Kid Made Modern
Kid Made Modern: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Tim Biskup: I don’t remember wanting to be anything except somebody who didn’t have to be in school. I would have loved to be drawing all day.
KMM: Why didn’t you like school?
TB: My brain would not let me focus. My family spent a lot of time camping and I loved camping, I learned how to fish. Those were things I felt connected to. I wanted to keep fishing.
KMM: Were you naturally good at art?
TB: I impressed my friends with being able to draw, but I don’t think I was necessarily good at it, I think I liked it. A friend would ask me to draw something and I would hem and haw. They would say, ‘Well I’ll give you a dollar.’ So I did it.
KMM: You earned money from art at a very young age!
TB: I loved the magic of drawing. What came out was a surprise to me.
KMM: You didn’t plan your drawings out?
TB: I still don’t. Going into the studio is kind of like going out into a field to play, it really is just me having fun. I love it so much.
KMM: Did you end up going to art school?
KMM: Was school easier then?
TB: No. They started talking about, ‘You have to take English class, you have get your bachelors degree.’ But I just wanted to learn how to make art! I went from not being able to pay attention to a 20-minute book about a bee (when I was a kid), to a 3-hour lecture about Art History or English. I would have loved to look at all that art. But hearing somebody talk about it was not the same.
KMM: What kind of art were you making then?
TB: I was painting. My work was wacky, fun. The response from my teachers was, ‘You will never be taken seriously if you paint like this.’ I felt a lot of despair. I left art school not wanting to be an artist anymore; I dropped out.
KMM: Did you have another plan?
TB: I liked drawing but it wasn’t a big part of my life until later on when the show Ren and Stimpy came along.
KMM: That was a great cartoon.
TB: A shift happens when people start drawing a lot. I got there when I was twenty-five. I started drawing all the time.
KMM: Tell me about making this coloring book.
TB: Working in black and white has always been fun for me, it’s all about the line and I don’t have to think about color. I started goofing around and it’s crazy where the drawings went!
KMM: Did you imagine how kids might interact with them?
TB: For a long time I wanted people to be confused by my work. For a moment. Because confusion creates openness. With this project a kid might say, ‘What am I supposed to color? Does the color go in between these shapes?’ I think that activates a person’s brain.
KMM: What was your first art-related job?
TB: I made signs at Tower Records. It was good, it was fun. I had designed my own album covers for years (I put out my own records).
KMM: You make music too!
TB: I have always made music. When I decided to pursue animation I stopped for a while; I had to dedicate more time to art.
KMM: How did you get into animation?
TB: I showed my work to an artist in the field. He said, ‘Oh my god you have so much to learn.’ So I spent time learning how to draw (because I really didn’t know). I went back to the drawing board. I worked really hard.
KMM: Once you got a job in animation, did you also work on personal art projects?
TB: Yes. I started holding art auctions at bars. I went to a couple of art galleries and they didn’t like what I was doing so I said ‘Forget it, I know there are people out there who like my work!’ I didn’t want to follow the guidelines of other people. I got a bunch of friends together and started auctioning off our work.
KMM: That’s an unusual way to expand your career!
TB: The auctions were the beginning of my art career. Really! Gallerists started showing up and buying my work, offering me shows.
KMM: Where do you find inspiration when you’re stuck?
TB: I go for a hike. When I’m crunching up a hill, sweating, I get excited by plants, the light reflecting off a leaf, a tarantula crossing a trail. That’s enough to keep me going for a long time.
KMM: You draw what you see in nature?
TB: It’s not like I go home and draw a tarantula, but maybe the legs or the shapes are inspiring.
KMM: What are you working on now?
TB: I’m making drawings on crummy paper that I bought at a thrift store.
KMM: Why crummy paper?
TB: The pressure of a $5 piece of paper can make me think, ‘If I screw this up, that’s $5!’
KMM: What if someone wants to buy a drawing they can keep for decades? Do you use better paper?
