I'd like to introduce you to my friend, Joel Heires, who I met through a mutual arty friend. I remember Joel impressed me back then for his enthusiasm for fantasy art which is something I really love too!
Joel has always impressed me with his determination and his work ethic. When I see his regular drawing posts, I feel inspired to get to business in my own studio practice. His focus is wonderful and I wish I could keep focused as he does!
In particular for several years now, I've been intrigued by his figurative work and have been wanting to find out more for ages now. I wish he lived closer as I think it would be intriguing to see his work space as I too have to conduct my artistic practice in my bedroom so of course I'm curious how others have to adapt to working in a multipurpose space!
So I'm very pleased Joel agreed to let me interview him for my art blog and again I wrote far too many questions and had to edit them down from the 68 that I originally had! Sometimes my curiosity of my fellow artist friends is ridiculous!
I do hope you enjoy this interview and please note any red highlighted underlined words are links to related content. To follow Joel and keep up to date with his ongoing work, then please look below this interview for his social media links. Please like, comment and share!
Franceska: How and when did you get into the arts?
Joel: I have always enjoyed drawing. I believe my “What I want to be when I grow up” list was artist, firefighter, or paleontologist. Safe to say the interest has been present most of my life, but as I got older I would see images or sculptures created by others and just think “that” is what I want to do.
Franceska: Is there anyone who inspired or influenced you when you were young to get into the arts?
Joel: I can't think of anyone in particular, certainly my parents supported me, but it was usually a pretty solitary act that I committed on my own. Drawing was and is very much an escape for me. My drive really came mostly from art in magazines and comic books that had captured so much of my imagination. Fortunately, I had a string of supportive teachers that understood I was a bit more serious than most of the students who had to be there. So I got extra feedback or pushes from various instructors over the years and on occasion would have a professional artist see my work and relate the idea that I should keep at it.
Franceska: Where did you study and how do you feel about your educational experience? Do you feel it helped you in what you do now?
Joel: Art classes were offered from middle school on, and it was always nice to look forward to a class every day. I wasn't a bad student, but everything else felt like work. It could certainly be challenging, but the labor was usually pleasant, outside of the time constraints (still an issue today). I was incredibly fortunate to attend a high school with an amazing AP (advanced placement) art program. Double block classes everyday allowed me to really dig in with other like minded students and take risks. I also remember feeling as though the AP status placed the classes on the same level as English, Science, and Math for the first time. In no small part because of those courses, I had a strong portfolio ready when I applied and was accepted to Carnegie Mellon University.
By the time I graduated I think I was more frustrated than enlightened. Distance and time have led me to wonder if that was more due to my own social/personal issues and being so insanely naive about life and craft. The program at the time was in transition and many of the older more technical minded faculty were retiring or moving on and the newer focus seemed to be much more conceptual (which was less interesting to me). While that education has served me immeasurably over time, I felt as if my technical education was lacking. I wanted that magic bullet that would just make me awesome, but I never really connected with any of my professors and never locked onto a mentor figure. Of course I also made lifelong friends that have heavily influenced my career and life post graduation. In the end I think education anywhere is really what you make of it and I , frustratingly, feel as if I took for granted my time there.
Franceska: What is your favourite material to work with in the arts?
Joel: I like to draw. I like paper and pencil and ink, but I also paint digitally using Photoshop. There is an immediacy to traditional sketching that is more grounded, the line and the tone just feel more correct, and a pure stream of consciousness drawing devoid of purpose or direction can be meditative. Working digitally however, allows for speedy iteration. I can always undo or start fresh with another file, without fear of wasting materials, a fear that kept me from exploring much in college. Any color sense I have at all is due mostly to infinite digital paint.
Franceska: Do you currently have a specific artist or artists that you follow at this time and why?
Joel: On a daily basis it's really just about being on instagram and trying not to let the talent of so many incredible individuals extinguish my own creative drive. I would say, more than anyone else lately, I find myself continually returning to the work of J.C.Leyendecker. He is mostly known for his advertising work and an incredible run of iconic Saturday Evening Post covers. The more I look at his work the more I'm blown away by what he accomplished in every image. I'm a big fan of images drawn from my own imagination, but it's undeniable how much extra information is communicated when using reference. In his work I see both. Stylized realism with imaginative flourishes and editing resulting in a highly detailed, stylized, and nuanced final image.
