Interview With Artist David Lloyd

Houston artist David Lloyd's sketches struck a chord with me on sight.

At first, I was at a loss when I tried to find the words to identify what it was that drew me to his art in that way.  I felt the connection, but couldn't quite point to why his work triggered something both familiar and emotional within me.

Then I knew.

In my youth, we often visited my grandparents during the summers and holidays. Sometimes my parents would send us to stay with them for a couple of weeks. We played croquet or makeshift softball in the backyard. We played board games and card games with my grandparents. (My grandfather loved Skip-Bo. It was his game of choice.) In many ways, as my grandmother said more than once, she and my grandfather were like a second set of parents for us. We were so lucky to have that kind of bond.

The time with them was invaluable and I believe their love and encouragement did much to make us who we turned out to be.

My grandparents  kept a large collection of Reader's Digest Condensed Books around, and we read a lot when we were with them. Many of those books were written in the 1950s and 1960s. If you are not familiar with Reader's Digest books, they are (or were) illustrated every so often within each condensed book. and each volume would contain three or four books. I would say from reading those books that sketch illustration was very common in those particular decades. 

I enjoyed the fact that in the way the illustrations were drawn, the gestures and postures of the characters were suggested, yet the reader had some leeway in deciding what the characters might actually look like in the flesh. Some aspects were hinted about much more than defined. I read so many of those books, and even as a young adult, I appreciated that the stories were illustrated. (Which may be why I enjoy picture books both as literature and as an art form to this day.)

 In this interview, David Lloyd discusses paintings as time machines, taking us back to another time, evoking a memory. In style, his work certainly does that for me. Additionally, I cannot help but notice the freshness and a unique sophistication to his work.

Artist David Lloyd


What catches your eye in a scene that makes it something you want to sketch?

Light, first and foremost.  Subjects, no matter how inherently interesting, are not worth painting if they are not lit well.  Light is key.  As for my choice of subjects, that is based on a combination of my own interests and my best judgment of what my audience enjoys.  With my representational work, especially, I cannot afford to be passionate about every subject I paint.  But I do try to ensure that at least some viewers will be.

There are so many styles of painting and illustration. What made the sketch appealing to you? What do you think makes it interesting to viewers?

For me, sketches are a release valve.  As you may know, I make my living painting larger, fully rendered paintings for galleries.  This can be a tedious and stressful process accompanied by heightened expectations.  By comparison, sketches are raw, down to earth, and almost immediately satisfying...a real joy to do.  I think viewers appreciate sketches for the same reason.  I think they show an artist at his least inhibited, most relaxed, playful, and experimental.  It is a bonus, too, to have work that can be offered at a fraction of the price of gallery works.  There is nothing quite like owning original art, and sketches help make it financially accessible.

Do you remember when you realized that you had an interest and a talent in art?

Like most of us, I've been making art since childhood.  But I also learned early that while I had a natural interest, I didn't exactly have a natural talent.  I remember being very competitive about it with a cousin of mine, who was much more skilled than I.  We'd copy what we saw in comic books, and mine were always worse than his.  That must have really gotten under my skin, because here I am.  Of course, talent is a tricky term.  I believe less in talent and more in the repetitive building of skills and good habits.  I've always had the will to create art, but have worked my entire life to improve technically...a pursuit that continues to this day. 

The Train


Green Vespa
You have sketched various types of transportation. Do you have a favorite car to sketch? What interests you about transportation as subject matter?

If I had to pick a favorite, I'd say the Airstream travel trailers.  Not only because of their fantastic reflections, which are a lot of fun to replicate, but also because of what they represent.  I love traveling by highway, and there is no more stylish and romantic way to go than in one of these.  Though I am not a motorhead, per se, I do love looking at vintage cars, especially the quirkier models.  I find it remarkable how emotionally connected we are to our machines.  I don't suppose anyone could fully relate their life story without recalling some of his or her more memorable cars.  I know that when our family album comes out, attention is always paid to the dozens of cars mounted on those pages...each sparking numerous stories and delineating the various eras in our family history.

