Artist Profile: Bryce Chisholm

Bryce Chisholm

I love street art; I love the colors, the raw nature of the subject and materials, and I love that its charm comes from the fact that it originated on the streets. Because of the fact that street art is associated with graffiti and tagging however, it has a fairly negative identification. To me this is a tragedy; an highly skilled, highly detailed art form, totally underrated because of misguided perceptions. It sounds like some over-dramatized movie plot, similar to The Soloist, but it really is sad that so many beautiful pieces are overlooked simply because they are done in spray paint and draw inspiration from the streets.

Bryce Chisholm

 

Which is why I’m glad there are people like Bryce Chisholm to change all of that. Bryce takes the skill and practice that it often used in artworks on the streets, and puts them to a canvas, blending the spontaneity of oil painted backgrounds, with the crispness of hand drawn stencils. What comes out in the end are intricate works of art–with small details, complementary colors, and great variety–that harness the badass personality of general graffiti, as well as the class of formal visual arts.

Each piece is unique, drawing on different subjects, and colors, and shapes, and I was so surprised to find out that we had something like this here in Reno–it’s times like these when I feel lucky to be from somewhere that’s cultural enough to take interest in things like art, but small enough that artists don’t have a complex when it comes to the public.

I couldn’t wait to pick yet another creative brain from big-little Reno, and as usual, Bryce did not disappoint. If you haven’t come across his work yet, it will be on display at Reno Art Works May 3 through the 31, and I highly encourage you to go check out his street art innovation.

Bryce

Lets start with the first question, why stencil?
I was going to UNR at the time, doing big oil painting with Michael Sarich. I started painting these things that were two, three colors that were basically stencils and I started wondering why I wasn’t just doing stencils. It started with small things and then expanded. I do brushwork and stuff too, it’s not just stencil.

Do you have schooling, or are you self-taught?
I went to UNR, I never really graduated. It was my minor, and Spanish. I’m self taught with the stencil part. It’s online, with banksy and whatever, but I didn’t know anyone that was doing it.

Where do you find your inspiration?
I did a series of kids, one is my daughter, so that was some of it. I did a bunch of native Americans, and a bunch of animals. I’m really into, obviously, females. I’ve sent prints to Germany, Canada, [etc], and pretty much every state in the US.

Have a favorite artist?
I would have to say maybe like C215, he is a stencil artist as well. He does a lot of street work. I went to Europe and saw a bunch of his stuff. I like Banksy, but I wouldn’t say I do things like him.

Dream job?
I would like to be doing this, of course. I did a Colin Kaepernick piece, and this guy called me to design for the NFL. If I could do what I’m doing, and work it with the NFL or MLB that would be great. I could pick my favorite athlete and design shirts and stuff. I want to go to New York and have a show, and San Francisco and have a show.

What do you aim to do with your painting, other than making money?
I guess I just try to like, portray street art in a beautiful way. Street art and graffiti get a bad name. If I could do murals on like graffiti covered walls and incorporate other graffiti into my work it would be really awesome. If I could just get people to see it as a beautiful artwork.

Bryce

Best experience painting?
I would have to say, doing the Nevada Fine Arts mural. I had wanted to paint with those guys for a long time. It brought together a bunch of really great artists, it was a big space and a really great learning experience. Learning that you can make a living doing what you want.

Worst experience?
Probably when you get commissions, and then don’t get paid. So you paint something for someone, spend a bunch of time and money, and then they tell you they don’t want it. I always get half up front now.

What do you find most rewarding about it?
Well I mean I love to do it, and have people see it. But it’s something that I have to do. The background are like a therapy to me, I mix colors, and paint. When you start cutting a piece, it looks like nothing, and then as you go on it comes together, that’s always rewarding, finishing.

What do you find most difficult?
Maybe people undervaluing it. Everybody wants something for nothing. That’s why I started making prints, it’s cheaper for other people.

How would you describe your style?
I’d say mine is a street art high graphic. I try to make my cuts nice and smooth. I just do it by my eye, not Photoshop like a lot of people do, so I get smooth lines.

Do you think your painting could change the world?
I wouldn’t say in any great way. If I can effect the people around me that like them–I have like 300 followers from Brazil, maybe I can change Brazil?

Do you want it to?
If it could make people see things in a different view or different light… Everyone is going to see something different and it could change the world that’s awesome. If it could change a few people that’s enough for me.

What other kinds of things do you do?
Well I have a kid, so that takes up a lot of time–gymnastics, swimming, etc. I pick up side jobs when I have to.

