Author Brian K. Hemphill is one of the most intriguing individuals I know; he is well-learned and has a great wealth of information to share with us in his new book, “The Elements of Creative & Expressive Artistry.” It was a pleasure sitting down with Brian for this interview.
Delroy: My first question to you is, What do you see as the role of the visual arts in society today, particularly in your profession?
Brian: Well, as a philosopher, artist and teacher, I think visual artistry plays an important role in terms of human consciousness. One example – if you think about the poor people of this country…the underclass during the late ’60s – early ’70s, a form of graffiti art…street art started to develop, and I think that art just become a mechanism for people to express feelings and attitiude that would otherwise inexpressible. Artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat is a good example of that type of improvisational quality that sort of seeps out of his painting. It’s almost like you can see his mind at work.
Delroy: New communications and media technologies make imagery almost instantly available. Do you believe that this is having a positive or negative influence on your field/industry (provide example)?
Brian: Where would we be in the cinematic field if we didn’t have the advancement of let’s say blue screen or green screen technologies?
Delroy: We would be in the dark ages pretty much.
Brian: Exactly. if you think about something like Batman Returns today…very nice, versus the Batman that used to walk up the sides of buildings that was very cartoony and the Planet of the Apes that I remember growing up in 1968-1969, but what they do today with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, they really look like apes riding horses, and I think that advances are great. The other day I saw a movie called, “The Alligator People”, and it looked like a man in an alligator suit running around. Today’s audience wouldn’t have the ability to have the attention for that type of imagery, but I think the downside of it is that it can disengage our imagination. We need our imagination to engage in certain types of expressions…I just wonder are things becoming so realistic in the cinematic arts that loose our imagination.
Delroy: What popular images do you see that are frequently repeated throughout your industry?
Brian: I am just going to use an example, again, being a writer that writes very broadly. One of the imageries that has always engaged me is the duality of man. If you think about Dr. Frankenstein and Frankenstein Monster, who is really the monster? Frankenstein Monster really shows moments of tenderness where as Dr. Frankenstein in a way is sort of this evil scientist, or if you think about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it’s the same thing. In comic book culture, Bruce Banner and his alter ego The Hulk, or even where you have King Kong, where King Kong is more human in his captors. I think that is one imagery we sort of see recycled; the Greeks even writes about that. We talk about Achilles and Achilles heel.
Delroy: Who is one of your favorite visual artists, and/or what is your favorite style of visual art?
Brian: I’m just going to name a few quick ones. Salvador Dali – surrealistic. The imagery has a dreamlike quality to his work which makes me think of Life as a dream in some ways, Paul Cezanne, who offers an impressionistic view – Sometime life is hazy, and I think an artist such as Pablo Picasso who presents his fragmentary view where life is fragmented perhaps would also be an expression that I think offers us a view.
Delroy: Finally Brian, How has your knowledge of famous artworks influenced your creative process?
Brian: I do not think that I would have been able to write a book if I didn’t do a survey of all types of art, and I have hundreds of projects that came out from just doing that research. The short answer is, I think for any artist, it really does pay to take a view of what arts are about so in that way you kind of pull your conscientiousness and understand where we come from and maybe even be able to articulate where we’re going to advance to.
Delroy: Well Brian, thank you once again, I really appreciate this.