about the artist
Q & A With Lonnie CHristopher Bailey
Q: Why do you make art?
A: I believe there are many people out there like myself that question everything, why are we here, and what life is all about. I think this is a common thread among deep thinkers, but I think most of us at some point question our existence.
Q: What do you believe in?
A: I believe there is more to life than meets the eye. In the sublime moments, we feel it and it is overwhelming.
Q: What belief are you investigating?
A: The belief that we are not alone in the universe.
Q: How does personal belief/viewpoint/conviction come through in your art?
A: My work is about emotional destinations which are triggered by sublime imagery. Hopefully, that will awaken something within the viewer and get them asking their own questions.
Q: What emotion is primary while you make your artwork or how does emotion come through the work?
A: Each work is inspired by a sense of wonder and awe of some natural phenomenon. It is always a sense of the sublime that drives me to create.
Q: What inspired this direction?
A: My own issues with mortality growing up with health issues that altered my perception of life. Life, death and the meaning of it all has been a very powerful force from an early age. It drove me to question everything.
Q: What do you think about during the process?
A: Mainly how to capture the feeling leading me to create the piece, and if there is any new creative steps I can take to advance the work in some way.
Q: How do you make your art?
A: I work in many mediums and combine them in different ways to create different effects. It's really a collaboration of techniques borrowed from traditional masters of the Dutch School, but also modern masters like those of the New York School.
Q: How do you use the medium or combine the mediums?
A: Most of my techniques were developed to deal with the limitations of my condition. I have a collapsed artery in my brain and it causes me to have some difficulties. My process helps me overcome these difficulties. I do a lot of my initial work on the computer in what I call the design phase where I work out the composition through several sketches, and the play with color. Once I am happy with the overall design I will decide if it goes straight to print, or oil paint.
Q: How do you physically engage in the creation?
A: I spend days creating tonal patterns that I like with numerous black and white sketches, and then work out color ideas that help enforce those feelings. A lot of time is spent working up a color pallet that I can use for reference. I'll scan my initial tonal pattern, and overlay colors digitally to see what works best. I end up with a pretty finished digital piece that I can use for reference in a physical work or refine more as a digital print. If I am still developing an idea I generally stop at the finished reference piece, scan it, and offer the work as print until the idea is completely fleshed out and made into a painting. The prints help fund my work.
Q: How is it constructed?
A: Most of my work ends up as these reference print until I'm ready to complete the work or series. The initial work is traditional sketched or painted several times. If it's a physical I then scan and manipulate it on the computer to create a rough idea of where I want to go with it. I manipulate it as I would one of my photos to create a reference of the final piece. I will even render it in a 3D room setting to see what kind of presence it has. Depending on how strongly I feel about the piece, some will go online to print on demand services to be constructed into canvas, or metal prints, others works that I feel strongly about will end up as physical paintings.
Q: How are you uniquely presenting the subject?
A: Many artist paint landscapes, I paint emotional destinations, not physical places. I suppose other artists have done similar work, but I think we each have our own unique view.
Q: How did accidents or discovery lead you to the finished work?
A: During the process of one of my paintings in the initial stage I got ill and only finished the center of the painting, and it faded out on the edges, and when I returned I realized it help convey the notion that the scene was not a physical place. This was a very important discovery for me because I had been trying to work out how to convey the fact that these were not physical places. This really helped move my concept further in the direction I was trying to go with my work.
Q: How did you choose this medium?
A: While at Art Center Pasadena studying traditional mediums in the 90's, I was introduced to Computer Graphics by way of the newly built Silicon Graphics Lab. I spent many hours experimenting with the combination of digital and traditional mediums. Digital tools found their way more and more into my work when I found out I was having health issues while working traditional painting mediums. Severe reactions kept me from painting for 15 years. I now limit my exposure and work out as much of my ideas as I can digitally before I use any mediums. It's definitely a problem, and I am always looking for solutions. For now, I use water mixable oils, and other nontoxic materials.
Q: How did you choose this subject?
A: My love of nature and growing up in the hills of West Virginia, and Oregon fueled my inspiration for the natural environment. My introverted personality and bouts with my illness made me question my mortality at an early age and shaped my perception of the world. I often found myself on a hilltop looking out across vast foggy landscapes pondering the universe and questioning everything. I didn't really choose the subject any more than I chose this life. I suppose I could paint anything if I wanted to, god knows there much more profitable things I could paint like figures or animals, but those things are not a part of who I am. I'm not just painting "things", I am searching for answers in a way that makes sense to me. Looking at life, feeling moments, and collecting rare sublime experiences to share with others.
Q: How did you decide on this direction?
A: This is a very similar question so I will elaborate more on the natural elements of my work. I noticed early on that I was drawn to the sky, and more specifically a certain kind of sky. I was obsessed with light, and it's effect on materials like refraction through water or mist, how some things were translucent, and how light scattered in the atmosphere. I spent most of my childhood documenting these effects in journals, some written, and some sketched. Over the years I drew these effects more and more trying to understand the science of particles and light wave lengths. After so many years drawing became natural, and I pursued it and the science that goes along with it. In art school, I was drawn to art that had these strong atmospheric qualities to them, and now I exploring my own relationship with these elements.
Q: How has exploration brought you to this work?