Foyer and Staircase

Dining Room with Decorative Plates

Dark Study
What do you look for in your creative process to create a sense of atmosphere? 

Light, again!

What makes a room interesting to sketch?

My studio, my life in general, is an absolute mess.  My interiors, though real places, are essentially fantasy pieces...any room that I can imagine myself spending a quiet moment in will do.

Are the scenes that you sketch completed exactly as they appear to your eyes, or do you imagine for instance a bookcase where there actually isn’t one and put it in your sketch? Do you use props in your sketches?

I do not intentionally add objects or rearrange the scene, though I often edit things that interfere with the composition, like awkward angles, clutter, etc.  I rarely depart from what is presented to me, though I am a great believer in simplifying as much as possible.  I am not freakishly interested in accuracy but I do try to get a fair representation.  I do not use props, unless I'm doing still life.

 What influences you as an artist?

As far as style is concerned, my initial influences have kept me on a path from which I rarely deviate.  My style is rooted in impressionism, and that's probably where it will stay.  I do still look at my contemporaries, but mostly to admire their creativity.  A patron of mine once insisted that an artist must look around and see what others are doing.  I think that's only true if the artist really wants or needs to.

How would you describe your art? 

A fellow artist once referred to my work as telegraphic, and I think that is an apt term.  To some degree I am a minimalist, seeking to find the most direct, efficient and straightforward ways to portray my subject.  But these moments of clarity are often interrupted by the occasional abstract shock, or subtle, whimsical passages easily missed if the strokes are not inspected.  To me, a successful work should look like it is struggling to hold itself together...as if the elements have materialized just long enough for you to admire them, and that it all might fall apart at any moment.


Gray Paris

Would you mind talking about ‘Gray Paris’? What inspired that painting? Where in Paris was it sketched?

I visited Paris in the year 2000 and came home with ten rolls of film.  I sort through them from time to time.  I came across this photo and was drawn to the combination of people and traffic, especially that white compact car.  I also liked the typical gray weather and thought it all added up to a great version of Paris.  We were just wandering about when the photo was taken so I have no detailed notes about the location.  It is so typical, it could be anywhere...I suppose that is, in part, what makes it a successful painting.

Have you sketched Houston landscapes?

Very few.  I have been asked to do more...perhaps I will in the future.

Do you have a favorite sketch that you’ve done? Why is it your favorite?

I have a small, relatively simple landscape that I kept for myself for no particular reason.  I framed it and happened to situate it in such a way that I see it every day.  I've grown to love it and I could never let it go.  The piece is nothing out of the ordinary, but my relationship with it, perhaps out of sheer repetitive exposure, has elevated it.  Precious few pieces stay around long enough for me to get so attached.

Great Dane

Tabby Cat Birding

Are animals difficult to sketch?

My answer is going to sound like a lecture, but here goes:

In theory, good technique renders all subjects equal. A good representationalist will trust his training and will look past his subject, especially if he feels intimidated by it.  If you understand the principles of your medium, subject and difficulty are not related.  There is no difference between rendering a tree, a boat or an animal when you consider that they are all created with color, edges, shape, tone, etc.  I submit that a painter could paint a perfectly described scene without understanding at all what she was looking at.  It is an obstacle, in fact, to know a subject as anything other than shapes, colors, values...when your psychology says to you "this is a dog...this is going to be hard" you've already made your first big mistake.

Retro Typewriter

Rotary Phone
What draws you to nostalgia as subject matter?

