INTERVIEW WITH AN ARTIST: Sp3ktr On Terror, Arousal, and Occult Influences

K: What is your favourite material to work with?

S: I find that I am still drawn to the basics when it comes to making art. The rough blue pencil lines that inform the final drawing, brittle mechanical pencil lead that tightens up the original composition and my ham fisted ink pens define and delineate the final form. The rest is cleaned up and made presentable via my computer so I can jettison each drawing into the social media void.

K: What is the first piece of work you were really proud of?

S: I drew a cyclopean beast man with a motorcycle wheels for legs who was defecating a giant pyramid from his mighty butt when I was in second grade. That was the first piece I was super proud of.

K: How have you changed as an artist since then?

S: Not much. I’ve honed my technique and have a lot more patience.

K: Your work mixes a lot of different styles, reminiscent of everything from tarot cards to pop art. How did you develop this distinct style?

S: My style mirrors my esoteric world view. During a period of extreme depression and hopelessness, mired in a cesspool of self-doubt, failure and despondence, I sought good cheer in one of my hip-hop mix-tapes. The DJ mixed into a KRS-ONE track called The MC when the following words hit me like a lightning flash:

“Her infinite power helps, oppressed people sent me to tell you. If you truly study lyrical flows and stay on your toes you will be /Who am I? the MC! /And as an MC you will study verbal magic/ But watch what you say ’cause you’ll attract it /Control your subconscious magnet from pullin in havoc…”

I came out of that reverie thinking, “What if I approached art in the same way that the DJ approaches the mix?

I could pull cuts and snapshots from a wide range of pop culture, art and metaphysics, blending them together like an electronic musician samples the 20th century.

K: You often use occult or superstitious iconography in your art. What drew you to this aesthetic?

S: I have channel-surfed the occult for most of my life, reading about mystics and madmen, the curious and the forbidden. I live in a pretty spiritual town and the background hum of the new age has pulled at me often, it was shortly after my hip-hop epiphany that I re-listened to comic book writer Grant Morrison’s 2005 lecture on chaos magic. I blended his thoughts on comic books as mythology and using our global cultural memory to create my esoteric style. I wanted the viewer to feel excited, afraid and naughty, like the first time you see the scary movie your parents wouldn’t let you see or that shiver of fear and exhilaration at skinny dipping the first time. I tap into our cultural memory to manifest that energy.

K: Your work blends horror with the erotic. What brings the two together for you?

S: Most occult practises manifest results by harnessing the power of the subconscious mind to make changes on a subatomic level. The key to accessing the subconscious mind is to derail your train of thought. There are many ways of achieving this effect, like meditation, yoga, dancing till the point of exhaustion. My favourite ways are the most primal – terror and arousal. The goosebumps from a lover’s kiss on your neck are just as powerful as the ones from a shriek in the night.

K: You describe your work as referencing ‘forgotten popular culture’. What elements of past pop culture do you particularly like to draw on?  

C: I am so fond of underground comics, novelty t-shirts and naïve horror art. Many times these gems were made by people who weren’t looking to be famous but had a knack for art. They pumped out t-shirt and skate board graphics with the words “Ass, cash or grass! No one rides for free” or some horrible bootleg Mickey Mouse drug shirt. They might not be in the Tate gallery but they have spawned legions of lowbrow aficionados in their wake.

K: A lot of your work is reminiscent of historic sci-fi and horror styles. What do you find inspiring about this look? 

S: In a continuation of the last question, it’s the semi-rushed mass produced veneer that I am attracted to. It’s that exciting crackle of the unfamiliar that oozes from those art styles that are worthy of my conceptual theft.

K: You do work with models for a lot of your work. How much does the model inform the final piece?

S: Working with models is a very fine line to walk on. I try to stay as close to the source imagery without being insulting. The models I have worked with are extremely brave for letting a total stranger draw them. I draw them as beautiful as I see them, inside and out.

K: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

S: It’s almost cliché at this point, but practice makes perfect. I’ve watched hours upon hours of tutorials, read hundreds of books and taken many classes. Only when I actually sat down and started cranking out art did all that instruction take hold in my heart, head, and hands. My advice is to practice your art all the time. Stop fucking around with TV, video games and other distractions. Put that time into honing your craft.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you about my work.

A huge thank you to Sp3ktr for taking the time to talk to us! To check out more of his art and keep up with his latest art, you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Vimeo and Dribble. You can also support him from buying merchandise from his Threadless or Etsy pages.

Find Out More About Sp3ktr:

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