Weekly Interview #2 - David Finley

Tell us about yourself and your work.
 It's always a strange experience talking about myself, but here goes. First, I have a beard and I'm a huge Beatles fan. My beautiful wife tells me those two traits aren't necessarily related, but who can say? Cats are generally more likable than dogs, but I have one of each, and both are pretty awesome. Having a dog is really great for getting me outside, and since we live within walking distance of the ocean, I get to take in some really breathtaking sights.
  Most days, I like to write about or draw pictures of things I'm interested in, whether it's a talking orange, an alcoholic donkey, or a tribute piece to John Lennon. I also run a blog geared toward artists and creative people called, The Haven for Scofflaws.

 The term 'Scofflaw' was chosen because artists tend to be misunderstood. When I say 'artist', I am referring to visual artists, as well as musicians, writers, dancers, and like minded individuals. We're sort of a peculiar lot, so I wanted to make a blog with articles geared toward the creative personality with some humor thrown in.
 If you're a regular reader of my site, I like to affectionately refer to you as one of my Scofflaws, and hope the term creates a sense of belonging and community.
 Jokingly, I call myself the Grand Poobah of all Scofflaws because the idea of a Grand Poobah of some secret society seems funny to me. I became fascinated with the Royal Order Water Buffalos in old Flintstone cartoons, and the idea stuck.
 Since art school, I have had an inner battle between my fine art and illustration work. Fortunately, I realized I could split my artistic persona in two and market them almost like two separate divisions of the same company. I've even considered trying a slightly different variant on my name for the fine art side.
 On the illustration side, I do mostly digital cartoon style illustration to accompany my writing, however, I've also illustrated book covers, done interiors for magazines, and I'm working on a children's book called, ABC, Witch with a friend of mine named, Jonathan. I prefer making simple pieces with strong shapes, and lots of texture. I don't think a work of art needs to be complicated to be strong.
 From the fine arts perspective, I like to work with mixed media: mostly charcoal, collage, ink, scraps of paper, wood, and paint here and there. The work tends to be more serious in subject matter, and is often much more personal. It's a bit more cathartic for me than my illustration, but like a parent who refuses to pick a side, I love them both equally. Plus, there's something really cool about having my work hanging in an art gallery, which I still feel a little giddy about.
 The first gallery piece I sold was a triptych called, The Constraints of Expectations, which chronicled my frustrations with the communication barriers between my Dad and me as a result of his hearing loss. 

What got you started? What keeps you in?
 My Dad probably inspired me more toward art than anyone else. I still have memories of him at his desk when I was four as he worked on meticulous illustrations of people with super tight brush line work for a Commercial art course he was taking in college.
 I would sit beside him bending my crayons to my will until a crude form of Pac-man could be made out on the page. (it was 1981) We were poor, but I didn't really know it at that age. So, my Dad, who used to work at gas stations, eventually sacrificed his art career for his family, which I completely love him for, but those memories were still strong enough to  start a fire of passion for art inside me that I can't seem to quench.

 Recently, I made a parody illustration featuring Pac--man and in a way, it was like I was still sitting next to my Dad. Look at me, I'm getting sentimental over an illustration featuring a video game character eating the ku klux klan.
 My disposition and personality almost seems to make art my only real career option. I don't think I can be happy in the long term doing anything else. That might sound dramatic to other people, but I've tried doing other things where the paycheck comes a lot easier with more regularity, and even the security of reliable income isn't enough. Most recently, I worked at a ministry doing drama and public speaking, but despite the highest paychecks I had ever earned doing something some would call quite noble, the call to art made me miserable at what I was doing.
What/who inspires you? In what way?
 My own experiences and relationships inspire what I do more than anything. I usually have a hard time making a piece if I haven't emotionally connected with it first. My wife inspires me, as she did in the piece above called, Songbird. My cat, Skelly has been a consistent muse, although he passed away last December, which was incredibly difficult for me. There's a part of me that still grieves for him.
 Yet, even in his death he has inspired me to explore new territory. For instance, in the piece below, I was trying to sort out my feelings about death, spirituality, afterlife, and what I hoped it would be, so I included him.

