Spotlight on the Artist- Josh Wool as interviewed by Jon McKenzie

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Josh Wool interviewed by Jon McKenzie 7.21.2012

Josh Wool ladies and gentleman: a fellow Southerner.  While I grew up in the much more refined and well mannered state of Texas, you were plagued with burden of thriving in Virginia.  A quick Google search found one expat describing his hometown in Virginia as, “toothless, low IQ, belief in creationism for the morbidly obese”.    Certainly, you don’t share this dejected individual’s animosity and ego-maniacal negativity and you wear the Southern badge proudly.  How did growing up in Virginia Beach mold you into the Josh Wool we know and love today?

Growing up in a Southern beach town was great, surfing, fishing, bike rides on the boardwalk, it was a pretty laid back lifestyle. I never felt completely at home there though. I moved back to Charleston, South Carolina, where I’m originally from, for college and immediately felt at home. I think it’s there that really shaped me as a young adult. There’s so much history and culture, and it’s pretty cosmopolitan for a small Southern city. It was also the first time I’d been exposed to the darker underbelly of life in the South, there’s great wealth in Charleston, but also a lot of poverty and seeing those two worlds be so close in proximity, yet  totally segregated really stuck with me. 

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Describe when and how you came into the affinity and, ultimately, the study of art and when did you realize your were an artist?

I was interested in art from an early age, but never really found an outlet for visual art until just a few years ago when I picked up a camera. I wanted to build boats when I was a kid, the beauty of shape and form really appeal to me, so I guess that’s what started it all and still resonates to some extent in my photographs.  I don’t know that I’d call myself an artist, I feel like that word should be reserved for those who paint, sculpt, draw etc. I’d say I’m more of a craftsman, I have a particular set of skills to get a job done, but there are artistic elements involved in that too. 

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You have are now a New York City transplant.  Describe the juxtaposition of the South to New York, which is known the world around as a melting pot as it were.  Do you think your Southern roots tend to help you in the Big Apple or hinder you?

New York is a totally different world; it’s fast paced and can be unforgiving. However I think the idea of NYC is much more intimidating than the reality of it. It was definitely overwhelming at first, but getting a feel for the city came easily for me and I adapted to the pace surprisingly well. It does demand that you be at your best, there’s no tolerance here for sub par anything.   There’s nowhere else that offers the kinds of opportunities that NYC does, but nothing comes easy, you really have to work. I’ve also found that it’s the world’s biggest small town. I run into people I know here all the time, in the city as well as in my neighborhood in Brooklyn.  The main difference I see beyond the obvious between NYC and the South is cultural diversity, there are so many different cultures here and it’s really exciting to see that. The trade off for all the opportunity is people stacked on people and the cost of living is borderline insane. The jury is still out on whether or not being from the south is a plus or a minus, but I can say living here makes me appreciate where I came from.

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When I first met you, you were a big fan of the culinary arts, and arguably more recognized as an artisan of food than a photographer.  You recently mentioned to me that cooking has taken a back seat to your photography.  Now, unless you are McDonald’s, a creation in the edible arts is subject to the biological demise of decomposition, or hopefully digestion, leaving itself little time to be enjoyed.  Did photography offer a more timeless form of expression to you?  What inspired the transition?

I never really looked at cooking or food as art. While there are artistic aspects to it, it’s more of a trade or a craft. It takes a solid foundation of technique and knowledge to manipulate raw materials to reach an end product, the artistic aspect comes in on how it’s presented, but at the end of the day that presentation isn’t going to change the taste. Function must come before form. Even more so I think style comes into play more than art does in food. It’s that style that sets people apart. Any asshole can make a mess on a plate and call it art, but more than likely it won’t taste good.   Photography is definitely along the same lines for me, but to answer the question, it does seem to be a more timeless way to express myself; the images don’t get eaten…hopefully.

I picked up a camera as a way to keep myself from going stir-crazy. I had surgery on both hands and both elbows three years ago as a result of carpel and ulnar tunnel syndrome, I was out of work for 6 weeks and during that time bought a camera and started taking photos around my neighborhood. Once I started photographing people I got hooked and realized I had some raw talent, and the rest as they say is history.

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Many photographers choose to explore elements of the human condition and (speaking broadly) sociology.  What facets of character do you find most curious, and what facets of personality do you find most enjoyable to interpret?

