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  Howie Green Interviews

Thursday, January 22, 2009
Interview with artist Sarah Sprigg
General Questions About Pop Art

What is your main way of producing your ark works and why have you chosen to use this way?

My initial way of working is pretty traditional. I do drawings in pen and ink and pencil and I paint using acrylic paints on canvas and on paper. I don't do oil paints because they dry too slow for me and I'm allergic to turpentine. I started using acrylics when I was in school and they fit with my way of painting and the speed at which I work. I work very fast and I usually work on 4-5 paintings at a time.

Once the paintings are done I scan them and keep an archive of all my work scanned at high rez. Then when someone orders a painting from me I do a giclee print out of the image on canvas and over-paint the whole thing again. I stumbled on that technique while experimenting with my computers and printers 15 years ago and I love it. It enables me to produce versions of my work at different sizes - which is fun - and yet every piece I do is an original. I did a show a couple years ago with 20 versions of one of my Elvis Costello paintings and hung them all together and it looked great to see basically the same image painted 20 times and each one similar but totally different.

This process also allows me to produce and sell works at reasonable cost. I would be happy to sell my original painting versions but no one wants to pay the price.

Andy Warhol and Peter Max and Steve Kaufman all use silk screen process in their works and I used to do a lot of silkscreen printing when I was in school but it's such a disgusting messing, and toxic process I have stayed away from it for health reasons.

I've been trying to do just prints of my images on canvas but I always end up painting on them anyway. There is always something I need to add to each piece.

When I do commissions for clients I do the initial painting and that is what they receive but I still keep photos or scans of the pieces for my archives.

What or who is your main inspiration and how do you adapt this to your own work?

Well I suppose my main inspirations are Warhol and Peter Max - although I also count Monet, Degas, Joseph Albers and many others. From a business and image and marketing point of view Andy Warhol is my guide. He was so brilliant at the art of being an artist, which is something they don't teach you in school. Plus what he did had a huge impact on me when I was just a lad and really changed the way I thought about art. I was lucky enough to met Andy once - which is a long story - and he was charming and wonderful to sit and talk to. He was not at all the weird persona that you read so much about.

Peter Max is my other huge influence for many reasons. I discovered him when he was working as an illustrator several years before the big cosmic comic phase he did in the 60s that made him a star. I just love his work and can always turn to it for a shot of inspiration. I was lucky enough to work with him in the late 80s and early 90s for several years on a number of projects so I got to spend time with him and see how he worked and see him in his studio. He's a genius both as an artist and as a businessman. I watched everything he did and how he did it and I have tried to adapt all that to my own process. I have since met up with Peter on a regular basis at gallery shows and appearances and he calls me "one of his guys" - which I'm sure he say to everyone. He has created an empire with probably 100+ employees and even now in his 70's he's always hustling, always working and always looking to do something that he can promote in the media. I have never met anyone like him and certainly no other artist like him who works so hard at being a public figure, which in turns help keep him famous, which helps sell his art. It all has to work together.

You can't be a successful aritst by sitting in your room and piling up paintings. What good is a studio full of great art if nobody knows about it.

How do you think pop art has changed and do you think that it is for the good or bad? Also what do you think it will be like in the future?

When Pop Art first hit the scene in the early 60s the world was outraged by it. Now its been embraced by everyone as a commodity and fashion style, like Art Deco - you can even buy a Pop Art Toaster. I think its all good because it makes what I am doing instantly acceptable and understood by a large audience. I don't have to explain myself, I just say I'm a Pop artist and everyone knows what that means. Also people like Pop Art because of the fun factor in it all and that's all great.

Pop Art has morphed a bit as my generation started to stake a claim to the style with myself and Steve Kaufman, Victoria Fuller and a few others pushing the boundaries a bit each of us doing our take on with our own subjects and styles of work. I think Pop Art, like rock and roll, is here to stay. I think it will continue to find new artist who can add something new and unique to the body of work while still reflecting the boldness and brashness of Pop Art. Shepherd Fairey and Bansky are two younger guys who are both brilliant Pop artists and pushing things in totally new directions. By definition, because it reflects the popular culture of the day, Pop Art is always going to be in a state of perpetual adolescence which is what keeps it fresh and fun and brash.

And finally is there any techniques that you think that i should learn to help me with my critical study?

Draw, paint and then do more drawing and painting. Everything else comes from those basic skills. Computers and Photoshop and giclee printers and who knows what else will come along are all great tools but they can only enhance real talent and skills. You can't substitute the hard work and years of drawing and painting it takes to build a strong set of skills. Once you have those skills then you can apply them in any number of ways with all kinds of tools. But you have to be able to draw and paint. I see lots of portfolios from kids coming out of school every spring and it's shocking how bad most almost all of them are. It appears as though technology is being taught as a replacement for drawing and painting skills. It's disturbing and I blame the schools and the faculty.

The other subject that has become one of my crusades is what I call "Real Life Art and Design". OK so you spend 4 years in school and over $100,000 on tuition and such - then what? Every recent graduate I meet has no idea what to do next and that is clearly the fault of the schools. There is no time or effort spent in educating art students about how to make a living. There are all kinds of career opportunities open and yet the schools seem to be clueless about it all. I think it should be required that every graduating student be given a class in how on to use your skills and knowledge to make a living whether you want to be a Designer, illustrator, painter, whatever.

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