Can you tell us about how you became a painter?
I started painting at ACAD, which was around 2009. I originally went there to get a graphic design degree, but fell in love with using paint and charcoal. I have been pursuing that ever since. My start in visual art was with digital work and photography. My portfolio to get into ACAD was all T-shirt designs, album art etc for my own musical projects and musicians I knew.
What artists are you influenced by?
There’s a few artists here in Calgary that I really like, though I’m not sure how much they or others come through in my work. I try not to think about that too much, so I can do as much of my own thing as possible. The urge to paint is in part influenced by the music I listen to. I’m listening to an artist called Gordi ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oI9s6RPssEo ) right now. It makes me feel hopeful, and celebratory. Painting is an extension of that.
How do you choose your subject matter?
I look for images that are almost overwhelmingly complex. The goal is to use my style to create a cohesion of sorts I’ve been really into cityscapes lately, as they have a great visual energy to them. I like doing portraits too, but it’s not really too important who they are necessarily, it’s more about the emotion or universal character that’s portrayed.
How does your personal history work its way into your painting?
That’s a good question. I feel like these cityscapes can serve as metaphors for a messy mind. I am living with a type of schizophrenia, so may be fitting. That being said, I think there’s a lot of art out there where the words the artist attach seem ridiculous. People connect with story and context, which I find hard to attach to the work honestly. There’s an anxiety I have with words, which is wonderfully absent when I paint.
I like to put the #3 in there when I can. There was a point where 3s, triads etc held a mystical significance for me, and it’s a way for me to almost honour that part of myself. There is a conceptual side to my work, which I’m in the early stages of figuring out. That being said, at the moment I feel pretty non-conceptual with my visual work. They really drill that into your head when you’re at art school. There’s so many different ways to talk about art, and I think as the artist you can steer the conversation if you want. Right now, for me I feel it’s sufficient to experience the art without me attaching narrative or verbal ideas. I think that’s partly what the viewer brings to the table, and like to keep the possibilities open.
What is your work process?
I start with a reference photo, which can take a long time to find as I sift through images until one connects intuitively. I try to mimic the reference, and fail to do so, which I think is where the art comes to be. There’s a point when I disregard the reference, and make marks based on what I think works best aesthetically. Sometimes I will bring the work into Photoshop and make subtle changes there to see if I want to do them on the actual painting. I work relatively fast, but like gaps of time in between sessions to gain fresh perspective.
If you could have one piece of art, what would it be?
John’s Music: http://francischeer.com
John’s Artwork: http://www.jfgerrard.com