Interview: Bill Carman
Die Illustrationen von Bill Carman pendeln wunderbar zwischen den beiden Polen niedlich und verstörend. Von süssen, Anzug- und Huttragenden Tieren ebenso bevölkert wie von merkwürdigen Tentakelwesen und finsteren Gestalten, gestatten sie uns einen Blick in eine ausserordentliche Welt, die in ihren düsteren, viktorianisch anmutenden Details immer wieder an Tim Burton erinnert.
I teach and do cool weird work. What could be better?
Diskursdisko: Hi Bill. To start things off, what’s your background? When did you start doing illustrations?
Bill Carman: I was born in Korea and grew up in Northern California. I was influenced early by album covers and comics. I remember the first thoughts I had about actually doing art for a living was when I saw the cover and inside illustrations for the Allman Brothers, Eat a Peach album. Someone had to do that artwork and maybe they got paid.
Then I got started on a twisted path when I saw work by Ian Miller, Roger Dean, and Patrick Woodruff. The movie Wizards blew me away and I had to find out more about Ian Miller. YES album covers steered me toward Roger Dean. I did comics and pics in school for friends and for school publications but I pretty much sucked.
After a couple of years in community college I went to BYU and met my longtime mentor and friend James Christensen. I did a visual communications/illustration BFA, went out and worked for a few years as a designer, art director, illustrator then got an MFA in painting.
Now I teach and do cool weird work. What could be better?
“Art” as a word has lost its power. Here I am, a professor, and I can’t define art.
Diskursdisko: How do you mainly produce your art? Do you have a system or method that you adhere to?
Bill Carman: I do so many different things that it’s hard to nail down. I seem to work most often in acrylics. Sometimes on panel, sometimes on paper, now and then on metal or wood. I do an ongoing series on Mint Tins. Sometimes I finish off a piece in photoshop. I like the computer for certain kinds of things. I guess I choose how to work depending on project and surface.
I am a surface fanatic and feel that different surfaces speak in different ways to me.
Diskursdisko: What inspires you?
Bill Carman: Surfaces. A shorter list might be what doesn’t inspire me. But I particularly like books (pretty much a book whore). That’s why I believe print will never die. There are too many people like me who love the touch, sight, and smell of a book.
My surroundings always inspire me no matter where I am. Family, dogs, etc. I love to get motivated by looking at good work.
Diskursdisko: Much of your artwork is set in what seems to be a sureeal victorian age, with big-headed characters in top hats and waistcoats – how did you develop this style?
Bill Carman: I guess as with any real “style” it kinda found me. Maybe something I’ve seen. Certainly Edward Gorey had something to do with it. Maybe it’s the fact that I look horrible in hats and am trying to compensate. Probably that notion that people are always looking somewhere else or to some other time for something better.
Diskursdisko: When working for clients, doing book covers or posters, how do you keep up the balance between clients’ wishes and concepts and your own need to produce art? Do you feel there actually is any difference between “commercial” artwork and other art?
Bill Carman: Well I’m not real fond of the term commercial art. Everything with money involved is commercial. Most of the gallery things I have seen are more commercial than the good illustration I am drawn to. I do believe there is a difference between illustration and that other art. The problem is I can’t really define that other art. “Art” as a word has lost its power. Here I am, a professor, and I can’t define art. But the real difference between any visual undertakings is the intent. I really don’t understand the chasm anymore between “fine art” and illustration. Illustration is what it is and has every bit as much, if not more, power. It doesn’t need to aspire to fine art. To answer the question more specifically, I try to accept commissions which give me more freedom. People seem to come to me for what I do. But there is also fun in solving problems which are outside my comfort zone. I tend to push ideas as far as I can before the client breaks. And if the client breaks I’ll help put her back together and take another step back.
This internet thing really helps guys like me, who spend way too much time locked up in a studio, to connect with a larger community.
Diskursdisko: You’ve obviously got the website at billcarman.blogspot.com , any other presences on the web you’d like to publicize? Social networking?
Bill Carman: I have a website but never update it. A blog is just too easy. I also have a Facebook thing but don’t know how to use it.
Diskursdisko: As you use the internet to showcase your art, are there any other websites you feel have influenced you, opened your mind or shown you new ways of creating art?
Bill Carman: I don’t think there are any sites which have really influenced me in new directions for my work. Maybe some animation things I have seen have shown me possibilities I’ve never thought of. But the internet has really opened my eyes to exposure and community. There are certain places i go regularly like The Art Department (an art director for Tor books), Drawn showcases a lot of great stuff, Cgunit, Lost at E Minor, and ConceptArt.org (even though I’m not a concept artist it is a helpful community of artists), are some among a lot that I visit. And of course there are hundreds of artists sites and blogs I have bookmarked. This internet thing really helps guys like me, who spend way too much time locked up in a studio, to connect with a larger community.
Diskursdisko: Of all the work you’ve created, or at least the ones showcased on your website, can you name a couple that you have a special love for or connection to?
Bill Carman: The piece on the header of my blog has gotten me a lot of recognition. I like it too. Kind of a little jewel. I really like some of the recent comic stuff I have been doing and hope to do more.
Diskursdisko: Do you have any specific plans for the future direction of your artwork?
Bill Carman: More books. I would really like to get back into the book thing. Do some stories and such. But I have a couple of shows coming up and a line of projects. There is always time in between though, right?
Diskursdisko: Bill, many thanks for the interview – is there anything you’d like to add?
Bill Carman: Your site has made another fan. I have already bookmarked you.
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