In Depth with the Artist: John Dyer Baizley

junkyardarts October 1, 2010 Comments Off on In Depth with the Artist: John Dyer Baizley
In Depth with the Artist: John Dyer Baizley

Torche album detailIn our very first In Depth with the Artist/Shop collaboration, we are proud to present John Dyer Baizley.  At the jump see John’s work, read our interview and learn about this promising artists plans for the future.  Then check out our partner in crime, Stay Thirsty for a double dose of Baizley and art!

We at Junkyard Arts believe that art belongs to everyone – it defies demographics, though some in the upper echelon have perpetuated the myth that fine art is an exclusive club.   To defy this idea, we have  surrounded ourselves with artists of all kinds who work to bring the arts in all forms to the masses.  To prove that art is for everyone, not just the few – and fine art isn’t a title exclusive to oil paintings but includes graphic works, prints and music.

This October marks not only one of our favorite holidays, but our first collaboration with Stay Thirsty – our favorite music and culture online mags that brings emerging and established musicians to the forefront with in depth interviews and insight into a subculture ignored by mass media.  After our interview, read about Thirsty’s manifesto and their mission and article with Editor in Chief Sarah L. Myers on how album and poster art is making its mark (finally!) in the fine art world – and John’s work in particular.   With that in mind, let’s get ready to rumble.

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John Dyer Baizley is balancing a fine line, one that he is all too aware of and one that he manages to avoid crossing; the line between overkill commercial artist and immensely popular contemporary artist.   His most recent work has focused on album artwork for his own band, Baroness, as well as other bands in the metal circuit with a smattering of original, personal and professional fine artwork; with this type of exposure comes both rabid fan-bases and fine art criticism.

It seems like a double edge sword in many respects as it is this growing exposure that allows his work to be seen by audiences not obtainable by traditional struggling artists, but also risk him losing credibility as a fine artist with such commercial work under his belt.  Yet despite the clear difficulty, Baizley has found himself masterfully balancing on the line between overexposed commercial artist and respected fine artist.

John and I met in Savannah Georgia in 2001 when I moved there to attend the Flight of the Conchords Album CoverSavannah College of Art and Design for my undergrad.  With a few other friends we would sit in John’s living room; listen to music, flip through art magazines and one night, flip through John’s sketch book.  I was absolutely blown away: bizarre bulbous-head people, contorted faces, enigmas, sex and brilliantly detailed figures sprinkled across the pages and all I could think was why isn’t this guy in art school? He had been there already, that’s why (RISD).  Ever mum on the subject, John, even with friends, tends not to dwell on his past and instead focuses on the present and his future and his bout in art school was not something he really cared to talk about.

Before preparing questions for the interview I had to ask myself a few things.  1. what do I want to know that I don’t already know?  Frankly, I may have known John for nearly 10 years, but there is so much I want to know as an art critic that I just don’t know as a friend.  2. What do Junkyard fans want to know? and most importantly, 3. what don’t we know already?

With that in mind, here is our frank interview with John Dyer Baizley:

Junkyard Arts: Can you explain your roots as an artist, briefly?

John Dyer Baizley: I have been creating artwork as long as I can remember. In fact, I can still remember making drawings and paintings when I was a very young child. Throughout many years I have probably tried my hand at most of the traditional media. While I have always had an invested interest in fine art, I have never been above being a fan of less time-honored artistic ephemera such as comic books, record covers and other less-esteemed art forms. As a bored teenager in school, my main outlet was making drawings in textbooks and assignment worksheets, on which I have made thousands and thousands of drawings (much to the dismay of nearly all my teachers).

JYA:  How did the work that you did in your youth lead you to the type of work you do now (which is, arguably, varied in both media and style)?

JDB:  In many ways, I have always tried to involve myself in both the fine and lesser worlds of art. As such, when I started to take being a musician earnestly, I happened to have a great entryway towards making a type of art that interested me. Having spent the better part of the past decade making art exclusively for music, I have been able to work commercially; yet I have made art that requires no outside direction, and can be approached with all the same intent and depth of fine art. It has been incredibly liberating.