I like exploring what’s real. A lot of times when you point a camera in someone’s face they put up their picture persona, freeze, or get embarrassed, in some way they put up a wall.  The real reward for me is getting past that wall and capturing some real element of their personality, be it serious or silly or anything in between. Sorrow, heartache, longing, and angst are also big wins for me, there’s a certain beauty to those things that’s less than typical, but no less valid.  There’s an intimacy that comes with photographing someone and that’s very important to me that I convey that in a photograph.

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You’ve expressed that it is important to you that a part of you gleams through in your photography.  How much of Josh Wool is in a photograph of a model, and what would you like the viewer to understand about you in your work?

I think a lot of my personality comes through in what I shoot. I’m more about subtly than being in your face. Someone told me recently that my photos are really quiet, and that makes total sense as I tend to be a quiet person. I am an observer, much more comfortable not being in the limelight, and it’s pretty amazing what you see and hear when you actually take the time to look and listen. There’s a particular intensity that I think, or at least hope, comes through in my photos and again that’s a reflection of my personality. Finally, there’s always some sort of beauty be it tragic or conventional, I’m a hopeless romantic at heart.

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An underlying chorus in your process is noticeably darker themes and you mentioned targeting “honest and real life portrayals”, and you show an interest in the musings of dynamic characters like Hunter S. Thompson and Henry Rollins.  Would you say you feel most at home among the avant-garde and individualistic?

I’m a loner Dottie…I’m a rebel. Seriously though, I’ve always been an outsider, fiercely independent, sometimes solitary, and had shall we say had a slight aversion to authority. I’ve always identified with counter culture, but never wore the uniform. I have a really low tolerance for bullshit, so guys like Thompson and Rollins resonate with me,  they tell it like it is and aren’t afraid to be honest even  if it isn’t popular.  With the advent of social media I feel like people put these false or inflated versions of themselves out into the world and do it for long enough that they start believing their own lies instead of just being themselves. So yeah, I tend to relate to the individualists, the weirdoes, the eccentrics.

Ps. Get off my lawn hippie.  

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Much of you final products are shown in black and white or muted color palettes, often in high contrast lighting.  How do these techniques lend themselves to your objectives as a photographer?

I’ve loved black and white photography since I was a kid, some of the most iconic, dramatic images to me are in monochrome. For me it adds an element of drama and starkness that you can’t get with color photographs. I think its part of my personality too…I’m not about bright and flashy. I like things to be understated at times and muted colors or monochrome allows me to do that.  I’ve recently been getting away from the high contrast lighting in favor of softer ambient light and have a lot of exploring I want to do with that.  Not every image is good just because it’s black and white though…I shoot a color photo completely differently than I would a black and white, it’s not about just throwing it in photoshop clicking desaturate. 

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What can clients expect when they work with Josh Wool?

A reaaaal good time.  All kidding aside, if someone hires me they can expect to reach their creative goals in a timely professional manner,  and know that I will do everything in my power to give them the best possible product I am capable of. I bring creativity, a unique perspective, and skill to the table. 

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A common understanding amongst the Process Atelier artists is a mutual respect and admiration for fellow artists’ direction.  Certainly, you are no exception and I hope to see great things become of this talent that seems to be so inherent in you.  Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

Oh man…this is tough, right now it’s tough to know what next month holds.  Five years from now…hopefully paying my bills through photography.  My ideal five year plan…shooting enough commercial and editorial work to afford me a dedicated dark room and the time to explore my personal projects. I’m dying to start shooting large format and doing wet plate photography.

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I need headshots to pander to b-grade Dallas based talent agents, so I can get on “America’s Got Talent”.  I can do this thing where I flick my cheek and it sounds like a leaky faucet.  Is this beneath you?

Money talks my friend. I’m not above shooting anything, especially if it’s paid. Just like anything else in life, every once in a while you have to take a bite of the shit sandwich so you don’t starve. 

Thanks for speaking to me with such candid fervor and not doing that weird photographer thing where they make eye contact for too long and then ask me what my soul smells like.

I see what you’re doing there…trying to use the reverse psychology on me…not going to work this time Tex.

