Not all art is uplifting and happy, though it can serve as a kind of treatment of, or a relief from the lonely or desolate place in which much of it is created. Seattle-based artist Starheadboy and myself discussed this very idea as he shared his interesting perspective on peace, happiness, sadness, and the harsh realities of the creative life. We also discussed how he imprints those elements onto each of his authentic, beautiful, and fragile pieces featuring “underdog animals”; many of whom have been stripped down to their cores, revealing a communicable truth that is rarely found in such deceptively simple work.
Can you tell us about your images of animals? Especially animals in space suits? Where did the idea for this come from, and why do you feel such a connection with it?
Let’s see…when I am making my work, I get myself out of the way as much as possible, clear my mind and let whatever the expression is at the time flow through me. The animals that I paint are usually metaphors for situations. I like the idea of the underdog, animals and characters that have an inner strength and are overcoming odds. I like a little bit of pain, sadness or anger with the idea that this makes the light within stronger. A little while ago someone told me that my characters have and incredible sincerity to them, I felt that is the greatest compliment that I could receive. I am hopelessly attracted to the genuine and honest; stripped-down and simple.
The animals in spacesuits… I am really tuned into the idea of freedom. I like to have characters that can float in the air. I live in Seattle and a few summers back, I was swimming in this incredible area of Lake Washington (between Seattle and Bellevue). I would get out in the water and just float. There is the bustle of two big bridges that span the lake; cars back and forth. I’m out there floating, looking at the mountains in the distance and realizing “this is the best feeling I have ever felt.” Completely at peace. I imagine my animals and characters as feeling that same way. That pure freedom and peacefulness. The more I’ve put focus on that as a theme, the more I see that peaceful floating resonate in my life. My work and my life are so interwoven that I see what I put into my work and vice-versa.
Can you talk about how your style evolved over time, and was there a moment you realized or identified your own style?
I feel like my style used to be cut down the middle, on one side was realism and the other was simple, very bold line characters. As the styles became mashed together more and more, I felt greater freedom in expressing whatever I wanted. Then, I started to see that the better I felt internally while working, the better the work was (in my eyes). It really changed everything for me. I shifted from “I need to become a better artist and keep working constantly, honing skills” to “I fully embrace what it is that is my expression and the better I feel, the better the work”. I started working from the standpoint of “I am complete and I will create what feels good to me and it will be perfect in that light”. I now honor the journey, instead of the destination. I am feeling better than I’ve felt in my entire life. I wake up excited everyday for what that day is going to bring. It’s all so unlimited.
It could be suggested that some of your work has a sad quality to it, where do you think that comes from?
Some of my characters have a sad or forlorn quality to them. That directly comes out of my own life. I noticed in times that things appeared to not be going the way I thought they should, a struggle or whatever is going on… those are the times for the opportunity for the most growth. My characters reflect that. There is a much more authentic quality to them if they can feel those things too and not just be happy. I think the contrast gives it strength. A little sadness makes the happy times more appreciated. I’ve had lots of people tell me that they don’t like the style of work that my art would be clumped in with, but they really like my work specifically. I think part of it has to do with the full real emotions that are being given off by my characters. Also, I seem to have this thing with overcoming the odds, finding inner strength to get through situations that may seem impossible at the moment. I like the idea of a character that is bummed out and ready to give up… then finds that light and pushes through the obstacles. It feels like a lot of what I’ve lived in my life.
My favorite thing about Redbubble is the whole idea of it, how much power it gives to individual artists. An artist can get their work out into the world, connect with other artists, and realize dreams through Redbubble. It’s a really incredible time right now. It’s all about the power of the artist going out and getting what they want as opposed to waiting around to be discovered.
Do you have any shows coming up in Seattle?
I have a huge body of work and usually have about four shows a month in the Seattle area. I have a permanent rotating show in an awesome bar and eatery in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle called Saint John’s (that place and the people that run it are incredible!). I have a studio share in a place called The Greenwood Collective, we have a show in the space every second Friday of the month. Shows for November and December are hung at Chocolati Cafe in Green Lake, The Clothing Company in Pioneer Square, Elliot Bay Brewery in Burien, and Blackboard Bistro in West Seattle.
[Header image: “Seattle Study 3” by Starheadboy]