JYA:  You’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years working on artwork for bands and some commercial work as well…

JDB:  Throughout the past few years I have learned very definitively what I love and hate about making artwork that fulfills both personal and commercial needs. In many ways, I share and equal love and hate for it. However, the more commercially intended artwork I make, the closer I come to realizing that I need to break away from it and work on something entirely personal.

JYA:  Do you see yourself continuing the commercial side or will you start making more work for yourself? Both?

JDB Baroness ImageJDB:  While I don’t exactly take art direction, I always have in mind the fact that my images are meant primarily for reproduction. My original drive was to create singular pieces, and I feel the time is drawing closer when I will be compelled to do so. In light of that, I think it would be presumptuous to stop making artwork for the bands that I love. I got my start making artwork for punk and metal bands, and I won’t soon forget where I have come from.

JYA:  Tell me a little about your first solo show in PA this past year!

JDB:  The show in Lancaster was a great learning experience for me. It was the first time I put myself up on a wall (so-to-speak). I had been mulling over the idea of showing some artwork for some time, I was just waiting for the right gallery and best people to show it. I didn’t actually create any show-specific pieces. Instead, I used the show as an opportunity to present some of the music related artwork that I have done over the past 7 years in their original formats. So much of what I do is reproduced onto record covers and t-shirts, I thought it was time to exhibit the work as I intended for it to be seen.

JYA:  How many pieces did you have? What was the crowd like?

JDB:  I think there ended up being around 20 pieces in all. The crowd was really quite varied, from serious collectors to casual gallery visitors.

JYA: Now, you are most well known for your prints and watercolors, but my experience with your work was large, figurative oils.  Do you have a preference? Or do you like working more in one than the other?

JDB:  My preference in medium tends to fluctuate. For the past several years I have committed myself to watercolors and inks, but before that, I had worked largely in oils. I am sure soon enough, I will switch up again. Its always a matter of asking yourself, “what is the best medium suited for the subject?” if there is a better way to communicate an idea, I will change media.

JYA: That’s such an ‘artist’ answer – it’s throwing me off a bit. haha  So, I got into the art-game for a number of reasons, one of them being my drive to prove that fine art is for everyone and not just for the few.  With that comes selling art at affordably – everyone deserves a piece of real art.

You are pretty well known not just for your work, but also because you provide your work at totally affordable prices (Im guessing despite the advice of many others in the field).

JDB:  I have always tried to make prints available. I have always collected prints and posters of my favorite music related artists. I think it is a way to be more inclusive to your audience. Ultimately, it has had the effect of spreading my artwork around much more quickly, and with far less pretense than typical fine art.

JYA:  What affect do you think it has had on your career?

JDB:  It has also most definitely allowed a younger audience to have access to the images, and hopefully to collect and view them in much the same way I did when I was younger.

*As a friend of the artist I get special perks, like surprise packages in the mail containing prints or posters, and a couch to stay on when Im in the S.A.V.  It’s pretty sweet, really.  And after years of pestering, John finally made the very generous offer to make an original piece for me.  I decided on a T-Rex – portrait style bust, in an oval nouveau-style frame.  You know, something classy.  Something noone else would possibly have – and most definitely not something Baizley has done before.

JYA:  And how is that coming along??

JDB:  Excruciatingly slow.

JYA:  Bummer.

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**For a double dose of Baizley, hit up Stay Thirsty Media for our joint articles on how poster and album art is making a major statement in the fine art world!**

Why Thirsty?  Because we at Junkyard Arts believe in their message to, well, stay thirsty!

“Stay Thirsty” is more than an idea.  It is a call to arms.  Founded on the philosophy of Ryan Licht Sang, a shining young musician, artist and writer who passed away at the age of 24, “stay thirsty for life” is Thirsty’s clarion call to shine a spotlight on creativity in all forms from around the world” – check out the rest of the manifesto here.

And as always: support your local and emerging artists, and thanks for supporting Junkyard Arts.

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