Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Interview: Cameron Garland

Cameron Garland is a 26-year-old artist and blogger, who lives with his girlfriend Whitney in Seattle. I came across his blog almost a year ago now, and this was the very first post I saw. Though I had not yet seen Up, it blew my mind! At that stage Cameron was mainly working on painted pieces and also posted sketches on his blog, but he has since moved to focus on papersculpting which he has a clear talent for. My artwork was featured on his Cameron + Whitney blog here, and I'm really happy to be able to return the favour now. For those of you who haven't visited before, his blog is an always entertaining, often hilarious read, accompanied by gorgeous images. It should definitely be added to your bookmarks.

Where is 'home'?
If Whitney is there, along with our doggies, home is wherever!

When did you begin experimenting with papersculpting?
I first heard of papersculpting somewhere around 2007-2008, after randomly browsing the web and coming across a few artists that use paper as their primary medium to create basically 3-dimensional illustrations. I remember being just completely enthralled by it as well. Being able to separate the foreground, middle ground, and background in actual physical space with a minute amount of depth, creates a completely different kind of interaction with the piece than I had experienced with any 2-D illustration. That said however, I now realize that I've been exposed to a more manufactured form of papersculpting all of my life with things like pop-up books that I loved reading and looking at as a kid. My first experimentation with papersculpting was actually when I was 8 years old, I just didn't know it at the time. We would make pop-up cards in class for the holidays and it usually involved just rectangular blocks, which we would make to look like buildings, but I would take it a bit further and add a bunch of small pieces like fences, trees, bushes, etc. Although it wasn't until 2010 that I seriously experimented with the medium and created my first legitimate papersculpt piece, which was my Valentines Day card for Whitney.

What artistic training do you have?
I have zero artistic training and I'm entirely self taught. All the mediums I've predominantly utilized and have had any sort of success with (illustration, acrylic painting, papersculpting) I guess kind of manifested themselves through my own exploration...and truthfully, I'd be nowhere if I didn't start out with sketching in the margins of my homework for most of my life. I remember thinking how crappy those little doodles were at the time, but today I credit them with helping me build and develop somewhat of a foundation of unorthodox fundamentals, concerning how I approach my art and creative methodology. Once I felt like I was beginning to seriously improve, capturing certain things or creating certain pieces began presenting itself as just complex problem solving, which has paid off tremendously with how I construct my papersculpts. Not having any sort of artistic training does sit heavily in the back of my mind however, knowing that there is the possibility (if the occasion should arise) that an employer would not give my portfolio and resume a second glance without a degree in art or some sort of formal instruction. But, that's not to say that being self-taught will eliminate your prospects for employment. If you have the talent and it fits what someone is looking for, then it really doesn't matter how you got there. I do sometimes think of how different things would be if my parents let me pursue art school, but I feel like my artwork and how I would approach it would have been severely limited to what, and how I've been taught. But who knows! I'm very proud of what I've been able to accomplish on my own so far and the path that I'm headed!

Have you gained any other qualifications?
Other than the exposure and commissions I've gained through my blog and shop, there isn't much. Some of my direct qualifications are pieces I did for charity art exhibitions in 2009 for the Greenwood Collective (Urban Light Studios/Bherd Studios) and the Greenwood Phinney Chanmber of Commerce which were really the first pieces I've ever done for someone other than myself, and not to mention the first times I had ever painted. My pieces were met with a massive positive response and suddenly I realized that I might be "good enough" as an artist after all. Less than a year later I landed a job as a custom piggy bank painter at the Nordstrom flagship store here in Seattle. Some of my indirect qualifications I guess would be my degree in Art History at the University of Washington and my internship at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery where I curated 5 gallery exhibitions.

Is your family artistic?
The only person in my family that was artistic was my mother who had a degree in art from Seattle Pacific University. It seemed like no matter what the medium was, everything came naturally to her. If anything, she was the closest thing I had to an art teacher and we got to work collaboratively on many things.

What was the first piece of art that you sold?
The first piece of art that I sold was the first piggy bank that I was commissioned to paint back at my old Nordstrom job. I couldn't get over how excited I was that someone would value my work enough to want to commission me... it was just an unreal feeling. I literally saw my future in this commission, as funny and as overly-dramatic as that might sound, but presented in front of me was basically the answer to the question that a lot of young artists ask themselves: "how do I get my foot in the door" or "how do I get started?" Or at least that's how I viewed the opportunity. This was probably the third or fourth time I had ever painted and it came out great, in my opinion. She told her friends and then suddenly I was receiving requests every week.

What role has the internet played in your artistic career?
The internet has by far played the largest role in my artistic career. Without it, I would still be sitting around at my old job that I hated, dreaming of one day creating and selling my work all over the world, which would seem (and did seem) so far fetched and out of reach. I am a very quiet and shy person, so regular old fashion face-to-face networking was just about the hardest thing for me to do, especially when you're just starting out and you're not entirely confident in your artwork. So being able to showcase my work through a blog or shop online was not only extremely convenient for me, but it also provided the potential for my work to reach a much larger audience than I could ever have imagined. That being said though, it was not as easy as just posting my work online and letting the people come to me. Despite the convenience, I still had to steer the ship into the right direction by marketing myself and gaining an understanding of my target audience and who would potentially buy my work. The internet gave me direct access to those people and it snowballed from there! So in summary, I am nothing without the internet.

