George Bataille.  I took a great seminar by the art historian Yves Alain Bois that connected his writings to publications as well as art.  I would not call it research though as much as I would say that these things filter through the work.  There are no preliminary sketches.

Is there anything that bothers you about your own work?

No.  It’s a privilege to work in a medium that I love.  I’m trapping a moment within each drawing that is a moment connected to what was before and what is after. There is no intrinsic meaning – only possibilities along the way.

Costa Dvorezky

July 30, 2011

Costa Dvorezk is the rare sort of painter who seeks unbridled freedom of expression within a highly technical discipline. He succeeds in suffusing his figurative works with movement and a raw frenetic energy, and compromises nothing of the technical refinements of his craft in the process. Not to make too fine a point of it, but wasn’t this the mark of the old masters? descriptive precision perfectly balanced with an immediacy of expression?  Nice to see an artist devoted to this notion of craft who is not at once tethered to the antique subject matters themselves. You will notice, there are no cherubs or pastorals here. For a discussion of the thematic content of the work, I’ll refer you to Robert Meynell’s article posted on Costa’s website: http://dvorezky.com/pages/articles_w.htm. I sat down with Costa for a drink and a conversation about his process, influences, and life. The bar was loud, and I confess to getting sauced. Regardless, One hopes you find the conversation as enlightening as I did.

Q You work in several styles, with very few similarities between them, in terms of aesthetic or technique, can you talk a bit about this?

A i have three themes, the way I paint. when you work in the same style too much, it becomes just a  product. so that’s dangerous for the artist as a creative person, and it’s also bad for the market. You’re doing something very similar for 5 or 6 years and for some reason that’s it, you’re not painting anymore, so you have to come up with something fresh.

Q You work on one theme at a time?

A Yeah, of course, I’ll work on one theme for a couple of months, you know, 3 months let’s say, and when it gets dry, when I don’t know what else to do I’ll take a break and move to the opposite theme.  you can open up a different process and then go back to the other one, right? It also helps continuing to be secure, because you have to survive, you know, feed the family (laughs).

Q Can you talk a bit about your training?

A I studied in Moscow. It’s a little bit different from here. In Moscow I trained in the Art Academy, so before that you have to go to the art college. At that time it was very competitive, you had to take these exams that last for two weeks. and then they told you wether you’d been accepted or not.

Q This was for the college or the academy?

A For both. The first step was you brought in your portfolio for a review, this would decide if they’d let you take the exam, right? because so many people come. The exam is 3 or 4 days of drawing. It’s life drawing, 4 hours every day. So By the end, you have to have finished the drawing. Then they have to decide what level you’re at. Once you’ve been accepted they’re teaching you the other disciplines too, literature, math, and history as well as art.

Q And once you’re at the academy, what’s the style of teaching?

A It’s very conservative.

Q Cast drawings? Sight size method?

A Yeah. All that.You start at the beggining, because you have to understand not just how to draw it, but also how it’s structure works, which I think is a really really smart move because you know, let’s say you’re drawing a person from profile, you need to know how they look from all other angles as well.

Q So if you’re looking at me head on, you could draw me from the side view?

A Yeah, that sort of thing, so we have to do a lot of anatomy courses. Probably 8 hours a week, you know it’s very intensive, it basically gives you the  ability to paint. they want you to be able to do anything the situation requires by the time you get out of there.

Q Did you struggle with this teaching method at all?

A Oh no, it’s an incredible thing.

Q And what direction did you go with your work after school?

A Well, since I finished, because I’d had so much of the academic experiences, I knew I had to start somewhere with different subjects, you know, less academic things.

Q When was that?

A This was in 1993. I was trying to marry this with academic structure or composition ,  to find the right marriage. But then I came to Canada and I had problems selling anything.

Q It took you a long time to find interest here?

A Yeah. The market wasn’t really for this kind of work. I sold alright in France or Switzerland, other places, you know, but not really here at first.

