Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Art Space Talk: Ian Strawn

I observed the art of Ian Strawn while attending the Bridge Art Fair Preview Party in Chicago. With a phenomenally creative painter for a mother, and a set designing, iron sculpting, jack and/or master of all trades for a father, Ian Strawn was well encouraged in his artistic inclinations from the start.

Mr. Strawn has been interested in the human figure since his youth. Since those early years he has developed a unique style of capturing the human form. However, Ian is humble with his talent and skill- stating that his greatest creative achievement was the birth of his daughter.

Q. Ian, I observed your work at the Bridge Art Fair in Chicago. You workwas represented by the Go Go Gallery. How did you fair go for you? Did you make any connections?

A. "The fair went very well for me. It introduced my work to a major collector, who made a purchase. The gallery tells me that my paintings worked up quite a lot of interest at the fair, unfortunately I wasn't there to see it."

Q. Ian, you have called yourself a 'people watcher' and have stated that people watching inspires your work. Can you explain this connection to your work? Where does this interest stem from?

A. "I think we all enjoy watching those around us, it's the reason gossip and reality shows are so popular. When I was a kid, my dad would take me out to dodger stadium, and far more entertaining than the game at hand were the fights and hijinx of the drunks in the cheap seats. There is something to the frenetic and unstructured actions of individual people caught up in their own lives that is fascinating. I'm just taking this fascination and throwing it on the canvas."

Q. So people have always been the focus of your work?

A. "Ever since I was a kid. I was never much for drawing cars or houses or tanks like the other kids around me, though I did have a brief stint of drawing apache helicopters back in the fifth grade. I was always trying to figure out how to draw faces, and as realistically as I could. I'm stilling trying to work it out. There is just so much complexity. To really express someone in paint is much more intense than skin tone and features, somehow emotion, individuality, character, and thought have to work their way in. I love the challenge of it."

Q. I understand that your mother is also a painter. How did she influence the direction of your work? What of your father?

A. "My earliest art projects were those that my mother set up for me, and they were encouraged as major accomplishments by both of my parents.Instead of trophies up on the mantel, my drawings and paintings were up on the wall to show off. Also, I think that watching my mom paint my whole life had a definite impact on me. Her stuff is really bright and colorful and filled with contrast, I think that I get a lot of my color sensibility from her. I keep trying to get her to put her stuff out there in the art world, I think she'd be a hit. As for my dad, I defer to his editing skills. He's a born designer, and every once in awhile when I get myself stuck in a rut I can email off some sketches and catch a critique from the old man."

Q. Do you have formal training in art? If so, where did you study?

A. "Yes, I got an associates in fine art at El Camino Community College near LA, and moved on to get my BA in visual arts from Brigham Young University in Utah. Though, I have to say, really learning art is about doing, all classes did for me was introduce me to new materials and attach a grade to force me to overcome procrastination. Not to say that either of the programs were bad, they were both quite excellent. I just do better on my own."

Q. Ian, can you share some of your philosophy about art and artistic creation?

A. "I've heard it said before that artists become artists because they can't do anything else, not that they are incapable but that their drive towards creating art overcomes nearly every other drive in their life. For me, this is true. Even back in high school when I was too lazy to actually spend the energy drawing, I was always thinking about it. Somewhere in the back of my mind I felt guilty for not creating. The same impulse followed me in college. I had meant to study something else, to have something of a fall back career in case the art thing didn't pan out. But I was driven to art classes. My free time was spent painting. Finally, a number of coincidences and administrative whatnot pinned me down into an art major and there I was. I don't try to justify art, I don't have some overarching rationale for it, I just can't imagine myself doing anything else with my life."

Q. Has your art ever been published? Where?

A. "No, it has not yet been published, unless you count a high school student's magazine."

Q. Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

A. "I'd really like to say something magnificent like I throw on some Black Sabbath and rock out as I paint, or meditate to a Gregorian chant or two before I start working. But this truth is something much more boring and nerdly - I listen to NPR. I was a courier in LA for a while, and after spending five hours a day relistening to my tiny CD collection, and dodging the commercials of commercial radio, I stumbled across the mind numbingly constant and unending babble of national public radio and was hooked. Like I said, I'm drawn to people, and as much I like watching them, I also enjoy listening to actual conversation. These days I don't actually listen to it on the radio so much as catch the podcasts of my favorite shows - This American Life, Studio 360, the Sound of Young America, Jordan Jesse Go, Fair Game with Faith Salie, etc."

Q.Where can we see more of your art?

A. "You can catch it all on my website, but I am also exhibitting in a few galleries here and there if you want to see the stuff in person. I just picked up representation from a gallery in San Francisco, the Hespe Gallery, so you can catch me there. Also I'm part of a group show in Denver called "Lacunae" put on by the Plus Gallery, and I have a few pieces in Seth Carmichael's temporary Art Loft space in LA."

Q. Ian, what artists have influence you?

A. "I'd have to say that one of my favorite contemporaries is Chuck Close, the man can do no wrong with paintbrush in hand. As for old school, Alexander Calder, Joan Miro, Magritte, and Duchamp come readily to mind."

Q. What has been the toughest point for you as far as creating your art is concerned?

A. "School. It was a lot of work for a piece of paper. I put myself through school, working nights, selling paintings, the usual stuff. In the end, it's nice to know that if things don't work out that piece of paper might do me some good to get a job. And all the trials to get through it made me more of who I am, but I'd much rather have spent the time painting on my own."

Q. Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the 'art world'?
A. "No, but thanks for asking."
I hope that you have enjoyed learning more about Ian Strawn. Feel free to critique or discuss his art.

Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

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