TB: Yes. I draw on this crummy paper until things are flowing and everything is magical. And then I pull out the $10 or $20 piece of paper. At that point I can draw and not think, ‘It’s a $20 piece of paper, oh my god!’ I just do it. It’s important when someone wants to buy something that is not going to deteriorate.
KMM: Do you prefer the drawings you make on nicer paper?
TB: That work is physically going to stand the test of time. But I have a drawing in my studio, it’s a big drawing of a bird and I just love it—it’s on cheap newsprint paper, it’s yellowed, it’s got tape on it.
KMM: What do you love about it?
TB: The texture adds life to it; the colors add personality. I knew it was going to fall apart, I chose the paper; but watching it happen is really great!
Kid Made Modern: How did you first start making art?
Patrick Hruby: I was lucky because my mom is a painter. I thought everyone made art. I thought it was just part of being a person.
KMM: Do you have any siblings that caught the art bug too?
PH: My youngest sister is a writer and a really good painter and drawer. My second youngest sister is autistic and her life is just art. She dances all the time and she’s the happiest person I know. I had another sister, but she passed away. That was a big part of me deciding to go to art school; when that happened I thought ‘I can’t live in fear of anything. I just have to go for it.’ It sounds so crazy, but it was like her last gift to me.
KMM: Now you design ads, animation, illustrations, kids books, coloring books, paintings, prints, murals, product labels. It’s a lot!
PH: I like anything new. The scariest thing for me is to be doing the same thing over and over.
KMM: Do you ever have a day when you can’t find good ideas?
PH: It happens all the time. But my mind is always turning things over and over. When I don’t have an idea, I try to do something else.
KMM: Like what?
PH: It’s good to travel, go to museums, art shows. I might go to the botanical gardens; somewhere I can find inspiration.
KMM: What’s your favorite time of day to do your work?
PH: I am a nighttime noodler. I start everything in the day and then I go home later and think, ‘Oh I want to mess with it a little bit more,’ and then hours go by!
KMM: Do you ever dream ideas?
PH: Yes! I love dreams. Mostly I wake up with a sense of my dreams, not always a visual idea; it can be just a feeling or a story that becomes part of my art.
KMM: How do you feel about pushing yourself to do new things?
PH: Some of my favorite drawings are the ones I first thought, ‘I don’t know how to draw that.’ But then on the flip side, there are things I will always like to draw. I always like to draw flowers. I can do that all day.
KMM: What did you make for this magazine?
PH: Some fun coloring pages. At first I thought, hmm, these might be just bananas. I mean not actually bananas. But sometimes I just want to see something weird.
KMM: What is something you want to do more of?
PH: I’ve been wanting to paint really big paintings. I did a mural only once and it had to be created in 2 days, so at one point I was painting for 26 hours straight. I thought ‘Wow this is really hard and a little bit stressful but … why am I not doing this every day!’ Making something with your hands is so great.
KMM: Do you make other things with your hands?
PH: Silkscreens. When I pulled my first silkscreen—a flower I designed—it was like magic! I always feel like I went to Hogwarts instead of art school.
KMM: Has your work changed over time?
PH: When I started out, my portfolio was all watercolors. It was so different. That was fine, but I learned finally to make what made me happy.
KMM: Your art is about conveying what makes you happy?
PH: Yeah, in a nutshell. That’s what I like to do.
Kid Made Modern: Let’s talk about this coloring book you’ve made.
MeganWhitmarsh: I like making work with children in mind. I have kids. But doing a coloring book was a little funny because my work is so much about color.
KMM: And this had to be black and white!
MW: It was a challenge. But I love challenges.
KMM: Did you start with a theme?
MW: I wanted it to have a lot of characters, like you’re entering a story. And I wanted a playful quality. My dream is for people to draw their own characters into it, draw their own paintings on the wall.
KMM: What is your art about?
MW: It’s sort of about being an artist. I once made a big artwork that was a fabric version of my real studio.
KMM: Fabric paint tubes and fabric everything?