As with vintage cars, these objects have the power to evoke forgotten or buried periods in people's lives.  Reminiscing is a sensation like no other, but not something we often intentionally initiate.  Paintings are good catalysts, helping people recall meaningful periods in their lives.  Simply by asking someone to look at an object for a moment, they can be transported, reconnected.  In this way, a manual typewriter is really a time machine.  In my paintings I rarely feel the need to add context...the object itself is powerful enough...an empty room...a car...a rotary phone...because everyone has their own stories they project into the painting.  I do not need to dictate...I merely provide the stimulus to let the viewer make his own connection.  I am not a storyteller, but I like to think that I build great sets.

Any upcoming shows or exhibitions you want to mention?

I am taking time off from shows.  It is an exciting but very draining process.  For now, I'm letting my galleries handle things while I focus on making better paintings.  You can see what's new at Edward Montgomery Fine Art in Carmel, California.

 What do you like the most about what you do?

The opportunity to achieve a peaceful, meditative, creative state of mind on a regular basis.  And the commute.

 David, thank you so much! I really appreciate your time and thoughts for this interview. I especially appreciate what you said about not being intimidated by an image when trying to paint it. Speaking for myself, I had not thought of breaking it down in that way, and I genuinely appreciate your perspective!

In addition to Edward Montgomery Fine Art listed above, David can be found through The David Lloyd Gallery on Etsy or you can stop by his blog.

All images in this interview are used by permission, are property of David Lloyd, and are copyright protected.


Interview With Sculptor Kim Beaton

When I first viewed this tree troll sculpture image, the very first thing that came to mind, other than of course the size and aesthetic magnetism of the sculpture itself, was the troll's eyes coupled with that benevolent expression. He looks powerful and able to crush human beings if that were his aim.  Yet, looking into his eyes, and with that contented smile he wears, he radiates gentleness.

I wanted to know what it would be like to build a sculpture of this magnitude in tandem with twenty-five other artists. When reading about the sculpted Tree Troll for this interview, it was mentioned that the artists were hoping to find the sculpture a permanent residence. Not only did I want to know more about the creative process of sculpting the tree troll, but felt I needed to know that the troll did in fact have a home. (Just look at that face.  Can't have a tree troll with a kind face like that out in the cold.)   ;-) I'll leave it to the reader to discover his creation, inspiration, and good fortune.

Sculptor Kim Beaton

In 2006, with the help of twenty-five volunteer artists, you built a giant tree troll.
How did you recruit your 25 volunteers to build this troll?

I have been a working sculptor in Seattle for 30 years. I just called up about a dozen friends and asked them to put the word out that I was building a big sculpture. It was done with word of mouth rather than emailing.

What was that like, working with twenty five others for this purpose?

There were never more than ten at any given time in the studio. The studio was open for volunteers between 10 am till 10pm. This way, whether someone was going to work, attending school, or came from across town, there was always a window of time for them to show up.

Did the vision change as the efforts progressed?

Oh yes, daily. You rapidly discover what people can do, how many volunteers can show up,  or whether the materials are doing what they are supposed to do. My rule with any big project is that I need to already know how to do at least 50% of the work. Everything else you can learn on the job. This way each project is teaching you something new and allowing you to work with new people. This keeps your mind fresh to new ideas and techniques. 

The materials you used were non-toxic. What sorts of materials were involved?

Paper, glue, acrylic paint, wood, screws, metal plates. Nothing that gave off fumes or couldn't be washed of with soap and water. 

 What challenges did you run into?

Getting the materials in the late evenings for the volunteers to work on the next day. Occasionally there were personality conflicts, but those are resolved by folks just coming in at a different time.

Does the tree troll have a name?

We came up with the name Jotuntre, which is king of the trees in Norwegian (I think), but it never caught on. We always called him the Tree Troll. 

What sort of reaction did people have for him locally?

He traveled around Seattle for about 2 years. He showed up at Fairs, parades, markets and such. The Reaction? Genuine love.... Reverence.... Joy.... Delight.... It isn't that we didn't expect these reactions, we just never expected anything to begin with. We loved building it. The response took a long time to grow. The Tree Troll began to slowly get seen around the city many months after we built it. 


How do you store a work of that size?

