CJS: My work mixes religious rituals, level-up narratives, with a dash of institutional critique in the style of a second-rate Durer making Diablo fan art.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
CJS: Manga, Mormonism, Baldur’s Gate, pottery, Skyrim, landscape painting, Minimalism, The Bible, abstraction trends.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/ piece of artwork?
CJS: Occasionally I start with a big idea usually dealing with some sort of existential crisis. I’ll think about the idea for months and when I get the proper setting and motivation roll out a big piece of paper and start working. Usually at the beginning of the summer when I finish teaching. The bigger the drawing, the bigger the idea. Most of the time I’ll put a blank piece of paper in front of me and start drawing a landscape until something appears. Sometimes I’ll grid out a piece of paper and react to the grid.
CH.89: Is there anything in particular that you would want people to take from your artwork?
CJS: Not one thing. I just hope they keep looking and keep finding details to care about. Emotional, formal, or narrative.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?
CJS: It’s very different now that my wife and I live in Ohio and have a daughter and another child on the way. Expending the time to make art is getting harder to justify. I put so much into it and get very little back financially. And that used to not matter. But it’s really hard trying to make ends meet as an artist/art educator/family man. So I keep going back and forth between continuing to make art with little support, or spend that time trying to retrain myself for the job market so we can afford health insurance. And I’m sure most artists reading this are chastising me for having children and desiring a real art career. I thought it was possible to do both. I guess I don’t participate too much in the art world right now or even local art community. I’m trying to figure out the Columbus, Ohio scene and haven’t been able to find it yet. As a younger artist I loved going to art openings in San Francisco and being part of that community. I had fewer responsibilities, flexible time, flexible income, few expenses. I felt part of a dialogue. Now it’s just me in my studio with the voices in my head and some likes on Facebook.
CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?
CJS: Both. If you get an idea, set a specific path, great. But sometimes I won’t get a big idea and I just need to draw and hope inspiration will come sometime along the way. If it doesn’t, then I still might end up with a pretty drawing. It’s important to make something regardless.
CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?
CJS: Large drawings are really hard to document even if you hire a professional.
CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?
CJS: Sometimes. I feel like it helps to be fluent in culture. Or parts of culture. And where your art takes cues or doesn’t.
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?
CJS: Lots of work. Very little outward reward. Most of my family still considers me to be lazy and unsuccessful.
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
CJS: Creating worlds.
CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artist’s that inspire you in any way?
CJS: I love when an artist like Paul Wackers can revitalize a stale genre of painting like still-life. Shay Semple’s studies of Geordi LaForge are incredible and hilarious. Funniest living artist by a landslide. Frank Stella’s stripes have been imprinted on my subconscious and will forever mark my work. Love the tumblr risingtensions. Gif humor is hard. I’m in love with everything my wife (Amanda Michelle Smith) does. Especially how she can activate multiple figures in a piece. And I love her sacrifice of giving up several years of prime art-making to raise our children. I’m too selfish. Couldn’t do it.
CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?
CJS: Great tool. Love animated gifs. I hate how my work doesn’t get seen much in person and is seen mostly on the net. My large drawings look like doo doo as a jpg. Digital work has a leg up just for that reason. You know exactly how it will look on a computer screen. I liked using it to play D&D with artist friends for a show. Although D&D in person is a much better experience. I will not look on an image search on purpose so I don’t know exactly the way it looks.
CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?
CJS: I don’t know. I know I look a little closer at some things. But when I do that, I’m not looking at something else. I’m not seeing more. I’m just looking closer at a few things that most people couldn’t give two shits about.
CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?
CJS: I do like traveling. I’m kind of boring on this. I love NYC, Paris, and Southern Utah.
CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?
CJS: Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. It profoundly changed how I looked at my parents and how I understood their relationships.
CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your artwork?
CJS:I plan on finishing a big drawing by November. I’ll document it, put some pics on Facebook, and if I get over 100 likes, I’ll continue to make art.
CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?
CJS: Never-ending rejection. Moments of pure joy and satisfaction at making something that has never existed before on planet Earth.
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your artwork?
CJS: There is no better feeling than crafting your own magical weapons and armor.
CHECK OUT MORE ON: CASEY JEX SMITH