out to Gallery Stroll I go this month, in an extra hot August that damn near
came close to 100. People dropping like flies almost becomes a common occurrence, next to sweaty brows. Its the one month I wish instead of small crackers, there was
This month I made my way a little further East on the tour over to Caffe Niche and Dexterity Salon. The Caffe was playing host to work from students of the Visual Art Institute, which you can check out from the first half of the pictures from Friday. And over at Dexterity were works from painter/designer Todd Powelson and his latest series. I got to chat with Todd about his career and artwork, as well as thoughts on local art.
Gavin: Hey Todd, first off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Todd: I am a graphic artist, illustrator, and painter. As a little kid my family moved around a lot but settled in Salt Lake when I was a teenager and, although I moved around a bit in my 20's, have been living in Utah pretty much ever since. I've always loved to draw, and read, and build worlds in my head. I'm a day-dreamer and want to show you the people I've met, and the things I've seen and imagine.
Gavin: What first got you into art, and what were some of your early inspirations?
Todd: My mom was a painter, and so were a lot of her family. She was always supportive. My earliest memories are of me sitting with a pencil and paper, just drawing away the day. Probably some of my earliest inspirations were comic books, and I learned a lot about drawing and the graphic art just by flipping through their pages. My grandma was an English teacher, and used to send me books on Greek, Roman, and Nordic myth. This really fired my imagination, and made me study up on the ancient world and their artwork and culture, because of that I developed a very strong interest in art history. When I was a kid, one of the places we lived was in Taiwan, and living there helped me discover a new aesthetic and to see things in a slightly different way. When I got a little older I discovered Picasso, the surrealists, and their contemporaries. By that point, I had no choice but to create. Making something that never existed before, that's a beautiful thing... It was, and is, like magic to me.
Gavin: For college you started off at SLCC. What was their program like back then?
Todd: I really liked it. I took a lot of my general classes to get them out of the way, but had a very strong emphasis on the visual arts. By the time I started at SLCC, I was already painting like a madman, and they helped introduce me to printing and sculpture.
Gavin: What made you decide to go to Utah State after two years, and what was the transition like?
Todd: Logan is great, so the transition wasn't a hard one. I'd heard they had a very strong art program, and they did. Their design program was especially strong, so even though I went up their to study painting and sculpture, I guess that helped me become more interested in the graphic arts as well.
Gavin: You finished up at Provo College with high honors in Design. How was the whole experience for you after trading schools again?
Todd: When I started school at Provo College my painting was going in a direction that I liked, but I wanted to learn as much as I could about computers and how I could use them as a creative tool. I spent a lot of time playing in the design programs and that gave me a lot of new opportunities.
Gavin: What were some of the first design jobs you got afterward, and how was it for you being able to do it for a living?
Todd: My first design job was creating and separating artwork for a screen-print shop. I was very curious about design, and deliberate with my career path because I wanted to keep learning as much as I could. I went on to do print work that focused on photo editing and illustration. I've also been able to focus primarily on web and multimedia design for the last few years. I enjoy being able to spend my days being creative.
Gavin: You've done a lot of work over the years for places like Zija, MindQuest, Park Record, even SLUG Magazine. What would you say was the best project you've worked on over the years?
Todd: Yeah, lots of different things. At on point, I was illustrating posters for my 9-5, and that was fun. I've also always liked working with Flash and other multimedia.
Gavin: You also kept painting and sketching in your spare time. Was that more to have another creative outlet, or did it just come naturally to do more art?
Todd: Drawing, which seems to be the foundation for everything I do, just comes naturally. I have many ideas that keep coming, and if I go for too long without working on these ideas and personal projects, I get anxious.
Gavin: What's the process for you like when creating a piece, from start to finish?
Todd: Lately, I have been working more and more with computers for my personal artwork. For that I'll usually start with a drawing, scan that in, and start coloring and painting digitally.
Gavin: Considering the work behind the pieces, do you have an idea of what it'll be when you start or does it usually change while working on it?
Todd: It depends. Most of the time I have a very specific thing in mind, but sometimes I just start creating patterns or smear some paint around and see what kind of forms are interesting.
Gavin: Tell us about the show at Dexterity and what you're showcasing.
Todd: I will be showing a series of digital paintings called Dreams For Schmidty. This series was originally published in SLUG Magazine each month. It's a series of dream images and archetypes that I've dedicated to a childhood friend who passed away from a rare genetic disease.
Gavin: A little local, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?
Todd: The art scene is very small, but there is a lot of talent. A whole lot of talent. It has been great to see careers grow and the community evolve. On the downside, I think the community can be conservative. Another real downside is a serious lack of collectors and patrons here in Utah. Ideally, we'd have more artists experimenting, and have more people intrigued and buying. It does seem to be going in that direction though, which is encouraging.
Gavin: Anything you believe could be done to make it bigger or better?
Todd: I think that generally galleries need to take more risks and show more innovative work. Artists can also find new ways to get their work seen. I also think that the community needs to fund the arts a bit more.
Gavin: How about what you think of Gallery Stroll and how its evolved over the years?
Todd: I've watched the Gallery Stroll change quite a bit over the years. It seems like the Gallery Stroll's vitality was starting to fade for a little while there, but I see it coming back again.
Gavin: What can we expect from you the rest of this year?
Todd: I've got quite a lot planned. Right now I've got some of my T-Shirts in one of SLCitizen's satellite stores at Slowtrain records, and hope to add more soon. I've also been helping Matt Monson, owner of SLCitizen (formerly Model.Citizen) and organizer of Fashion Stroll, with their website. We are talking about showing some of my artwork in October at his new store, which will open later this month in Library Square. I will also be involved with Craft Sabbath on October 4th at Nobrow Coffee from 12-4pm. I will be working with Transfusion Hype Dance Company again and putting together new artwork for their show at the Rose Wagner which runs from December 2nd-4th. And in January, I'll have a show at Caffe Niche, which will feature a new series and new artwork.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Todd: In addition to the things I just mentioned above, I would also like to invite people to visit my website.