It might have been difficult, but so many people and places wanted to borrow him that there was never a time that he didn't have a home. He sort of sofa surfed for a few years. 

Has he been given a permanent home since 2006?

Yes, The Bellagio Casino purchased him after one of their representatives saw him in the Fremont Solstice Parade. Now, for 2 1/2 months of the year, around Thanksgiving, he is put on display. It is wonderful, about a quarter million people see him during that time. He is kept indoors, and is well cared for in a climate controlled environment. Being paper-mache, this is the perfect place.

Note from Wendy: I found some pictures of the tree troll in his new habitat here.

You mention tree tolls from Scandinavian Mythology. Would you mind telling about them and their common attributes? What do they tend to represent in those stories?

There is not a particular myth that we were taking from. The idea of a man-like personification of the forest goes back thousands of years. In more recent centuries he is pictured as the Green Man that shows up in hundreds of sculptures throughout Europe. Wikipedia says it the most poetically...

His name means the Green One or Verdant One, he is the voice of inspiration to the aspirant and committed artist. He can come as a white light or the gleam on a blade of grass, but more often as an inner mood. The sign of his presence is the ability to work or experience with tireless enthusiasm beyond one's normal capacities. In this there may be a link across cultures, …one reason for the enthusiasm of the medieval sculptors for the Green Man may be that he was the source of every inspiration.

Though, this was not the original reason I organized everyone to build our Tree Troll. That reason is very personal. The Tree Troll is a portrait of my Dad, Hezzie Strombo. He was a lumberjack in Montana for most of our lives. He had died a few months prior at 80 years old.  On June 2nd, at 3am, I woke from a dream with a clear vision burning in my mind. The image of my dad, old, withered and ancient, transformed into one of the great trees, sitting quietly in a forest.  I leaped from my bed, grabbed some clay and sculpted like my mind was on fire. In 40 minutes I had a rough sculpture that said what it needed to. The next morning I began making phone calls, telling my friends that in 6 days time we would begin on a new large piece. The next 6 days, I got materials and made more calls. On June 8th we began, and 15 days later we were done. I have never in my life been so driven to finish a piece.

You have created more than this project in collaboration with others. What do you like about collaborating as an artist?

That is like asking a drummer why they like being in a band. It makes sense that musicians always work collaboratively, so why is such a stretch that sculptors would want to also? The idea of the lone artist creating their vision is true, but it can also be very isolating. I like a 50/50 balance. Isolation for the initial thought, and then get a group together for the construction.  

On your website, you wrote : "There is a great deal of beautiful art in this city, but most of it only looks good standing by itself. The classic monument style is cluttered and diminished if there are people standing in front. I wanted to create a sculpture whose composition was completed when someone was nearby. It should look at it’s best with the public involved.”
Can you think of any examples you have come across of a landmark or statue, any kind of public art that fits that criteria besides the troll you and the volunteers constructed?

One  in particular, a pair of gigantic wings with a circle in the middle that showed up at Burning Man a few years ago. A perfect example of a sculpture that is completed with the presence of people.

Did you (and the volunteers) accomplish what you meant to do?

Yes, we did, what we wanted to do was come together, work collaboratively on big fun sculpture and make some good memories. The fact we also had a sculpture to show for the effort is a plus.

Thank you, Kim! It was a great experience to learn more about your work and the creation of this very unique, endearing sculpture, and it is reassuring to know he has a place to call home. :) To learn more about Kim's work, visit her studio, or her website. Kim may be emailed at Kimsculptor@gmail.com, or may be contacted through the following address:

 Kim Beaton
Unit 14, 1 Duchess Place
Maupuia 6022
Wellington, NZ

All images on this page are used with permission and are copyright protected.

