Tag Archives: Seattle artist

Meet the Artist in Residence: Rowan Walton

Rowan Walton, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the month of April 2019, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Rowan some questions about her work and studio practice:

Artist Rowan Walton

Artist Rowan Walton

Q: Please you tell us about your background?
I grew up on a ridge of Mt. Tamalpais in Mill Valley, California; about 20 minutes north of San Francisco. A winding road snakes itself up to my house, often through heavy maritime fog, so it can feel like an island up there (which is why I tend to identify with the mountain and surrounding shoreline rather than the town below). As a kid on this conifer-covered island, I rarely enjoyed reading, so while my twin brother flew through books like a falcon, I drew or even just sat with our dogs and thought for an hour. My brother’s vocabulary grew to an intimidating extent, but so did my ability to draw—especially dogs! Did one of us benefit more than the other? The jury is still out. However, I have been exploring art ever since then.

Heading into college, I was well on my way to an extraordinary art school on the East Coast until I realized that as an artist, especially a young one, I need more than art. A month later, I was pursuing a degree in Environmental Studies in Seattle…as well as a degree in Visual Arts because…well…who I am kidding?…I can’t shake it.

"Yours", graphite, 2017, Rowan Walton

“Yours”, graphite, 2017, Rowan Walton

Q: How would you describe your work?
My work is a bit of a mixed bag. Pieces can be cheeky; charming; challenging; and often a bit peculiar. I have a tendency to convey concepts through something I’d put as “anatomical narrative”— gestures depicted by human or nonhuman subjects that serve as emphatic reflections of my own perceptions based off of assumed associations, be they conscious or not.

Moreover, I typically draw with a graphite pencil because it gives me direct control over what I am trying to visually articulate. I also enjoy challenging myself with other mediums like painting and sculpture if the materials and space are present. Similarly, if I have new materials and/or tools to work with, I am almost always inspired to use them.

"Tangerine Lizard", tangerines, wire, tape, papier-mâché, thread, net, 2015, Rowan Walton

“Tangerine Lizard”, tangerines, wire, tape, papier-mâché, thread, net, 2015, Rowan Walton

Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
Complicated, but well worth it. Feel free to reach out for the full story!

Q: Do you collect anything?
Jars, exhibition cards, cafe cards, some records, and the odd thing or two.

 

"Alternative Self-Portrait", recycled plywood, graphite, charcoal, acrylic, 2014, Rowan Walton

“Alternative Self-Portrait”, recycled plywood, graphite, charcoal, acrylic, 2014, Rowan Walton

Q: What type of music do you listen to? How does music affect your artwork?
Music is vital to my life. Frankly, I believe that its power to connect and comfort individuals outweighs that of visual arts, but I also think it’s no coincidence that most musicians explore other artforms and vice versa. It’s a topic I shamelessly nerd-out about, but I’ll keep it to a minimum for now…

I worked for my university’s radio station as a disk jockey and booker, so I made a lot of promotional art for shows back then. Most recently, I created a drawing inspired by the macabre lyrics and cheeky wit of Marika Hackman, an all-time favorite of mine. Aside from that, I’m not usually inspired by music in that way, I use it more as a vessel for productivity and a soundtrack for “The Zone.”

The genre changes with the time of day, but I often need some kind of softness in the sound. For example, some classic go-to’s are Mazzy Star, Jessica Pratt, Stereolab, Shana Cleveland & the Sandcastles, John Maus, Natural Child, Widowspeak, Allah-Las, Celtic fiddling, and roots reggae.

"Indulge", Acrylic and ink, 2018, Rowan Walton

“Indulge”, Acrylic and ink, 2018, Rowan Walton

Q: What are your goals for this residency?
I am currently preparing to apply to graduate school, so initially, I had applied to this residency because I felt it would be a wonderful opportunity to help me discern what sort of program I want to pursue. In particular, if it would be a studio practice or a research program.

My goals for the residency are to champion some of my longstanding ideas, build up my portfolio, rollout my social media presence, and to simply grow.

I am currently working on a series of ¼” plywood pieces that are inspired by the air fresheners that hang in cars. Each piece is a painting of one of my favorite vintage car models (like a 1970 Ford Bronco), about a foot or so in height and 2-3 feet in width. The final products will have a resin finish with a secret ingredient, so you can hang the car on a wall and get a whiff of something pleasant as you walk by (fingers crossed). I am also working on concept art for a hypothetical children’s book about crows.

A few of the pieces I am currently working on.

A few of the pieces I am currently working on.

Q: What advice would you give to other artists?
Lean into it. If you want your artwork to go anywhere, it’s your responsibility and no one else’s.

Move at your own pace. Whether it be quick or slow, let it happen and trust it. Life is ultimately a matter of timing, so the sooner you can accept that not everything is in your control, the better off you’ll be.

Keep learning more. Artists should not be boring.

Cultivate that sense of humor. You can virtually forgo the aforementioned tips if you honor this with all you’ve got. Humor is the flesh that connects us to ourselves and gives us patience.

