The interview you are about to read is part of a series of Artist Interviews tied in with the 3rd Annual Drawing for Life Marathon that will take place on March 6th, 2010 from 10am-10pm inside The Art Center II (111 E. Bay St., Jacksonville, FL 32202: located above the Ivey Bar.) Drawing for Life is a 12-hour draw-a-thon featuring 14 local artists and all the artwork created throughout the day will be sold with 100% of the proceeds going to the American Cancer Society as part of their annual Relay for Life fundraiser.
By Logan Zawacki
Let me start with a quick introduction to our artists:
*Yvonne Lozano moved to Jacksonville over 20 years ago from New Orleans, LA. She attended Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and graduated from Jacksonville University. Yvonne worked for Reddi-Arts and became more involved with the Arts scene in Jacksonville through a couple co-ops and is now a member and full-time employee of The Art Center Cooperative. Her work is on display at The Art Center and she recently has been working on a huge mural on the exterior of Reddi-Arts. Yvonne is also a member of the St. Augustine Art Association, Gainesville Fine Arts Association, and the Art Guild of Orange Park.
*Brian Gray is originally from Michigan and has lived in Jacksonville since he was 10 years old and has always been an artist. He is a self-taught artist who became involved in the Arts scene about 3 years ago and has exhibited in shows from here to Los Angeles. While trying to find Call to Artists to display his work he realized there wasn’t a central hub where Jacksonville artist could go to find out about Local art shows, so he decided to create TheOuterBox.com, a blog site dedicated to Jacksonville artists, shows, and the art scene in general. Brian has been involved with the Drawing for Life Marathon since it’s first year. He heard about the event and donated artwork to auction off and after seeing the results of the first year became a member of the 12-hour drawing marathon last year.
Now onto the Q&A…
Brian, how was the experience last year participating in the full 12-hour drawing marathon? Was it as challenging as you thought it would be?
Brian: It was like the coolest thing. The artists were guys that I had already participated in shows with and admired, so to be around that kind of energy and just have fun with it was FUN. I didn’t even think about the time. You didn’t even have time to think about ‘oh my god, I’m supposed to be drawing for how long?’ Even when we weren’t doing the Power Hours, we were feeding off each other. I was sitting next to Rob watching him paint and watching Ed paint, and then when we started swapping stuff and I was doing my version of David’s Oscar & Sid characters it was just really cool.
Yvonne, I know you’ve had a chance to hear people talk about the Drawing for Life Marathon, so I want to know what you’re looking forward to about participating in this year’s event?
Yvonne: I absolutely love artists getting together and working together, and I’ve dealt with a lot of artists in my lifetime and usually you have egos to deal with that force you to work around them, and I think it’s awesome when you can get artists together who are friends and working together for one common cause. It’s not a contest, its not about ‘I can draw better than you.’ It’s all about your heart and where it’s at, and if you have a skill, use it! Not only am I donating my skills, but its also camaraderie and fellowship with other local artists. No matter how great of an artist you are, you can always learn something from someone else, whether it’s creativity, skill, or even just influence. I was really excited when I got asked to join!
Brian, I know you were inspired by your Aunt’s battle with cancer last year during the Drawing Marathon and I was wondering if Yvonne has lost family members or friends to cancer?
Yvonne: I personally had a scare with cancer a few years ago, and luckily I was able to stop it before it became cancer. My mother had the same scare where she had a medical issue that could have potentially been cancer but they caught it early enough to stop it. So it is definitely one of those things that I think has affected everybody. There are a couple prominent people in the Jacksonville arts scene that are unfortunately dealing with it so I think everyone in one form or another knows someone who has been affected by cancer.
Brian: It seems like the older you get, the more you notice it. I never really noticed it that much until I started participating in this event. Now, I realize how common it is and that cancer isn’t a rare disease.
Yvonne: We just did Artsy Bras with The Art Center in October as part of Breast Cancer Awareness month and it was interesting having all these women come out of the woodwork about ‘this woman had her breast removed’ and ‘this woman had both breasts removed’, ‘I had a biopsy’, ‘I had a scare’, etc.
For me personally, the best part about participating in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event is that the funds don’t serve one kind of cancer. It provides equal amounts of funding to find a cure for skin cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, etc., because there are so many different forms of cancer! The American Cancer Society strives to find a cure for EVERY form of cancer. I can’t applaud them enough for what they do.
Back to the Drawing Marathon, this year we have 14 artists involved and I was wondering if there is one or two artists you two are looking forward to seeing produce work?
Yvonne: Who’s on the roster again? (laughter) Just kidding!