MW: Yes. I’m interested in showing the process of being an artist…but adding a little bit of fantasy. I take elements from life and imbue them with magic.
KMM: Like a more playful version of reality.
MW: Yes, I am playing a little bit. I am showing my real studio but it is also totally fake because I made everything.
KMM: Do you plan things out before you make them?
MW: Sometimes I wish I were more of a planner. I feel things out. I am not the kind of artist that thinks, ‘This is what I’m trying to say.’
KMM: Do your daughters make art the same way?
MW: Often one of my kids will say ‘I don’t know what to draw.’ And I’ll say, ‘The first thing that comes into your head.’ One way to get your own voice out is to jump in headfirst. Once you start to have a couple ideas it’s like a chain reaction and all of a sudden you’ve kind of created your own world. It’s really exciting.
KMM: How did first you learn about art?
MW: At a young age I told my parents I was going to be an artist, even though nobody in my family was an artist. My dad was a scientist and professor, my mom a nurse and professor.
KMM: How did you begin?
MW: My parents rented a big old house that used to be a preschool. The preschool hadn’t taken everything down so there was this sign that said Arts and Crafts room and another sign that said Rec room. The Arts and Crafts room had a big desk in it. My siblings never wanted to go in there so I had my own art studio at the age of four.
KMM: What did you make in there?
MW: My art materials were the markers my dad brought home from work, manila folders that I made into giant, jointed paper dolls. I made books and comics.
KMM: Has your work changed over time?
MW: It’s changed a lot in the materials I use. I have always drawn. And I used to paint. And then I moved to using fabric and sewing. I think the way I use materials is still related to painting because I’m really working with color. So I still think of myself as a painter. But I do a lot of sculpture.
KMM: When did you introduce sewing?
MW: When I was in graduate school I was a painting major. I just started sewing on my paintings. Soon the painting part disappeared from my practice.
KMM: When do you know it’s time to change directions?
MW: I think it’s more that I notice I’m already doing something else. I don’t consciously put things down, I’m following a path and the path is changing.
KMM: Is it hard to come up with new ideas?
MW: My problem is I have too many ideas. But I’m very democratic so I’ll make a comic book, a coloring book, and I’ll also make weird conceptual art!
KMM: You’ve made some feminist art; art about women’s rights.
MW: I began working with feminist ideas a few years ago. I didn’t do it intentionally, I was like, ‘Oh I’m not a political artist why am I doing this!’ I thought it was a weird phase I would soon be done with it.
KMM: But it wasn’t?
MW: I have a whole body of feminist work now. I made large fabric magazines with women artists on the covers. I did that because only a few women ever appeared on the covers of Art Forum (an art magazine).
KMM: How did you learn about women’s rights?
MW: My mom was an early feminist. I did a series once where I re-made feminist t-shirts from the 1970s. T-shirts my mom and her friends wore. Also, in this coloring book I did portraits of iconic women.
KMM: When you work, do you ever get tired of it or distracted?
MW: Oh yeah, totally.
KMM: Do you let yourself move away from what you’re doing?
MW: I’m very enthusiastic and I take a lot on. But I’ve learned that if I’m feeling aggravated it’s a message that I need to take a break. I watch my dog and see how often she stretches and moves around. I think she’s teaching me. So I try to listen.
KMM: You work on a lot of different things; is it easy to flow from one thing to the next?
MW: I’m very lucky to be an artist but sometimes people don’t know how to categorize me. I used to think, ‘What’s wrong with me? Why do I keep changing things around?’ But now I look at that as a strength. I have a lot of things to say, and I have a lot of different ways I want to say them.
KMM: Do you think your art practice sends a message to others?
MW: If I wanted to leave a legacy, it would not be how to make yourself fit into a square hole. I would rather show that we can make it in the world following all of our crazy leanings.
KMM: You don’t always make things that fit into what people know about art.
MW: I don’t mind being kind of a weirdo that people can’t get a grip on. I’m happy, I’m true to myself, and I’m having fun.