I recently interview artist Peter Schwartz. Mr. Schwartz is a poet, painter, author, editor, publisher, essayist, playwright, humorist, and musician. As you can tell, he has an abundance of creative energy. This energy is reflected in his paintings.
Digital painting is a form of meditation for Schwartz. The outside world is blocked while his creative energy flows. In a sense, he permits his movements to dictate the direction of the painting. His hand moves wildly with the brush as the painting takes form. Peter's body of work is marked by this frantic energy.
Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?
A. "I would say when my formal education began. I studied fiction in college quite intensely. There was fierce competition to get into an Advanced Fiction class taught by none other than famous author, Rick Moody. During that time I also worked on a short book of poetry for my senior project. After school I believed that poetry was the more pure form and set out to become a master of that craft. If nothing more I have found a unique voice in a realm where personally I see a lot of imitation and echoes. The same way that poetry seemed the next evolution from fiction, painting is the next step from poetry for me. Not limited by words, I can say so much; the brush doesn't fight back at me like the pen. A "wrong" word needs to be erased, a "wrong" line can be added to or totally painted over."
Q. How has creating art shaped you professionally and personally?
A. "I used to think that art was some abstract thing I did hidden in my room. But of course, art is the ultimate method of self-exploration. Through art I have taught myself to see potential everywhere, to assess and make decisions with an absolutely cold eye, to value the Other for its own sake regardless of my desires, to be open and stay as far away from having any identity as possible, in short, to love and have passion for my life, whatever it may bring."
Q. How has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your art?
A. "I am very much a hermit. Honestly, I barely leave my house and pay as little attention to society as possible. I am dedicated to living in
the dimension that opens up when I create or at least in the shadow of that dimension where I hustle to further my career. That being said, obviously society often intrudes into my little world and the way that it has influenced me is it has made me paint to an audience that for the most part is grossly indifferent to art. I have always hated being ignored so I paint BIG, STRONG, LOUD, INTENSE, POWERFUL images because as a result of being a hermit I have a lot to express."
Q. What are your artistic influences? Has anyone inspired you?
A. "Not really. Every once in a while I see a painting that makes me say wow which inspires me to make something better. I think a healthy, confident, honest artist should think he/she is the best. I'm the best. Hahah, in fairnes to oh, the entire art world, I don't really actively seek out art because I am too busy making my own. I do like the work of some of my friends like Carolyn Adams and Daniel Y. Harris. Oh, and Brian Sherwin, can't get enough of that Brian Sherwin."
Q. Tell me a little about your background. Are your past experiences reflected in the work you do today? If so, how?
A. "I've done a lot in my life. I've had many serious girlfriends, I've lived on a Kibbutz and traveled the Middle East, I've worked many different kinds of jobs from construction to marketing, I've recorded and performed all kinds of music, I've truly sowed my oats. Because of this, I can psychologically handle my solitary life because I don't have to concern myself with defining myself by the world's terms anymore. To put it very simply, I know I'm cool. Everything I've ever been goes into my paintings because the reservoir I tap into when I work is nothing less than my unconscious. I can go on for hours before I actually realize what it is in fact I'm doing."
Q. On average, how long does it take you create one piece?
A. "Ah, when I start painting, even after the very first stroke, I initiate a process of trying to balance out what I see. Occasionally I find that balance in a few hours but usually it's a marathon. I barely blink as I add or take away or otherwise mainpulate the work. After I get an image I deem finished on that primary level, I put it into an effects program and systematically try every single option I possibly can. Obviously, it's impossible to hit upon them all but I go through what feels like a million different versions before I finally decide I am satisfied. I will often spend hours going back and forth between vey very similar versions of the same piece. Those sessions last between 12 to 14 hours. A few times I have made images I liked but didn't quite do it for me and gone back to perfect them at a later date."
Q. Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?
A. "Again I bring up my college career. There I studied just about every Eastern religion including Zen Buddhism. I am definitely in a state of meditation when I paint. I don't do or notice anything else, I just paint."
Q. If you could pinpoint the characteristics of people who collect your art, what would they be?
Q. Discuss one of your pieces. What were you thinking when you created it?
A. "Well, since it's still fresh in my mind, let's take my newest piece, 'the art of paranoia'. At first, like all my paintings, I wasn't thinking a motherloving thing. I was letting my hand go wild, trying to put a little of every color everywhere. At some point it seemed balanced but a bit boring. I took the cut tool and cut little triangles out, going up and down in a line to the far left. Then I filled them with black. I liked how this looked so much (like thorny stalks) that I cut and pasted seven more on. At this point I knew I had to put the image into my effects program where I shaded the top then flipped it and shaded the other side too. I felt it still needed something else though and took a black cyberpencil and made the mad black scribbles coming out in a spiral and finally the eye in the center. Voila! I realize I am talking about the process rather than what I was thinking, but the process is all that exists for me. I paint using my unconscious so what was I thinking? Nothing."
Q. What is your artistic process?
A. "I suppose I came as close to answering that question as I can get in your last question, hahaha, I don't know ask God."
Q. Why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?
A. "I chose painting digitally because it's what was available to me. It's clean, cheap, and has so many options and tricks to make even a fool like me look like he can paint. It's almost 2007 so I use this modern tool. I am a perfectionist and so being able to click "undo" when I don't like something I did saves me a whole lot of heartache."
Q. Do you have a degree or do you plan to attend school for art? If so, how has it helped your art career?
A. "Nah, education ultimately teaches you to teach yourself. I know how to teach myself and it's very simple. I stare at an empty canvas and try to do something I've never done before; a blank canvas, that's all the education I've ever needed."
Q. Where can we see more of your art?
A. "Well you can see them all at: http://www.sitrahahra.com/."
Q. Any tips for emerging artists?
A. "Don't sit around in trendy cafes discussing art and how deep you are. Paint. Paint and always challenge yourself to do something different and take risks. A lot of "artists" seem to develop one style then milk it for the rest of their lives. That's not art. That's repeating a formula to reinforce an identity. Every time I get too caught up in the business of promotion and networking I take a step back and remember what it's all about and I paint. Let yourself fall in love with the process and you truly can't lose."
Q. Has your work ever been censored? If so, how did you deal with it?
A. "No, it hasn't. If someone dared try to censor me I would proceed with Project Alpha. Projects Alpha consists of me blowing a special high frequency whitsle that only my underground army of very pissed off homeless men can hear. I have trained them to obey my will using auto-suggestion and advanced hypnotic techniques and will release their terrible, funky fury on any and all curators and art directors who dare oppose my vision. Let them be warned!"
Q. What was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?
A. "This interview? No just kidding, I am sure you can tell I am having fun. I am more focused on the act of creation than my career so things never get too bad. So far I have mostly concentrated on getting paintings published on literary sites which is pretty gentle. I send work and they say yes or they say no. Maybe as my career grows there will be rock-bottoms."
Q. In one sentence... why do you create art?
A. "I create art to escape, to transcend the everyday by taking part in the holy act of creation."
Q. Does religion, faith, or the lack thereof play a part in your art?
A. "Creation is by definition spiritual. I channel the unknown into colors, textures, shapes, etc. when I paint. In a very real sense, painting IS my faith and religion."
Q. Is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the 'art world'?
A. "Yes. Although I need to make art like other people need to eat and breathe, it's a luxury and a blessing to be able to spend my time painting, for that opportunity I thank my mother, God, and the creators of digital painting programs everywhere."
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Peter Schwartz. Feel free to discuss or critique his work.
Take care, Stay true,