Q What made you come to Canada?

A I just wanted to travel, because I couldn’t sell anything in Russia, because you know, people were poor, artists might have like one client. I’d been living in Moscow, so I came here for a little bit, and then stayed for some reason.

Q Where do you get your models from?

A Well my wife is a ballet dancer…

Q …and there you go. (laughs)

So let’s say for your figurative theme, How long does a painting typically take?

A It really depends. sometimes it’s happening in 3 days, sometimes in 3 weeks.  Sometimes a month and a half.  the painting is never finished right? you’re trying to get the maximum out of the the square of information from the canvas, so it takes time.

Q Other than your wife, who are the other models?

A a friend of mine, sometimes I get him to come down. Though I don’t always use a model when I paint.

Q Would that be true of the action paintings, like the jumpers? Do you ever use photographs?

A Yeah sometimes i use photographs. I had my friend for that one. He kept jumping for me, I would try take these pictures of him midair, but kept missing, so he was just jumping there for a while, it was quite funny.

Q So that’s how you got those poses

A Sure, Because for me it’s not the move, it’s more like anatomy, you know when you’ve got a moving figure, all the muscles have different articulations, especially when you’re in the air rather than when you’re standing up, which is easy enough. When you’re in the air the muscles move totally differently, the body, it’s not as stiff. The weight is less obvious, so all the muscles express new shapes. It’s quite different.

This was something to deal with in these paintings. Plus you have to be quite minimal with your brush strokes, so that’s what i deal with all the time. because you put it down, “no i don’t like it” so you wipe it off, do it  again. it can go on like this for several days.

Q I noticed this quality in your work. While it is very immediate, it’s still very accurate, the fresh quality of the mark making doesn’t come at the expense of descriptive accuracy.

A That’s what I’m trying to do.

Q are your ideas Formal? Is there a  conceptual framework that you’re trying to fit works into? Or do you simply get ideas for colours and poses and this fits into your general sensibility?

A That’s a good question. My idea of the painting is never the subject matter. I never really care about that. I care about the movement, the brush’s movement, and the shapes that I want to get in that space, And the light. The human body is the perfect subject for this kind of execution. Its hard to do and it’s a little bit different, you get unexpected colours and you have to adapt to this.

Q Do you do sketches and preperatory drawings?

A Yeah, occasionally, but most of the time I just go from the cavas. because, you know, I found out  sometimes you do the sketch and think, “oh that’s pretty good” and then you try it at a bigger size and it loses it’s dimension. If it’s straight from the canvas you’re starting with the right dimensions. If it’s just a sketch, sure it looks nice, but you don’t know if it translates well to the canvas.

Q What’s your approach to colour? do you keep a limited pallette?

A I keep it to a certain palette. because you don’t have as hard a time mixing. Some people are mixing all these colours and you look at their palettes, and can’t figure out how they have time to paint. Always try to keep it to basics, like primary colours. Of course you have to have the whites and earth tones too. Mixing with basic colours, you can really control the consistency of it.  You use violet from the tube let’s say, you try to mix anything with it, it won’t work. So just primaries, and umber, The rest, forget it.

Q Mix on the canvas?

A No, on the palette. well sometimes, it depends on what you do

Q I’ve noticed the way you score the canvases, almost like razor marks.

A Yeah, first I’ll prime the canvas, then on certain areas I’ll do that with a putty knife.

Q You do this on top of the painting or underneath it?

A underneath. It’s kind of mechanical probably, but that’s what allows me to do like this technique with the natural brushstrokes, and the background, it adds to it somehow.

Q There’s an interesting tension between these sharp lines almost cutting through the softer qualilties of figure, it adds an almost aggressive dimension to the work

A I don’t think it’s aggressive but it helps me to say more, if i cover it with a brushstroke, certain things you won’t see. Its just another element. I use it as let’s say an underpainting, I just put different things on top of it.

Q Do you use glaze techniques?

