Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Conversation With Jeremiah Scott Strickland

"Wonder of Weird Window" 2010

Jeremiah Scott Strickland, a self taught artist from Northern Kentucky, creates artwork that is peppered with elements from comic book art, religion, symbolism and sexuality. His art weaves fantasy with a wonderful sense of humor commenting on personal experiences within a dreamlike landscape. Strickland spoke with ArtSeen about his artwork and his artistic methods.

Can you tell us a little about your artwork, artistic process, and what types of artistic materials you use?  

I would like to think that my art is epic in scope and personal in nature. I love for a piece to tell a story, but I'd prefer for the narrative to be ambiguous and open to interpretation. That said, the story is typically clear to me; involving either something that has happened to me or a philosophical concept that would sound unbearably pretentious if I attempted to articulate it in prose, much like this sentence.

Take "Anticlimactic," for example. Here we see a cigarette smoking superhero fighting against a giant Doc Marten clad foot from the cosmos. The observer can take it just as they see it, as a kind of joke or a Monty Python reference married to a comic book image. Or, maybe they can go a little deeper and see a modern day Atlas taking on the "Man" in place of the weight of the world. The truth is that I was feeling overwhelmed one day, and I drew how I felt.

Typically, I have a rough idea in mind of the central figure(s) before I sit down to draw or paint. I go right at it from that, and I just let what happens happen, letting a piece flow from my subconscious to the page or canvas. Unless a project is very large or for a commission, I won't bother plotting it out first. It's also rare that I make a second draft.

Ink and colored pencil is my favorite medium. I use a fine point ink pen for drawing, and a set of Prismacolors for the coloring, but I'm open to Crayolas or whatever is handy or can be cheaply obtained. Lately, I'm prone to painting with acrylics as well.
"Anticlimactic" 2011

I understand you are a self taught artist. Can you tell us a little bit about your learning process?

I once asked my Mom what I was like as a toddler, and she told me I was quite happy sitting alone, drawing Superman or Batman. When I was six or seven, my aunt and uncle were divorced, and Uncle Ray left his comic book collection to me. That was a huge influencing event in my childhood which led to countless hours of drawing the heroes that filled the pages of that big beautiful box of cheap paper and myth. Later, when I was in high school, my art teacher, Mrs. McHugh, taught me the basics of perspective and pen and ink techniques. Still later, in my late twenties, I dropped my pencil and eraser and went at making art confidently, directly with my pen. Around that time, my art became less derivative of the comics I liked and more personal, storied, and psychedelic. Marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms may have been involved, but let's blame indie rock and books by Joseph Campbell, Stephen Hawking, and Denis Johnson.
"Ashleigh Whispers Water" 2009
What inspires you as an artist? Why do you create art?

As cliche as it sounds, I think pain is a great source of inspiration, but having said and considered that, I believe any strong emotion works as a fire under my boiling cauldron. Art is great therapy; an enlightening opportunity to learn about myself, and an invaluable meditative experience.
What types of themes, ideas, or concepts do you explore within in your artwork?

Myth, religion, philosophy, physics, and sexuality are the themes that I tend to explore the most. I'm fascinated by the way different people and cultures perceive reality, so I love amalgamating the symbols and ideas of established conceptual frameworks into what I create. The sun and moon, for instance, are reoccurring characters in my pieces which lend themselves to all kinds of allusions to a myriad of mythologies as well as more grounded ideas about light, cycles, and growth. I also like to draw boobs.

"A Ghost At The Door" 2011

Are there any artists that inspire you? If so who would they be and why?

For better or for worse, I'm rather out of touch with the art world. Comic book art in general is always fun to look at, but I guess if I had to name some of my favorites, I'd call out Monet, Rodin, Banksy, Steve Dillon, and Alex Ross. But I won't. So there.

"Its Illusions Were Gone" 2010

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

The best part about being an artist is seeing the world more deeply than the average person seems to. The worst part about being an artist is seeing the world more deeply than the average person seems to. I spend my moments attempting to maintain a certain level of awareness of the world around me, and I oftentimes find myself terribly annoyed by rude people on their cellphones barely avoiding the semi that nearly ran over their stroller. Hey, I think I have a new idea for a new piece...!
"Like Coffee Through a Napkin"

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

If an aspiring artist emerged from a brightly painted egg and asked me for advice, I'd tell her that "perfect" is a greatly misunderstood word. Everything is perfect. If something were meant to be more than it is, it would be more than it is. "Listen," I'd say, and then pause for a contemplative drag off my smoke. "Don't be so god damn hard on yourself!"

For more information about Strickland and his artwork visit his website and Facebook page for more details. 

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