A: When it comes to the process of my work Art Center really opened my eyes to what was possible with all the different mediums, and we were the first generation to experiment with really capable digital tools in the 90'. My education offered me the luxury and encouraged me to play with all these mediums together. I still work as though I am in school listening to my instructors, exploring in every piece I create in some way, reaching for something new and different that will help me evolve. I am almost fifty years old and I have been working at this for over 30 years and I still feel like I am taking baby steps, and have a lot to grow.
Q: How would you like the viewer to approach the work?
A: With my current work, I just want viewers to absorb it, take it in, and see where it takes them. They're not intellectual pieces, I don't want them to think much which is why I refrained from using any recognizable objects or figures. The work is an emotional journey, and I am interested in where it will take them.
Q: How do you choose your colors?
A: My palettes are chosen very carefully to work with the tonal pattern to trigger an emotional state. Specific colors are used to point the viewer in a certain direction. A big part of my day is just looking at colors and how they interact with each other. There is a fun program called #AdobeCapture that I have on my phone that will turn any scene into an interesting color palette. I walk around all day taking picture of everything to see what kind of palette it is made up of so that I can train myself to see colors better. I have issues with my vision and seeing tones in colors since my artery collapsed. I'm often overwhelmed by color and it makes it hard for me to see tonal values. In fact, my whole process is built around limitations like this. It's why I work the way that I do. Every step serves a purpose to help me with a limitation, and unfortunately, because of my health issues, I have many of them.
Q: How would you describe the contrast or continuity in the work?
A: Each piece is designed to take you to a different place emotionally so there is a huge contrast from one piece to the next. It would be very exhausting to view them all in one place. Certain pieces work well together, and others clash. That is why I usually work in series. Each series goes together with the group of similar works that tell a story.
Q: How does the subject relate to the form and the form to the subject?
A: I believe there is a sublime nature which connect these vast dream like atmospheres with an emotional response. I often think of different ways I could convey this sublime nature, but I have yet to find any other medium that commands the attention that sitting in front of a large painting does other than being in an actual sublime moment. Perhaps that is the next step, creating a localized storm inside a gallery. I would love to solve that problem!
Q: What is the viewer looking at?
A: An atmospheric or ethereal landscape/skyscape/seascape that will hopefully lead them on an emotional journey, and give them a glimpse of the sublime.
Q: What is it made of?
A: Most of my work ends up as prints, simply because I am always developing and experimenting with ideas. Some works I feel strongly about continue on as water mixable oils on birch wood panels. I am currently in contact with a company in Italy to produce museum quality textured prints of my work.
Q: What is your process?
A: I often start with a simple three line pencil drawing and then move to a digital sketch on my iPad or computer. Working digital allows me to quickly lay down tones, and color with minimal effort. Using this as a reference I can start the final piece in whatever medium I think will best help the work come to life. From there my process is pretty traditional no matter what the medium is. I'm a bit old-school and use old masters method of creating a grisaille first then add color glazes later. My methods of painting traditionally, and digitally are very similar since I paint in layers like the old masters.
Q: What does the work represent?
A: Being an emotional destination or journey it represents something different to each person, and different things to the same person at different times. It's one of the reasons I like to do this kind work. It doesn't dictate how the viewer should think or feel. It's not just about me, or my views, it's a catalyst for the viewer to have their own thoughts.
Q: What are you investigating?
A: The sublime nature of mankind's relationship with the universe.
Q: What are you combining or breaking apart in your work?
A: I'm combining conscience thought with subconscious feelings in hopes that it will get the viewer thinking more deeply about their existence.
Q: Where is the work leading?
A: Hopefully to a better understanding of humanity and our existance. I think that is really the point of art., and why it is so important.
Q: What could you say that might encourage a closer look?
A: Deep within the painting, you may find a truth about yourself, something you weren't aware of before, and now can explore. I always tell people they should hang my painting in a secluded area of their homes so they can spend time quietly in meditation with the piece, and see where it takes them. I want my work to be a tool for growth as well as an aesthetic piece.
Q: What are you communicating?
A: People sense that there is more to this world, and they feel it in these sublime moments. I wish to remind, or awaken them to these moments with my paintings.
Q: What story does it tell?
A: My art is not about any specific story, it's about each of our individual stories. My hope is that my work will help you shape that story every day with positive thoughts and actions.
Q: What did you learn in the process?
A: As far as the physical process, I've learned that I like to work in many different mediums and that I am big fan of color, much more so than I ever knew. Intellectually speaking, I've learned that people connect with certain paintings for their own personal reasons. It's not just what's painted on the surface that affects them, it's the memories, and emotions that the imagery triggers.
Q: What pervades the work?
A: Exploring what it is in color and tones that can evoke the sublime.
Q: What qualities characterize the work?
A: Colorful dramatic atmospheres depicting the sublime.
Q: What are you trying to accomplish?
A: Hopefully, I've created something moving that helps viewers address their own mortality and significance in the universe.
Q: What keeps you curious/dedicated/obsessed?
A: There so many questions unanswered, and that is what keeps me up at night. The ethereal nature of the atmosphere is my window to the bigger questions, and the sublime is a feeling that there is more to it. As long as those questions go unanswered I'll keep searching for my own.