You’ve lived in Reno pretty much you’re whole life, what are the ups and downs, artistically and otherwise?
I would say as far as ups, there’s a good crowd, good people, positive outlooks, good artists. For the downs, it’s a lot of the same people over and over. There are places like Stremmel that can sell painting for like $20,000, but there aren’t a lot of big buyers, and if there are they only go there. A lot of people love it, they’re into it, they like it, but there’s no market.

Are you methodical and by the books, or impulsive and random?
I’m kind of random on what I work on and how I do it, but I definitely like my method. There’s no set schedule so a little bit of both. My backgrounds are random, I grab colors, do brushstrokes, I add stuff until I like it. There’s no method, just madness, it’s my therapy. I try not to think about it or worry about it too much.

Bryce was great to talk to; he’s a very friendly guy that shares a love of art and a desire to increase its appreciation. He has pieces up in the gallery, as well as on his Facebook page, Abc Art Attack, and as I said earlier I highly encourage you to go see it. Meeting an artist like this reminds me that the practice of art is changing, and what it comes down to is someone caring deeply about their craft. There is a lot of work and effort that goes into Bryce’s paintings (you don’t win RAW Reno Artist of the Year and Visual Art Blast Juror’s Choice for nothing)–my hope is that people really do begin to see the beauty he tries (and succeeds) to convey.

Gallery being set up at Reno Art Works

Gallery being set up at Reno Art Works

The Art of Art: Revealing Behind the Art Scenes

Everyone loves art; we all marvel over pretty paintings, and admire the beauty of a well-conducted photograph. But what’s behind all of that art? What happens when you peel back the paint, peek behind the ink, and paper, and look at the art as a process.  When you think about all of the dynamics that make art, it makes you start to question: What is art?

Lucky for me, I happen to find myself a part of this process quite often (in fact, I’m writing this in the car as a photo is being done right now). My significant other is local photographer Russell Eck, who specializes in long exposure night photography, and almost all the time I tag along with him as he’s creating his art. I know the ins-and-outs of what makes a nice photo, but I got to wondering; do you? It’s an interesting process that takes a lot more time and effort than people think, and I think it is an important part of art appreciation to understand just exactly what it takes.

Saturday night in Reno consisted of cabin fever-meets-warm weather spontaneity that had Russell grabbing for his camera and his trusty assistant: me. He thought up some ideas, called up a friend, and the three of us made a night of it. As I said earlier, Russell does long exposure night photography, so we ended up fending for ourselves down by the Truckee River in the dead of twilight—well, not actually, but we did come across some unruly teenagers in the process, and I did have to confront another photographer about snapping unannounced photos of us doing our work (and flashing a few statement fingers, since the woman never stopped).

The process goes something like this:

  1. Stakeout: it begins. This is one of the major places the artist comes in—they have a certain eye (generally a photographer’s eye, but I think this applies to all artists in a different sense), which is able to pick out interesting things that the rest of the world doesn’t see.
  2. Spot picked: set up. Lugging the equipment (i.e., camera bag, tripod, flash, flashlights, and knives because let’s face it, this is downtown Reno) to various places, which range from off the roadside in the city, to miles up a hiking trail in places most people never see. Then, after the hike, comes the actual setting up—the moving, adjusting, testing, snapping, adjusting again moments until the artist is happy—time taken for this step generally ranges.

russ3. The wait: exposure time. This is where the breadth of the process truly lies. Since it is night photography, the camera itself requires longer exposure for enough amounts of light to reach the sensors and make a nice photo. Also—as Russell has often done—there are photo processes such as startrails and long exposure water shots that require a lot of time, sometimes hours. This is when we wind up goofing off and having tons of fun though—an unusual luxury of an unfaltering assistant 😉

russ34. The follow-up: on a technicality. This is the stuff that people really don’t think about when looking at a photograph. This is the double exposure times, the editing in computers, and finally the uploading, printing and matting. This part isn’t as glorious as the others, but is equally as necessary and still takes a certain skill and practice.

russ4

I tag along for the first few parts, but generally I don’t see the finished product until we’re at home and Russell is pretty much done. I’ve learned about the different types of photography, the different works that go into it, and ultimately have a heightened appreciation for much of the work that I come across. Does it help knowing what goes into art? I’m not sure, but for me knowing the effort an artist puts into their reveals a sense of passion, and ignites in me ideas and motivation for my next creative project. The finished picture for the night turned out like this:

bridge

 

Find Russell here:

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Monday Night Mash-up: Top 5 Reno Art Sites

When it comes to the art scene in Reno, the growth is surprisingly promising. When it comes to the resources to find and connect with the art scene however, the pickings are pretty slim. There are a few very valuable sites that I go to constantly when searching for upcoming events, artists, and community gatherings that are most important to me, and I think that in sharing these sites, I can hopefully help spread the word about the richness of the Reno art scene.

