3Dvalley.com Featured 2D Artist for June 2009 – Larkin. Larkin is an artist from the US. He is member of Art/Not Terminal Gallery in his hometown Seattle, where he shows his work once a month in their group exhibitions. He works with any traditional material he can get his hands on and likes to try out new things. Please take some time to read our interview with Larkin below, to get to know him and his work a bit better.
Larkin: Well, I’m Larkin. I was born in Central New York and got the hell out of there as soon as I could, the mood there didn’t suit me. Today I live in Seattle, WA and I love it here. I belong to a members’ gallery, Art/Not Terminal Gallery, where I show once a month in their group exhibits and I also display work regionally and nationally in group and solo shows (I’ve been in a couple shows in Europe too). When I’m not doing artwork I’m thinking about it.
Christa: Which traditional materials do you use for your artwork?
Larkin: Basically, I work in any traditional media I can get my hands on. Acrylics and oils, pencil and charcoal, Pen and ink… I like working in fiber art techniques (usually incorporating reclaimed fabrics and plastic into crochet) and small sculpture inclusions into the compositions. I flip back and forth between media to mix it up and keep it interesting, and I’m always attempting to push the combinations in new directions.
Christa: Do you remember the first time you knew you wanted to be an artist?
Larkin: I started drawing as soon as my hand was coordinated enough to hold a pencil. My family was very encouraging and I could never really commit to any other calling. I’d say it’s a desire I’ve had since the beginning.
Christa: Where did you go to school and how did they prepare you for your career?
Larkin: I went to Onondoga Community College in Syracuse, NY and majored in illustration in their Arts Program. It was actually really good- most the instructors were very imaginative, had excellent mentoring and demonstrative skills and were working professional artists in addition to their teaching gigs. Sure, it was a two-year school, and it laid a good solid foundation upon which I could build later through independent study and loads of practice.
Christa: Can you tell us a bit of the way you work on your art?
Larkin: It all starts with an idea, some concept of expression. Sometimes that idea is meant to express emotion, sometimes to reach out intellectually to my fellows and share opinions, information and my own point of view. At times it can even be just a joke I want to tell the world.
For a lot of the finished works I start with a preliminary sketch, but not always. I’ll sometimes refine those sketches and alter the compositions so that the look better. No painting has ever matched the preliminaries, though; they take on a life of their own and guide my hand and eyes while I’m working on them. I guess the paintings are working on me too.
Lately I’ve been just as involved in the sculptural and fiber arts aspects as the painting itself, though this happens at later stages in the work as an accent.
Christa: Do you have a favorite piece of your own artwork and if so why?
Larkin: I think my favorite piece at this point is “One Last Chance” It’s the piece I put the most work and thought into (with a lot of close seconds) with an estimated 350 hours of execution, and it was just such an ongoing process for so long that it really became an extension of my life for that period of time. I imbued it with most of the spectrum of personal symbolism. I really poured a lot of myself into it. As an artist I know it’s important not to get too attached to one’s own work, but I kind of like having this one around.
Christa: Who or what would you describe as having the most influences on your work/ style?
Larkin: There’s so much I have to thank- other artists before and alongside me, of course. I am inspired by music too, and very much by the natural world and its rich biological history. Theories and study of the cosmos and its many forms are also very much a part of my work; Science has given me so much. Religious iconography, Mythological symbolism and the occult are excellent wells from which to draw too. Dreams are wonderfully abundant in imagery and symbolism, and I draw much of what I do from them.
And then there’s the dark.
Those hidden things that populate our nightmares and unite us in terror and wonder are the secret hearts that pump life beneath the mundane scum that floats on the surface of polite society.
Christa: Which area of creating art do you enjoy the most?
Larkin: Actually, it’s the whole of the process which keeps me on track- I burn out a bit on one technique then I just jump to another to keep the pace…If my eye starts to tire from painting then I can switch to sculpture or fiber techniques to freshen it up a bit before continuing on that aspect of creation. I use anything I can get my hands on to make art, so that means that I can keep the ball rolling for most of my day. Though I suppose painting and drawing was my first love, and is still my primary focus.