A No. I use just like a varnish at the end.

Q What are some of your Influences?

A Well it’s always changing right? when you’re a kid it’s one thing, and then things progress. It’s hard to say. I like so many artists.

Q let’s say historically.

A At first when I was a little kid kid it was just old masters Then in college it was mostly impressionists because that was a pretty revolutionary kind of thing, historically, and it’s beautiful work. Then at the academy it was a lot of conceptual work, because of the training we had, you know, too much of one thing.  Now I think I go back to the old masters. I’ve realized  I’d really like to go back to Europe twice a year to look at them. You have to see the originals, It’s a totally different space, besides, the reproduction just gives you the image, it can’t give you information on how it was made.

Q You can always tell a painter at a museum because they have their noses practically pressed up against the art

A Which is kind of pathetic maybe. (laughs) Maybe I’m just getting older, but I realize they really were such giants, there’s so much to learn there.

Q Do you think there’s a market in Europe for Realism?

A No. The market is here not in Europe. They have so much of everything there, it’s really hard . Painting for them means something more lofty.

Q Socially, or even professionally, Do you associate with a network of artists?

A Well, I keep with a few friends that are russian artists, but really I don’t have a lot of spare time actually.

Q When you’re painting, how would you describe the process? for example, Is it peaceful? or maybe intense? what’s the experience like for you?

A Its not peaceful no, but it’s something I can’t wait to start doing every day. I have a physical addiction to paint. It’s something I really enjoy doing.

Q Do you feel like you’re on the right track?

A Well yeah, I love it. I don’t want to do anything else with my life.

Q Do you have long term goals?

A well I’d like to become a master.

Q Are you there yet?

A You never get there because there’s always more to learn, it’s bottomless, the learning process. I gotta tell you something. somedays I feel like I’m in school. Back when I was in college… I miss that. bascially, I had no responsibilities, nothing to do but go and paint  and have fun. Enjoy it while you can.

Q I’m trying! What sorts of goals are you planning?

A Well every painting I try to do something different. I don’t mean different in terms of painting different things, but different in terms of upscaling my process. distilling  it with less brushstrokes.  That’s why I tried  that thing with the palette knife, so there’s  already something there, it helps me to do less.

Q how’s the process changing over the years?

A I use less brushstrokes now. And I show more information with the application

Q does that mean taking more time between brushstrokes?

A Yes. You take more time, it’s more labour intensive, but eventually it works. But I  find I have to redo things often. I work large, so your distance from the painting can skew the paintings too, you have to step back and see where things are, sometimes it requires a different approach with the placing of the various parts of the figure. It’s funny, with some paintings I’ll spend a lot of time with these kinds of problems but then the next few are suddenly very easy.

Q Do you work in sets and variations?

A yeah. And I plan it. I have to plan it, because creativity for some reason is tied up to financial issues for me.

Q how does that dynamic work?

A Well maybe I’ll work on one series for a couple of months and then I’ll switch to a different series that  may be less commercial, but i’ll have fun with that. But it will take longer to resolve these ones. It’s an equation of what you can afford to do.

Q Are you good under pressure?

A yeah. It can be distracting, but I do need a little bit of fire, so it’s all psychological. You need both. You always want the work to be proper but then you have these deadlines, and that  can be problem. I’m lucky right now, I have the freedom to work on what I want.

Q Do you find your themes slowly starting to merge at all?

A Yeah. That’s what I would like to achieve. When I can achieve this it will be much easier to work

A Where do you feel realism is at?

Q I think It will start to happen everywhere. people are getting tired of the contemporary thing. Modernism is everywhere right now. It’s cheap and it’s everywhere. Now, Realism is tired of detail because of detail is so available in photography. In fine art it’s hard to do this. Photorealism is not as competent, because it’s really hard to be expressive with it. It has to do with the new technologies. Because of this, the future of realism will to do with expression as evidence of the brushstrokes.  That’s what people will want.