  1. RAW Artist Reno is my top, because it shows that the small city of Reno is worthy of being involved in some pretty big name things. RAW has over 78 locations worldwide, so it’s really exciting that Reno has the honor of being apart of that. The site includes information about art, music, fashion, film, hair/makeup, photography, and performing arts, all done locally here in Reno. They host shows that not only allow the artists to show off their work, but also to sell it, and network with other artists or enthusiasts from here and abroad.
  2. Art Spot Reno is a very interesting site I came across a while ago that has proven to be very useful to me. It is a website (and Android App!) that allows the user to search the Reno-Sparks area for art galleries, studios, museums, and much more, that encourages people to interact and add information. The site was set up in an effort to promote the art scene in Reno, hoping to spread the word and spark a new wave of activity in all forms. I’ve used it a lot to find big name galleries, as well as small galleries I hadn’t heard of before. Now I’m just waiting for the i Phone App; then I’ll be in business.
  3. Reno Art Works: this is an awesome resource when it comes to anything connected to Reno Art. There is a page for the number of local artists who participate and contribute–including some of their work and how to contact them–an event calendar that showcases all of the activities they are having in the community, and places to contact them, as well as buy the works of admired artists. It is a nice source for highlighting the local talent, but it is also a great place to get involved, as they offer rentable workshop space for anyone interested in becoming a part of their little family.   
  4. The City of Reno page actually has a surprising useful and interesting Arts and Culture page, which discusses things like ArtTown, resources for events and contributors, and updates about community meetings and events to update the city for the expansion of the arts. This is definitely a more useful hub for artists themselves, as it gives connections directly to the city and what it is doing to promote the growing scene.
  5. Lastly, but certainly not least, is the Art Museums and Galleries page on the Reno-Sparks Wiki page. This is a no fluff, info-only resource that gives the names and locations of a number of the local art hubs, as well as a map that provides for easy navigation. It is an easy to use site, and if you see any issues or mistakes, you yourself can just go in and change them, which again provides accuracy as well as participation within the community.

As I said earlier, there isn’t a lot in the way of information when it comes to Reno Art, but as these links (and this blog!) show, there are people out there who care to spread the word and participate in this lush art environment.

Have another link or resource? Show it to me! I’m always looking for more useful places to find out what’s going on in my community and how I can get involved; now you can help!

Artist Profile: Ahren Hertel

It’s finally here: the last semester in my undergrad program! (Applause Now)

It’s true, I’m finally growing up, developing my self as a person, and moving my life in the direction I want it to go. I’ve worked very hard on this long road, and once I finally got to my last semester things seemed a bit surreal. Finally I was done with the majority of necessary classes–only needing two to graduate–and found myself with two spots open to take whichever classes my heart desired; that’s right, the world was my oyster. After much soul searching (okay really it came down to which classes were still available), I decided to follow through with my interest in art, and take a painting class.

I’ll be honest, I had hesitation at first (the class goes from 5:30 at night to 8:15 twice a week, yeah), but I could not be happier with my choice to suck-it-up and follow through. Of course there is the obvious fact that I get to paint for credit, but I also lucked out and got a really cool professor, who just happens to be a great artist as well.

Ahren Hertel is an art professor at UNR (kind of a mix between Michelangelo and Socrates in teaching methodology) as well as a fantastic local artist, who’s work to me has a modern feel, with a style that mixes both realism and abstractism subtly and successfully. His paintings are a mix-up of people, animals, and his local environment, all portrayed in interesting scenarios and situations. His choice medium is oil on canvas. This last week after a class that consisted of constructing canvases, I was able to sit down with him and really find out who he is, once his teaching hat comes off at the end of the day.

ahrenpolarbear

My favorite (I have a slight polar bear obsession).

Lets start with the first question, why painting?
I started out really being interested in drawing, I was always interested in the representational. For a long time I was scared of color until I finally got into painting. There’s a rich history in painting, and I’m attracted to the paint itself. I actually think paint is kind of sexy, it’s really fluid. It sexy in a sense that you can get lush surfaces, and rich images– working with it it’s, I don’t know very personal and involved. Most of my favorite artists have always been painters. Starting with a flat surface and creating this allusion that someone can believe; you’ve created a narrative. It starts as a blank something and you are able to create something by just wiping colors onto something, it’s pretty cool.

Do you have schooling, or are you self-taught?
I think everything is a little of both. Got my BFA in illustration in 2002 from the Savana College of Art Design in Savana, and my MFA from UNR in 2009 in painting. I think that essentially all artists are self-taught in one way or another. School provides instruction, but I always felt it provided problems. School presents you with problems that you need to solve, in materials that you’ve never used before and then you get instruction on those materials. I think ultimately we are all left on our own to just do something, and the schooling is just a reassurance when it’s right.

