December has come upon us. We are nearing the end of the year yet again. Today in the green room I have brought in Nathan DeYoung, a hardworking and talented young painter who can be found in the lovely city of San Diego, California. After soaking my eyes into his artwork of bold colors and faces of beauty that cannot be ignored, I am forever thankful to have been given the opportunity to interview this young man. Let’s take a peak into his artistic soul, shall we?
J-Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!
ND – No problem. It’s an honor!
J-Let’s start from the beginning. How long have you been painting for and what got you into the arts? Where did you learn to paint?
ND – I’ve been drawing and creating ever since I was very little, with my initial infatuation for art stemming from a love of cartoons and comic books. I would try and redraw pages of my Batman and Superman comic books and try to draw cartoon characters from movies and T.V. shows and I did that for a long time, but I didn’t start experimenting with paint until I was 16. I was actually very intimated by the medium at first. I felt very clumsy, vague and imprecise. In short painting was not a love at first sight kind of experience. I was, however, very inspired by art that was created with paint, and knew that eventually I would have to start working in the medium if I wanted to progress. At the time I was beginning to experiment with paint I was a sophomore in high school, and another student named Ash Thorp who was in an elevated art class made a tremendous impact on me. I loved his work, and I was always blown away by his ability to manipulate and control any medium he was working in, paint included. I desperately wanted to meet him but I was very nervous to introduce myself, he was a senior at the time and he was in a very popular progressive rock band, he drove a 1970′s model matte black Pontiac Valiant, he was an amazing visual artist, and he had this intense aura of confidence and energy that made it difficult for me to approach him. I ended up convincing my art teacher to introduce us and she did so happily and the first time we met he was very helpful and gave me some solid, but standard advice basically just telling me to go for it and that practice makes perfect. Sadly, due to a series of events of life being life, we weren’t able to work together for some time but I continued to experiment and work with paint. Years later I ended up running into Ash randomly and things just kind of clicked and we began working together on a regular basis and in the process became great friends. It became the ordinary to go over to his studio everyday after I got off work and we would just paint and create for countless hours. He helped guide and push me as well as introduce me to other artists that I would learn from and work with including another mentor of mine a painter named Christopher Polentz. Christopher and I still get together to paint and he has been a tremendous source of inspiration, knowledge, wisdom, advice and has been crucial to my development. I can’t thank both of them enough as their guidance was paramount as I never went to art school or received any formal training.
J-That’s really great. So it sounds like you attribute your talents to people who have had a positive influence in your life and in painting rather than actual training. Interesting. Now the big broad question of “Why” … Why do you do it? Why do you paint?
ND – Broad question indeed and there is never one easy way to describe it. I think of painting like being in a relationship, I am involved with it because I love it. It has helped me grow and taught me and continues to teach me so much about myself and others. It allows me a vessel in which I can express and develop myself and has been at times a roller coaster mixture of wonderful and crushing experiences. But in short, I feel a need to create that I can’t deny, and like anything worth having or doing painting has not always come easy it has been a journey of sacrifice, dedication and passion but it is the medium that speaks to me. Because of those things I have a tremendous respect for the process and its challenge to explore its potential.
J-Seems like you were born to paint. Has there ever been a moment where you almost threw in the towel and said goodbye to being an artist? Or do you see this as a passion that you could never turn away from?
ND – I have felt that feeling more times than I would like to remember. Because my work is so time consuming (a piece usually takes between 100-200 hours to complete) and the technique is so tedious, it allows me the opportunity to grow very, very attached to each piece. And when you combine that with the fact that creating original work is such a personal experience it can be easy to feel very vulnerable and at the will of the piece. And when something goes disastrously wrong it can leave you feeling destroyed, like somebody just took a piece of your heart and threw it away. Being hurt like that is no easy feat to come back from and I have had my fair share of those, but if you truly have a love and passion for what you do you will always come back and try to find love again, so no I don’t think I will ever stop creating, I will be doing this for a long, long time to come.
J-And I’m glad that you will! So how do you feel when you finish a painting and are about to share it with another set of eyes…? How do you feel about receiving other people’s reactions to your work?
ND- That varies depending on how I feel about the painting, if I feel confident and am satisfied with the work I am generally very excited to share with others and get their feedback. But if I am not satisfied with the work I am very apprehensive about showing or sharing it with others because I can feel so self conscious and defensive about the work and I feel like others will see all the shortcomings in the work that I see.
J-Is it easy for you to take/accept/use/ignore constructive criticism?
ND- That really depends and it’s hard to put into words because it can be very easy depending on who is saying it and what they are saying, or very difficult for the same reasons. Art is so individual that I know that my work will not appeal to everyone and I don’t expect everyone to like it. Knowing that, it makes it easier to let other peoples personal preferences slide off me, but there are instances where if someone I really admire were to say something extremely negative it can definitely sting. But I am aware that it’s part of being an artist, criticism both positive and negative will come and you have to handle it accordingly. In short, its good to know when to keep your ears and mind open and when to keep them closed.