Other Artists Associated With This Project:

Rob Rogalski: Illustrator, Designer, and Puppeteer

The Pacific Northwest Sculptors:
Eben Graber
Patrica Hasse
Heidi Wastsweet
Greg Fields

The Art Institute Students:
Jasmine Gilbert
Pasha Amigud
Sarah Bolte

Local sculptors:
Bruce Johnson
Jina Graham
Laura Toepel
Karlee Anger
Daniel Joyce
Rowan Mullen
Jon Hageman
Marnie Tyson
Jim Burdwell
Julie Wright
Dan Fozzard
Brandy Cannon
Drew Robinson
William Higareda


Interview with Found Object Artist Kerry Heath

“Montpelier, Ohio, Oct.6 1963-Hung by my ankles, spanked on the ass by a doctor, cried like a little baby, and met my new parents for the first time. (cute couple) The spanking didn't hurt, I cried because there was no art on the walls. Very sad.”
--Found Object Artist Kerry Heath

Art Heart 5

What breathes life into your work? 

My passion for art and creating something from raw materials, this is a huge part of who I am.

Among your other work, you create ‘found art’ sculpture. I suspect you tend to see artistic value in objects that many people take for granted or even discard. Do you think sculptors who create using found objects see the world in a unique way?

I think all artists see the world in a unique way but I also think that some people just don't look. Beauty and inspiration is everywhere.

Fillet of Fish 3

Twisted Fish 116

Twisted Fish 56

What was the inspiration for your Twisted Fish series? There are so many of them, though each is unique; I am thinking when inspiration hit you, it really hit you. :) Would that be correct?

I sold my work at the Sarasota Farmer's Market for 4 years and that's when I started creating my Twisted Fish. They were a big hit with my customers and they're still popular today.

Your Twisted Fish series sculptures are so expressive and colorful. I know your work has been featured on HGTV's Crafters Coast to Coast and is in collections all over the world. What do you think is the attraction of collectors to found object art? What was the pull for you to get into that particular form of sculpture?

I've always been a bit of a pack rat so I have lots of treasures that I've collected over the years and I'm always searching for more. I think art collectors are always looking for that one unique piece, that piece that you never get tired of looking at and with found object art, the sky is the limit.




You also create hand-carved art. How do you decide what the faces will look like? Is the wood type or wood grain part of that decision, or does that matter?

I doodle and sketch a lot so I have stacks of designs to refer to. The wood grain has little to do with my designs since most of my work is finished with paint. Basswood is my favorite wood to carve my designs in.

Do you see the faces as you work, or do you know in advance the expressions that you want to create?

I love to take a block of wood and just start drawing on it but I usually make a lot of changes as I go so I don't have many pencils around with erasers left on them.


This work is unique in that 3D glasses are another part of the viewing experience. This work is actually painted in 3-D. What made you think of that? Have you created other works of this type?

Certain color combinations are used to get the 3d affect, there are no special paints required. Most of my paintings are done in 3d.

What makes you feel that your work is completed and ready for display? Do you have a sort of internal checklist of the elements that need to be present?

I really don't have a checklist. I could always add something new to a "finished" piece so in my mind no piece is ever finished until it's sold.

What is a typical project like for you as an artist, in terms of planning and construction? How long does it typically take to complete a project?

This is a tough question for me to answer. I have so many ideas and designs in mind so it's hard to focus on just one at a time, I never do. I typically have 75 to 100 pieces in progress.

Big Hug 4U

Are you ever surprised by your work?

No, I'm happy with my work but never surprised.

Do you have a favorite project that you have completed?

I don't really have a favorite project but I did build my tv cabinet and I'm quite fond of this piece. It has a lot of hand carved work and found objects in the design. A very colorful, funky piece. I've thought about listing it on Etsy but I wouldn't sell it for less than 15,000.00

Mini Mask 21

Jazz Man 4

Mona the Mermaid

What primarily inspires an idea for your work – the materials, or something external?

I am inspired by everything around me. I keep a sketch pad with me at all times, I have many. I see things in my dreams so I keep one next to my bed.

