Recent interview with our next exhibiting artist by Aja DeWolf
Interview for Lindsay Stripling
How did you become an artist, and what led you to using primarily water colors?
I had the fortunate opportunity of being born to a mom who always supported me being my own boss and a grandmother who always handed my sister and I blank sheets of white paper and a tin of crayons. As for watercolor, its been a long meandering journey of experimenting with different mediums. Watercolor was really hard for me to figure out, and I am still learning so much about how to use it, but allowing myself the space to experiment has been -the best thing.
There is a lot of inspiration in the Bay Area, who/what/where inspires you most?
So many things are inspiring here, the intersection of nature and humanity is something I have been gravitating to a lot. The places where the lines between the two blur, old army bunkers in the headlands that are taken over by coyote packs, man made lakes in golden gate park that are home to great horned owls. I am also endlessly inspired by the people and artists in this community. The Bay Area, and San Francisco specifically is not an easy place to live right now and be creative at the same time. The artists and creative people who are here are working really hard to be here, they want to be here and there is something about that that keeps me going.
Do you ever find inspiration in unlikely places? what would be an example?
Inspiration doesn’t necessarily come when you want it to, but there are pretty good ways that I have figured out how to set myself up to make the soft connections and become inspired. I always have a small notebook with me, I try to take naps, and definitely reading before bed. I also try to acknowledge when its not working for me to be in the studio, and I will go for a hike, read on the beach or clean.
On your website it says that you went to UC Santa Cruz for black and white photography, do you still practice that medium?
Unfortunately no, and I miss it a lot. But the things I learned about light in those classes are things I think about a lot in my work. They show themselves in the way I like to use transparent layers in watercolors.
I see a lot of slightly abstract quality to your pieces. What intangible feelings do you most communicate through your art?
Hmm. Thats a good question. With the amount of transparent layers I am using I am hoping to touch on time, doubling- the idea of multiple things and places and even people happening at the same time and in the same place. The idea that no one instance is telling the whole story of someone or one experience, it is possibly telling fragments of a lot of different experiences and stories. I am also hoping to expand upon those ideas of multiplicity and fragmentation through my dyptychs and cutouts.
Color palette seems to be an important aspect of your work, are there colors you seem to resonate with/always come back to?
I am somewhat of a color freak. Its something I have always been obsessed with, to the point that buying a new pair of converse sneakers causes me hours of dismay because I love all the colors so much and in different ways. In my paintings I use all the colors, to the point that they turn into mud. I pretty much never rinse out my water jar, which has become somewhat of a running joke with my students, because I think that the grey that comes from all the colors being together is a grey that I need. Its unifying. In my classes I try to explain to my students that there is no wrong way to paint, no right blue to use, no perfect brush stroke. It is all awesome. I can be somewhat of a control freak, I used to do very hyperrealistic self portrait drawings made up of tiny little prismacolor marks, so allowing messiness to occour in my water jar, using all the colors, making mud and neutrals- its my way of breaking the rules so I can loosen up and experiment.
It can be really hard to create in your own style while still appealing to an audience. What advice do you have for someone trying to create their own distinctive style while still getting recognition?
Ugh, such a hard question and still one I am trying to figure out myself. Style is such a tough word and I struggle with it all the time. Experimentation is so so important, but I do think it is important to show some consistency, and by that I mean show that you can carry out an idea for multiple works. I am a firm believer that anything that comes from you is going to be yours and that there is a way to balance both experimentation and having a consistent style. What is probably the most important factor in all of this is just having a daily studio practice- if you do then you would have to experiment so as not to go crazy, and after a few years of being in the studio everyday it would be pretty apparent that you have a style. Time is something we do not have the patience for, but something we need.
From your experience, what are some important things to keep in mind while developing as an artist?
The power of the sketchbook, and daily sketching is not to be underestimated. Ideas don’t just come out of nowhere, and when they do, you are totally not gonna remember them, trust me. Collaboration, studio visits, and making a niche for yourself in your community. It took me awhile to find my creative community, and along the way I made a lot of friends doing creative things all over the city and the world. We are lucky to live in a time where it is easy to connect with artists across continents and oceans who are dealing with similar ideas and materials as us.
By Aja DeWolf of Sebastopol