Tell us about your artwork, medium, style, subject matter, etc.
On the visual side, I create digital works using my own software. Each image is made by writing a separate program, and they vary from processed but recognizable photographs to complete abstractions. Lately I’ve been trying to work in between those two extremes, creating vaguely humanoid figures somewhat reminiscent of Native American petroglyphs, but also of 60s science-fiction artists such as Richard Powers.
Much of my music is also generated by software, both in the studio (where it can be given relatively free rein) and live, in a duo called Usufruct with flutist/singer Polly Moller (where I apply real-time control). I also play bass and compose for progressive-rock/avant-pop/etc. band Reconnaissance Fly.
What are your biggest challenges in creating art?
Doing computer-generated art is a bit like being a genetic engineer and a gardener at the same time. The challenge is to surrender enough control in engineer mode so that lots of interesting species grow that I could never have predicted in advance, but then to be fairly ruthless in gardener mode about pulling the weeds, pruning scraggly branches, and keeping things in reasonably organized beds. I’m a bit of a control freak by nature, so the first part is hard for me, but I find that it’s more rewarding in the end than trying to force the work into a preconceived vision.
After a lot of back and forth between the two modes, I end up with something I don’t quite understand and can’t seem to improve. That’s when I know I’m done! I run a whole bunch of “takes” (where the software creates something different each time), and pick the best one (or create a Frankenstein’s monster out of several good ones).
What is a day of working like in your studio/creative space?
I have a day job, and I do most of my work on my laptop, so it doesn’t really work like that for me! It’s all about grabbing some time during my lunch break, or while commuting, or whenever. (Bass practice and band rehearsals being the obvious exceptions–I haven’t figured out how to do those on my laptop yet.) I do have a small room for doing sound mixes and printing, but most of the “playing around” part–the important part–happens elsewhere.
Do you have any rituals that help you get motivated or in “the zone”?
I don’t really have a ritual–I close Facebook and Feedly and open Xcode or SuperCollider, that’s pretty much it–but I try to keep a few different projects in a state where the next step is pretty obvious, so I can get started quickly. Once I do that things usually move along fairly well.
When you are in need of inspiration are there particular things you read, listen to, look at or do to help find that idea or fuel your work?
I’m lucky enough (and have been doing this long enough) to have more ideas (not necessarily good ones, mind) than I have time to work on, and my process is more about discovery than imagination, so I don’t often find myself in need of inspiration per se. That said, like anyone else I go through periods where the horse just won’t jump over the fence, and I need to do something else for a while. But I don’t think of it as seeking inspiration–it’s more about giving the reservoir time to re-fill.
I definitely need artistic *nourishment* on an ongoing basis–it’s very important for me to read a lot, to get out on hikes, to listen to music and go to museums, and generally to keep myself open to the wider world. I don’t really do enough of this, to be honest–there’s always one… more… tweak… to make.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. Wait, that wasn’t me, that was Johnny Cash. Sometimes I forget.
What advice would you give others just beginning their creative careers?
Stop reading this and go make something! (Then come back. There’s a lot of cool stuff on this site.)