Road Rage 4

There is humor in your work. Was it a tough day on the road that inspired this one? (I had to ask.) :--)

No, it wasn't a tough day on the road. I'm a very laid back driver, my father is the road rager.

What do you like most about what you do?

My freedom to create and to come and go as I please, my freedom. With my work, I allow people to laugh and smile in this sometimes too serious world that we live in and this makes me happy. I'm not ashamed to say this but I also struggle with anxiety so my time in the studio is also therapy for me. I can't imagine my life without my art!

Thank you, Kerry! I appreciate your time and thoughtful answers about your fun and unique art!

To see more of Kerry Heath's art, visit his Etsy shop Fig Jam Studio.

All images in this interview are used by permission, are property of Kerry Heath, and are copyright protected.


Interview With Clay Sculptor Jennifer Rudkin

“Working with clay feels mystical to me. It’s always exciting –but also terrifying– to open the kiln after heating the sculptures to 2165 degrees for their final firing. Many weeks of work lie within. Has the mud transformed to stone or melted away? Have the pieces regained their vibrancy or do they retain the chalky lifelessness of bisqueware? There are always pieces for which I have high expectations that don’t catch the magic, but there are also sculptures that dance with a life I did not expect.” 

-- Clay Sculptor Jennifer Rudkin

President of the Lazy Club (Custom Piece)
 How did you get started with clay sculpture? When did you know you were a sculptor?

I enrolled in clay classes at the Y when I was very young, maybe 6 or 7. And then I took about 25 years off. I pursued an academic career. In 1995 a university class I planned to teach on Psychology and Social Change was under-enrolled so I had an unexpected free evening. A friend invited me to go with her to a drop-in clay class. When my fingers squeezed into the clay something deep was triggered. From that point on I knew I needed to find a way to work with clay again and I have done so, more and more each year. About a year and a half ago I became a full-time professional sculptor.

What made you choose animals as your subject matter? 

It wasn’t a conscious choice. I’ve always felt an affinity to animals and I almost always end up building animals. One fun aspect of sculpting is that in addition to filling custom orders and gallery requests, I can always find time in a day to create something unexpected. When I walk into the studio in the AM I never know precisely what/who will end up on the drying table at the end of the day. So far, 99% of the time, the table fills with animals.

Fool for Love - Frog

Ceramic Snail with Heart Shell
The eyes in your sculptures seem to look deeply into the eyes of the viewer. Is that intentional?

Yes and no. I don’t consciously set out to do that but I have to create sculptures that speak to me (and hopefully to others). The creations are silent and so they speak mostly through their eyes. But I don’t want them to speak only through their eyes.  When I work with very young children, who often want to make the eyes right away, I tell them the eyes are like dessert. I do all I can to get the character and personality and dog-ness or bear-ness or whatever I’m making, into the body and the pose. The eyes come last.

In your blog on your website, you mention that some of your work was displayed at the Boulder Public Library. I wonder that experience was like in terms of community feedback and library support of your work?

One of the wonderful aspects of showing my work anywhere is that my sculptures often make people not only smile but laugh out loud. I feel so lucky to play a part in that experience of joy. And I love to support libraries—perhaps the most precious social institution in my life. Writing figured prominently in my academic life and I have always loved books and words.

Exhibit - Boulder Public Library - Suessian Series
Suessian Series Slideshow on Facebook
Duck on a Truck
Hippopotamus on a Greyhound Bus
Your take on Dr. Seuss’s rhymes  in the Suessical Series made me think of Green Eggs and Ham in particular, where Sam I Am persistently attempts to convince his fellow character of the merits of eating green eggs and ham. Since clearly you are a fan of Dr. Seuss, I wonder what you think is the appeal his books have for readers, and what made you think of using that rhyming concept for this particular work?

I love that Dr. Suess is both silly and serious.  Dr. Suess was a pretty radical guy. He took on important issues. People make a mistake when they are dismissive of silliness, as any student of Saul Alinsky knows.

