Interview with Painter, Bruce Riley

Interview with Painter, Bruce Riley on Jung Katz Art Blog

How did you get started doing what you do?
I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember. My brother is a compulsive art maker so I grew up copying his art-making activities. I’m pretty sure I would not be doing what I’m doing if not for him. I’d be in prison.

How would you describe your creative style?
My style is very Chicago- kind of surreal, kind of funky, playful, serious but not overly so. My paintings may not look like it, but I feel I’m in the the tradition of Harry Who/Chicago Imagists, H. C. Westermann, Ivan Albright, etc.

Interview with Painter, Bruce Riley on Jung Katz Art BlogInterview with Painter, Bruce Riley on Jung Katz Art Blog

What does your typical day look like?
I usually get up at 7 and do office work while I eat and wake up. If I need to communicate with someone in Europe, I do it in the morning. Then I walk across the street to my studio and get my day going. Break for lunch and then work til 7 or later. It all depends. I like to make sure to have an hour or two to hang out with my partner before bed.

How do you keep motivated?
I always have more work to do than time. Shows and commissions are a good way to keep things rolling. But that is a delicate balance between work that is due and work on spec. I like both approaches, they seem to inform and play off each other. My excitement to experiment and paint is probably my strongest motivator.

How would you say your surroundings have influenced your work?
Every part of my experience gets filtered through painting. My work was figurative at one point. When I was cross country ski guiding in the Colorado mountains and snow showed up. When I was a raft guide in West Virginia lush forests and rivers were a theme. More recently a Latina in my studio building was making Day of the Dead skulls. Skulls have shown up in my work. Those examples are pretty straight forward and recognizable. The subtlety of associations goes much deeper.

How have others reacted to your work?
I do notice sometimes that people get lost in the looking and leave behind the “that looks like…” syndrome.

Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
Focus on what you love to do. If you work hard you will be really good at it when you are thirty-five and amazing in your twilight years. You are going to die anyway so you might as well die happy. Be fearless and take risks.

What are your thoughts on art school?
Personally I am not a fan of organized conformity especially in the arts. I have gone to art school when someone else paid for it but I realized early on an art degree for most is debt that makes it hard to create. I found renting a studio and self-educating to be a better approach.

What’s your dream project?
I feel very fortunate to be doing what I am doing. I am in my dream project right now.

What’s your process like?
I work flat, using self-leveling water based media. My panels are hollow core doors that I salvage when possible. On the panels, I build up a paint layer until it is done. When the paint layer is dry, I build a tape dam and pour a leveling layer of clear resin. This resin layer acts as a clear ground on which to start a new paint layer. The paintings are finished with a resin layer that is allowed to pour over the sides. 
My painting is process driven. Solvitur ambulando (it is solved walking) -I trust in physical movement to build an expanding system of paint application. My thinking function serves me best when applied to the everyday tasks of running a studio. And it really loves working on the business of art making. When I am actually painting I find myself devaluing thought because it removes me from the moment. It is a bit like meditation right before things become quiet. There is a murmur of words that are all of equal value without meaning. This is usually where titles come from. I start at the same difficult place every morning.

How could the fine art industry become better in your opinion?
The fine art industry seems to be based on money and conformity. An artist could quit making art and try and change it. But I think the best an artist can do is learn to use it to one’s advantage. It does not have much to do with the spirit of making art as far as I can see.

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