A Sour Harvest (SH) interview with Brian M. Viveros (BV), discussing his creative process, thoughts on past work, and what to expect at his upcoming exhibition ‘Matador’ opening at Thinkspace Gallery, Saturday, November 7th.
SH: What does a day in the studio look like? What time do you get up and get in there?
BV: Every day is something new waiting to unfold. I’m an early bird, and don’t need much sleep. I always feel like if I can get the day started really early, I have a better jump on it and what it has to offer. I feed my dogs, make my coffee, and am in the studio by 7am. I usually put music on first thing, and maybe a documentary or weird, surreal film to get the day started in the studio. I like a lot of sounds and things going on around me in my
periphery to keep my mind busy while I work.
SH: What is your creative process and how has it evolved over the years?
Everything starts from a sketch, or from written ideas I have. I gather up a lot of different reference materials, or use new helmets or things I’ve gathered from flea markets, to start visualizing the beginning of a new character. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a lot of go-to ideas and sketches of things I want to paint, so now it’s just a matter of getting to each one and reworking it until it feels right.
SH: Your technique improves with each new piece and you can see how you’re constantly pushing yourself. How do you feel when looking at older work, do you love the piece or do you want to go back to them and work on them more?
BV: I like this question, looking at older work brings a smile to my face. When revisiting my older paintings, I can see myself as I was, working at that time, working really hard and trying to make something significant happen. I can see myself believing in what I was doing, and having my own self-driven agenda, not giving a fuck about anything else. Sure, they could’ve been done better, but that’s the beauty of looking back on older works; you see how much you’ve grown and learned, and how you might have approached it now. I wouldn’t change a thing about them though. I like to embrace my
past efforts, they’re an integral part of a larger journey.
SH: In an interview you stated you have a collection of human skulls, where did you acquire those?
BV: From someone I used to work with actually. I guess the wife didn’t want the guy to have human skulls around the house and figured I’d be someone who’d be interested in taking them off his hands. I was >;-) He came to the right person! I’ve always been fascinated with death and its relics, I’m a big fan of skulls, remains, and bones, all that dark wonderful stuff. They’re so great for reference, and to talk to >;-)
SH: What are your favorite brushes and paints right now?
BV: My brushes right now are Princeton Select Filbert size 2,4, and 6 and Grumbacher size 1 and 2 round. Paints would have to be Old Holland oil paints and some Liqutex acrylics
SH: What do you do when you feel you’re in a creative dry-spell? Where do you turn for sources of inspiration can you be specific about a recent source of inspiration?
BV: I turn to flea markets, old antique or military stores for objects and anomalies to inspire new work. Recently, I was at the Long Beach flea market and found these amazing big bull horn caps. They’re very rare and hard to find, and actually ended up being key elements in bringing my ‘Bullheaded’ sculpture to life – an exciting new sculpt made in collaboration with Pretty-In-Plastic, to be unveiled as part of the upcoming exhibition on Nov. 7th. The horns were also the inspiration for a new helmet motif, and for the largest
charcoal rendering, Battlefield, in the upcoming show, in which the character dons this amazing helmet with oversized horns, walking strong through her own personal Battlefield.
SH: You’re releasing a new book, The Dirtyland documenting 18 years of work, can you tell us a little about the process of picking the content for the book and how the project all came about?
BV: Well, the whole undertaking of a book was clearly going to be a lot of work. To be honest, I actually wasn’t sure how it was all going to come to life, it just seemed so overwhelming in the abstract, but I did feel like it was the right time to take it on. I’ve worked with Thinkspace for many years now, and we’ve always talked about doing a book, but this year it just seemed like everything fell into place and the timing was right; it turned out that mine would be the first book ever published by Thinkspace Editions.
I’ve always been good at documenting and photographing my work, so that did make it easier, as the records and the visuals were already in place. We decided to just organize everything by year in a kind of chronological retrospective. Narrowing things down actually wasn’t too hard, and we pretty much got all of the key pieces in there. I’m a big collector of books myself, so I had a preconceived idea in place for how I wanted it to feel and what I wanted to show. The hard part was getting some of the image files organized, and ensuring we had the right dpi for some older files, but all the meat was
there, so to speak, we just had to lay it all out on the table and see what worked best on the bones.
It turned out to be amazing, and I’m so happy to share it with all of you at the
opening of Matador on Nov. 7th, before anyone else sees it!
SH: Its been 5 years since you took over Thinkspace Gallery with your Dirtyland armme, what can people expect from this new takeover?
BV: People can expect more personal inclusions, alongside my signature elements. The work has evolved with an all new color palette, incorporating greater contrasts and even some pastel hues. I’ve included a great deal of detailing, drawn from bullfighting culture and its textiles and designs. I put more time into each piece, perfecting these ornate details, and it all ties in with the overarching theme of the show.
I’m also going to be sharing some pieces and reference materials from my personal collection, like my original bullfighter jacket from the 30’s – a beautifully detailed piece, executed entirely by hand – and also an installation of some of my signature helmets, including the helmet from the OG DirtyLand, the EVILLAST boxing headgear, and my custom Bull Horned helmet and crown of thorns…ouch!
SH: Your work is so distinctive and has developed a cult following and strong collector demand, does this pressure ever get to you? Do you still get artist self-doubt?
BV: Sometimes. I mean I’m very hard on myself in everything I do. I think that I may even generate my own sense of pressure>;-) Those that know me, know that I’m a very passionate person when it comes to my art and projects, you have to be. You have to literally want to die for it. I don’t indulge in self-doubt, I just keep moving forward, and quite honestly, I really don’t think about it. I just think about what’s next and what needs to get done. No time for self-doubt. I try to be very confident and strong in what I believe in and keep it going, always trying to improve. Pressures will always be there, things will
be good and sometimes things will go bad, but you just gotta keep making art and not think about any of those things.
SH: What advice would you give artists who look up to? Whats the best advice you’ve been given about life? About your career?
BV: Work hard, don’t sleep and stay focused. The best advice about life is really to follow your dreams and go after that goal. Set a vision, see it, and make it happen, undeterred. Career – early on I was taught to treat my art as a business, and “take it really fucking serious,” in those words. Don’t let people walk all over you.
SH: You’re from the Inland Empire, which in Southern California, tends to have a bad rap. What do you love about the IE? Does it or has it influenced
your creative voice?
BV: What do I love about the IE? Tios Tacos. Has it influenced my creative voice? No.
SH: Any plans to get behind the lens again soon?
BV: Yes, it’s time. There are some things going on right now, projects percolating, but at the moment, it’s really about this show. I’ll keep you posted though, lots in the works. But yes, I do plan to get back behind the lens again, it’s where I feel most comfortable.
SH: Upcoming projects you care to share?
BV: The inclusion of my work at SCOPE New York, in 2016, and working on that new film.
Brian M. Viveros’s, ‘Matador’ Thinkspace takeover opens this Saturday, November 7th from 7-10pm. Book signing with Brian will take place from 5:30pm – 7pm. For the official press release and more information please visit the Thinkspace Gallery website.