It’s been a pleasure and I’m humbled to be included in this fine group of artists. To view my work you can visit my website: www.joshwool.com or my blogwww.joshwool.tumblr.com  for bookings and general inquiriesjosh@joshwool.com  and if you want to follow my ramblings on twitter its @JoshWoolphoto

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 Jon McKenzie

https://processatelier.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/interview-with-jon-mckenzie/

www.facebook.com/pantsonducks

Woman with Serpent- Step by Step with Ian Robert McKown

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  • I was reminded that I had to pick this piece up from Landlocked show at Kaze Gallery here in Denver, and thought that I had taken enough in-progress pics to do a mini “how to” on this piece.  here it is!

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  • Step one was to begin with an idea.  this piece was actually dictated by the size and shape of the frame I’d been given as a gift a couple years prior. I believe it was some sort of coffee-table dish with a mirrored surface.  I liked the frame and decided that if i removed enough of the mirrored backing I could have a bit of a ghostly and “antique” look for anything I would put behind it.  It was easy enough to take a few new flat razors and scrape away the parts I wanted to remove, and then clean the glass with a bit of turpentine.

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  • The next step was to tailor a design to fit the frame. This meant a vertical and oval composition.  I had been drawing quite a few “fancy ladies” and this seemed to work for the space.  Beyond that, this painting was for a show that was featuring art from many of Colorado’s tattooers.  So even though much of my work is quite a bit more “painterly”, I figured I’d tailor this to be a bit more tattoo-esque.
  • If I’m not mistaken I had intended on including possibly the Serpent’s head on the top of the composition of perhaps a third rose.  but as the drawing progressed this seem to work well for my needs.  This stage was done with prismacolor’s Carmine Red pencils on Canson tracing paper.  I beliee in a more “sketchy” approcach, so if you lok you can see how many elements were sketched several times over before I decided on the final shaped.  The darker areas were where I was going in to the piece to try and solidify the major lines.

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  • Although this picture doesn’t qualify as a step, it shows me testing how the layout will work within the frame.  Apparently it was taken with an Instagram filter (apologies)

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  • Fast forward a bit.  Oce I was satisfied with the overall design and size I made a photo copy and brought it home to tranfer onto some  Crescent 110lb cold-pressed illustration board.  before transferring the image i took the time to do a light wash of burnt umber liquid acrylics on the board (made by J.W. Rowley). while that dried i lightly charcoaled the back of the photocopied drawing and with a pen, lightly traced the major lines onto the illustration board.  Then I inked in all the lines using a brush-tip Pentel marker or pen.

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  • Next, I began coloring the piece using different strength of diluted washed.  I used a cool grey, earth green and burnt umber.  I worked each color separately until each part was the right values and worked well with the rest of the piece.  Although this was more of an illustrative piece, I kept the light source coming from the same direction (for the most part). Before adding the color I did so some under shadowing with a diluted drawing ink in the hair and a bit here and there to reinforce the darkest areas.

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  • At this point I used a drawing black ink (Talens) to strengthen the darks along with some soft-bodied acrylic red to color in the blood and some soft-bodied white to make the highlights pop.  I went back over any of the linework that had lost its strength  with the same brush-tip pen.

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  • This last pic shows the finished product right before I cut the board.  I made a small “washed” with foam core that went between the frame and the painting to give a bit more depth to the final product.

Thanks for looking!