I think realism will come back at some point. I see people start to realize the limits of modern art. Contemporary art is beautiful and all, but you change the couches in the living room now you have to change the art, and you payed so much money for it! I think it will take quite a few years, but society is changing, with the big changes in the world right now, everyone will re-evaluate what they have. I don’t know what will happen, but I think people will want something different, and that gives a chance for this aesthetic to re-emerge as something new.

Q Do you feel as though you struggle against contemporary trends?

A First, personally I don’t think you have to struggle. But the other thing is, there’s so many people on the planet, there’s something for everyone there. But still, it has been too long for this kind of art, also, it’s a new century, historically interesting things happen around these times, in culture ad polititcs as well as art, so i think the shift is coming, hopefully something’s going to happen in this [figurative/realist] direction.

THE END

Alex Kanevsky

January 8, 2009

INTERVIEW WITH ALEX KANEVSKY (painter of this painting right underneath here)

redhat

Q. To what extent does formal training inform what you do? did you study any formal or classical system (such as cast copies or sight-size excercises) at the pennsylvania academy? If so, how far has your process strayed from your training?

A. The formal training was some years ago, so you might say I have strayed quite a bit. When I was at school I did all the casts and site-size exercises and what not, but never very enthusiastically. I pretty much treated classes as opportunities to paint models anyway I saw fit. So I was asked by my teachers several times why was I in their classes in the first place if I ignored the assignments. You know: why paint with limited pallet, for example, just because some guy to told you to do it, when you can use all these colors? I suppose I always thought of good painting as something that happens as a reaction to, not because of schooling.

Q. How do you approach measuring? how about the block in? are you very precise, or are you allowing for correction in subsequent layers? it seems to me this sort of “rubbing out” or painting over without removing the artifacts from the previous layer is key to the richness of the final works. An evidence of process perhaps?

A. I don’t really measure anything. I try go purely by sight. Not because I am so precise, but because I need opportunities to make “mistakes”. Some struggle, conflict with reality is what makes perceptual painting interesting to me. You are right – there is a lot of fast, imprecise painting that goes on with subsequent repainting in hope to find the illusive reality. The evidence is, of course, present in the paintings. They are in some ways diaries of their own creation. If I give them opportunity to get out of control, my work becomes a form of dialogue rather than mere exercise in imposing my will on them.

Q. On your website, you have an interesting section documenting the progression of several paintings. Approximately how long does each session/phase take you? Is the model always there, or do you use photography ever?

A. Each session is between 2 hours and an entire day. This can go on for weeks or even months with interruptions when I loose my way. The models are not always there. Some of the best work happens right after a model leaves for the day, while the memory is still fresh. Depending on the painting it might be purely work with a model or purely from a photo. Or a mix of the both. Photography is very useful, but not as a form of reference. It is mostly useful as a way to remove oneself one step away from my own perception of reality which is colored by all sorts of sentiments.

Q. In criticism, we often ignore the physicality of paint itself. With this in mind, I’m curious about the alchemical mixtures you’re using. what are the ingredients in your paint “soup”? Do you use any industrial (wall) paints? what kinds of mediums if any?

A. There is not much soup. I don’t have secret formulas. Just good quality oil and sometimes alkyd paints, Liquin and sometimes turp. I don’t use any industrial (wall) stuff. I rely on subtle color and texture shifts, and the industrial stuff is formulated for consistency and uniformity. It is hard to push around. Besides, I don’t trust their quality. Judging from my own experiences in house-painting, the manufacturers of the wall painting want you to have to repaint your wall every few years.
Q. what’s your approach to mixing colour? do you mix on the canvas or on the pallette? How many pigments are you typically working with?

A. I try to arrive at canvas (actually, more often board) with a color already well mixed. Then I can see it clearly for what it is. If I am not satisfied with it I will continue to change it, but always by working into it something already mixed. The less you push around the color already on canvass, the fresher it looks. If I can’t get what I want after one or two attempts, I return to it when it is dry. Keeps things fresh.

