This is an interview I did in 2009 or 2010. I can’t remember exactly when because the site is no longer active, but the answers I gave are still (mostly) accurate.

Q. Tell us about you.LZ_red

I’m a full-time painter currently stuck in the “emerging artist” birth canal. I’ve been painting all my life but professionally since 2008 when I left a steady safe suit-wearing career to become a painter because I wanted to make sure I never regretted the proverbial road not taken.

I specialize in modern expressionism and personification of the familiar. I paint people’s houses and neighborhoods in a style that is infused with both instability and joy.

Q. How did you first started grow interest in becoming an artist? What’s the story?

I always wanted to be an artist. It’s not a long story why I went the corporate route instead of art school. To quote TS Eliot,

“I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker
And in short, I was afraid.”

Yeah. That pretty much sums it up. I was scared and I didn’t want to starve.

Till Human Voices Wake Us - Laura Zerebeski

But after fifteen years traveling in binding suits, having unwinnable and ultimately unsatisfying debates about status reports or budgets, and never seeing the sum of my efforts add up to anything more than my bank account, I felt like I was starving in a different way. I was becoming detached and cynical rather than passionate and optimistic and I no longer believed that what I was doing was relevant.

Maybe it was a run of the mill midlife crisis. Maybe my soul was screaming for more. I quit my longstanding corporate job, got a studio and an agent, and gave having an art career a shot. I was already painting every weekend. My work was selling. I had a lot of encouragement. Sometimes you just gotta have faith in the universe because it’s better than never believing in it—or yourself.

I make way less money now, but it seems that my happiness is inversely proportional to how much money I make. I’m not starving.

Q. Where are you located?

On the Left Coast in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Q. What do you think about social networking?

Artist_AnonI grew up in the time before computers. I became fairly adept at online networking over the years; in fact, much of the impetus to go pro in the art world was from my electronic friends on various art sites. I’ve met many wonderful people online who I wouldn’t have normally met and that has been amazing, enlightening, and life-changing.

However, online social networking should never be a substitute for real face-to-face contact. I’m raising a son and I want to make sure he knows what it’s like to look into people’s eyes. I want him to see how people behave both online AND off, because there’s a difference. You need to understand the subtleties of both face to face and online contact to understand human nature.

In short, social networking can be great. Just don’t let it be the only networking you do.

Q.Where do you get inspirations from?

Light. Beer. Exercise. Music. Poetry. Other people’s lives. All five senses. Discomfort and change.

Q. Do you see yourself still be as passionate as today about being an artist in the next five to ten years?

I hope so. Like anything, we all have just as much responsibility in keeping ourselves challenged and interested. I don’t expect to be painting the same sort of pictures as I do now. Maybe I’ll be doing something different or have a different style altogether.

When we stop innovating and learning, we lose passion for what we do.

Q. What do you do when you have creative block?

Creative block doesn’t exist. You show up and feel like working or you don’t. So if I don’t feel like working, I futz around on the internet until the pressure kicks in and I do.


Q. Tell us about your most embarrassing moment and what lesson did you learn from it?

I have thousands but I make myself forget them almost immediately. It’s self preservation.

Q. What do you think about the Internet and how it is affecting our lifestyle?

It worries me, frankly.

I think there’s a self-correction or a backlash that must necessarily happen. For example, when television watching became widespread, everyone structured their lives around watching TV. They ate TV dinners on TV tables built for the purpose of making prime time into family time. People seemed to spend ALL their time watching TV. Eventually, heated debates ensued about how much TV watching was good for kids and whether people were becoming stupider as a result of watching TV. Does it destroy imagination? Does it make one more demand-fed and dumbed-down to the lowest common denominator?

Then, lo, along came the internet and now no one’s watching TV as much as they’re logging on to YouTube.

Yeah, I worry about the Matrix effect. Then I go for a run or read a book or paint a picture and hope that humanity has enough sense to not overdo what entertains it past the point of what mirrors it and makes it interesting.

Q. Where do you see the industry going?

Which industry? Painting isn’t really an industry. Art? Maybe.

I think art has been heavily influenced by the precision and exactness of digitization. There’s too much homogenization of perfection, too much anime, too much hive thinking these days because it’s easier to repost or repaste something than create something from scratch. People don’t have the attention spans to create as much from scratch anymore.

Personally, I think imperfection is what’s interesting. I like singularity over repetition and accidents over intention. I think there will be a push against globalization to localization (buy local, support local artists and artisans!). It’s like the economic pattern of contraction after excess.

Maybe it’s just me, and maybe it’s a long way away, but I think there’s going to be a resurgence of human-made-ness. At least until the next big thing.

Q. Name 3 of your favorite art books.

I’m not sure what an “art book” is. A book of paintings? A really good inspirational novel or work? If the latter’s the case, then:

  1. princess_bride_cover_scanThe Princess Bride, by William Goldman for my favorite all-time quote, “Life isn’t fair, it’s just fairer than death, that’s all.”
  2. T.S. Eliot’s poetry, particularly The Waste Land.
  3. Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language” for its rules around clarity in writing.

I go back to all three when I’m philosophizing, needing inspiration, or just writing stuff down.

Q. Do you have anyone/company you would like to collaborate/work together?

The self-promotional “Making Of” featurettes in every Pixar DVD I’ve seen makes me think it’d be awesome to work there.

Q. Name 3 tools (or types of software) that you use the most, and tell us the function of each them.

  1. Google to find images.
  2. My laptop, because the screen shows the images in a more luminous way than a printed photo does.
  3. An older, simpler version of Jasc’s Paintshop Pro because Photoshop and Illustrator are overkill for what I need to do with photos.

Q. Do you procrastinate? What is your opinion about it?

I’ll get back to you.

Just kidding. Yes, I procrastinate. I’m doing it now instead of painting! My theory is this: when my stress level goes up, I produce. When it goes down, I screw around. It’s self-balancing. I don’t even think about it anymore.

Q. What are you doing to stay on top of these changes and how do you keep your work fresh?

I react. I read. I listen. I spend a week each month creating work just for me rather than customers. I pay attention and put myself in situations that aren’t always comfortable. I struggle.

Struggle is when things tend to break through. There’s a quote I always liked by H.L. Mencken: “It is precisely at their worst that human beings are their most interesting.” Indeed.