Hop in the Front Seat

Design Taxi is a very cool portfolio/art & design news site based out of Singapore.

Not too long ago, the very nice folks there asked me a couple questions about me and my work. Jump on over if you would like to hear me yammer on semi-coherently about my thoughts on the meaning of "art", how I got into cut-paper, and being attacked by a bear.

The Interview is no longer available at Design Taxi's website (the site has evolved quite a bit in the past few years).  I have included the full, unedited interview below.

1)  Hi Patrick, welcome to TAXI's Front Seat. Let’s do an introduction of yourself to the world. 

Hi.  It’s a pleasure to talk with you today; thanks for having me.  

Originally, I’m a farmboy from New Jersey in the USA.  I’m the only one of my friends to ever get chased by a bear.  Now I’m living in Tokyo, Japan with my wife and a humongous collection of paper I’ve gathered from all over the world.  All of my artwork these days is made by cutting and tearing those papers up, then trying to rearrange the bits and pieces to resemble the things going on in my imagination. 

2) Your works have Japanese elements in it, how has Japanese culture inspired yourself as an individual and your works?

It’s kind of funny, actually.  When I first lived in Japan back in the 90’s, I went out of my way not to be influenced by Japanese art and animation.  Then, after moving back to the US, it slowly started to creep into my work.  Now that I’m in Tokyo again, I’ve decided to embrace the things I enjoy about Japanese art, culture, and design and mangle them to fit into my world.

I love the graphic nature of the traditional woodcuts.  There’s a really nice subtlety to alot of that work, a quiet undercurrent of emotion that really appeals to me.  It’s fascinating to compare that to the over-the-top action and craziness of modern Japanese animation.  And of course, I use so much washi paper in my work that it can’t help to feel a little Japanese.

3) To use cut -paper and wood as your mediums is very unique and different. How did you discover that you wanted to use these mediums as your signature art? 

By accident.  I had done my undergrad degree in English Literature, so when I went to art school for my MFA, I had almost no formal art training; just some drawing really.  One of my professors suggested I use colored paper behind my pen-and-ink work for the full-color pieces, at least until I had learned a few painting techniques.  It worked so well, that I stuck with it.

For the first year or two, I experimented mixing paper with all kinds of media:  acrylics, watercolors, oils, scratchboard.  In the end, I came back to just paper.  It just felt right to me; natural.

4) With such intricate works, how long do you usually spend on each piece, from conception to completion ? 

Oh, they usually take right up until the deadline.

It all depends on how complicated the piece is, whether it’s monochrome or full-color, and how smoothly my creativity is flowing.  Usually I’m working on a few things at a time, so I bounce back and forth to whatever is inspiring me at the moment.  If there’s time, I like to let the concept percolate for a day or two.  It’s always nice to let each stage sit overnightand look at them with fresh eyes in the morning.  Two weeks is luxurious for a full-color medium-sized piece.  A week is comfortable.  It’s not uncommon for me to finish in two or three days when the need arises.

5) To your comprehension and belief as an artist, what do you think is the meaning of art, and your purpose in it?  

Whether it’s in a book, magazine, or gallery art is communication.  An attempt to share a concept, emotion, or story through imagery.  Myself, I like the idea of art as a parable; using specific and often otherworldly images to touch on very universal human themes.  It probably comes from my literature background.  I get all weak in the knees for metaphor and symbolism.

There’s something to be said for a little ambiguity in art.  Particularly in my personal work, I have a concept or an emotion in mind when I do a piece.  After it’s done though, it can be even more interesting to hear someone else’s take on the work.  Art out in the world no longer belongs only to the artist.

6) Are there any struggles or difficulties that you face as an illustrator in Japan? 

Language is the big one.  Japan’s a pretty homogenous country, so the grasp of other languages, including English, can be pretty limited.  Not to mention my own clumsy efforts.  I’m getting better though.  Japan is also a little old-fashioned when it comes to the internet and networking.  Art Directors here still want to meet you face-to-face before they assign you work.  That’s nearly opposite from my clients in other countries, most of whom I’ve never met.

7) Could you tell us what projects you are currently working on, and what are the future plans for your work ? 

Right now I’m in the middle of getting ready for a couple of upcoming exhibitions.  There’s an exciting one coming up at Gallery1988 in San Francisco with a couple of really great artists that I’m working on right now.  Every year I do a piece based on the Chinese Zodiac, so I’ve got to get to that soon.  Not to mention my wife’s belated birthday present.

8) What would you say is love and joy of your work ? 

If a piece gets people talking, discussing, then I’ve done my job.  Plus it’s great to get lost flipping through the papers.  And the cutting can be meditative.

9) Meanwhile, I'm sure everyone would love to see your current working space. How about showing it to us?

(There would have been a photo here, but I can't recall which one)

10) Before we end, tell us where would you like a TAXI to bring you? 

It’d be great to hop over to the US for a bit, maybe visit the gallery in San Francisco.  My work travels more than I do.  And I could catch up with family and friends.  Aside from that, wouldn’t it be cool to visit the worlds in the art?  Not the creepy, haunted ones so much. 

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