I’m not sure exactly where the Suessian Series idea came from (or where any idea comes from, really) but part of why I love that series is because it’s interactional.  Viewers seem to really enjoy guessing the rhymes. Also, the series stretched me as an artist. I had never made most of the animals that appear in the series before. So I got to add moose and crab and chimp and all sorts of creatures to my repertoire. And hunting for the perfect antique vehicles was great fun, too.
Golden Doodle in a Blanket

Would you mind talking about the purpose of the IDOG organization and your involvement in it? How does your work benefit that organization?

About seven years ago, when my two sons were old enough to appreciate and respect animals in our home, a labradoodle puppy named Tupelo Honey joined our family. We got him a companion (a rescue mutt named Shoni) for his first birthday, and the following year we hand-raised three abandoned kittens and kept one, Amelia. All three animals matter but Tupelo Honey holds a special place as my Muse. He is goofy, cuddly, excessively enthusiastic, and completely joy motivated—which means he gets into trouble all the time—eating what he shouldn’t, running off, sleeping wherever he pleases (the dining room table, for example).  As much work as he is, and he is a LOT of work, I really admire him. And so I welcomed a chance to create a fundraiser in his honor. IDOG is an international non-profit that supports the responsible ownership and breeding of labradoodles and goldendoodles. They also provide rescue services. During the month of October, if anyone who buys a sculpture mentions IDOG, I donate 30% of the purchase price to that organization.

You also have been involved with the  Art Students League of Denver.  What do you enjoy about contributing toward that organization through your talent?

Of course I love to support art and artists for many reasons, but one of the fun aspects of my involvement with this League is that I take classes that have nothing to do with ceramic sculpture. As a professional artist I need to be sure to make time to play.

 What appeals to you as an artist about using art to help the community in some way?

My degree is in community psychology. I have always had an interest in understanding and supporting communities. This continues as an artist. And it seems to be true of many artists—we are a pretty socially conscious and dedicated group as a whole.  I guess it has to do with the desire to make spaces beautiful and meaningful.

On your blog, you also mention that you teach clay sculpture classes. What is the most fulfilling or interesting aspect of that process for you? 

Working with clay was an important part of my childhood. My affinity with the material lay dormant for decades but when I got back to the clay, my fingers remembered. I love giving young people an opportunity to form that connection with clay, a connection that will be there always.

Oh My
Lions and Tigers and Bears. :-) Would ‘whimsical’ be a good adjective for your work? How would you describe it?

Oh my goodness. That’s a question I think on a LOT. Do you have a few hours for my answer?
Without a doubt THE adjective most commonly used to describe my work is “whimsical.”  So I’ve had to make peace with that word. 

At first I fought this descriptor. The main reason I object to the term is that it implies a lack of seriousness and depth. Synonyms of whimsical include: flighty, erratic, flaky, light, flippant, nonchalant, capricious, erratic, unstable, and careless. You get the picture. I have found that a lot of people, including quite a few fellow artists, cannot take seriously anyone whose art may be described as “whimsical.”

On the other hand, there are aspects of the term that I do embrace:  playful, odd, unexpected, singular, unusual,spirited, amusing, weird, queer, humorous, eccentric, animated. So I play with this dichotomy describing my work as “Fine Art Whimsy” or “Whimsical Pathos.”

My work is not born out of a sense of carelessness. Quite the contrary. I believe my art has grown from the heaviness I felt as a young person, the profound loneliness that characterized my daily life.  As a young child, my first sculptures were efforts to make true companions for myself. I believed that if I could really capture the soul of my subject, the sculpture would actually come to life.

I want my sculptures to bring joy but also to have depth…faithful companions as opposed to fair-weather friends.

Are there other books that have in any way inspired your work? Are you planning any upcoming series inspired by literature?

I read a lot and I love playing with language but I can’t say any books directly inspire my work. Certainly I am attracted to authors who pair seriousness and silliness. I note that I am writing these words on Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday.