Who do you draw inspiration from?
I'd say most of my inspiration comes from viewing the work of other artists. I am just amazed and blown away at how creative some people can be and it really gives me the drive to want to continue to improve my skills and challenge myself. I've spent the last 7 years fully immersed in seeking out other artists that are new to me and keeping up with the ones that I love through art books, comic books, cartoons, movies, and of course the internet. A few of my all time favorite artists are Mike Allred (creator of the comic book Madman), Brittney Lee (visual development artist at Disney), Ronnie Del Carmen (artist/designer for Disney Pixar), Glen and Claire Keane (concept artists for Disney), Victoria Ying (Disney concept artist), and Jack "the King" Kirby (comic book artist). There are a million more, but those are the most notable I guess.

From where do you purchase your materials?
I usually get my paper from fabric and crafts stores like Joann Fabrics or Michaels. Surprisingly most of the actual art stores around here like Utrecht or Blick don't have the greatest paper selection and usually only carry Canson paper with a very limited color spectrum.

Do you have a favourite colour to work with?
I do! Well, it's more like colors rather than just one. I absolutely love how sky blue, cobalt blue, deep blue, purple, violet, magenta, and pink flow into one another. I've used this span of colors together in a lot of different pieces, mostly because of how great it looks, but it is also somewhat of an homage to my mother who passed away two years ago. The first legitimate piece of artwork I ever created was with her and we came up with those colors together as sort of a representation of the people we love and are closest to us. In the piece that we made, those colors were used as leaves on a tree, and I often recreate that tree in my other works.

Do you have any goals for the next five years?
I really haven't thought of it until I read this question, because I honestly did not think I would make it this far! Everything up to this point has just been sort of like tip-toeing one step at a time, so I haven't really given it much consideration. The broader vision I guess has always been being able to live off of my artwork and potentially make enough to support a family, along with gaining exposure and receiving opportunities to showcase my work. Although I've been enjoying my current success, I am absolutely no where near where I would like to be in the future.

What experience do you have with exhibiting or commissions?
Considering the short time I've been in business, I would still say that I have a good amount of experience with commissions. There are a few things that I had to learn the hard way, but sometimes they aren't the most obvious aspects of taking on commissions when you're just starting out. Things like turnaround time for me to complete my work, took time and mistakes for me to fully realize, but I feel like I have a firm grasp on it today. When I first opened my shop, I thought "oh well I'm super motivated and productive, these commissions should just fly by," but the reality of it was that inevitably speed bumps will throw everything off schedule and suddenly a commission I said would be done in 1-2 weeks has taken a month for me to complete, leaving the customer pissed off. So despite my good intentions, I knew that in the future I had to account for anything to arise with my commissions and give myself a realistic timeframe to complete an order, and in the end everyone is happy. Also something like knowing the value of my work took time and a lot people voicing their opinions to me that I wasn't being properly compensated for the amount of work I was putting in to these commissions. Starting out, you really have no name/reputation backing you and you have no idea what the response will be to your work, so you play it safe and price to sell, and it's after you've actually sold some work and received some feedback and public interest that you begin to gauge what your work is really worth and what it can potentially be worth.

Where do you record your ideas for new pieces?
I really should come up with a better system because most people would say this is terrible, but I usually keep most of my ideas in my head. I don't recommend that for anyone else out there, but that has always been the way I go about things, until I actually begin physically working on a piece.

How many hours in an average week would you spend working on your artwork?
I put in about 5 or more hours everyday on my artwork. On average I put in an 8 hour day with everything that has to do with my little business, including my artwork.

Does the sale of your artworks provide your full income?
Yes, currently 100% of my income comes from commissions, so I treat my artwork as a full time job. My last job was at the Nordstrom flagship store here in downtown Seattle, where I was commissioned to custom paint piggy banks and I also did a lot of odd-jobs on the sales-support team. I absolutely hated it....mostly because I was highly overqualified to be working the job I had and 80% of the people I worked with seemingly were not qualified to be working the job they had. So, I got out of there and haven't looked back. My spare time these days are filled with reading comic books, watching cartoons, playing video games, and just spending time with my lovely girlfriend Whitney.

What has been the highlight of your artistic career so far?
I'd say there are two very distinct moments in my young artistic career that stand out the most as highlights and definitive turning points that put me on the path that I'm on today. The first being a piece I did for the Greenwood Phinney Chamber of Commerce/Woodland Park Zoo (that I mentioned earlier), which was the first piece I had ever done for anyone other than myself and it ended up laying the groundwork for my pursuit in being a legitimate artist. I actually randomly came across a "call for artists" for that project back in 2009 as I surfed the web, and I decided to enter my name thinking I probably wouldn't get picked anyways, since there were a very limited amount of spots available. I was surprised to receive an email the next day saying I would be 1 of 60 artists contributing to the exhibition, but since my finals for school were coming up, I decided to pass on the opportunity. However, after talking to my mother about it, she insisted that I do it and that she would help me with it. We got it done just in time and apparently my piece was a hit (mind you, this was the first time I had every painted as well). So much so, that I suddenly began to think that I could make a career out of this and from there I hit the ground running. The other highlight was when I first opened my Etsy store back in June 2011. I had just quit my job and I had no real idea yet of what sort of public response I would receive towards my paper work and if anyone would even want to commission me. So for things to turn out they way they did, right from the get go, was amazing.


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I love his stuff!

Teddi said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

alice his work is spectacular, being self taught, & supporting himself! kudos.

Katrina said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

have checked him out, you're right- WOW

xo katrina