http://www.errantephemera.com

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kaze-Gallery/200974526800

Guitar Town Charity Auction

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For Immediate Release
Copper Mountain in Denver
Contact: Eric Matelski at ArtPimpInfo@mac.com 303-898-4350
August 10-12 for the 5th Year Copper Mountain will be hosting Guitar Town and for the 4th year the acclaimed Art Guitar Silent Auction returns to Guitar Town. The Art Guitar Silent Auction features a unique Collection of guitars crafted, painted, and designed by Colorado artists.
On July 27th, 6-9 P.M. catch a sneak preview of Guitar Town and 20 new Art Guitars at Kanon Collective 766 Santa Fe Dr. Denver, CO 80204.
For this one night only event guests will have the chance to preview 20 new art guitars and be the fist to place a bid on these great pieces of art. These Art Guitars are created from damaged guitars, kindly donated by the Guitar Center of Denver. Proceeds from the Art Guitar Silent Auction go to benefit MusicCares. MusiCares provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need. MusiCares’ services and resources cover a wide range of financial, medical and personal emergencies, and each case is treated with integrity and confidentiality. MusiCares also focuses the resources and attention of the music industry on human service issues that directly impact the health and welfare of the music community.
This night guest will also get a chance to preview some of the musical talent of Guitar Town. One of Guitar Town’s featured performers, Jazz Guitarist Sean McGowan will play a intimate set in Kanon Collective’s Court Yard.
P.S. If you miss this one night show but would like to check out these Art Guitars before they head up to Copper Mountain Guitar Town. They will be on display at Guitar Center1585 S. Colorado Boulevard, Denver, CO (303) 759-9100 ‎from July 29th through August 5th.
Angela Kanyvianakis
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Dan Ericson “Dunn”
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Ian Robert McKown
Jennifer Mosquers (front)
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(back)
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Laurie Maves
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Naomi Haverland
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There several more guitars waiting to be photographed and this enrty will be updated as I get the photos. Also, look for an interview or some other content regarding Eric Matelski (the art pimp) in future entries!
links to some of the participating artists:
www.naomihaverland.com/
http://www.thesigntologist.com/
www.lauriemavesart.com/

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More Artists contributing

We have had a great turnout of artists willing to contribute to the site!  I’ll be publishing more content by weeks end, but until then feel free to check out these artists work:

 

Clyde Steadman

https://www.facebook.com/Clyde.Steadman.Fine.Art

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Kans Eightynine

https://www.facebook.com/kanz89

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Alana Forsyth

http://www.petportraitsbyalanaforsyth.weebly.com

 

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Sean King

https://www.facebook.com/sean.king.96343

 

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Rick Beaupre

http://www.rbeaupre.weebly.com

 

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Check out their work!  You’ll be seeing interviews, instructional articles and much more of their work in the weeks to come.  Thanks for stopping by!

 

Interview with Jon McKenzie

“Jon “Jonboy” McKenzie has been and will always be an artist, first and foremost.  His work catalogues a lifetime of bold and trying circumstance.

“I think it is critical, not only to the viewer, but to myself as a working artist, that my art reflects an honesty and soul that offers a punctuation or closure to an emotion.  Art surrounds us everywhere.  In the media, billboards, radio, magazines; everything we look at is critically manufactured to get our attention.  After awhile we no longer look for what to look at and become stagnant in our passive musings.  I have an opportunity to give people a window into who I am, on the rawest and grittiest level.  Now, to get a viewers attention, you must speak in a soft whisper or an alarming call.  Anything in between because the cannon fodder for our ever consumptive lifestyles.  I want to present something almost primal and mysterious to the viewers- shake ’em up a little.  Art is supposed to make you think -and if you are really lucky, change the way you think- and that quality is so often abandoned.”

Jon is primarily self taught, sans a few remedial community college drawing courses.  He practiced the fundamentals of drawing at a very young age- light and shadow, perspective and most importantly for him, anatomy.  Collectively, his textbooks were comics, baseball cards, encyclopedias, early Disney animated films and National Geographics.  He pulled from his surroundings, occasions and memories, trying hard to recreate what was inherent emotionally at the time.  Fiercely independent and recklessly curious, McKenzie traveled over seas where he lived in worked in Bavaria, the Southern most part of Germany.  He produced art and it was here he began to come into his style, finding inspiration from the many artists past and presents chronicled throughout museums in Western Europe. Literature and history has always played an interesting role in his pieces, and both are referenced throughout his works, often juxtaposed with seemingly irrelevant imagery, but together telling a deeper story.  Many pieces are often tongue and cheek, as Jon finds himself delving into the human psyche too often is depressing and sometimes redundant.  Some pieces are glorified fart jokes on 10 dollar paper, further admitting to the elements of life he finds worth exploring, and grinning at the moments and obstacles that at too often discussed with no resolve.  Many pieces, while polished in design, are seen spilled on scrap with feverish intention, capturing the brief and fleeting sparks that tumble through the brain.  

Pieces often offer jarring and chaotic drafting lines that settle to a delicate and composed central image.  Bright, explosive colors war with the crunchy morose hues of asphalt and road tar.  Lipstick and blood are the mailbox and welcome mat to his imagination.

