Interview with Brian Mashburn for “Witness”

Brian Mashburn Witness Mild Spring

Witness‘ will exhibit new works by Brian Mashburn in the Thinkspace Gallery project room. The opening reception is from 6-9pm on Saturday, July 18th and the show is on view till August 8th.

Warm Up Round (Quickies):
Coffee or tea?
Coffee
Rock, Paper, or Scissors?
Paper
Sweet or Savory?
Sweet

SH: What was your inspiration for “Witness”
BM: The inspiration behind witness was more of a slow build rather than a singular event, no epiphany as is most often the case for me.
My work is an aggregate of influences that evolve within the framework of the type of landscapes I usually paint. These influences, I guess you could call it inspiration, stem from whatever I am exposed to at the time of production: the books I’m reading, the day’s news, the weather, and so on. Each piece individually has a more definable source but when viewed as a whole the inspiration behind this show more vague, fluid.

I will say there were a handful of things that seemed to stand out over the course of making ‘witness’. Namely, I’ve been fascinated with Camille Paglia’s introduction in her relatively recent work Glittering Images. Also been trying to wrap my brain around some of Zisek’s rantings on ideology which I’m pretty sure are profound but a little over my head at times. Finally, I spent some time at the natural history museum in DC and at the national zoo. Both places were immensely helpful in gathering reference. Anyone who is familiar with the Smithsonian NMNH will recognize some to the subjects in these paintings.

SH: Have you ever been to Dollywood?
BM: I’m sorry to say I have not, at least not that I can remember. It’s possible I went when I was younger. That may be something I need to remedy. I have some friends who go somewhat regularly, almost as a pilgrimage. Pigeon Forge (amazing name btw) is pretty close to Asheville, it really is a beautiful place.

SH: What is your process for a painting? Do you work on multiple paintings at a time?
BM: My process is pretty drawn out and labor intensive. I paint in layers, wet on dry, so drying time is always a concern. These days for the most part I can use this to my advantage. I generally have at least a dozen canvas going at any given time and I move between them while waiting for paint to dry. This works for efficiency’s sake but it also allows me to step back, get some distance and reevaluate a work several times during the course of painting.

Brian Mashburn Witness Old Revolution

SH: Favorite brush and paints right now?
BM: I generally use Gamblin oils with a few exceptions, I like a dense titanium white so I’ll often go Winsor & Newton for that. That said, I’m not super particular about the brands I use. I learned to paint using all sorts. I used to go on eBay and find these lots of random used oil colors from various makers and just roll with it. These days I try to keep some consistency only because drying times can really screw me. If something unexpected happens with a brand or medium I’m unfamiliar with it can throw off my whole rhythm and schedule. Gamblin colors have been pretty reliable in this regard.

I’m a little more particular about brushes. I just had to retire one I’ve had for 20 years. It’s hard to replace something like that. Usually I’ll have a handful of brushes that I’m trying out alongside my tested ones. Loew Cornelle has some nice nylon flat brushes that suck for a while then something happens and they get good. No idea what that’s about, it’s kind of weird. My most treasured brushes are all pretty old and have acquired a sort of bristle pa tina that informs the way I paint. If a brush I use for painting clouds dies, on some level I’ll need to relearn how to paint clouds.

Silver brush mops for blending are decent, always on the lookout for a good mop. I’m pretty obsessed with liners, they are the hardest to be satisfied with because there’s no room for error or defect. Furthermore they need to be cheap because the tip will dull regardless of hair and they need to be replaced often.

I was introduced to Trekell during the La Familia show, the 5/0 and 0 golden taklon liners have been awesome and will be a staple from here on.

SH: Your pieces have an insane amount of detail, your eyes must be perfect or your optometrist hates you. Are the details in your paintings having an effect on your physical health?
BM: I usually have either a shoulder, elbow, or wrist issue – repetitive motion injuries, pinched nerves, etc. My eyes are alright, I think. Haven’t had them checked in a minute. I think my back is sacrificed a bit to compensate for my eyes – I tend to lean in and trade posture for clarity. I have a few tricks that involve my easels and studio setup that help.

In general it’s really not too bad, though. I’ve always been accident prone and the risk is limited in the painting studio. I love wood working, have been a picture framer for over 10 years and grew up in lumber yards and cabinet shops. I have had way too many close calls and minor to moderate injuries involving wide range of power tools, so not going to complain about a sore back or elbow (at least not publicly).

Brian Mashburn Witness The Stranger

SH: Has Bob Ross influenced your clouds?
BM: That’s funny. I was obsessed with Bob Ross growing up. I would attempt to paint clouds like him when I was about 11 or 12. It was probably a really formative experience. I remember how disappointing they would always be close up but at a distance they would look fine. This drove me crazy, felt disingenuous somehow. Since then I’ve had this compulsion to make the painting function better, get tighter, the closer you get to it. This is a core tenant of what I do. It’s an odd thing because many of my favorite artists are quite gestural. I guess it’s easy to admire a skill set that is, on a deep seeded level, beyond my grasp.

SH: What is the biggest misconception about being an artist? What is the most fulfilling part of being an artist?
BM: I’d say the biggest misconception is in the sheer workload involved. Being an artist is very hard work, and not always very romantic. At this stage in my career, I am a sole proprietor of a business. 100% of production, r/d, marketing, customer service, and so on is up to me. I know talking about art making in these terms is a bit gross and somewhat counter-intuitive, wherein lies the misconception.

That said, in a way this is also the most fulfilling part. I love not having those sort of authority figures you find in 9-5 environments. I have not always been great with authority figures. There is a lot of stress associated with what I do, but it’s my stress. It’s a burden of my own making and I nurture it. I like that.
I also love the interdisciplinary nature of art. I am very curious and have a lot of interests. Being a painter allows me to dive into various topics that I’d like to know more about and see what if any fit has within the framework of my paintings.

SH: Who’s work are you geeking out over at the moment?
BM: Jacques Louie David and George W Bush. Seriously. Shit’s fascinating.
I also just read the Mary Iverson interview in Juxtapoz. I really admire what she’s doing, although the people problem has me a bit freaked (not a bad thing).

Brian Mashburn Witness Two Elephants

SH: What do you listen to while painting?
BM: Mostly spoken word, audiobooks and podcasts. I get a little obsessed with this sort of stuff. While working on this show I listened to several Malcolm Gladwel l books, some Noam Chomsky essays, some Zisek rants on ideology, biographies on Brian Wilson, Phil Spector, and Mao, and always tune into WTF with Marc Maron.

SH: What is your Mad Max (end of the world) strategy?
BM: Haven’t seen the new Mad Max yet and all I remember from when I was a child is Tina. So my answer is more Walking Dead strategy…

When zombies are concerned, I always thought drop ceilings were underused. I had a possum die in the ceiling of my last studio. It was rank, but almost impossible to pinpoint exactly where it was. If zombies (walking dead zombies at least) go on smell this would be a good way to buy some time or maybe just post up for a while. They’re not going to jump up there with you and you’d have the perfect angle to go at their heads, if you’re into that sort of thing.

If it all went down I’d probably climb up in a drop ceiling, maybe in a Walgreens.

Please visit the Thinkspace Gallery website for more information and we hope to see you out Saturday, July 18th. 

Leave a Comment Below: