DC: As an artist what is one thing that you still have yet to achieve that you would like to achieve in the near future?
JVL: I’m leaving my day job behind to in part return to school as a Drawing student, but also to pursue a residency opportunity that may the doorway to a full time arts career. Those are two elements to my immediate, known future that I need to play by ear. I think a lot of artists operate with hyper-specific goals, but I’ve never picked up on that mode. Maybe it shows.
DC: For someone who might be viewing your work for the first time – how would you describe the processes and methods that go into creating each piece?
JVL: I work with a willingness to strike out what might be the strongest part of a composition in order to reconsider the entire piece. There are times where one area of the painting or drawing is set, and an instinctual timidity set in for the rest of the piece. The common reaction to that is “work the rest of the piece up to the same level of the area that is strongest”. Most the time, the section that is strongest first is lying. By intentionally disturbing the strongest areas, I’m replacing fear with an initiative. Not holding a part sacred over the whole has other implications, but that’s why my work consists of more than one layer. To be able to see the initiative.
DC: The combined processes that go into creating your work often seem extremely time consuming, how do you remain motivated to keep up with – and more importantly finish – each piece?
JVL: I’m not convinced I know how to finish a painting. I force myself to stop working on a piece, and sometimes it happens where I think it’s a finished piece but I look at it a few weeks later and start adding more. The level of detail I work within facilitates that, but also diffuses the endpoint. Most my work focuses on small details of an idea rather than an overarching concept, so anything other than the detail-intensive work I’ve fallen into seems like a disservice.
DC: Colour seems to act as a very important presence, within your paintings in particular – is the addition of colour simply another step in the process of creating your work that comes somewhat instinctively, or are there more conceptually driven decisions behind the colours you choose to use?
JVL: My use of colour is unassigned, and I prefer the less-is-more approach when using colour. It’s easy to lay down everything thick and bright, and I think each residual drawn or painted work emphasizes more control over that impulse. There’s surface-level implications with using a desaturated palette – it points to weathering, sun-bleaching, lack of maintenance, and the like. Even those obvious considerations are minimal to me, texture and value has always been more interesting to me than colour. Kaskaskia was one of the first paintings with extensive green I’ve completed in the past three years.
DC: You have a particularly impressive web presence, how important do you consider it, as an artist, to get yourself and your work out there on the Internet?
JVL: It’s been unequivocally important, in the way of opportunity and career experience. There’s a lot of falsehood to endure when relying heavily on web presence, but I don’t perceive that as being different from more conventional approaches to the same objective. I’ve done my share of spending time trying to gain connections and forging relationships with people on a local level. Every artist I know goes through that, and dealing with the non-commitment of others can really wear a person down especially when their livelihood is at stake.
There’s a pushback with a lot of artists about using the internet on the level that I and others do, and it has nothing to do with age or a generational gap. Some people disagree with using the internet as a platform for artwork. The reason for dismissal is always fear-based. “My work doesn’t look good on a computer screen,” “Someone will steal my work,” “I don’t trust XYZ intention of the people looking at my art on their computers” “I will be exploited,” “it’s not the same experience,” “It’s not personal enough,”. I don’t care how contentious this is to say: It’s almost guaranteed that you are in some way arrogant or stupid if you are a practicing artist who refuses to use the internet. It doesn’t matter what your reason is, babies cry for a lot of different reasons but it all sounds equally annoying to my ears.
Online platforms give you chance after chance to put your best foot forward, and it’s usually at no cost except for time. It’s still humbling to know my work is hanging in different places all over the world, because of the presence I’ve maintained online.
DC: Your aesthetic is “influenced by architecture, cartography, scientific illustration and graphic design” – how is it all of these different inspirations came together to help to create your work as it is today (is your work literally a representation of all of your creative interests in one space)?
JVL: I like to consider all the processes I was taught when making a piece, but it’s not necessarily a high-priority focus that a viewer recognize all the influence. My approach to visual art is similar to the problem-solving aspect foundational to design. What a 12th century illuminated manuscript has in common with the advertisement for Target on the subway is that they are both made to structure information to the viewer in a way they normally wouldn’t see. I’m happy to have a lot of opportunity to act on that impulse through my drawings and paintings.
DC: Are you ever tempted to recreate any of your paintings digitally?
JVL: I’m most interested in learning 3-D modelling at this point, for structures that would accompany or enhance my 2-D work. I hope to have an opportunity in the next year to test some ideas.
DC: Recently your paintings seem to have become much more three dimensional, almost suggesting a natural yet architectural growth. Was this change a conscious decision or just another natural progression of your work?
JVL: Up until the middle of last year, my work had architectural influence but intentionally lacked structure or conventional depth (tied to landscape or dimension). Stations / Colliders address space in a much more direct way, where what isn’t drawn into those spaces is of equal importance. They are also a more direct correlation between design and the act of drawing. They probably have more in common with the painted works than I think they do.
DC: Do you ever find it difficult to balance commission type work with your own creative projects?
JVL: I’ve been fortunate to have clients who give me space to continue my body of work, on commission. A lot of my work is commissioned with the understanding any new piece will be a sensible continuation of existing work.
JVL: I’ve been approached by a few different agencies/other entities for specific projects, but have been less inclined to take on a prompt birthed in a room full of marketing people/CDs who have never actually looked at my portfolio to know what I do best. I like being challenged by a prompt, not manipulated.
DC: How does the natural transition between ideas and pieces work specifically for you – is it all planned and sketched out before you start, or do you let it evolve and form into new work freely?
JVL: I don’t plan every piece. An old drawing teacher of mine basically said thumbnails and sketches are the devil, the notion of which I whole-heartedly reject. Some of my work needs to be fleshed out before the final piece starts, even considering that my painted work is full of live edits, and you can see that decision making in the final pieces. The figurative work I do is much more automatic, because it’s a destructive/deconstructive approach in comparison to my drawings and paintings.
DC: Have you ever worked collaboratively with another artist/Would you ever be interested in working collaboratively with another artist?
JVL: I love collaborations but it’s difficult to find proper time to do anything like that in great depth. I’ve done some back-and-forth with Gabrielle Rose, Ben Sears, Ryan Humphry, Michael Chase and a few other friends. I’d like to do some extensive piece with Michael Canich.
DC: Has your work ever taken any dramatic turns either conceptually or in the way that you use materials and processes?
JVL: My work is drama-free, and non-toxic. I combine a lot of things that aren’t totally unconventional but not necessarily made to be combined. The mixtures can generate some surprises down the road as whatever chemistry I’ve created on the surface is dynamic and prone to change over time. That’s rare though, and I tend not to mess around too much if the work is commissioned.
DC: Had you always wanted to become an artist?
JVL: No way.
DC: What has been the most difficult part of reaching the point you are at today with your work and career?
JVL: Keeping the self-doubt out of my work, completely.
DC: Any advice for any practicing artists?
JVL: Don’t stop working, and don’t let your work get ugly.
DC: And finally, do you think art can be used to change the World?
I’m not concerned with that.
With Thanks to Jacob Van Loon.