so, this high school kid emails me out of nowhere. this happens about 2 times a year, usualy because they have an art teacher who tasks them with conducting an interview via email.
so, i obliged:
First of all, a clarification. You're probably already aware of the difference between illustration and design, but in case you aren't, here goes. Simply put, an Illustrator creates the pictures that end up in a Designer's layout. Sometimes an Illustration has strong Graphic elements, so that Illustration and Design mix together, but usually (at least with editorial illustration) they are separate.
Q: What initially attracted you to art and how has it kept your attention?
My entire family is artistically inclined. I have an older brother and an older sister who do Design. My great uncle was a sign painter. He made a living going from store to store, doing the beautifully lettered paintings you typically see around Xmastime on store windows. I never saw his work, but I'd like to think that it was sensitive and beautiful. You've gotta have a pretty steady hand to do that kind of work.
How has art kept my attention? Let me tell you, it's not the paychecks. Not so far, anyway. I love being an illustrator because I get to express myself for a living. Often the artwork I do is collaborative, but the clients who choose my work are choosing my particular style of expression, and that feels good. I love seeing my work in print. It's fun, and incredibly challenging. I like the challenge.
When I see a screen print by Andy Warhol, I swoon and nearly fall on the floor. I love that feeling and my job is to create that feeling in my own work.
Q: How would you explain and describe your work to a blind man?
What a great question, and a difficult one. My work has a lot to do with color. I'm in love with flat color. I would say that my work is simple, and direct. Not to sound too pretentious, but I think my work is sort of like a haiku poem: very simple and direct, yet expressive. I'll refrain from writing an illustrative haiku in order to avoid further embarrassing myself.
Q: What do you see as the purpose of the artist in contemporary society?
We're living in a pretty grey time: We have an idiot for a "President", we're stuck in a war that is costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars, the ice caps are melting. It's a grim time. Our job as artist is to replace the color that has been covered over by miles of asphalt.
Q: What is a normal workday like for you?
I don't have a normal workday. My only constant is drawing. i draw nearly every day, even if it's a small scribble in my sketchbook.
Depending on what work I have on the table, I might spend a day:
*sketching in my sketchbook.
http://www.wertzateria.com/extras.html ---> click on "sketchbook"
*preparing and burning silkscreens, and printing with the same
*ripping images out of magazines for scrap
*pawing through my archived images for the right image to use in an illustration
*reading artforum, make magazine, or readymade magazine
*looking at Drawn!
*negotiating contracts with clients
*sending sketch ideas (as jpeg files) back and forth to clients
*having a face-to-face meeting with a client
*listening to the poetry of william s. burroughs
*watching the movie "Harold and Maude"
*entering my work in design competitions
*working on my colossal collection of images on the bulletin board (inspiration). millions of images.
*working with a new media. ink brush, gocco print, screen print, rubbings, monoprints, colored pencil, watercolor. collage.
*learning something new.
*taking screenprinting classes.
Q: What tools do you use to do your art? What are the techniques or steps you use to create your works.
The majority of my works are collages, created in Photoshop. On separate layers you might find drawings from my sketchbook, flat color, and areas of screen print masked away to reveal portions of the print and hiding the rest. All of my illustration works start as a simple pencil drawing.
Q: What do you hope to convey through your illustrations?
Beautiful, deliberate roughness. Exquisite storytelling in side-show colors. Human beings living, breathing, creating, dying, growing, rejoicing. Animals and how they are close to humans in lots of ways. The truth. Details that catch and delight the eyes, which are always moving. The trash and rubbish of human existence transformed into something new and shiny. Surprise. Strange elegance. Love and war treated with equal candor. Understanding.
Q: Could you discuss the ….. (a work of art)
This question is unclear, so I'll write bit about my favorite artist, Andy Warhol.
Warhol's work is so deceptively simple - if you blink, you'll miss it. Take a look at the Marilyn screenprints. The message here is in the shades of color: they're *so* ugly, even though she was a beautiful woman. What does this tell us? What comment on Marilyn was Andy trying to make? I look at these prints and I think "This woman was a construction. She, like Judy Garland, was a creation of Hollywood, and yet she is held up as a model of perfection. She never had a chance to live her own life. Her own life was tragic - filled with addiction." Look beyond the surface of Andy Warhol's prints, and you've got levels of quiet social commentary.
Ok. I hope that answered the question.
Q: What influences and inspires you? Why?
*Dogs. They like to play.
*My mom. She's sweet and smart as a whip.
*My partner Andy, who never stops encouraging me.
*My friend Isabel, who is funny.
*My friend Flower, who taught me how to get sh*t done.
*My ex-teacher Bud Peen, who taught me to stay busy and efficient.
*My buddy Marcos, who has the most fun in the studio out of all of my artist friends. He's got the most visually stimulating workspace I've ever been in!
*My garden. Great colors and shapes.
*All kinds of music.
Q: Would you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist?
I'm an optimist. This is a hard way to be right now, but I'm hard-wired like that.
Q: Do you have any bad habits?
I procrastinate a bit too much. I like to drink coffee and that makes my mind busy but less focused. I surf the web when i should be working. Email is a HUGE distraction.
Q: How do you translate your work from computer to gallery wall?
Screen printing. Check here for a pdf of how to make silkscreens in your basement. It's fun.
Q: Do you try to convey specific themes in your work?
Let's see. Going through my portfolio, I'd say the themes were (in order of appearance):
Animals and Nature. Hearts/Love. Cities. Musicians. Glamorous Women. Johnny Cash. Cowboys. Psychedelia. XXX. Space. Saul Bass and the Design of the 1950's. Monsters. Dogs. Men.
Q: What role does environment (i.e. urban vs. rural, indoor vs.outdoor, etc.) play in your creative process?
Great question. I do most of my work indoors, but I like to walk around in the garden before I sit down to draw. I have a few plants growing in pots near my work table to remind me of the outside.
Q: What projects are you currently working on?
I'm working on a series of screen prints for a weekly paper here in Marin, a cover for a publishing company out of NYC called Farrar Strauss Giroux, a business system for a friend of mine who needs a drawn logo and some lettering, and my dog blog - 100 dog drawings in 365 days (see link below).
Q: You've shown your work in many galleries and group shows. What experiences were your most memorable?
Tickle Me Fickle (held at National Product in SF) was a nice show - it was a show I did with my friend Flower. It was on valentine's day, we had tons of food at the opening, and we both created a lot of work to hang on the wall. Lots of friends and family showed up as well, which was very gratifying.
See pix and movies here.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Right here, but with 3,650 more pieces of art completed. And more grey hairs.
one hundred dog drawings in one year