Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Artist of the Week

Chris Szostek
Over the next two weeks we are going to be featuring two artists that both work within the realm of digital or computer art, but both have drastically different results. As technology advances, so does the ability to create and manipulate simple sketches or photographs into complex pieces of art. The various programs and tools in the digital world have become a common part of artist's creative process, and this has resulted in an endless amount of visually appealing pieces of art. The time has come for this medium to be widely accepted in galleries across the world, and one artist preparing to take that next step into those galleries is Chris Szostek.
Chris is a freelance illustrator and designer from the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. He has worked primarily with the music industry, but he has recently been involved with the skydiving industry as well. He received his Bachelor's degree in multimedia and design in 2002, and he is setting big goals for himself while creating a very impressive portfolio. Recently, he was able to answer a few of our questions.

Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your work?
Chris Szostek (CS): I draw picture for use exclusively in children's books. Ok, maybe I don't, but I would like to do a kids book. In a word, messy. I'd say it definitely has a darker feel to it, even if I draw something warm and fuzzy it still seems a little twisted for some reason. A majority of what I'm doing is rarely planned out, it's a very loose process, very organic. It really depends on the mood I am in, but overall it seems to have a more somber tone. The humanistic drawings I do have a definite exaggerated aspect to them. Not in a caricature way, but something, usually the eyes, will be exaggerated a bit. I draw whatever is in my head, and there is no logical explanation for what is in there.

OA: Can you briefly take us through the process from sketch to finished piece?
CS: There really is no one process for me. For the past year I was working solely with ink, no pencils, nothing to predetermine what I was creating. It was a bit of an experiment and a bit of a form of accepting what I create. I struggled for a long time with trying to draw people in a style that I was told was correct. I've grown out of that now and am enjoying my own interpretation of the human form more and more. For the most part, I open the book, grab a pen and start drawing. I let the page evolve into what it wants to be. If I am only working with ink, it will be more of an impression of my idea that is fleshed out, when working with pencil layout first things are more exact. Most, if not all of my work is scanned within a day or so for archiving. Then some of it will get the digital treatment, balancing the contrast and eliminating the background. The most recent piece on my site started in ink, then scanned, and after about six hours of photo shop, I made what you see now. It's a mix of textures, wet media and imposed bone from a photograph I have. Another quick walk through is for the inked bunny. I drew a bunny with a variety of pens using india ink on this really nice bleed proof paper I just got and am obsessed with, then I splattered ink all over it, scanned it and it was done.
OA: Who are some of your biggest influence artistically?
CS: This is a hard one as I could go on and on about influences. The spectrum of styles they come from. Designers, illustrators, musicians, photographers & painters. I'll keep it short. Jamie Hewlett was in my mind allot last year when I was almost exclusively drawing warm and cuddly zombies and broken robots. Joel Peter Witkin's photography has been on my mind allot lately. David Mack & Dave McKean both have these wonderfully textured styles. Mack has this knack for collage work mixed with wet media, gel pens, and typography. McKean has been a long time influence on me. His work was some of the first I had seen that mixed traditional arts and photography with computers. His album art is pretty much what got me interested in doing cover art.

OA: With so many varied segments of the art world, where does graphic design and illustrations fit in?
CS: That's a question begging for a book. I'm thinking about this one and staring at my walls where I have two framed illustrations a painting and a variety of posters. To me, they are all works of art.
There is a different feeling about each of them though. The painting is a one of a kind on a piece of cardboard having no reason to exist other than the artists desire to create it. It was a gift and has many memories attached to it. One of the illustrations is also a one of a kind piece, it's a character the artist created and he drew this one piece, I have it, I can look into it and see the indentations where his pen made the marks. The other illustration is a lithograph made for the artists 10th anniversary of his book. It is number 186 of 300 and is signed. It may be a print, but I can still see his technique. The posters are both advertising something, one is a c.d.
and the other is for a design magazine. Some people say that because it is selling something it is no longer art. When does that line between lithography and commercial advertisement get crossed? Would the c.d. poster be a better work if it didn't have a release date on it? That point of mass production has caused many arguments over where design fits into the art world and what is art in general.
Think of Warhol and then rethink that. would his work be any less looked at if he put a release date on it? I think that the art world is constantly evolving based on society. A more direct answer is that they belong in the art world and to some, they are the art world.
There's more to say, but I'm going to stop now before I do write a book on this. Maybe I'll keep writing about it and send you a link when it's done.

OA: How has the Internet affected you as artist?
CS: The net has been a wonderful tool in research, networking, innovation and exposure. I have discovered loads of new artists. I love being able to see what's going on in other creative cultures and finding new styles. I've been able to research techniques and find out about new tools much more easily than if there were no net. I think I have been affected more by technology as a whole than just the net. Innovations in digital tools have created new art forms and new ways to approach old forms. Some of what I am doing now and will be doing soon would not have been possible without the tech behind it. It's allot easier to show your work as well. The digital portfolio has saved me a ton on postage and wondering if it went to the right place.

OA: Do you listen to music while you create? How does music affect your work?
CS: I've always got something playing. The music can help focus the piece, the texture of the sound, it's mood, all of that can be reflected in the art. Lately it's all been very wet visceral sounds, thick with layered parts. Anything from MuM to Trent Reznor to Tom Waits to Nicole Blackman. Anything that has a certain haunting feel to it. I also explore feeds so I can find new music. So, yes I'd say that music has a direct effect on what I produce.

OA: What's next for Chris Szostek?
CS: More experimenting with tech and illustration. Larger illustrations that won't fit on my scanner. I have some ideas for some video shorts I want to try that will combine illustrations, stop motion, and real world sets. Getting a large enough body of large work together and hitting the galleries, get my name out there more. I've been setting up a screen printing rig in my basement studio that is done enough for me to start printing. So that is going to lead into t-shirts. Eventually I'll have some comics out even if I self publish them. Selling work online. There is so much I still want to do.

Bonus Questions:

OA: Coffee? If yes what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your
favorite coffee spot?
CS: Yes, more, thank you and always. Whole Bean and in this order.
Jamaican Blue Mountain (from Jamaica not the U.S. distributed stuff), Bolivian from Trader Joe's, Kenyan, Arabic (made correctly).
I haven't been there in awhile, but, the Pick Me Up cafe in Chicago is a great place. Mainly I brew my own and drink it at home.

OA: What is last album you purchased?
CS: 23rd & Stout by Chuck E. Weiss & We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank by Modest Mouse

For more information on Chris Szostek visit his Website and check out it most recent portfolio. He also has a deviantART page here.