Interview with Grant Fuhst

Congratulations on your nomination for the artist of the month. You are a bit of a mystery person, as I couldn't find a lot about you, so how about an introduction and some background information for a start?

Well, I've been creating art ever since I was a kid, mostly just for my own pleasure, although I have done freelance work occasionally. For the past few years I have been making prints of my work and selling them at sci-fi conventions around the country.

Do you have any formal artistic training? If so, how important do you think it has been for the development of your art/style and your career?

No formal training. I think it's been a blessing and a curse. The curse is that it has taken me much longer to hone my technical skills through trial and error than it would have if I'd had more training. The blessing is that I see a lot of similar styles out there that are sort of cookie-cutter-stamped on artists because they are the style-du-jour at the schools, whereas I have been free to develop my own quirky style without those kinds of influences.

Who were and who are your favorite artists and why?

When I was young, Frazetta was a big influence. Also Bernie Wrightson. I picked up the very first Swamp Thing and was blown away by the beautiful art. My biggest influence is Picasso. I never tire of looking at his work. He was such an explorer, pioneering so many new styles and visual languages. A master of symbolism, color, form. If I am ever lacking for inspiration, I go back to Picasso and become re-ignited with the desire to create.

What about the Epilogue galleries - any favorites in there?

Absolutely! I am fan of many artists here. David Senecal, William Hollingsworth, Alice Duke, Jen Hudson, just to name a few.

What is your preferred media? Any specific reasons for that choice?

I work in acrylics. I prefer them to oils because they dry faster, allowing me to paint in layers very quickly. Also they are more versatile and can be applied over pretty much anything, and I do a lot of multi-media stuff.

Is most of your work displayed at Epilogue commissioned pieces? Do you also create art just for yourself as well? Is it different in any way?

Actually, most of my work is done just for me. I enjoy exploring my own themes and ideas, but yes, there is a big difference. When I do contract work, I'm being engaged to realize someone else's vision, which is challenging in itself. Plus there's usually a deadline, so I have to create quickly, rather than wait for inspiration to come.

Your art is unconventional, dark and clearly inspired; would you say it's a reflection of your personality?

My Personality? The one thing people tend to say about me when they meet me is that my personality doesn't match my work. I guess I get all those demons out through my work, so when you meet me I'm not very likely to dice you up with a butcher knife. Although...

Do you read (a lot of) books? What kind? Who is your favorite writer?

I do read a lot, although sporadically. I have several favorite writers. Harlan Ellison, whom I've had the pleasure of meeting and even did a small illustration for a spoken word CD of his. Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut are also favs. I love Phillip K. Dick but have only read a few of his books. I read House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski a couple of years ago and was stunned. 1984 is one of my favorite books and, disturbingly, becomes more relevant with each passing year. I could go on but I'll stop now.

What is/are your primary inspiration source(s)?

I don't know. There are several. I get stuff from movies I see, books, music, even dreams. "Death in New York", a piece I did after 9/11, was based on a dream.

What tips would you give to beginning artists who want to improve the quality of their work?

Work! There's no substitution for pure repetition. It's the great teacher. Don't get "precious" about your work. Dive in, finish it and move on. If you have some piece that you never finish because you can't get it just right, you're cheating yourself of the learning process. We learn from our failures, not our successes.

Any plans for your own website?

I had one awhile back. But it was sort of costly to maintain in terms of not just money but time. I like Epilogue, where I can just give you my art and you do the rest of the work!

The public is always curious about the process of creation of artworks - can you tell us how you do it?

There are two parts to creating art. The inspiration part, and the technical part. The technical part is like anything else. You learn the craft, how to use the tools, the media etc. Then you practice a lot until you're good. The inspiration part is a bit harder to explain. With me it usually starts with a feeling, a strong emotion I experience under some set of circumstances. Then I try to imagine how that emotion might be turned into a visual symbol, something someone else could experience by looking at it. If I'm struggling to get it, I might do a lot of thumbnail sketches to work it out. Or it might come to me right away and I'll just hit the canvas.

What is your favorite subject to draw/paint?

The subject could be anything really, but I do seem to have favorite themes. Fears and phobias (the machine accosting the poor soul in "Room 101" resembles a spider -- I have a mild case of arachnophobia), the relationship between men and women ("Casual Confidences", "Love is Blind"), and madness ("The Black Cat", "From Hell").

What are your dreams/aspirations, as far as your art is concerned?

I'd like to be able to quit my day job.

Has your background / upbringing influenced your work you think?

Yes.

What was your favorite/most memorable project you ever worked on, and why?

When I was about 9 or 10, I was one of two students asked to draw a mural of the Taj Mahal for my classroom. I felt like a big-time artist!

What are you working on at the moment?

A big nasty thing I started about five years ago. Its called "Blood Tree" and it's based on a dream I had about what I assume was the Tree of Life (even though, at the time I had the dream, I had never heard of such a thing). There is a piece in my gallery now called "Harmony Tree" that is based on the same idea, but while that is a digital piece, "Blood Tree" is a multi-media, semi-sculptural piece on plywood that measures 7' by 3'. I used the same technique as on other works of mine such as "Room 101" and "Scarecrow", gluing hundreds of plastic model pieces along with bits of wood and other stuff to the board, and then painting over it all. It should finally be finished in the next week or so.

The last but not least Epilogue question: What cartoons did you watch as a kid? What about comics? What are your favorite comics at the moment (if you read any)?

Like everyone my age, I grew up on a lot of Warner Bros. cartoons. I also loved the old Max Fleischer toons, especially Popeye, and of course the wonderful surrealism of Tex Avery. I don't read comics these days, but I grew up on The Hulk, Swamp Thing, Man Thing, plus the old Warren mags, Eerie and Creepy.

Art at its best.