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BSDA Artist Interview: Darek Bittner

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Darek Bittner is an artist and designer working primarily in collage and letterpress. A grouping of his collages are now available on Buy Some Damn Art.

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Mad Tom Notch

You are a collage artist, printmaker and designer. How do these different practices relate to one another?

Each medium is an opportunity for me to explore my different interests. Having several different ways to work helps to keep things fresh. After a few collages it’s nice to go make a print. Each medium requires a unique approach and pace of work. Collage is faster and more reactive, whereas printmaking is slow and decisive. Switching between mediums helps me prevent my art from becoming formulaic.

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Letterpress print (not in show)

What elements link your work across collage, print and design?

I like the idea of arranging found shapes and colors to underlying rules, and then consciously going back in and breaking those rules. The trick is finding a balance. It feels awesome when I get it right. Each piece I create is me going after that experience. I gauge the success of each work by how the piece makes me feel during its creation, regardless of medium. What links my work across each medium is the same emotion I am chasing down whenever I make art. That
emotion ties into the whole High Peaks theme. If you think of every work of art I ever made as a book, the setting would be the High Peaks region of Upstate New York. It’s like taking your boots off after a long day hiking, the feeling never gets old, but you got to work for it each time.

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Cold Snap

Where do you look for source materials for collage? What kinds of images do you look for?

I pick up a good deal of trash off the street. The spring time is awesome because the curbs are not yet swept, the snow is melted, and paper is plentiful. Spring is also the best time for yard sales where you can find tons of used books. The annual library book sale is also a gold mine, old office supplies are great too. I never use newsprint or anything that will fade too quickly. It’s also important to juxtapose found paper with artist papers from the art supply store. A pack of Color-Aid is a worthy investment. I’m always looking for stuff that has to do with the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York.

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Ore Bed

Letterpress can be viewed as old-fashioned and laborious, yet here you are, a young artist, doing creative stuff with it. What is the appeal for you?

To me the Vandercook represents the grand finale of print design. The press I print on is well over half a century old. I seriously doubt my desktop inkjet printer will still work in fifty years. Printing wood type on a Vandercook is like pairing a fine wine with steak, whereas printing an inkjet poster is like waiting in the drive through line for fast food. Just because I print on an old press doesn’t mean my prints should look old too. I like to keep it contemporary.

Keene Valley

Keene Valley

What’s it like as an artist in Portland, Maine these days?

Portland is the best. It’s a very small city packed with creative talent. It’s impossible to keep up with everything going on in town. Everyone is buzzing with energy and doing their thing, which makes it easy to stay motivated. Also our craft beer scene is world class. Feel free to come for a visit!

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See the artist’s website for more of his work.

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Artist Crush: Paul Wackers

Monday, April 13, 2015

Paul Wackers paints ordinary domestic objects in dramatic visual juxtapositions. He states, “Many of the subjects (of his paintings) are things that seem very familiar but through the process become confused or unreal…” As a viewer I think you feel that confusion as well.

 

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Images via Morgan Lehman and FF.

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Stas Orlovski: Nocturne

Thursday, April 9, 2015

This is the multi-media work of Stas Orlovski from VOLTA NY in 2013. Orlovski’s refined, ghostly show Nocturne consisted of works on paper in charcoal, ink, xerox transfer and collage and was completed with equally-delicate projected wall animations.

Mixed Greens Volta booth with Stas Orlovski

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Mixed Greens Volta booth with Stas Orlovski

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Mixed Greens Volta booth with Stas Orlovski

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Mixed Greens Volta booth with Stas Orlovski

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Mixed Greens Volta booth with Stas Orlovski

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Mixed Greens Volta booth with Stas Orlovski

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BSDA Artist Interview: Isabella Di Sclafani

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

There is a delightful new show on Art Hound’s sister site, Buy Some Damn Art, by Montreal-based artist Isabella Di Sclafani. The artist treads a gray area in terms of style in this series which is based on historical portraits found in museum collections. These paintings largely read as folk art with their flatness, simplicity and disproportioned features but modern elements are also present like the huge cartoony eyes and hyper-saturated colors. Whatever style they might be defined as, these portraits, and historical portraits in general, are wonderful to view and analyze.

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Ann (Nancy) Johnson c.1770 (original by unknown artist)

Where did the source material for these portraits come from?

I look through art books at the library and online images from different museums. Pinterest is an excellent source as well because historical portraits are grouped by style and century. I’ve amassed a personal archive of various historical portraits…many I still haven’t used yet. Most source materials are in colour. I’ve also used many black and white images of historical portraits which forces me to invent my own colour palette. 3 out of the 6 paintings for BSDA were from black and white images of historical portraits.

In the end, all my historical portraits are interpretations. They’re certainly not exact copies of the original portraits. That’s never my goal when I paint a face whether it’s historical or not.
What I have realized is how much historical portraits have taught me in terms of technique such as how to paint an eye or how to shadow a nose or to paint a mouth. There’s something to be said about learning from the masters of the past.

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Man in Striped Shirt (Original by unknown artist)

Do you select portraits from a certain period of time and place?

So far, I’d have to say that the early 1800s seems to attract me. When I choose to paint an historical portrait, I’m always looking at the composition and facial expression of the person in question. Who that person was and what they did really isn’t what I’m interested in. If something doesn’t catch my eye when I look at an historical portrait, I keep searching until I find the right combination that speaks to me.

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Sir George Prevost c.1810 (Original by Robert Field)

Tell us about your style of painting.
I’ve been trying to figure that out for some time now. Can’t quite say that my work falls into any particular style. It seems to be a hybrid between expressionism, naive art, illustration, and folk art.

Do you have a formal art background?

Yes, I received my BFA (Drawing and Painting) from Concordia University in Montreal in 1989.

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Elizabeth Campbell Marchesa Di Spineto c.1812 (Original by Sir Henry Raeburn)

 

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Colonel Christian Daniel Claus c.1770 (Original by unknown artist)

What will you be working on in the coming months?

I’ll continue to work on both paintings and sculptures for the upcoming spring and summer season. I’ve begun a new series of work centred around portraits of my 2 children. I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate 2 people in one painting while still keeping the intensity of each person’s portrait intact and separate from each other without getting lost in the composition of the entire painting. At the same time, I can’t ignore the fact that these 2 people are my children. I’ve made portraits of both of my kids sporadically over the years since they were young. I think this new series will be more an exploration to see how far I can push the boundaries of the familiar and go beyond what I know and see.

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Freya Douglas-Morris: A Crazed Flowering

Friday, March 20, 2015

These paintings are by the London-based artist Freya Douglas-Morris. Most are from the show A Crazed Flowering curated by Kate Neave. Douglas-Morris is featured in the book 100 Painters of Tomorrow  which I recently acquired and highly recommend!

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