 I've also been inspired by a whole slew of fine artists and illustrators, although I wish we could just refer to them all as artists and drop the distinctions.
 On the illustration side, I'd say my strongest influences are Bill Waterson, Mary Blair, Jeff Smith, Charles Schultz, Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Shane Glines, Kazu Kibuishi, Tadahiro Uesugi, and the Walt Disney studio. There are a lot more artists, I study and follow, but these have had a profound impact on me, particularly Mary Blair. Her work is equal parts simple and deceptively complex.
 On the fine arts side there is Kara Walker, Francis Bacon, Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Barry McGee, William Kentridge, Claude Monet, Sally Mann, Alberto Giacometti, Marc Rothko, Marc Chagall, Vincent VanGogh, Pablo Picasso... well, the list goes on. But most of my influences are post mid-nineteenth century artists. Picasso is probably my favorite despite some of the flack he takes. When I saw Guernica for the first time, it blew me away.
What is art for you? Examples of "real art"?
 Art is truth. Art is observing and communicating.
 It becomes most "real" in relation to the person it is impacting. For some, it is a painting like the Mona Lisa because that painting represents what art should be to them. It's a powerful emotional experience. To be honest, I much prefer DaVinci's Last Supper to the Mona Lisa. In essence, it's the audience that is responsible for defining a piece of art because their interaction is necessary to complete the equation. What would visual art be with no one to see it?

 Real art for me is John Lennon's song, Watching the Wheels which became an anthem for me as I dreamt about when I would be free of a job that was hurting me emotionally. Real art is Bill Waterson's Calvin and Hobbes strips, with their beautiful ink work and intelligent writing, reminding me to keep looking at the world through a more innocent view. Kara Walker's whole room installations put me in the old south, and remind me we can't always sweep our darkest moments under the rug. Those works resonate with me, and I in turn see myself in those works.
That is art.
The most powerful/your favourite medium: picture, words, sounds? Anything else?
Art in all it's forms is interconnected, and while each type has a beauty and strength of its own, it is at its most powerful when the various types of art work together.
 I attended a dance performance with my wife that combined projections of cubist paintings with dance choreography and music. Each was beautiful on its own, but the three types of art combined moved me considerably more than one alone might have. I would love to do something similar someday.
Plans for future (of your work)?
 For now, I'd like to keep growing as a visual artist and writer, but I'm always up for a new challenge.
 My goals for the rest of this year involve working on producing more work for galleries. I hang in two right now, but I'd like to expand.  Finishing my children's book, putting together material for an ebook, and publishing some art related articles for a few magazines I enjoy reading are all on my to do list. Of course, I also want to keep working on my websites, building an audience and reaching out to people. It's a lot of work, but I'm happy to be doing what I love.

 In the more distant future, I want to do more directing and writing for comedy based short films and sketches, and wouldn't be opposed to a longer project of some sort. I cowrote a song called, "Weiner in your Face" that I still need to shoot the video for. It's exactly what it sounds like. We are going to shoot a montage of a zany picnic where everyone is eating hotdogs. There's also a real niche to fill producing more entertaining podcasts geared toward artists.
Anything you'd like to add? Maybe a song, a picture, hello to friends and family?

 A picture huh? Here's one I feel really represents me. :)
 In all seriousness, if you're a young artist just starting out, understand that a lot of hard work is ahead of you. There's going to be a lot of rejection. Don't compare yourself to others, and don't make deadlines for your success. Listen to advice and improve where you can, but keep working. The best thing to do is just make the work and try to get it in front of people. You will improve more in the process of doing than in planning.
 I just want to thank everyone who has ever encouraged and supported me in doing what I love. A special thanks to my wife, Nicole for the daily support she gives me. And, if I could, I'd like to ask everyone to check out my website, Haven for Scofflaws. (www.havenforscofflaws.com)

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