On McKenzie’s latest body of work:


Man on Fire

“I try to let my brain do the thinking.  Things just seem to click and I’ll think, ‘That needs to be put together’.  I wanted to explore the many facets of the female gender.  For a man, it can be difficult to capture a woman’s viewpoint.  What is important to her, what is sexy to her, what makes a girl laugh.  I have always enjoyed the female figure, and like anybody the face says it all.  While I did find this project challenging, I wish I could say I learned more!  Sexy, gritty, industrious and playful, one thing is for sure, no two girls are alike.”

As interviewed by Ian Robert McKown 7/16/12

[IRM]  So Jon, it’s clear that you have quite a different take on art and how much of one’s life, and life experiences should be involved in the work we present to the public. Can you tell us a bit about how your formative years might have laid the foundation for the energetic, raw work we see these days?

[JM]  Well, I have always been inquisitive about my surroundings and the various relationships I have built and acquired over the years.  Even as a child, I looked at even the calmest and mundane happenings as explosive and important, knowing that they were shaping me into what I would become.  I’ve always wanted to convey my viewpoint: that the simple things that make give you goosebumps or cause you to snarl your lip can be as dynamic as a fistfight or first kiss.

[IRM] From what I’ve come to know over the years, you’ve worked mostly in the southern parts of the States.  Has that culture had much of an impact on your wok, and has it in any held you back coming from a traditionally more conservative part of the nation?

[JM]   Haha, I love Texas.  When you are born and raised here, it certainly carves you into a specific type of man.  I have a deep love for the land and the people here, and though I have lived all over the Southern US and Europe, and traveled through much of the rest, Texas will always be home.  I think that part of the crux of a Southern mindset is an honest assessment of what is presented to you.  Rarely have I found an extremely right wing artist—even in political satirists and cartoonists.  Art, by design, is a liberal platform, and when that is abandoned I think it often leaves artwork cold, flat and predictable.  Like Thomas Kinkade’s collection in its entirety.  I think we all know the type of people who purchase(d) his work and I don’t ever want to be one of those people, because it encourages a belief structure that there is nothing better than a white picket fence where the sun is always shining and no one dares to ever be seen.

[IRM]  Many people might not know that you’re also a tattooist.  Recently, if memory serves, you took a voluntary sabbatical from tattooing.  Any thoughts you’d like to share on that?  Has your artwork had any carryover from tattooing or vice versa?  Any future plans in so far as tattooing and Jon McKenzie?

[JM]  I am very blessed to have found a fairly supportive career in tattooing.  However, when it became simply a means to an end, it began to wear on me.  That, coupled with the rat-race and pressure to succeed was becoming very overwhelming and the long hours with often unpredictable financial outcome.  I decided that if was going to be stressed out about art, I wanted it to be on my own terms.  For me, I find the greatest success in my endeavors when I do what I know is right.  That often means lifestyle changes and career changes.  I wanted to know I gave 150% to fine art, and that I would have no one to blame but myself if I did not succeed in my goals.

[IRM]  This may be a sensitive subject, but a few years back you had to have some pretty major heart surgery.  Did that have any lasting effects on your psyche that may have carried over or even helped guide your work?

[JM]Yeah, that was a pretty messed up time for me.  See, it screwed up my family and friends very differently than it screwed me up.  
  As a boy, I had always had heart problems, and as I aged, things needed to be addressed.  A small surgery to mitigate some potentially fatal problems introduced the MRSA bacteria into my bloodstream, compounding my problem 20 fold and putting me into a coma, and eventually I had to be intubated and put on a feeding tube, trach, the whole nine.  I stayed that way for about 2 and a half months.  Upon awakening, I was in ICU then the cardiac ward for another few months.  
My family and friends were exposed to that side of me; the coma side.  I had little interaction, and there were multiple times people were called in to say their goodbyes, so I can say I’ve French kissed death a time or three, but have no recollection of it.  In fact, most of my memory exists in brief flashes from that time.  I had to learn to walk again, tell time again…it sucked.  That’s the part I remember dealing with.  Being pissed off, wanting to go home, mostly confused and belligerent.  I was that guy that would rip out IVs and even the intubation tubes, pushing through the induced coma to wake up and tear a bunch of what I saw as torture devices out of my body.  I did NOT want to be there.  
So yeah, that whole period had me messed up pretty good for awhile.  It took me about a year to get back to tattooing, and I was bitter and haunted by nightmares through a lot of that time.  That definitely affected my artwork, and a lot of that despondence is reflected in pieces from that time.  However, I didn’t know it at the time, but as I was working through this whole PTSD thing, I was changing as a man.  Learning to be much more deliberate about my actions, and choosing my battles carefully.  It sounds like the standard thing to say, but something like that, playing with death like that, it changes the way you interact with people.  What you let get to you and what you let control you.  I thought, “Man, if I had died then, I would have just been remembered as funny Jon that was fun to party with and sometimes did cool tattoos.”  
That’s a stupid thing to be remembered for.  People don’t have room in their brains to remember someone like that.  I wanted to be something more.