As for a future series…It’s not literature exactly but I have thought of doing another guessing game based on sculptural depictions of Beatles songs.

Road Trip
This one just made me smile. Would you mind talking about this one and the creative process of bringing it into being?

Well, it’s Tupelo Honey the Muse at work again. His passion for tennis balls makes its way into many of my sculptures (check out my recent newsletter ).

The Road Trip sculpture has its roots in the wonderful toy car from the 30s. I got it cheap because of the missing doors but I knew I could find a way to make that “flaw” part of the sculpture. My first thought was to build some beasts peeking out of the car but an aspect of the toy car’s charm is the father in the driver’s seat and daughter in the passenger seat. It’s a family car.  I thought about packing up for a family trip and the idea for the sculpture came to me. The Saint Bernard has absolutely everything he needs for a road trip. Sticks and balls. That’s it. He’s ready now. I love that simplicity and clarity about what is really important, which isn’t necessarily the things that cost a lot of money.  You can’t take everything on a road trip, only what you really need to make your vacation sing.

This reminds me of the question of what you would grab if your house caught fire. What really matters? For Tupelo Honey and the Saint Bernard in that sculpture, the answer is clear.

Turtle Sculpture Ceramic Container

Buffalo Ornament
Some of your work is functional sculpture. You make dog bowls, ornaments, and containers. Are there other items of this type that you are working on or planning?

I’ve been trying to set aside time to make more vases for the coming of spring but I keep getting sidetracked. My current delight is animals in hats—jester hats mostly but also party hats. I keep telling myself, okay, enough with the hats already, but then I keep making more and the sculptures are getting bigger and bigger. I also have plans for various animals in shoes. I’ve made rabbits in Chuck Taylors and in bunny slippers and I have some new ideas for animals in various types of footwear.

Any upcoming shows or exhibitions you’d like to mention?

There are always upcoming shows but let me highlight a spring fundraiser for a local mountain biking group called SMBA.: Singletrack Mountain Bike Adventures. Last summer my older son rode the trails of Colorado with this wonderful non-profit and developed not only great cycling skills but also a deep passion for mountain biking and the outdoors. His enthusiasm is contagious and my younger son hopes to join the mountain biking fun this summer. Community-minded artists in a variety of media will show and sell their bike-themed, nature-themed, and other art at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art on May 3. A portion of the proceeds will benefit SMBA's youth scholarship program.

What is the most appealing aspect of your work for you personally?

If you asked me that question on 10 occasions I’m sure I would have 10 different answers but today what comes to mind is how wonderful it feels to make my living using the right side of my brain. I spent so many years living on the left side.  I feel so much more balanced.

Thank you, Jennifer! I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about you and your work!
To see more of Jennifer Rudkin's work, visit her studio, her Etsy Shop, or her Facebook page.  Additionally, she may be contacted through her email address, which is jen@rudkinstudio.com.

All images on this page are used by permission, are property of Jennifer Rudkin, and are copyright protected.

Postscript: As I have mentioned elsewhere in my blog, one of the great joys of interviewing artists for me is that I continue to learn, and sometimes my misconceptions are put right.

If you have seen the movie 'The Princess Bride,' do you remember how the character of Vizzini keeps saying, 'Inconceivable!' every time something does not go according to his plan? Many things do not go according to his plan, and he says this word many times. Mandy Patinkin, in character as Inigo Montoya, finally observes aloud to him, " You keep using that word. I do not think that word means what you think it means."

I have to admit that the word 'whimsical' lacked negative connotation for me. I honesty believed it meant the artist's ability to add an additional unexpected layer of fun to their art. It connoted for me a sense of joy in addition to the creation itself. I am sure I have used that word in many instances when admiring someone's art. If you were on the receiving end of that comment, I will hope that you know my comment was kindly meant. I will be more careful (and hopefully more specifically descriptive) now that I know better. :-)