Larkin: I have a nice quiet little corner of the world- A studio in the finished basement of our apartment (I live with my partner Grace Willard, also an artist who works in this same studio.) It’s got plenty of space and everything I need. I tend to work late at night the most…very nice and quiet, most of the people in this part of the world are asleep. They’re locked in torpor and I’m just getting started. I’ve always been a real nocturnal animal anyway; I like the world best when it sustains an illusion of relative emptiness. There are fewer distractions and I dig my solitude especially when I’m trying to concentrate and execute.
Christa: When and how did you get interested in surrealism?
Larkin: I got my first Dali poster from a used bookstore when I was nine years old. It was “The temptation of Saint Anthony”. I had never seen anything even remotely like it before that and I have been in awe of the human subconscious ever since. Surrealism is a perfect window into the irrational inner mind. It is a flawless prism that breaks down the strange light of the collective self; it magnifies our basest fears and amplifies our deepest loves.
Christa: You seem to use a lot of symbols in your work. Your paintings also tell stories with use of those symbols. Can you tell us one of the stories behind a painting?
Larkin: Sure, symbols are a big part of what I do- whether they’re traditionally literary, mythological/religious or more personal inventions I try to keep them understandable to the viewer.
One example of a narrative is for “Onward into the Night”- In the foreground is a dinosaur headed man holding an iris (kind of a self portrait) walking with a young lady on his arm (meant to portray the moon) walking away from a big city where a violent storm is brewing. Closer in the background is a three-headed woman in a blue dress, which offers up a dart poison frog to the man; she is the spirit of the city, which has followed him out to tempt him back. The moon smirks at the man knowing that he longs to return to the noisy city sometimes but that he ultimately belongs to her. There are many layers of symbolism there but I’m not going to give them all away- I know I can count on the intelligence of my viewers to draw their own conclusions.
Christa: Which painting/ illustration do you wish you had painted?
Larkin: I wish I had painted “The sleeping Gypsy” by Henri Rousseau. It’s sublime work, so rich in symbolism and with such a dreamlike quality in its clarity and childlike narrative. It looks like it could be a fable or the prelude to a nightmare. Rousseau was completely surrealist in its execution without ever knowing it. He completely subordinates reality to imagination in the majority of his work, which was very brave for an artist at the time when his contemporaries and the general public didn’t appreciate it.
Christa: What was your first break in the business?
Larkin: I’ve had a few good paydays and a handful of publications, but I’m not really in it for the money. I just do what I do because I am what I am.
Christa: What would you have done differently during your career so far and could this be an advice to others?
Larkin: I would have done nothing different- I’m very pleased with this stage of development and I look forward to greater achievement. I have remained true to my vision all along and it has taken me to the next phase at every turn.
Christa: How did your personal website and profiles like the one on DevianART, have helped you to promote your work online?
Larkin: It’s nice to have international recognition without really having to do the footwork- when I post online it is accessible to anyone and it has generated a huge amount of interest as opposed to what I could have achieved by just showing in physical galleries at the local, regional or even national level. The web has really gotten my work out there in ways I never could have foreseen.
Christa: Do you have any tips or advice for beginning artists?
Larkin: Yes- Work hard and work often. Learn the rules of your muse and your trade and refine them. Then break them all to hell when new ideas will make it look and feel better. Don’t be afraid to spit in the face of convention, and don’t rely on current standards or fading trends to dictate your aesthetic. Be yourself and just do what you do because it’s what you love.
Christa: Are you currently working on something that you can share with us?
Larkin: I have sketches for planned future work in my DeviantArt gallery, but I rarely post works in progress online and rarely show them in person. These things just aren’t ready to be seen yet. The sketches are separate works in their own right since most of them differ significantly from the paintings that will come to follow.
Christa: Besides 3DV, which other art related sites do you visit regularly?
Larkin: Too many to mention them all here, but I enjoy going to other artists personal and collective websites- some of which include Sinistervisions.com, Surrealismnow.com, Beinart.org, Darkeyeart.com, Theexquisitecorpse.deviantart.com, so many more… the internet is a vast resource of inspiration.
Christa: Is their something you can’t work without?
Larkin: I need something to drink at all times during creative time (usually ice coffee or cold water). I must have music for drawing or painting (lots of kinds-metal, punk, classical, oldies, ambient, industrial…just no rap, country or noodling jazz). And I like to watch movies while I’m working with fiber arts.
Christa: What do you do when you’re not working or creating something?
Larkin: Sleep and dream. But to me even that is working.