As part of our ongoing series interviewing collage artists that inspire us, we sat down with Chuck Anderson of NoPattern Studio. We’ve long admired Chuck’s work, so it was with happy hearts that we chatted with him about his work outside and inside of Mixel.
Mixel: What first kindled your interest in creating collages? When did you create your first collage?
Chuck: Putting lots of different elements together has always sort of been a theme in my work, whether it’s true collage like what Mixel enables, or juxtaposing really different types of imagery together like in my personal work…for example, a really simple photo of a parking lot with lots of light and color added over top is a common thread in my personal work. I just find it really fun to create something completely new out of other things I suppose. Using any type of collage makes the process itself really fun because you sort of surprise yourself as you go, “What if I put that there instead?” kind of thing, and suddenly you have a completely different composition and aesthetic. I’m just kind of fascinated by that.
My first collage, that’s kind of tricky, because I’ve really been making art my whole life in some form or another. I can’t put my finger on exactly when the first time I created a collage was, but most likely in grade school in an art class, cutting things out of magazines and newspapers. I always felt like I was weird though because I was the one looking for bones, guts, and eyeballs instead of flowers and cats. However, once I started using Photoshop sometime around 7th grade, that’s when I really took a liking to mashing imagery up and making collages. When I started taking it seriously and taking a lot of my own photos, that’s really when I became interested in collage.
M: So it was the digital tools that hooked you?
C: Absolutely! Once you put that Elmer’s glue on the back of a piece of cut-out magazine and press it on paper and give it 10 seconds, that’s it. With Photoshop it was like, “Ah, I don’t like how that looks there, let me hide or move that layer real quick…” Cutting out things is so much easier too of course,…no scissors or X-Acto blades.
While I certainly do love using manual tools to create things, hence why my Wacom is such an important thing to me, I feel fortunate to have grown up in the pre-digital age, where until about age 14 there really was no computer for me to make things on. So I definitely have an appreciation for that stuff (analog tools) which I think really helps when you combine an understanding of it with digital tools.
M: What makes the collage medium so unique?
C: The fact that part of what goes into a good collage is research and a knack for finding good material in the first place is, I think, what makes it unique. With painting, drawing, or sculpture, for example, you have your medium and you create something out of nothing. With collage you create something out of something else, and make something totally new. When done creatively, the ability to repurpose other people’s work, integrate imagery that an audience is already familiar with (ie logos, familiar characters, etc), and give an existing element a new shape and purpose makes it unique to me.
M: What inspires your work?
C: On a general level, I just really enjoy working with light and color. It has always been something I’ve been drawn to, really vibrant tones and harsh contrasts. I’ve also always been drawn to mysterious/dark/eerie imagery, so combining the light/color with the mysterious/dark is something I’m inspired by. I find that inspiration in all sorts of everyday things.
There are a lot of artists I’m inspired by, most of whom do work that is nothing like mine which is kind of funny. Tattoo artists like Thomas Hooper, fine artists/illustrators like KAWS, James Jean, and Raymond Pettibon. I find inspiration in the way people do things a lot of times, not necessarily in their styles.
M: What is the art/design community like in Grand Rapids, MI where you are based?
C: It’s pretty broad. I have, unfortunately, not gotten super involved in it, as I am such an independent/solo type of person and artist, but there is some really excellent stuff going on here for being a mid-sized city.
The GRAM (Grand Rapids Art Museum) that just opened a few years ago is really gorgeous. Beautifully designed & modern. Of course, Herman Miller, Steelcase, and Haworth are in West Michigan so there’s a really deep connection to smart design and furniture/industrial design here. Very under-rated and under-appreciated by the rest of the world too, honestly, but it’s making waves. Of course there’s also the ArtPrize which has made a big impact.
M: Where do you find the materials that you work with?
C: Generally I like to say, “Anywhere but stock.” I hate using stock imagery. Sometimes you have to, especially for client jobs that require imagery you simply can’t obtain yourself, but my materials - especially for personal work - almost always generate from my own photography, drawings, and creations.
With collages though, I like to hunt in magazines a lot of times. I’m a magazine fiend, I buy and save lots of them. Fashion, art, culture, music, and design magazines mostly, I save them and eventually go through and cut stuff out of them that I like, whether it’s a full page or just a portion of it. I try to get out with my camera and just take pictures of all sorts of things. Textures, landscapes, people, skies, whatever, so that when I’m making something later and think “I need some clouds here,” I can use something that I was fully responsible for.
M: Do you try and reproduce your distinct color palette in Mixel?
C: I do try to recreate my color palette in Mixel, definitely. I’ve actually done it by collaging my own work, cutting out shapes from a larger piece and repeating it over and over, which is the most literal way to recreate it. I tend to lean towards searching for imagery and colors that are generally unexpected and somewhat clashing, yet harmonious at the same time, if that makes any sense at all.
M: How does it feel to see people remix your work?
C: It’s really cool to see people take elements you’ve searched for or developed, then cut up and rework it even more. The best remixes on Mixel seem to be the ones that rethink their elements entirely rather than just simply making a Part 2 of the original collage. Really it’s just fun, because in the context of Mixel, remixing and reusing things is encouraged and there seems to be a really friendly, positive community there.
M: Any advice to budding collage artists in Mixel?
C: Use as many of your own elements as possible. When you need something you have to do a web search for, really look around. Searching “sky” and just grabbing the first picture of a sky that pops up is a little easy. If you’re going to do it, do it well and put some effort in. Curate your elements and image selections carefully for a better end result. Participate, Like/Love other peoples stuff, comment, etc, all the things that make for a good community experience. Use Mixel as a sketchbook, a place to generate ideas, get ideas, and see things in new ways. I feel like the same goes for any creative endeavor though - sketching, drawing, writing, photography, arts of all kinds…do more of it, every day. Don’t get rusty as a creative person. Keep your mind occupied and imaginative. I’m looking at 2012 as the year where I absorb less and stop trying so hard to look for inspiration and simply create more and have more fun with it.