Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Interview with Richard Olmsted

q)Let's start with the basics; what's your full name, where do you live, and how old are you?

a)My name is Richard Olmsted, I'm 23 years old, and I live in Bellingham Washington, but in two weeks I'll be homeless, and from there on out, on a likely daily basis I'll live somewhere else.

q) Do you have any formal training?

a)I graduated with a degree in studio art, drawing/printmaking. But I'm almost reluctant to even mention that. I put much more faith in ones own creativity and ability to accomplish than I do the industrial education system. I am very thankful for the things I learned, and absolutely bitter about every potentially gorgeous day wasted.Because printmaking is such a technical craft, I hope that someday, if I am ever to afford a printing press, that I can just teach people who are eager to learn but outside of that educational system.

q) Did the place you grew up in influence your image making?

a)I grew up in a town called Mt. Vernon in northwest Washington. My grandfather taught art there. He was a very bizarre artist, and inarguably a huge impact on me. Mt. Vernon strangely however, produces an astonishing amount of bad art. The truly interesting and creative work seems always overshadowed by an onslaught of trite landscapes, sunsets, Ferry boats crossing the Puget sound. Cutesy shit like ducks wearing bonnets, or lounging cats on porch steps. Its almost unbearable. As if no one is paying attention. I feel terrible saying it, I just think the art community has characterized itself as having an abundance of talent completely void of critical thought.Its great for purely decorative purposes, and incredibly marketable, and I imagine that is why it is so prevalent.But that of course is just what the storefronts portray, not always an accurate portrayal of a community. I love the northwest, I love the Skagit county and as much as I travel, I'll always return home. I think its important to have a connection to a place.If the place has affected my image making, it is in the anger of watching a place I love systematically murdered by our culture's inescapable destruction and relentless expansion, and It is a war on many fronts.

q) How do you come up with your concepts?

a)Sometimes it begins with words, a I might rewrite a title in my head a hundred times before start assembling things visually, and sometimes it's exactly the opposite, where my brainstorming is initially visual. Either way I think I can say I spend a great deal just thinking about things before I start physically working on the piece.

q) Describe your creations in a clear, concise and understandable sentence. What do you call them?

a)I draw stuff.Simple graphite prayers that the last remnants of beauty are neither records of art, nor products of it, but simply all of that around us, and for us to defend. In that defense, art -among other things- is my weapon of choice.

q)What other mediums would you like to explore in your image making?

a)I would really like to spend maybe a few more years learning the technicalities of printmaking, but eventually -even though I am especially fond of the way graphite looks- if I have the space and time I would like to paint. Of course, these are only first in line, I never want to limit myself.

q)What is the best time in the day for you to work on a project? Is there one, or is it more about the environment -- maybe the right mood?

a)All of the above. Basically I just don't like to be working on stuff when it feels forced, but that's rarely a problem because generally when I get going on something I have trouble pulling myself away from it. I usually just need to be left alone with coffee, a pencil, and stacks and stacks of music.

q) What are your artistic influences?...and generally who or what influences you the most?

a)Well, you know I likely find much more influence from books and music than I do visual art. A pretty basic idea kicks around in my head for quite a while -occasionally years- before I am either satisfied, or have the time to start pouring it onto paper. But a lot of those ideas are things I write down in the middle of a book or song, letting my thoughts drift.

q) Who are some of your favourite artists/designers/photographers?

a)Kathe Kollwitz, the Beehive Collective, Helnwein(or rather, both Helnweins), Renzo Vespignani, Beksinski, Banksy, Adrian Piper, Joel Peter Witkin, Alejandro Jodorowsky, I don't know, that's just to name a few, this list could be as long as we wanted to take it.

q) What is your next project?Exhibition?Collaboration?

a)Right now there's a couple of bands I’ve committed to doing some art for, even though I generally don't really have time and try to shy away from that kind of work. I'm also somewhere in the thick of working on the largest drawing I’ve ever really worked got myself into, a kind of cross section machinery describing as best I can the six agents of socialization. It’s somewhat of an experiment in how long I can work on a single piece, a marathon of patience, but it also allows me the time to put things together in a really meaningful and descriptive way.As far as showing work, I just recently was part of an exhibition in Los Angeles called "Tall Totem". It was a benefit for the downtown women's shelter there at Shepherd Fairey's 1269 gallery. It was set up by Kevin Willis ( and included Chet Zar, Adam Jones, Alan Hurely, Ryan Iverson, Adele Mildred, Camella Grace, Shephard Fairey, Dee Dee Cheriel, Kevin Willis, Alan Hurly, Christopher Wilson, Jeanie Wittmeyer, Heather McMillan, Sam McPheeters, Kime Buzzelli, Leigh Ledare, Robyn Breen, Sheryl Neilds, Travis Shinn, Arlie Carstens, Jonny Fenix, David Jackson, Kai Smart, Candace Lin, Colin Burns, and Clint Peterson. Qui, David Scott Stone, and the Moonrats played.It was a ton of fun, plus we raised 3,000 dollars for the benefit. There is talk of doing another totem event in another city, which I would love to do again.

q)What are your plans for the future?
a)Unbridled and unending love and rage.

q)Are there some web sites that You would like to recomend? Artists, art communities, xxx,...!?

a)I really like the Beinart collective and surreal art forum, ( I discovered it fairly recently, but I can get lost in there for hours.

q)What sort of music do you listen to?

a)I listen to a lot of SWANS, Angels of Light, A Silver Mt. Zion, Godspeed you black emperor, The Secret Chiefs 3, the Devil Makes Three, firewater, Neurosis, Grails, state of fear, To What End?, state of fear, good stuff across all genres.

q)Do you collect anything?If so what?

a)Memories and stories, and I'm always looking for more.

q)What do you do for fun?
a)Everything. fun is something that must constantly be reinvented, so I am endlessly trying to renew it in its infinite possibilities. I like to travel in a manner that often resembles a long drawn-out near death experience. Play drums, read, vandalize, etc.

q)Any advice you can pass onto aspiring artists/designers?

a)there are no rules in art. Fight foul.

q)Your contacts...

a)Though I have this dream where the electronic infrastructure is collapsing, the cellphone towers have rusted and withered. The computers are their own tombstones, to a memory of themselves. And its too late for the carrier pigeons, but instead for our distant friends, we pack tightly our words into bottles and hurl them into the sea,Checking your mail is just a walk to the beach.So, until then,
PO box 845
Mount Vernon WA98273


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