[IRM] I know it’s often hard to pare down our influences in art to just a few, but if you could, who is the most influential artist (or non artist) when it comes to your art?  Have you actually met them?  

[JM]  Artistically, I don’t really have a lot of specific influences; rather it’s the type of person that influenced me.  Of course I appreciate all of the “Masters”- Da Vinci, Rembrant, Caravaggio-all those go-to dudes.  They were a true testament to the type of work that could be produced through practicing and improving religiously.  I’ve always been drawn to the free thinkers and renegades of the past.  I always appreciated people who drew for comic books.  I’ve met a couple of those guys, and that shit is a thankless job.  I wouldn’t want to draw Spiderman 300 times a day in awkward and possibly gay positions, but they did it and do it, and that’s their job. And, no, can’t say I’ve ever met any big influences.  Maybe some tattoo artists I looked up to, but the influence stopped when I found out they were assholes.

For a more complete set of influences, see:  https://www.facebook.com/notes/jonboy-mckenzie/influences/10150170117583913

[IRM]  Your work is very energetic and expressive.  I know I’ve tried to nail you down on your actual process a few times and from what I gather you just let the art flow.  What’s going on the moments before you start a piece, and at what point are you certain that you’ve finished a piece?  

[JM]  Art, for me, is very often cathartic, and a tool for self-therapy.  So during the inception of a piece, it often begins as a very vague idea.  Something as simple as a man that’s pissed off, because I feel very pissed off.  I might also have some song lyric that I’ve been studying rolling around in my brain.  If it fits, in any way, then I want that in there too.  Let’s go ahead and get that out.  Maybe I saw a dude at the grocery store with two black eyes and wondered what possibly could have happened to him; nothing good, no doubt…So I give the angry man in my piece two black eyes.  This is all getting layered as it comes, starting with a very chaotic buckshot of imagery in my head and then attempting to make a type grouping of it, resulting in a polished piece, that ultimately is a reflection of everything I was thinking about in that moment.  Insta-honesty, if you will.

[IRM] As an outside viewer, I often get the impression that, regardless of the subject in your paintings, many of them are actually about you.  Are we seeing a bit of an autobiographical expression in your works?  I know from our talks that actual self-portraits are a bit off putting for you but I suspect many of your works are indeed self portraits.  Any thoughts on this?

[JM]  I wouldn’t say that they are all self portraits, but I would admit they many are a reflection of a notion or emotion I might be experiencing at the time.  Sometimes, they are an interpretation of something someone else might be going through, or possibly just what I perceive them to be going through.

[IRM]  I think we both share an affinity for genuine, honest expression, regardless of whether the artist is employing conventional or proper technique.  Do you feel that you’re offering up a genuine and honest body of work?  Do you feel this is common in the art community at large?

[JM]  While I can’t be matter-of-fact about a lot of facets of my work, I can say, in confidence that every piece comes from a very real and very genuine place.  Gruesome things can be dolled up to be made beautiful, and in stark contrast, the seemingly pure can be made defiled.  Art is an open door and interpretation is endless.  It’s a shame when a piece of work can only be interpreted at face value.  Really, it is.  I’m not trying to sound elitist, by any means, but there is a clear difference between telling a story on paper and simply writing the name of the book.  I’ve noticed that a lot of tattoo based imagery in art is reproduced and altered just because it “looks cool”.  It’s the same stuff that ends up on koozies and lighters that we frown upon in great disgust, but readily reproduce on paper.  I think if an artist wants to convey real honesty that garners real response from people that use their real brains, some people need to start challenging themselves and the way they think, instead of trying to impress the people they went to highschool with.  Congrats, ya know…you drew a pistol or whatever.  What the pistol does is way fucking cooler.  A bullet goes a billion miles an hour and tears up some previously perfect and organized biological system, splitting veins and shattering bones.  That’s some crazy stuff.  But people don’t want to think that far.  They just want to rest in the idea that guns are cool and chicks dig pictures of guns.  Maybe, this drawing of a gun with get 50 likes on Instagram.  Especially, because I put a banner that says “America” on it…that’s a guaranteed 20 likes in itself!   