Franceska: How do you find inspiration in your current work? How do you keep yourself motivated?
Joel: “Keep making stuff!” is pretty much my only M.O. I'm old enough to realize that the negative loop of trial and failure had stunted my ability to press on and just make stuff. Sometimes it's for fun, sometimes it's more directed, the way a musician practices scales or an athlete hits the gym. Keeping my brain and my fingers moving and existing in that higher plane of operating is my primary objective. I can always tell when I haven't done figure drawing or dimensional drawing in awhile. Like going for a jog after an injury, you lose progress or at the very least alertness.
Franceska: What is a typical studio day like for you?
Joel: I've been mostly on my own for a few years now, so it's amorphous by nature. Since I work in my room it's a constant struggle to not allow distraction from upending my flow. On a good day I get up late morning and try to do some observational drawing as a warm up and confidence booster. I usually do yoga, (a life saver when you spend as much time hunched over a computer or a desk as I do) and then shower and lunch. Then I settle into whatever my current task is. With freelancing being the bulk of my monetary income that work ranges from illustration, to ui design, and photoshopping. I try to work at max focus for a few hours. If I get into a groove I might work later, but if there isn't a deadline or staying on task is a real chore I let myself off the hook. I eat dinner somewhere in there and then will entertain myself in the evening, which many times now involves working in my sketchbook. This is of course a model day and not an average one, hehe.
Franceska: Do you find it easy to fill a sketchbook and is this something you embrace?
Joel: I've been using the classic black hardbound sketch books for the last 5 years now. It takes me a bit over a year to fill one. It's nice to have the singular object when it's done as opposed to piles of loose drawings. They also act as a timeline of the previous year, an illustrated diary. The sketchbooks become a powerful reminder of whether you are working or not, a tome of inspiration and frustration. The one piece of advice I have received over and over in my life is “Draw everyday!” It took me over a decade to really understand and embrace that message. I felt the idea was very unromantic, but in reality it is the practice that opens the doors so your ideas can freely flow into reality.
Franceska: What are your current challenges in your practice and are you finding ways to overcome them?
Joel: Every time I climb to a peak of skill or perception another 50 peaks become visible. I'm struggling with the subtleties of perspective and drawing figures and objects that really exist in the space on the page. My work is stiff and not only dimensionally flat but also emotionally flat. With observational drawing I really try to mentally picture the forms I'm rendering as I make my marks. Visualizing the edges and the shadow regions seems silly since I'm looking at the subject, but I've found that my hand makes subtly better marks when engaged at that level. Keeping my mind thinking in 3d helps as well when I render from my minds eye. The hope is that this will lead to more dynamic compositions and realized forms.
Franceska: Do you have a favourite colour or palette and if so how has it changed over the years?
Joel: My color sense is naturally quite poor, years of fooling around with color digitally has made me more fearless in experimenting, but it's still a struggle every time. I tend to rely on the concepts of unity and color relationships to fill my canvas. By the time my current project is finished, it will reflect the seven roy g biv colors. Because of this, as I get further into the series the color choices are less choices and more by necessity and design. I like using compliments and particular symbolic groupings adding an extra layer to the choices whenever I can. When I get a chance to attend figure drawing sessions I tend to work with ink washes, particularly an orange and blue wash in addition to black ink. There is a strange glowing quality to it that I enjoy. Other than that, I don't believe I gravitate toward anything in particular.
Franceska: Do you have any favourite books/comics that you refer back to often or that made an impact on who you are today?
Joel: My general visual curiosity flows from Greek mythology into Greek sculpture then the renaissance (Michelangelo, da Vinci), surrealism, and then dives into fantasy art in the vein of Frank Frazetta and smashes into superhero comics. By middle school I was hooked and knew fantastical art was what I wanted to do. As I've gotten older I've moved away from those figures and while digging into the lineage of comic books, movies, and videogames found new touchstones. I've started making connections among the various things that captured my attention and that eventually lead me into the realm of Jean Giraud Moebius. He has become a weird magnetic figure in my creative journey. I am much less attracted to raw skill anymore and find myself drawn to creators that have a very strong personal style. (Mike Mignola, Kilian Eng, Katsuya Terada, the list goes on)
Franceska: What are your goals for your future in the arts?