Q. How deliberate has the journey been in developing your style? did you (and do you) have a clear overarching vision of what you wanted ( a “how to” journey), or was the process more trial and error (a “what if” journey)?

A. I am not interested in style. Style is for fashion designers. They have the problem of maintaining a signature look while trying to fit into this or that general trend. I am interested in neither one of these objectives. If my paintings express my own perception of the world with clarity and commitment, they will always look like they are mine. If my perception or creative process changes, the painting “style” might also change. I just have to let the cheeps fall where they may and deal with consequences.

For each individual painting I have a very clear and concise vision of what it should be. I am committed to it. But, as I said, my work is a form of dialogue, so as a result of my experiences while working on it my vision of what it should be, my ideas of what I want often change quite drastically. There are also times when it becomes clear that what I wanted is impossible, and it has to be abandoned. This is very disappointing and it takes a while to accept the fact. For example, the painting of the male figure in my website’s progression series eventually crushed and burned after two years of struggle.

Q. Who are some of your key influences?

A. Diebenkorn, Morandi, Freud, Rembrandt, Velasquez, Lopez Garcia, Ingres, Kline, Giacometti, Cezanne…

Q. biggest challenge?

A. There are things that appear very difficult if not impossible. I would like one day to try to do a good painting of either Elvis or kittens. At this point i don’t even know where to begin. What I am trying to say that it would be interesting to take an iconic image overloaded with industrial strength sentiment and try to rescue the image, overcoming this sentiment. To distill it free of all ascribed meaning, as it were.

Q. What contemporary artists are you interested in these days?

A. Cecily Brown when she paints well, Hokney’s drawings, Nan Goldin, William Eggleston, Euan Uglow, Sophie Jodoin, Peter Doig, Ann Gale, and many others – in no particular order
Q. Is painting a comforting endeavour, or is it terrifiying? maybe neither? what’s your relationship to the process?

A. Certainly not comforting. Who wants comforting? It is not a sofa. Nor is it terrifying. Painting is not something I do to a canvas. It is a form of conversation, and just like a conversation it can turn out exciting, boring, ugly, beautiful, enlightening. Like a conversation, it can have unexpected turns, sudden discoveries and hidden subtext and periods of silence. All this is what makes painting endlessly fascinating

To see Amore of Alex’s work, visit: http://www.somepaintings.net/Alex.html

If you are interested in other interviews, go to: http://www.vivianite.net/alex-kanevsky-3.aspx

Also be sure to check out the latest Charlie Kaufman film “Synecdoche” which features Kanevsky’s art

Interview with George Walker

December 8, 2008

George Walker is a Toronto based artist active in the fields of Printmaking and Book Arts. He graduated with Honours from the Ontario College of Art in 1983, and later from Brock University with a BEd. He has taught Book Arts at the Ontario College of Art and Design since 1990. He started Columbus Street Press in 1985 with his wife, Michelle and in 2000 they renamed it Biting Dog Press. George’s award-winning illustrations are alive with their own frenetic energy and reflect his wide visual scholarship and adept technical innovation.

(To read a more detailed biography, visit George Walker’s website at: http://www3.sympatico.ca/george.walker/)

Q Did you receive any formal training? if so, where from? How relevant is this in your process now? (is your drawing style a result of intuitive development or formal training?)

A Yes I was trained. My education was a scattered affair. My early training was at a vocational school and then the Dundas Valley School of Art and later I went on to study at the Ontario College of Art in 1979. From there I went to Brock University and then York University and now I’m in graduate school at Ryerson University. I am a believer in life long learning and I suspect that I will never know as much as I would like to. My drawing style is evolving as I learn. A simple line means so much more to me now compared to how I felt about it 30 years ago.

Q How did you get involved in book arts? what resources were available to you when you started?

