Saturday, January 2, 2010

The art of psychonaut artist J. Slattum

During my time working at The Hive Gallery, after months of being an intern, I had the honor of being assistant curator to Hive owner and main curator Nathan Cartwright. I was put in charge of choosing artists from outside Los Angeles and show their art in the monthly exhibitions. I also have the honor of being assistant to my good friend and amazingly talented artist Chet Zar, and being in charge of administrating his message board, where fans can interact, post their own work, and expand the conscious of the community. Put the two together and you get a well spread community of talented beings.
It is through Chet's message board that I have come across J. Slattum's work. The first piece I came across was a picture of 'Dream Within A Dream' a painting about all the crazy dreams he's been having, and immediately decided to check out the rest of his works. At that point I just had to show everyone who regularly attends The Hive J.'s amazing talent and awe-inspiring works. Sure enough, after just a few days since the show had opened his first piece shown (Inifinite Beauty -below) sold.

Infinite Beauty

He is my most successful artist, with 2 out of 3 pieces being sold during my time at The Hive (the second one being mARTyr - 10 of Swords - below- for The Hive's Tarot themed show), and an upcoming Featured spot for September 2010 also at The Hive.

mARTyr - 10 of Swords

J. is an artist from Oregon who is self taught at most everything he does. Having only been painting for nearly 3 years, he is gradually making his way to becoming widely known, and showing at high end art shows and galleries such as The Hive in Los Angeles, various galleries and shops around the Salem, OR area, as well as being accepted to someday show with Cannibal Flower which is where artists like Chet Zar, Nathan Cartwright, Paul Torres, Nathan Spoor, and many others, got their start from. His art also appears on rock band Quandry's album End Sight

His pieces Strangers and Empathy, and Empty Shells belong in my art collection, and I look forward to purchasing more of his masterpieces.

Strangers and Empathy

Empty Shells

I asked J. a few questions so I could post the interview here as a chance for others, as well as myself to get to know him and his work a little more. Because he lives in Oregon, and I'm currently in Los Angeles, the interview with him was done through e-mails.

Federico: When did you first start painting?

J. Slattum: I've always had my hands dirty with some type of creation, and I have to say it's ALL lead up to what I do today. From melding my toys with parts of abandoned electronics with a soldering gun in my parents' garage, drawing fantastic worlds while my teachers lectured on, to spending all my teen years studying computer graphics to enter the film industry. I got the itch to paint in 2007. But in 2008, I realized how happy painting made me, I found my spirituality within these creations, and I will do it for the rest of my life.

F.: What was your inspiration for painting?

J.S.: I had this urge to see how the paints would work together- curiosity. So I went out and hit up the art store. My first painting was "Judgment", took me about an hour, I just let the painting create itself. This same curiosity drives my inspiration today. How does the world work? What are our minds actually doing? I am constantly studying metaphysics, science, and the process of our thoughts. My paintings our my perceptions of all this.


F.: Have you made any interesting discoveries or conclusions about human thoughts and consciousness, and just people in general?

J.S.: Through mind travel and meditation, I believe we can tap into something more complete. A network of mind, a human-super-computer. I feel like there's a new breed of children that is more conscious and open to this. More awaken. And if we teach our children well, then maybe we will let go of ego, the selfish power hungry tendencies, and think more as a whole. In tune with all. I get angry at the world for it's recklessness sometimes- who are these small elite group of people deciding which direction we are headed versus other small elite groups of people deciding the same "for" their people? It's enraging but what is that negativity going to do to help? Brain technology- why not improve the tool that invents all our other tools? Treat your brain well. Promote positive. We can have so much better. Create. The act of creation is what fuels the universe, it is divinity.

F.: Who and what are some of your inspirations?

J.S.: When I was 12, I put together a 5000 piece puzzle of MC Escher's "Metamorphosis". All the pieces looked the same, it took a year. I love Escher's fascination with perception. Tons of respect for the psychonaut mind of Dali. Big fan of Alex Grey, Chet Zar, and Martin Wittfooth. However, I get most of my inspiration from great music- TOOL, A Perfect Circle, Radiohead, Gary Numan, The Black Angels, Deadboy and the Elephant Men. Music beats the drum to my thoughts' march.

F.: So you're mostly self taught? Or did you get any help or tips from anyone about various techniques, or how to use graphic programs, photoshop, etc?