Joel: I mentioned this already, but really it's just “keep going, keep making”. In high school and college we would always have to make our artist statement and really the only thing I ever wanted was to make something cool, and that is still true. My definition of “cool” has changed, but I really just want to make stuff that ignites the same spark of creativity that I've been juiced with so many times.
Franceska: What projects are you working on currently and can you share what they are if possible?
Joel: As far as personal projects the main one is called “The Magi” It's a halfway complete series of paintings with accompanying music tracks provided and mutually inspired by my good friend Christian Kriegeskotte. Also, recently a children's book that I illustrated was published digitally on Amazon called “Robert the Robot: and the Ocular Resonators.” Instead of a moral or ethical lesson the goal is to give a lesson on socializing. Other than that, too many ideas that are nebulously waiting to be plucked from the ether.
Thank you so much Joel for agreeing to be interviewed! I'll continue to be a big fan of your work and probably you'll find more fans following this interview!
To follow Joel and keep up to date with his artwork then please follow these links:
If you enjoyed reading about Joel and would like to read more artist interviews then please check back every Friday at 9am UK time for more.
Yesterday I visited the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art in Islington, North London. A new friend from my very active London Art Museum Creatives meetup group suggested it to me and I've been eager to see what it's all about.
Being a Contemporary British Sculptor myself, I'm intrigued by other artists work especially artwork well known in other countries. I find it's really nice to have a different perspective and as I really love most things Italian, it was a fun visit.
Firstly, it's a very short walk from Highbury & Islington train station with the walk meandering through the nice residential neighbourhood of Canonbury. The building that the gallery is in is very nice and recently had some renovations. It's quite nice inside and has the temporary exhibition on the ground floor and the more permanent collection on the floors above. There's also a nice little shop and cafe and garden too as well as a library. I went on a very rainy cold day so I'm sure it's much nicer outside in their garden on sunny warm days!
The history of the building was very interesting too. Apparently the gallery takes its name from that of Eric Estorick who was an American writer and sociologist who was gathering an art collection after the Second World War while living here in England. Turns out he and his wife were regular visitors to Italy and were very lucky to meet and befriend many popular artists during this time. You can see by his collection that he was very inspired by Futurist paintings coming out of modern Italian art just after the war as he has many great masterpieces from artists of that time period.
The gallery has other works too that are unrelated to Futurism and they're just as fascinating and quite a lovely hidden gem in this very crowded city! I can't tell you how glorious it was to be alone in these galleries and to have the artwork all to myself without millions of tourists all around like in the major art museums not too far away.
Cost to get in is minimal which is great. I paid just £7.50 to get into both the permanent collection as well as the temporary exhibit so that was a bonus!
So the Fausto Melotti Counterpoint exhibition has only recently begun on the 16th of January and will run until the 7th of April 2019 so do try to see it if you can. Apparently according to what I read in the gallery, this artist is very well known in Italy but hardly noted here in the U.K. which is a shame as his work is rather interesting. The first moment I entered the room, I was intrigued by his interests in the languages of music and mathematics and his visual interpretation of these combinations. Of course, art and science fascinates me so to see how another artist weaves their own visual perspective using their own explorations in the sciences is very interesting indeed. There were a few works that I didn't completely understand and it would have been great to have an explanation nearby. There were a few other pieces that I did wonder about mostly because they peaked my imagination in either the title or the material used. Please refer to the images above to make your own speculations of his work.
An interesting exhibition but lacking in explanations to those of us who don't know the artist very well and his visual interpretations. Though if I want to learn more, all I have to do is google this artist but not many people will research further so I'd say it's a pity the gallery didn't offer a little bit more for those of us unfamiliar with each piece and what it means or represents. I'd love to have had more details in the labels so I could have understood more. Interesting exhibition otherwise.
