Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Conversation With Archer Dougherty

"Not Little Girls Anymore 1" 2011
Archer Dougherty, an artist from New Mexico, explores the dark side of femininity within her artwork. Her female central figures, creations that are somehow trapped between the world of adulthood and childhood, are painted into situations that examine the dark and light of relationships and the struggle between the real and surreal. Dougherty talked with ArtSeen about her artwork and her artistic methods.

Can you tell us a little about your artwork and your artistic process?

I studied art at the University of New Mexico, where I grew up. I began showing professionally right out of college but was doing three dimensional multi-media work. Last year I was scheduled for a solo show in March 2011, and realized quickly that I was tired of the work. I studied drawing extensively in college and decided it might be time to try it again; painting came quickly after. It's a year later and now it's all I do.

My process is very, very organic. I hardly ever sketch ideas out ahead of time. Mostly I write them down, which for some reason is more effective for me in getting to the core of an idea. I usually have a strong visual composition in my head and just begin with that. Needless to say I use up a lot of erasers but I find that the drawing itself has a lot more integrity and energy than if  I had done a full scale study ahead of time.

The actual, physical process I go through is very simple. I will draw the piece out completely with pencil on wood, and then add charcoal to get the full gray scale value. This drawing is where all the discovery happens. Then I fix it, put acrylic matte medium over it, and add a complete coat of some neutral local oil color - usually a mixture of transparent earth yellow and gold ochre with turpenoid as the medium.  I then paint in the light tones for skin, completely leaving the drawing visible beneath, and add highlights to the drawing with a white charcoal pencil. Then, if I decide the piece needs color (which it may not, monochromes I find exceptionally lovely) I will use glazing to apply the paint so the piece retains its translucency. This isn't how I've always worked. My gigantic leaps in technique have happened over a very short period as I 've worked very hard to learn all I can about various painting techniques and decide which work best for me.
What inspires you as an artist? Why do you create art?

Inspiration for me comes mostly from renaissance art, nature, and illustration art. The telling of a story has always captivated me.

Why I create art is a more complex question. I always have. I was a very lucky person growing up; I always knew that was what I was going to be. I flirted with writing for a few years (perhaps that's why I find it more effective to write my ideas down) but realized quickly the best thing about my stories were the visuals I presented. What I've always wanted my work to present is a certain type of beauty - natural beauty, physical, compositional. I attempt to create a softness and an energy that work together to form a beautiful, narrative whole. I've never gone without creating things. It seems to have been carved into my DNA. I suppose there isn't a definite answer to the question "why". 

"Sandman" 2011
What types of themes, ideas, or concepts do you explore within in your artwork?

That's a tough one; I was recently required to write a new artist statement for a solo show coming up in September of this year at Stranger Factory Gallery, and had a hard time because the themes within my work have begun to be very personal. I suppose that's how it works - the more art you create, the more it takes on a form that suggests a sort of inner self.  The figures I paint are childlike women, not quite children and not quite grown. They exist in a world that consists of relationships - between inner demons, outer influences, what people expect these girls to be or what they think they should become. The concepts are usually internally based that seem to manifest themselves as creatures from another world. In a piece the girl may have a snake-like figure twined around her legs, but it bears a human head and a very gentle expression - it is these inner/outer relationships that seem to present themselves most often. 

" Everyone Knows Fish Can' t Fly" 2011
Are there any artists that inspire you ? If so who would they be and why?

One of my biggest influences concerning draftsmanship is Leonardo da Vinci; particularly the way he forms the face. But most of my influences  are more recent; John R. Neill and Aubrey Beardsley, two amazing illustrators, perfected the use of shallow spaces to create emphasis on pattern and line. But my most modern day influences are artists who work in the genre I do, called pop surrealism, and are some of the most well-known artists working today. Audrey Kawasaki was my most pivotal influence; it was viewing her drawings and paintings on wood that really touched a nerve and got me convinced I could switch from multi media sculpture to drawing. Her work is absolutely beautiful and I constantly aspire to her level. Others are Mark Ryden and his symbols, Camille Rose Garcia and her ornamentation, and Brandt Peters' monochromes. Each have helped contribute ideas that have shaped why I do what I do, and helped me in my constant study to push my abilities. 

"Master of Ceremonies" 2011
For you, what do you think the role of the artist is?

That is a very, very open-ended question. I think the arts, in general, provide a platform off which people can build or stretch their own creativity. I look at art all the time; I listen to music, I go to musicals and plays, I read and write. Art, all art, is a form of communication - you don't have to be a painter to fall in love with a painting; although because you fell in love with it, you are communicating with the artist on a very deep and creative level. It is a mirror of sorts, a connectivity device; something that brings people together through imagination. 

What’s the best and worst part about being an artist?

I think the best and worst parts are the exact same thing. Being able to create something that comes from so deep within yourself and expresses something that you can only feel - that is a wonderful thing. It is exhilerating, beginning a new piece; there is an overwhelming sense of discovery. But it is also very difficult, looking that hard at yourself, and seeing the things that surface. The purer these expressions are, the harder it is to let yourself go and make them because of how the world might see them. I'm learning not to self-edit because something is dark, or scary, or deals with something that is too close to my core. 

"Not Little Girls Anymore 2" 2011
As an artist, how do you stay motivated?

Right now, the work itself is motivation. I spent so long making the wrong art that I'm constantly excited about each piece, how to work it and make it right and have the right energy and express the right things. Also, since I started painting, I haven't had a month go by without exhibitions. Having deadlines is a great motivator!

And finally, what advice would you give to emerging artists?

I myself am an emerging artist, don't mistake that. But I have truly discovered the value of networking. I work an hour every morning, maybe longer, online - I drop my website onto blogs, magazine websites, artist websites, I search for calls for artists, I search for galleries that feature the genre and send them my portfolio, I have a blog, I update my resume all the time and facebook is invaluable. I post pictures of in-progress pieces and finished pieces, I post for upcoming shows. It really is an amazing networking tool. Aside from that, passion about my work is absolutely necessary. The more passionate you are, the more it shows in your work and your legwork in getting it out there. The internet has definitely changed what it means to be a professional working artist. 

For more information about Dougherty and her artwork you can visit her website and Facebook page for more details. 

All photography provided by Archer Dougherty

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...