J-That makes sense. Your work is so bold and beautiful. I can’t imagine being able to critique it in any way. In fact, I have a hard time already trying to describe what your paintings are like to others. Help me out. How would you describe the style of your artwork?
ND – That’s always tough, I’m never really sure how to categorize my work. When I have to try to describe it to people I usually say that it is portraiture mixed with abstraction, while trying to describe the work I am simultaneously trying to take out my phone so I can show them some examples of my work. It’s definitely easier to just show someone what I do rather than try to explain it.
J-All of your work seems to have images of women and their faces…Why women? Who are these beautiful faces? Have you met them? I want the stories behind these faces!
ND- I have always loved figurative work, I think it is a great challenge and through out the history of art the female figure/portrait has been a historically significant portrayal of beauty, and I think art should be beautiful. Most of the women in my work I have never met, with the exception of very very few instances. I have learned that it is much better for me if I do not know the people that I am painting. I think once you start to know someone and then try to paint them it adds an additional layer of expectation and I don’t want that. Plus, the women I use in my work are vessels for me to express my own observations of others and I want them to be a blank canvas for me so to speak, so that I can create/infuse the elements that I need to make my work mine.
J-Now, just to put you on the spot: Do you believe in true love?
ND – Absolutely!
J-Haha, one would have to to paint like you do! So, for others who you have inspired…What is a word of advice for them? What would you tell other aspiring artists? Anything you know now that you wish you knew before?
ND – Work hard, this is not a scene for the faint of heart and it takes a lot of dedication and you have to put the time in. Stay passionate and true to what your vision is and create with honesty and integrity. The art world is very small and everybody knows everybody, so build your reputation on honesty, quality, and hard work.
J- When you finish a piece are you fully satisfied with the end result? Or do you end up leaving the painting feeling like you should have/could have/would have?
ND – That really varies from piece to piece. Creating any kind of original art work presents many challenges and surprises and the most difficult is perhaps translating an idea in your mind onto canvas. I have had paintings that I have been truly fulfilled with and still am happy with to this day and I have other finished paintings that I will never be able to come to terms with. I have learned through experience that things will not always work out the way I had hoped and that the only way I can move on from situations like that is to know in my heart that I had put my 100% energy and effort into making it the best I am capable of at the time and that helps me move onto something else with hopes that it will be successful.
J- Do you have a personal favorite from your many masterpieces?
ND – I wouldn’t say masterpieces, but I do have some personal favorites my top two being Act 1: A Thief – A lesson and Act 4: Like Exploding (Accepting) Neon (Dreams).
J-Oh you’re so modest! It would be hard to choose from your work…You are based in San Diego, correct? I’ve heard it’s a lovely city. Has your location had any influence on your life as an artist?
ND- Yes, definitely. I love San Diego County and I think more than anything it has allowed me to experience a wide variety of cultures and activities and it’s so close to L.A. which has such a tremendous artistic presence that it definitely allows me to be very tuned in and aware of what is going on while being just far away enough from the chaos to be able to create comfortably.
J-That’s great. I’ve never been. I’ll have to change that. Now, if you could only paint one more painting…Do you know what that painting would be of?
ND – That’s a great question. Oddly enough I think I do, but I’m not even going to try and attempt to describe it as it has been my experience that I have a rough time trying to verbalize my ideas haha.
J-Do you listen to music while you work? I am very curious as to what music you are listening to as I am always on the hunt for new music.
ND – Most definitely! Music is a huge inspiration for me and like you I am always on the hunt for epic jams. Lately I have been listening to the new La Dispute album “Wildlife”, Glassjaw’s new “Coloring Book” EP, Wild Beasts “Two Dancers”, The National “Alligator”, The Dillinger Escape Plan “Ire Works” and “Option Paralysis”, The XX, The new Bon Iver record and lots of others but those seem to be on repeat most recently.
J-What have you been up to lately? Any new upcoming projects that we can look forward to?
ND – I have actually been very, very busy building work for a two person show titled “As It Falls Over You” I am in with Linnea Strid that opens December 10th, 2011 at Thinkspace Gallery in LA. This body of work has been a year in the making and will mark my largest show to date and will feature 10 new paintings. After that I have some really exciting shows coming up in 2012 that I cant quite talk about yet, but I will be keeping my blog updated as the shows get closer!
J- That’s so excited! We’ll be sure to keep visiting your blog for updates then! Thank you so much for your time.
Check out the talented Nathan DeYoung’s awesome blog: nathandeyoungart