Some examples of this at the top of the page:
top two images are by Fausto Melotti,
bottom two images are by Gino Severini (Quaker Oats - Cubist Still Life)
and Giuditta Scalini (Acrobats).
If you'd like to visit the gallery for yourself please follow the links below:
*If you enjoy reading about different exhibitions I've been to and would like to see more like this then please stay tuned every Thursday at 9am UK time.
One of the area's I love to work in as an artist is in model making - in miniatures. For some reason, a tiny version of a man made space fascinates me. Capturing textures to make my miniatures look close to life sized versions is an ongoing exploration. I do love brickwork and creating run down or impossibly imaginative spaces like this image above of the warehouse facade I created recently. The idea is that it is supposed to look like it has been built on multiple times so there are old bricks mixed with new and a great deal of wear and tear, indicating a long history and a very run down feel to it.
Last year, I retrained in model making techniques, mostly to enhance my own skills and to give myself a better chance at employment. Unfortunately, I've yet to find a job with these skills but I'm still trying and meanwhile still learning as I discover new techniques.
So here below, I'm including a technique I have perfected....making semi realistic bricks using foam board. It is my objective to try to find ways to make model making easy to do with limited materials primarily because model making materials are expensive. In this video demonstration below, I'm only using a bit of foam board with a scalpel blade, a mechanical pencil and a metal ruler. Though I've re-trained with Leigh Took of Mattes and Miniatures from Creative Media Skills at Pinewood Studios as well as David Neat here in London, I have always tried to make my materials basic and affordable. This technique below was first discovered from my time studying with David and then perfected after studying with Leigh. I think the use of the mechanical pencil as a sculpting tool is just as important as the scalpel. Using black foam board is deliberate too as it helps to have a black background before painting so that any cuts made afterwards helps define the shapes you're cutting out.
For painting afterwards, which I didn't include, you can just lightly dry brush faint reds, oranges and browns over the surface with a sponge to create realistic looking bricks.
Studying model making techniques with David Neat is great to learn about precision and how to accurately measure to create very tidy miniatures that are ultra realistic. He has a book out too which I bought and still refer to often. I did enjoy his classes but I'm too much of a free spirit and if he sees my video above, I'm sure he'll cringe at how badly I measure out the bricks but as a sculptor, I do like to "feel" my way around my work rather than seriously follow rules.
Studying with Leigh Took at Creative Media Skills was so opposite of David's classes. Leigh is more relaxed and makes experiments much more. He does of course follow measurements and so forth but not to the point where it stops him from making discoveries along the way. When I took the Miniature Model Making course at Creative Media Skills, it was the happiest week where I worked on a team with other model makers all creating one dystopian city together! One of Leigh's miniature brick making methods were to save time which is far different from David's methods. I like both methods I think. Once I have similar material to his method, I'll add another demonstration as I've used it a few times in variations with very interesting results each time.
I learned so much and experimented and discovered and really grew my skills which was wonderful! I wish it could result in finding a job in the industry!
Below is an image of the tiny miniature chairs with a little brick wall that I made in David's class:
And here's a picture I took of our final dystopian scene while in Leigh Took's Miniature Model Making class:
And below this a close up shot of the building I made:
I've always made sculptures and miniatures in particular have been a fascination since I was very young. Really sparks the imagination for some reason!
I find that I can get very excited about brickwork or architectural textures in general just while out and about and have far too many photos on my phone of close ups of textures because I'm always trying to understand how I can make something in miniature form. Brickwork being one of the most fascinating!
I'd highly recommend both David Neat and Leigh Took as model making teachers as they've taught me so much and if I had lots of money, I'd take their classes again just to freshen up and to have a lovely time! Also if you want to buy David's book then follow this link: Model-Making: Materials and Methods by David Neat
All red highlighted words are links to related content.
*If you enjoy these Materials/techniques posts then please return every Monday at 9am for more.
My name is Franceska McCullough and I'm the owner and artist of Toothpickmoon. Here I will share my studio practice in all it's forms.
*Disclosure: The links I'm using on this blog will only ever relate to the products I myself use in my own practice.