A I blame William Poole for introducing me to the art of the book. Bill (as he was known to his friends and students) was teaching courses in printmaking at OCA when I met him. He wanted to make books and so he grab a few students and took us to the Fisher Rare book library to sing up for a course in bookbinding. He then took us to Massey College to meet Robertson Davies. Davies gave us a manuscript to print and we were off to make the paper, hand set the type and create a book from the pulp up! We didn’t have a lot of resources in the printmaking studios at the college but we were very determined. There were only five of us in the class so the opportunities to learn were better.

Q What is most satisfying about the art making proccess for you? what are some of your favourite projects?

A I love process! The constructing and planning of a project I find very rewarding. That said I also value spontaneity for its ability to surprise and its inherent humanity.
I really enjoyed working on the limited edition books I did with author Neil Gaiman. Gaiman writes with wit and clarity and has a talent for twisting a story. I created a series of wood engravings to illustrate the stories ‘Snow Glass Apples’ and ‘Murder Mysteries’ these were then hand printed on washi paper and then sewn into the book. I also did a braodside of the Neil Gaiman poem ‘A Writers Prayer’.

Q Could you talk a bit about your proccess? for example, do you do preliminary sketching before starting on a print?

A I sometimes do a sketch before I get to the block but usually I just draw directly onto the wood block. I like to research my imagery by looking at references in my sketch book or taking photos of interesting subjects. My process is explored in detail in my book, “The Woodcut Artist’s Handbook” (Firefly Books 2005).

Q How has printmaking affected your drawing style? To what degree do the tools guide you?

A I draw for the printing process. Printmaking is in my mind the essential modern to post-modern expression. printmaking is about abundance and limitation and fragmentary influences from the past and present. It is post modern in that its meaning is in found not just in the imagery but in its method of production too.
Tools inform style and technique. The choice of one tool over another tells the marked line how it will express itself.

Q Continuing on proccess, in what form do the first whispers of an idea come to you? Do you get the sudden flashes of inspiration, or are you simply plugging away and lo and behold, things start to come together at some point? How are you relating to creativity?

A I question myself. That is how I build my concepts. For me inspiration is the sum of a visual problem. I fold my ideas into questions of form, balance, content and direction hoping that a resolution will appear. Sometimes it comes quickly and other times I struggle.

Q Do you think primarily in lines or fields?

A I reflect on both line and field but I also am concerned with tone and rhythm. A tool (engraving) may stutter over the field or it may glide or a incised line may flutter or wave into a taper. A line informs a field as much as the plane of a field gives landscape to a line.

Q What role does improvisation play in your proccess?

A I only improvise. I have nothing else.

Q If you had to place yourself in a lineage, who would you list as major inspirations in your work? what other artists past or present are you keeping company with?

A I think Frans Masereel is my obvious influence followed by Lynd Ward. This said I am always struck by the passion in the abstraction of a Rothko or the form in a Lauren Harris. Although I am entertained by Damien Hirst I could never distance myself from the making of the work as much as his creations seem to be. I need to engage my images on my terms. I need an intimate relationship with the process of making.

Q What aspects of your proccess do you find most challenging?

A Getting started! After that nothing stops me.

Q Has there been a shift over the years in how much time you spend on subject matter vs. how much time you spend with technical concerns?

A Yes I spend more time with the subject matter now. I still like to learn new techniques and incorporate them into my work though.

Q can you draw a straight line? (I ask this of everyone, surprisingly, most of us can’t)

A Depends on the pen I’m using! At one time I was close to perfection with a ruling pen. The concept of a straight line is a funny problem. The truth is that a straight line is a construct of our environment. If you draw a straight line long enough it will eventually curve. Nature has a way of confounding our desire to arrange things in straight lines and boxes. Drawing is not so much about straight and freeform markings as it is about the paths the lines create.

Thank you, George.

For more on George Walker visit his website at:

http://www3.sympatico.ca/george.walker/