The first contest of the “Artist of the week” group in FineArtAmerica and Pixels.com community revealed two winners (you can read more about this attempt here). Today we are very happy and honoured to present the interview with the talented photographer, R Christopher Vest. His thoughts are like his work; remarkable, significant and refreshing.
By jwp: Would you like to tell us few words about yourself and your life as an artist for introduction.
Christopher: Yeah! Hi! I’m the dude in the picture. I have pretty much the same parts and motivations as the other 7 billion people on the planet that enjoy eating and getting a positive stroke from time to time. Long ago I found that I could make a living as an ‘artist’ –and it beat working on a drilling rig which I did for a few years– ’til I got a break to do t-shirt art. Mostly because of disgust for commercial art I transitioned to fine art. it’s a thorny and hostile desert to be crossed in making that transition. some people like my work, some don’t. I don’t think I have an earth-shaking grandiose artistic vision. I’m like the writing on the margins of a couple of pages lost in the library of congress.
By jwp: What do you think urge people to seek creation through art? And, what do you think that played a significant role to your decision to become an artist and expose your work?
Christopher: I think the prolonged recession put a lot of people on sites like FFA. everyone can take a picture, tweak it, market it on social media, or whatever while they look for other work. if they can succeed, or make some spare cash, power to them. Most don’t seem to have an earth-shaking vision either. And, it remains true that a shit artist with good marketing will sell more than an inspired one who stays in her or his cave (like me). That said, humans are hunter-gatherers ( though nowadays that means mostly shopping and trying to accumulate material goods to build a lush nest for ones own self-indulgence); In lieu of slaying metaphorical dragons it’s satisfying (though rare) to produce something that vaguely or temporarily taps into some mysterious font of wisdom and meaning or that successfully mimics natural beauty. Human beings are collectively pretty vile, so thank goodness individuals (be they statesmen, musicians, writers, civil rights leaders, or sundry heros of any description) so frequently ameliorate our destructive tendencies through art.
By jwp: Do you believe that themes and the medium you use in your artwork reveal something about your character and your former experience? Can you explain some of them?
Christopher: My personal take on the hunter gatherer concept is that my photography allows me to pluck comestibles of visual beauty and to bring them intact back to the tribe that I inhabit in order to share in a potlatch of creativity. ‘My medium’ is simply the one that gives me the wings to actually arrive at some semblance of creativity and meaning that I’m unable to do in other mediums. I don’t play classical flute, I don’t write enlightening poetry, I don’t write screenplays– these avenues of expression and so many others evade me. But I can manipulate pictures that with a reasonable degree of regularity tell of visions of landscapes and the wonder of animals. Nature beguiles us with a million visions of perfection and serenity each day– how can we not hope to attempt to echo this in our own humble ways?
By jwp: What do you do to get inspired and how you handle the ‘dry’ periods?
Christopher: Look at a lot of art . Study nature: it’s nuances of light particularly. Look unto exhaustion, borrow, absorb and learn. Drinking lots of fine beer helps too.
By jwp: Program or intuition? Logic or feeling? Technique or passion? Every day work or random days of inspiration?
By jwp: There are a lot of photographers, painters, artists on the internet and in the market these days, how do you think that your work differs from the rest?
Christopher: Yeah, tell me about it! Mine is unique only in that: if you buy a piece i get the check, and no one else (aside from FFA). You buy someone else’s piece, they get the check. Seriously I don’t think I’m anything special, and the world seems to be generally in accord with that sentiment. To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut: “You could probably carve a better artist than me out of a banana”. Since I was dabbling in photoshop in the early nineties. I was the among the first to start adding textures, but my only advantage now seems to be that I digitally ‘paint’ in addition to multi-layering. Occasionally perhaps my passionately pro-animal welfare politics rise to the point of being obvious. That would be a good thing. Artists are the soul of a society, so more than just occasionally they should let their satire, criticism and compassion shine through. I support and run an animal shelter. We rescue dogs and cats in the four corners area, which includes the northern Navajo nation.
By jwp: Internet provides endless possibilities to artists in order to get inspiration and also promote their work. But, on the other hand, this endless situation can shallow us all to anonymity. What is your opinion about this easiness of our days that anyone can see anything and publish anything on the web without surpassing any obstacles?
Christopher: I do loathe the POD sites tendency to force artists to attempt to cause our own pictures to get attention. The usual devise for this is to go schlepping among the other artists work to reciprocate a ‘like’ or ‘favorite’. Many folks simply paste a one word, ridiculously hyperbolic and transparently self-serving remark about someone else’s picture in order to get them to reciprocate. there are seemingly teams of robo-artists out there voting for every picture posted by 75,000 artists a day and saying with faux ebullience ‘awesome!’ and ‘voted!’ or ‘congrats on your sale!’ It makes me want to go back to the oil field. Or puke. Both usually. We’re hamsters on this treadmill of technology created by search engines. We all look like groveling sell-outs, while Fine Art America very much appreciates our desperate and mostly feckless attempts to derive a living. I can’t think of an alternative though, because I’ll vanish without playing the game. I try to give thoughtful comments though and almost never comment on an image that I don’t like.
By jwp: Do you think there is a key element to success and what is the magic recipe?
Christopher: Success in quotation marks right? The great troubadour, John Gorka, wrote: “Till long after it matters you won’t know if you’re good enough. You can bet your dreams will be battered, so just go after what you love”. On the other hand, if money is the definition of success, then fearless flamboyance is probably the magic recipe. Hit upon a popular theme and then essentially paint the same thing over and over. R.C. Gorman and Thomas Kinkade come to mind.
By jwp: If you could choose any work of art, classic or contemporary, to host in your space, what would you pick and why?
Christopher: I’m not sure I know what “to host in my space” means. If you mean to hang on my walls, I think it’s a great question. Historically I’m a fan of the masters of realism and impressionism, from Monet to Frederick Church, Max Parrish, Andrew Wyeth and all of the various wildlife masters: Robert Bateman, Ray Harris Ching. Monet’s magnificent murals depicting his gardens at giverney would be wonderful to drink in forever. Often, though, nowadays I think I’d want something less representational to stare at every day. More blankness and brilliance to allow my own imagination to dabble with it as the mood struck me. Mark Rothko comes to mind, I’m not sure why.
By jwp: Do you believe that art of any kind could give answers to everyday problems? In other words, can make the world and the people better? Or, all is about art for art and art for decoration?
Christopher: Literature, movies and music attain rarified poignance surely more than what we can mutely put on paper or canvas. People seldom weep to see a picture –like you will to hear, for example, Gregorio Allegro’s Miserere– unless it’s graphically documentary. Hey, it’s something to strive for though.
By jwp: If you could share the essence of your knowledge and experience to the world, what would say in one quote or phrase.
Christopher: Eschew cultural and moral complacency; travel; cultivate a garden of empathy. fill your mind’s eye, your mind’s ear, and your mind’s palate with as many things of wonder, beauty and learning that you can fit into your time among us.
Thank you very much R Christopher Vest for this interesting conversation. You can find more of his work in the following sites:
• R Christopher Vest Art in Fine Art America
• R Christopher Vest photography in Photo.net