• Photo Diary: Mixed Textures with Calvin Ross Carl

    Using colors that we want to use for our spring decorating inspo, artist Calvin Ross Carl blends pastel colors and pure whites to create textured, 3D paintings. Here, we talk to him about who inspired his creativity growing up, how he creates the unusual textures in his work, and what work he's looking forward to in 2016.

    Hi Calvin! Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
    Hello! I’m an artist and designer in Portland, Oregon. I’ve called the Pacific Northwest home my whole life. My paintings use language and simple graphics to poke at the delight and mundaneness of life, love, and work. I am also the Co-Director of Carl & Sloan Contemporary, an art gallery here in Portland where we show work by artists from Portland and beyond. We focus mostly on artists working with abstraction or non-representative painting and sculpture.

    What made you decide to go to school for a BFA? Was there anything/anyone in particular that inspired you growing up?
    My father is an incredibly skilled woodworker. There was always a certain pride in knowing how to make something with your own hands. He also played guitar and my older brother did as well, so eventually I learned. The crafter and the musician are both great trades with a good deal of myth surrounding them, so they were the only things I was ever attracted to. Rock 'n roll and art. Going to art school just became inevitable.

    What kind of things do you draw on for inspiration currently?
    I always think of boredom as being the best inspiration. And all my text paintings are definitely the uncertain ramblings of a mind with too much time on its hands. Besides inundating you with a long lists of artists like Blinky Palermo, Lynda Benglis and Anne Truitt, I have been getting a lot of inspiration lately from rereading all of Dave Hickey’s books. There is a level of fearlessness and authenticity in the way he writes about art. It’s been a great reminder to be be fearless when I am writing my own text for paintings.

    We love the textural aspect of your pieces – can you tell us a little bit about your creation process for them?
    Every painting starts with only pencil and paper and writing a lot of short phrases. I often appropriate something else I heard or read, then use word association to take it to a place that resonates with me. After that, everything is gridded out on canvas and the painting begins. Each stroke is made from a single brush that is very heavily loaded with paint. This creates a fun play between the hard edge of a grid and the specificity of language, with the looseness of such a messy mark and an imperfect surface. I have also been adding spray enamel at certain points in the process to creative the illusion of iridescent colors.

    Do you find that your artistic style transfers to your home aesthetic (lots of textures, geometry, etc.)?
    Honestly, I pay very little attention to what the style of my house is. I feel like I’m always too busy to really invest in a home aesthetic. It tends to be an interesting mix between my love for mid-century and geometric design and my wife’s affinity for French and Victorian-era styles. Really the only preferences I have are sparseness and very little clutter.

    Do you have a favorite material or medium that you like to work with/in? If so, what do you most enjoy about it?
    I’m fairly medium agnostic, since I’ve waxed and waned between painting and sculpture for many years. I just use whatever tool gets the job done. Lately that tool has been acrylic paint and canvas. Acrylic largely because I love its plastic-ness when used heavily in my paintings.

    How has your work changed in the last 5 years?
    Hopefully it has gotten better. Five years ago I was working more sculpturally. The work was more about existing in the American workforce and its aesthetics being translated through formalism. My perspective still comes from the same blue collar background, but it has become more and more personal over time. I’ve shrugged off the academic thinking that is often a product of art school. I battle less and less with the ghosts of art history and more with my own ghosts.

    What's the biggest struggle for you as an artist (either creatively or otherwise)?
    Time. It’s always the greatest struggle for any artist. It takes a great amount of willpower to spend your free moments in the studio. I thought as I got older I would find a better balance, but I am finding that defending your time in the studio seems to be a never-ending challenge. Everything else in life wants to take that away from you.

    Can you tell us a little bit more about the upcoming Jenny Zhang-inspired festival you'll be a part of in March?
    It’s a one-night exhibition curated by Vignettes in Seattle, in partnership with the APRIL Festival (Authors, Publishers and Readers of Independent Literature) on March 19. All of the work is made or chosen to coincide with a selection from Jenny Zhang’s book of poetry “Dear Jenny, We Are All Find.” Show info can be found on the Vignettes site.

    Anything else you have coming up that you're excited for?
    I will be in the Portland2016 Biennial, curated by Michelle Grabner, in July 2016. She is one of my favorite artists and curators, and I’m incredibly flattered to be a part of the show.

    To see more from Calvin, follow his work on Instagram
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