[IRM]  What are your thoughts on your experiences as a tattooer entering the fine art community?  You’ve got a solo show coming up in a week or so.  How have you prepared for it, and how have you found the experience overall?

[JM]  I had done gallery shows prior to tattooing and during my tattoo career, so I always stayed pretty grounded in that respect.  The fine art community is a different animal.  They don’t care about how cool your friends think you look, or how hard you can party.  All the bullshit is weeded through pretty quickly and you better be on top of your game and giving the people some shit they want to study when it’s your time.  I didn’t have a normal season to prepare for the upcoming show, Man on Fire.  I had, like 4 weeks’ notice, I think.  Mostly, it was a brutal self critique of my current body of work.  As you said Ian, artists can be readily labeled as wishy-washy and flakey in their delivery, and I did not want that.  I wanted and still want to be taken seriously, so basically, I’m doing all the shit I think it would take on my end to make that happen.   That means not fooling myself or stroking my own ego.  Constantly switching up my methodology to stay fresh and honest, and producing stuff that I could see hung and framed in my own home.  Also, I gotta have stuff that makes people use their brains where they allow themselves to look at the piece longer than 3 seconds.  Even if it’s from a technique standpoint.  Otherwise, I’m just doing this for a paycheck again, and I might as well be laying tile.

[IRM]  I think we both feel that the Rise of Jon McKenzie is just beginning. Where would you like to be in the next year?  5 years?

[JM]  I have a feeling that the next year will be more of paying dues and staying hungry.  I have no problem fighting and pushing, and am very comfortable in that role.  If things became too easy, I’d probably end up losing my passion and focus.  
In 5 years, I imagine I’ll be married, mostly because I will be in my mid 30s by then, and that seems like a normal thing to do.  Normalcy is important in the physical realm of things, when your brain fires on all pistons in the psychological.  The idea is to make some damn money doing this stuff  I love, so yeah, I’d like to make more than just enough to make ends meet.  I’d like to have some land and some livestock and whittle my friends down to the important ones.  That seems like a normal thing to do too.

I imagine my work will have progressed in technique and delivery, but the underlying concepts will most likely still be the same, and as they always have been.  Show ‘em what you see with your eyes, show ‘em what you got with your hands.

[IRM]  Well Jon, thanks or taking the time to knock this out with me.  I’m a big fan of your work and can’t wait to see more!  Any last thoughts, shout-outs or stuff you’d like us to know?

[JM]  I wanted to say thanks to Ian McKown, a beast on canvas (check out his shit) for the opportunity to speak on a lot of these subjects.  Great questions.  Well rounded interview, lots of peaks and valleys.  Fantastic cadence…

Check out Jed Leiknes shit.  Check out Nicole Marie McCord’s shit.  Go look at some Puerto Rican shit and check out José Antonio González.  Aaron Grace is crazy.  Ronsta Fari is nuts.  Brian Scott Hampton is an animal with a rattle can.  Much love always to my AE crew.  Jaime Tank Smith knows his way around a piece of paper…I’m sure there are people I forgot.

All of the artists I have worked with and for, all my old IN homies (the old proving ground…)  My best friend Jared Primm, and mad-crazy artist in his own right.

My family for tolerating me.  

As Willie said, “To all the girls I’ve loved before…” Some of you are inspirational.  Some of you are evil.  But I guess the same can be said for the weather.  Neither of which, I can control. Chicks that draw are hot and grounded.  Dude’s that draw have emotional problems.

Check it out:
www.facebook.com/pantsonducks
940-595-5525
www.kirkhopperfineart.com

Man on Fire is a one night only pop up solo show, July 27th 8pm-11pm
at Kirk Hopper Fine Art in Deep Ellum, Dallas.  There will be booze and tacos and fancy chicks and champagne.

I love you.