Challenge the traditional/societal notion of the artist. Unless you want to make money off of your art, the only person who truly needs to know you’re an artist is you.

"Seacret Puppets", acrylic print, graphite, 2015, Rowan Walton

“Seacret Puppets”, acrylic print, graphite, 2015, Rowan Walton

Q: What’s next for you?
Graduate school!? Also, hopefully a show this summer to unveil those cars pieces.

Q: Where else can we find you?
On Instagram @slowwag. It’s a bit misleading due to a lack of posts, however they’re on the horizon and I am indeed in the background of it all. Please feel welcomed to reach out!

Meet the Artist in Residence: Matt Simon

Matt Simon, artist in residence at Main Street Arts, during the month of September 2018, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Matt some questions about their work and studio practice:

Matt Simon

Matt Simon

Q: Tell us about your background.
I’m from Denver, Colorado, and lived in various neighborhoods around the city growing up. I didn’t really make much art in grade school (I had two art classes during those twelve years), and ended up getting into art pretty much on accident — I actually applied to a bunch of engineering schools, but ended up choosing Oberlin for financial reasons.

Still, I entered college with the intent of majoring in physics. I sat next to the painting professor at a first-year orientation event, and she encouraged me to take a class with her since I’d always had a vague interest in making more art but hadn’t really acted on it. I did so my second semester, and during a class field trip to the Cleveland Museum of Art first saw the painting Lot’s Wife by Anselm Kiefer, and was enamored with its scale and textural aptitude. But during another trip to the museum with some friends during commencement week at the end of the year, the painting’s emotional weight hit me. I had to figure out how Kiefer was able to provoke such a strong reaction through an image, and I was hooked.

Lot's Wife - Anselm Kiefer

“Lot’s Wife” by Anselm Kiefer

Q: How would you describe your work?
I think the best descriptor of my work is tactile — I love creating textures that make you want to touch them, and have slowly figured out various material processes that result in ones I’ve integrated into many of my pieces. My favorite one is probably a mixture of acrylic, sand, clay, and iron oxide, which dries thick and claylike, but much more sturdy due to the acrylic and sand; this can be seen most plainly in my book, Weathering.

how the stars did fall

how the stars did fall

My longest-running subject material is the mythology of the American West, which has a long and complex history I’m still working to understand more completely. I feel a deep affinity for the landscape of that region, especially in Colorado and New Mexico. But at the same time, that affinity is enabled by the genocide and displacement of the indigenous peoples who lived there. I draw on that tension as inspiration for my work.

the child the father

the child the father

Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
Most of my work begins textually, often from written sources on the West and the period of westward expansion. I find imagery or stories in these which I draw from to create preliminary ideas for pieces. A couple of my favorite textual sources for this kind of working are Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian.

Once I have that initial idea, I’ll try to figure out which medium best suits the idea, whether it be one of my usual assortment of book, painting, sculpture, or print, or some combination of those. I’ll occasionally make a more formal sketch of something, like on a small canvas before moving to a large one, but often I’d rather just jump in with the idea and follow where it takes me as I work the image over and over. I find my choice of mediums fairly forgiving since I can usually just add more material over the last layer if I want to change something, which helps this approach.

Weathering (page 2)

Weathering (page 2)

Q: Do you collect anything?
I like to collect natural materials, especially rocks and plants, and some of my pieces even end up incorporating them. My favorites are the ones I have that remind me of Colorado and New Mexico.

Q: Who is your favorite artist and why?
I have a hard time picking favorites, so I’d say there’s a three way tie: I’ve already talked about Anselm Kiefer, but I also love the work of Doris Salcedo, whose sculptures always have a level of detail that seems completely impossible, and Kathe Kollwitz — I don’t know of anyone who can create more depth in black space. I’d be happy to be one-tenth as good at that.

Kindersterben - Kathe Kollwitz (My copy)

“Kindersterben” by Kathe Kollwitz

Q: What type of music do you listen to? How does music affect your artwork?
I mostly listen to things in the vicinity of indie, folk, and bluegrass, with some hip-hop/rap in there as well. I often end up playing music that feels like it suits the piece I’m working on, so I sometimes will listen to an album or even a single song on repeat if I’m really focusing in on that correlation.

Q: What are your goals for this residency? Tell us about your current projects.
I love making large-scale works, but unfortunately studio space where I live, in Seattle, is expensive, prohibitively so for a space big enough to do works of that size. So I’m planning on taking full advantage of the space I’ll have for the month and working on some good-sized pieces. I’m going to try making a book at least the same size as my largest so far (2×3’), or maybe even bigger!

Weathering (page 5)

Weathering (page 5)

Q: What’s next for you?
I plan on starting to apply for MFA programs in the next year or two. It’s a little intimidating how many incredibly skilled artists are competing for admission (especially for the well-funded ones), so I want to get to a place where I feel more confident in my portfolio first.

Q: Where else can we find you?
You can visit my website, and I recently succumb to making an art-specific Instagram, which you can find at @mattsimonart.