The Stories of Our Feathered Friends, by Austin D. Brigman
We have been running an art exhibit at The Hammer. I had been meaning to do something along these lines ever since we opened two years ago, but always seemed to get distracted by day-to-day issues of the place. I talked to Austin Brigman, one of the two artists featured, about some of his concepts. Austin is from Wisconsin, but now makes his home in the Little Ireland neighborhood of Yong He (永和), a suburb south of Taipei.
Me: What originally brought you to art? Or can you even remember?
Austin: I think I was drawing as soon as I could hold a pencil. There have always been things I could see in my mind that I couldn’t find in the world. I’m compelled to give these ideas a life of their own.
Me: Sorry, it's a boring and repetitive question, but what are you doing in Taiwan?
Austin: Teaching English, making art, learning Chinese, attempting to be an adult.
Me: Has Taiwan influenced you in how you proceed? If so, could you explain?
Austin: Of course. The scenery is amazing. I find the mountains and plant life as well as the urban jungle to be very inspirational. Living in a new country is very influential in itself. A lot of familiar elements are missing from my life and their absence causes a great deal of personal reflection. Not to mention all the new and exciting things I’m learning to adjust to.
Me: Who has in general influenced you? I mean both famous individuals and on a more personal level in terms of your art?
Austin: The list of my “heavy weight” influences begins with Van Gogh, Picasso, and Duchamp. My modern day influences include Greg “Craola” Simkins, Anthony Lister, and Burne Hogarth, among many others. I am also affected by the natural world (animals, plants, geology, weather, etc.).
Me: You have, just going over your catalog, shown an interest in the collage? I'm not saying this is all you do. But why are you into this genre?
Austin: Collage was a happy accident for me. I fell into it when I was working on my BFA at UW-River Falls. I was trying my hand at water color/marker/ink illustration. It was and is incredibly frustrating! I would work on a piece for hours, only for a single mistake to render it ruined. In a moment of frustration, I started cutting and ripping out drawings I enjoyed from various failed pieces. Slathering paint on them, fusing different elements together. I went a little crazy, but it felt right. It was a natural reaction to what I had seen as a constricting medium.
Me: What is your goal? Where are you moving / want to be moving in terms of your art?
Austin: I would love to make art that I’m more satisfied with than not. I still have a lot of work ahead of me. I’m looking to incorporate more realistic elements into my work (landscapes, figures, etc). I think my style is suitable for children’s stories. I really enjoyed reading books when I was young and seeing the great art that accompanied the stories. I want to give back and inspire young artists.
Me: OK then. What is something you find off putting about art right now?
Austin: I don’t need to see anymore mediocre fan art based on Zelda, Bioshock, V for Vendetta, League of Legends, The Last of Us, Star Wars, Portal, etc. Fan art needs to be really, really good to be acceptable. Otherwise it’s just piggy-backing off of someone else’s creativity.
Me: What encourages you generally and specifically in the art scene right now?
Austin: There are a lot of great street artists influencing people in public spaces. I think it’s important for people to have creative exercise, even if that only means responding to another person’s work.
Me: Any plans for the near future?
Austin: I have a few ideas for children’s stories that I would like to attempt. A vacation sounds nice too.
OK, speed round...
Me: What is the best color for painting?
Austin: There’s a color between robin’s egg blue and turquoise that I can’t get enough of.
Me: What is a topic you won't touch?
Me: How much time do you paint on a weekly basis?
This varies quite a bit. Some days I won’t paint at all. Others I’ll paint for three to four hours. There’s a lot of ebb and flow.
Me: When are you the most productive?
Austin: I work best at night (11pm to 2am).
Me: OK. I can't think of anything else at the moment. Thanks.
Austin at The Hammer