Where do you find your inspiration?
That’s a tricky one. Lately I’ve been working on a series that has sort of more of an environmental theme to it. I think there’s this topic of conversation that’s out there in the world right now. As an artist I want to engage it, I think it’s an interesting topic and this is my way of engaging in the topic. For me, painting something I’m interested in is my way of starting a conversation.

Have a favorite artist?
I have a lot of artists that I really look up to, and there’s been a bunch that have been influential, especially Northern Renaissance artists, but to say that one is my favorite is to say that I think they are better than everyone else, and I just don’t think that way.

Dream job?
I think any artists dream job would just be to live off of their work, but I really enjoy teaching. I almost view them as one in the same, I kind of think that teaching is a big part of me. To me now in my mind they kind of go hand-in-hand.

What do you aim to do with your painting, other than making money?
I think, continue. I don’t know, cause I can’t really think of a particular thing I would like to do, or a particular–I mean I just want to do it, and keep doing it. Being an artist you put your work and ideas out into the community, and you can put your work and opinions out there and have a message with it, and it can sway people’s minds without directly telling them to change. Again it’s putting your work out and engaging in a conversation. I try to answer things, at least for myself in my work, but beyond that I don’t know what I want it to do. It seems cocky almost to want it to do something.

Best experience painting?
I think the best thing is when you’ve been struggling with something, and you finally figure out how to do it.

Worst experience?
Struggling with something and not figuring it out. I think because you have to make time for painting, it’s always enjoyable. Even if its frustrating, it’s still a hell of a lot better than something else. I think if it’s frustrating, either destroy it, or walk away and give it some space. I’m not a person to walk away from it, so I’ll beat my head over it until I figure it out.

What do you find most rewarding about it?
It almost becomes one of those things that you just do. Painting becomes rewarding, in and of itself, and I think it’s always rewarding in different ways. It’s rewarding when an artist you look up to tells you they like your painting, or a gallery invites you to bring your work in, but again these are fleeting, so you keep working. Looking back at how long I’ve been doing this, it’s rewarding to see that effort pays off, that I’ve gotten better.

What do you find most difficult?
Navigating the art world is difficult. It’s this weird sort of thing where, in a way you’ve always been taught or told or built into yourself ‘don’t try to fit in,’ but then you almost have to try and fit in. You have to find a gallery or something where you fit in. Pricing your work is really hard too.

How would you describe your style?
If you follow the things that you’re interested in, textually, esthetically, your style kind of comes out of that. I’m not really trying to do anything. I’m trying to create paintings that are realistic, but also sort of romanticized in a way. I think style is kind of a biprodict of just not thinking about style.

Do you think your painting could change the world?
No. Maybe but it’s out of my hands.

Do you want it to?
Well, maybe change a couple people. I think it’s sort of your desire to want to be important, but to say that you’re important, or that you want to be, is difficult.

What other kinds of things do you do?
Not much anymore, really. I have an old motorcycle that I like to ride when it runs, that I’d like to sell more paintings to make it run. I like to hang out with the wife. I’m kind of looking for something new. After grad school, I started remembering that I used to do stuff other than art. It’s important to try to reconnect with things. I really like cooking with my wife, it’s really fun. I like doing things with my hands: gardening, cooking, working on my motorcycle.

You’ve lived in Reno for awhile, what are the ups and downs, artistically and otherwise?
I think it’s always had its own identity–even though its losing it a bit–but Reno, and Northern Nevada, and the West have their own identity, and I like being an artist in those identities, and using them in my work. I like our enviroment. You can always show your art elsewhere, but Reno has always been supportive to me as an artist. If you use your region in your art, people here can be attracted to your work because its familiar, but if you go elsewhere people are attracted to it because its different. I think it’s important to engage in that. I think Reno is kind of growing ad an art community, and it always has been, but I can’t even think of a flourishing art community elsewhere. I think most of the time when people say that they wish Reno had a bigger art community, they just mean bringing in artists from elsewhere.

Are you methodical and by the books, or impulsive and random?
I think that I’ve created methods that I like. I’ll alter those, but I like having kind of a game plan. I actually do think of painting as a long series of choices.

Ahren is really a really funny guy, so I had a great time talking with him and exploring the way that he sees the art world.

Ahren Hertel has a website that he can be reached at, which is also a great place to just check out his work. I recommend exploring his portfolio, and–if the chance ever arises–taking a class with him, because he is a blast to work with, but also just good at doing what he does–painting and teaching.