Interview with Aaron Stansberry
Aaron Stansberry born 1978 in Portland, OR, is an acclaimed multidisciplinary artist living in the Pacific Northwest. His most recent works come in a variety of mediums, including a mix of calligraphic and abstract paintings, as well as landscape photography.
Aaron’s interest in calligraphy dates back to his earliest memories of learning how to write. Inspired by the long looping letters and fluidity of his parents’ signatures, he filled countless notebooks trying to create his own unique style, which is still evident today. A lifetime of love for music, poetry, graffiti, and typography has given rise to Aaron’s current series of multi-layered calligraphic paintings. This work aims to capture the curiosity of his viewers by inscribing, in layer after layer of oil and wax, the words that have made an impact on his life. Through careful examination, you may discover poetry, quotes, lyrics, and phrases, which will hopefully elicit some of the same emotions that went into creating each piece. Since we can all relate a song to a particular experience or period in our lives, it’s easy to connect to this body of work.
Aaron’s abstract work is a minimalistic expression of the years he has spent near the Pacific Coast. His usual monochromatic palette of blacks, whites, and blues give his audience a sense of calm in a chaotic world. Though soft and minimal in tone, his paintings are not without a “punch in the face” of texture. Aaron primarily uses palette knives instead of brushes, which lend an added depth and palpable quality to his work.
Aaron’s work has been featured in a number of national and international publications, a feature film, and is currently on display at hotels, commercial lobbies, galleries, and private residences throughout the world. Whether in his Portland or Los Angeles studio, or behind the lens on location, Aaron works under the notion that nothing is off limits.
Could you please introduce yourself and tell us how you started in the arts? and your first experience in art making?
My name is Aaron Stansberry. I'm an abstract painter and landscape photographer originally from the Pacific Northwest, though I've spent the better part of the past 15 years in Los Angeles. My art making began pretty young but didn't really take hold until I was about 16. I turned to painting as a coping mechanism while my father was battling cancer and it quickly turned into my life's passion. For me, it's easier to convey my thoughts, ideologies, and feelings on canvas than it is to express them verbally.
How would you describe yourself and your artwork?
I consider myself a passionate creative with an unending desire to explore. An important aspect of facilitating growth as an artist is to experience as much life as possible in the time we are given. I'm also a chronic observer. I've moved more than most fugitives and vagabonds, which has given me the opportunity to experience different cultures, music, food, traditions, languages, and art. My work is a visual expression of these experiences.
You will discover primarily illegible writing in the majority of my paintings; lyrics, poetry, quotes, phrases, and thoughts are inscribed throughout each piece. Sometimes words get in the way of what I'm trying to say, so I intentionally let them get lost in the painting and give way to abstraction. This allows the viewer to feel what I'm saying instead of reading it. My work is also procedural in that I don't typically begin a painting with a final product in mind. As with the way I live my life, I find excitement in not always knowing my next move.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Everywhere. Joy, pain, music, travel, love, sorrow, nature, a color, a poem, a photo... I'm an inspiration sponge. I sometimes find inspiration in the act of painting itself. On days where I'm feeling particularly uninspired I still go into the studio and work. A great way to battle writer's block is to simply keep writing. Write down your thoughts even if they seem nonsensical. Eventually your words will come together to create beautiful poetry. I apply this ideology to painting... sometimes literally. The process of painting, even without any initial direction, can lead to the creation of a masterpiece.
What emotions do you hope the viewers experience when looking at your art?
I hope that viewers find a sense of intrigue in my work. Art is subjective and I don't expect everyone to have the same experience when observing art. For me, if my painting provokes curiosity, discovery, reflection, and opens the door to an authentic dialogue, I've done my job. Ultimately, I want to create a connection between myself and the viewers.
When do you know that an artwork is finished?
It's a feeling. Because I'm largely an abstract painter, there's never really a finality in my thought process. But, at the point when I step back and feel that rush of excitement... when I can break up a painting into 10 sections and feel each section is equally as successful as the whole.. that's when I know it's finished.
What has been the most exciting moment in your art career so far?
I don't know that there's one particular moment that stands out as most exciting. Although, as a young artist I do remember the excitement of coming to the realization that I could convey my thoughts and feelings visually instead of verbally. Also, the first time I sold a painting. That was a powerful moment which allowed me to visualize turning my passion into a career. Every moment that I get to continue living my dreams is exciting.
How long does it take to produce one work?
I get asked this question often. For me it's difficult to determine based on my process. Because each painting has multiple layers there is a significant amount of dry-time between each layer. I tend to work on multiple pieces simultaneously which allows me to to finish more work in less time. I can say It would be virtually impossible to produce one complete work in less than a week.. though some have taken several.
What exciting projects are you working on right now? Can you share some of the future plans for your artworks?
I recently picked up writing again. I've been incorporating my own poetry into some of my paintings and am juggling the idea of collaborating with other poets. I have a concept in mind for my next exhibition that would integrate both the performance aspect of the poetry along with the artwork itself... though I don't want to give too much away just yet.
Do you have any upcoming events or exhibitions we should know about?
I recently finished a group exhibition at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art and currently have some work being hosted at Basic Space Gallery in Portland, OR for the month of April. I also have a piece on display for the next year at Westfield Fashion Square in Los Angeles.
Where do you see your art going in five years?
In order for an artist to maintain integrity in their work they must allow it to evolve. Once we become content with the work we produce and stop exploring ways to expand or improve upon our vision... our growth stops. My experiences will ultimately influence the direction my work will take over the next five years, and though I have visions of grandeur, It's difficult to tie a timeline to it's success. I will always remain true to my own vision and intend to present it in the most authentic fashion.