Brian: I’ve known Shaun Thurston for a while and I’ve seen all kinds of his work, from murals to artwork on people’s arms, so to see what he comes up with for the marathon and during the Power Hours will be interesting.
I’m definitely excited to have him be a part of this because he wasn’t even supposed to be in Jacksonville, by chance he returned and it all worked out. Yvonne, do you have anyone in particular?
Yvonne: Gosh. Everyone! I’m totally one of those people who can learn something from a five-year old, know what I mean?
I don’t have any 5 year olds participating this year. (laughter)
Yvonne: I just try to be that open-minded and act like a sponge, soaking it all up. I’d love to see Logan’s work because I’ve known him for over 10 years. I met him back in 2000 when we both worked at Toys R’ Us and I had no idea what he did. He left Toys R’ Us and disappeared for a while and then our paths crossed again a few years later at The Art Bar.
Oh lord, who knows? If I met you at The Art Bar I don’t remember. (laughter) If it was a Thursday night…good times!
Yvonne: It was a Thursday night actually. I remember. But then I found out you were into the Art scene and I saw the work you produced and was very excited.
I was just as excited to find out you were a local artist because when we worked at Toys R’ Us I didn’t even know you did art! Now I have to know something, what inspired your unique style? Your body of work is inspired by childhood memories, but what inspired the way you present those memories?
Yvonne: It all started my last year at JU, I was doing a lot of figure studies and portraits, and around that time one of my family members had just passed away. My family is from Colombia so it wasn’t a relative I’d see all the time and one day I was flooded with all these memories of her and my childhood when my mom called to inform me she died. Creepy. The last time I saw her I was a kid and she lived in this tiny town in Colombia with dirt roads and chickens coming out of the houses and I remember she was always so happy to see us. She would make us these little coconut ice cube things with a toothpick in it and we would be so excited because it was 100 degrees there. She would just be so happy to make us happy. I could see her, I could smell her, and I was moved by the simple life that she lead. I started asking myself why I didn’t appreciate the little things in life as I got older?
Then, my mom had bags and boxes full of old photographs from when I was a kid, and there was one picture of me and my sister in two trash cans that my mom had filled up with Mr. Bubbles. We were really poor growing up in New Orleans and the roads would flood a lot (as everybody knows by now.) So in New Orleans we would have the equivalent of Snow Days when it would rain too much and my mom would have to come up with creative ways to entertain us. Again it was an example of a simple life, so I wanted to create it. My characters originally had eyes and were bonier, since I’m pretty bony. (laughter) After a while of developing my style, the mouths were removed and the children became fatter, and I wanted to my work to look like a child was making it from afar, but as you get closer you realize it is more complicated.
The coolest part about people viewing my work is finding out I wasn’t the only one who had these weird experiences. Listening to people say, “I remember doing that” or “I did that as a child” was really cool.
Everybody has filled a trashcan with Mr. Bubbles. I mean, who doesn’t have that story? (laughter) After you’ve explained it your style makes perfect sense. It’s inspired by the simplicity of childhood, and by the simplicity of your relatives, and the way you translate your characters in a simplistic nature makes total sense. Thank you for sharing!
Brian, I have one question for you. After getting attacked a couple years ago for your artwork not being “Art” how have you bounced back from the criticism?
Brian: Well, honestly the criticism never meant that much. It pissed me off. It all really boiled down to not being a bunch of artists coming after us (Brian, Squid Dust, Ed, ToyCrusher), but one person. The best part was no matter what that one person said, I still had people who loved my work and his opinion didn’t affect them. I’ve seen plenty of people look at my work at a show and I can tell they’re thinking, “This isn’t art. What the heck is this?” But then there are the other people who see my work and they have to buy it. My work lately has much more thought put into it and is more than just trying to make something look cool. I like to cater my work to the skate & surf culture around Florida.
After all your experiences with local galleries, gallery spaces, and different art co-ops, do you have any words of advice to local artists
Brian: You’re better off as an artist if YOU go to businesses, if YOU go to empty buildings and YOU talk to the owners about using their space. Don’t let someone else do it for you. If I go to talk to an owner I’m going to be more passionate about describing myself and my art compared to someone who is just trying to help me out. You’re better off selling yourself versus having someone else do it.
That concludes the informative part of our Q&A, but if you’d REALLY like to get to know Yvonne Lozano and Brian Gray check out our “10-minute Q&A” session that covers off the wall questions like “Can you name all of Santa’s reindeers?” to “Who would win in a fight between He-Man and Lion-O?”
These interviews are TheOuterBox.com exclusives!