J.S.: I like to throw myself into things head-first, then take notes about how NOT to get goose-eggs next time. Don't get me wrong, there's tons of wisdom that shouldn't be ignored, but good ol' exploration can uncover valuable and more personal gems a lot of times. Plus it's more fun! I'm just not too big on formal training... call me anti-establishment but I don't believe in it. Art is free, baby. I'm a huge reader, there are tons of great books out there. I really love studying the methods of the old masters, especially Vermeer and the power of underpainting. Chet Zar and Wittfooth both turned me on to the old-school techniques, and I feel like it gives my pieces an extra dimension that I can't obtain through any other technique. Maybe one day I'll master it. Until then, I'm my hardest critic, but atleast it keeps me striving.... and learning, most importantly.

F.: What's your painting process from start to finish?

J.S.: The birth of my ideas start in the shower (there's something about water)... with music. I kinda lose myself in the sound and let my mind travel. This usual results in an epiphany and a frantic crude drawing on the fog of the shower door to get the idea down before I forget. Afterward, I will sketch the idea into one of my scattered books. Most ideas die there. I become obsessed with the ones that excite me. I will draw a good idea over and over again, and when I'm not- I'm working it in my head. I'll change up the backgrounds and mix ideas together, refining, until I have a final drawing. Once the drawing is set, I'll scan and play with colors in photoshop. After that, I'll transfer the drawing on to the canvas, tone the ground, and that's when the paint flies. I really like the techniques that the old masters used, it creates final renders that seem to possess an inner glow. I will paint a monochromatic under-painting of my work using raw umber. Once that dries, I'll lay in color- transparent colors for the shadows and thicker opaque paint in the light areas. Once that dries, I'll do some adjustment glazes and scrumbles.

F.: What type of materials do you use?

J.S.: Brain with Oil on Canvas

F.: Your painting style, the characters, and the ideas are very unique.. did you begin painting with these visions already in mind, or how did you get to that point?

J.S.: I've always enjoyed drawing outside reality. At first I didn't recognize it, but I have a huge passion for learning and new ideas, and over time, I have found that this is my muse. How can I push the limit of my imagination? It's exciting- It's simple bliss and I love the hell out of it. Mind exploration. Meditation. Each time, I go further and further in travel, and I come back with a clearer memory of the trip. Each painting has a life. It was born in my brain, it grew on paper, and then it exploded on to canvas. If I have an idea, then I'll paint it. My biggest struggle is coming up with new ideas that push me and that will engage my fans.

DNA Trip

F.: Do you sculpt at all, or have you considered it? It would be interesting to see a sculpture from you.

J.S.: I love me some sculpting. Did a lot of it growing up, inspired by Ray Harryhausen's films; that's what got me into computer generated 3d modeling... although it's a lot easier to let the soul show through with clay. So definitely, there will be some J. Slattum sculptures in the future.

F.: You told me a while ago you had plans of moving to Arizona, that way it would have also been easier for you to go back and forth between LA and AZ. Is that still part of your plan?

J.S.: Man, I'm an Oregonian. I got webbed feet and moss on my back. I like the rain too much and can't handle anything over 85. Once my art career is a bit more established, then I may move down south to somewhere just outside of LA.

F.: What are your plans with your art for 2010 or the future?

J.S.: Wherever my art takes me. Right now I'm a bit on a plant-kick. Botany and interactions with the body, mind, and soul. Been toying around with a few phobia ideas as well. Guess we will all have to see, even myself. I'm at the service to the whims of my art.
I really need to quit my day-job. It's that catch-22 twilight-zone. I need to put out more work to quit, but I need to quit to put out more work! I'd be able to finish piece after piece after piece, and I could get into a groove of improvement.

Show-wise, as you know, there's the big feature at The Hive in September 2010. I'm also starting to work on loosening up the local here in Oregon. There's a lot of still-lifes of bowls of apples around here. Why can't someone paint a picture of these apples protesting the bowl?

Shaman's Tree

F.: What was the first exhibition you had? Is there a gallery or specific place you'd like your art to be shown someday?

J.S.: My first exhibition was The Mix n Mash Group Show in Salem, Oregon in October 2008. It's a relatively new art-walk of movies, music, and visual art in attempt to awaken the area to real art.

Someday, I'd love to show at Copro Nason or Roq La Rue up north. Someday... someday...

The rest of his works can be viewed on his website

-Federico Hudson