What are your earliest memories related to Art and what was the very first approach to it?
I have wanted to make art for as long back as I can remember. “I was drawing from the moment I could pick up a pencil” is the cliche answer of course, but it is true for myself and many others that say it.
Around the age of five, I remember focusing on two major art-related endeavors: copying the drawings in newspaper comic strips, and drawing trees with very intricate, maze-like branches.
My very first “what I want to do when I grow up” though was to be a newspaper cartoonist.
What about your artistic background?
From the time I started making art, I have rarely stopped.
I do not come from an artistic family, but both of my parents worked as educators and were very supportive of me finding any life path that made the most sense for me. I enrolled in an art college at 18, but ended up dropping out during my first semester, and then got sidetracked into a brief career in web design for a few years. It wasn’t until age 26, after moving from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Portland, Oregon, that I enrolled at Pacific Northwest College of Art, and received a degree in Illustration in 2010.
By the time I graduated, I was working as a freelance illustrator, and selling screenprints and other handmade items on Etsy and at craft shows around the West Coast of the US. I don’t do as much illustration these days, but I’m happy for the education in it that I received, as it has helped me remain self-employed throughout the years.
Your art has a very precise style, obvious references to the past, a vintage style. What is fascinating to you in the past?
While I totally enjoy reading and researching all manner of history, I’m mostly interested in the design and decorative styles of the past.
A lot of my artistic outlets, screenprinting, letterpress, sign painting, and wood working, come from the realm of craft and trades, and not necessarily the fine art world.
I think in the past there was a greater focus on technical skills involving the use of your own body for creation that have changed in the era of computers. I tend to feel more that I am incorporating those skills and styles into contemporary work, rather than too closely referencing other, specific eras in my work.
Are you a nostalgic one? Would you have wanted to live in another era or for you the past is just an enrichment, a source of inspiration?
Not really, no. I don’t get caught up in thinking that the past was somehow better than today’s world, cause in so many ways and for most people in the world, it would not have been.
If we look back at other eras with too fetishistic a viewpoint, it’s easy to overlook the the social, medical, and technological advances that have been made that have shaped our current world. I would rather believe I’m doing something to better the world we’re in now rather than think about what I would have done if I was alive in say, the 1950s.
Talk me about the artistic process, and the techniques and mediums you use.
I keep things pretty varied. As I mentioned, my main two processes at the moment are printmaking and sign painting. As far as printmaking goes, I’m mainly a screenprinter, which I’ve been doing since 2005.
I do mostly work on paper: art prints, postcards, and posters, but I also have a number of wool felt pennants that I have been printing for the last five years or so. I have been casually letterpress printing for years, but in the last year it has captured my interest pretty strongly.
I have a Chandler & Price press from 1919 that is still running strong, and I work at a non-profit community print studio where I have access to a variety of other presses, so I’ve been trying to master all of them. Almost all of my sign painting is done on wood or metal with 1Shot enamel paint. The bulk of my painting is commissioned pieces for local businesses or people wanting decorative signage for their house, but I do try to make time for personal, more artistic sign-style paintings for gallery shows and online sales.
What is the most pleasant aspect of your work and what is the most difficult one?
Being a self-employed artist is the answer to both of those questions. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Being my own boss allows me freedom of schedule and the ability to turn down projects that don’t feel like a right fit for me, but trying to scare up future work, taking care of business paperwork, and staying on top of which clients owe me money is a large part of my work day as well and can be very stressful.
What are the most exciting art projects for you?
The most exciting projects for me are the ones where I really get to try something new.
That can be a new material or medium, or something that conceptually pushes my mind into places it hasn’t been before. Sometimes I luck out and this happens with client work, but often times it’s on me to explore these new places within my personal work. I’ve been coming up with a bunch of ideas that are more interactive in nature, as opposed to just two-dimensional pieces that get hung on a wall, and that has been a very exciting aspect to experiment with.
How would you define your art today?
That’s sort of difficult to answer. If anything, I’d say my work is very much in a transition period at the moment, which is both exciting and scary.
About a year ago, I packed up all my belongings in Portland, where I had lived for 11 years, and moved to the much smaller, more isolated city of Butte, Montana. I was able to escape the ever increasing cost of living on the west coast, which allows me more time to focus on my own work, as well as working within the community to bring a love of art and making to the rest of my new community.
My work has always been very inspired by where I’ve lived, and it was a huge shift in life and inspiration to move into the mountains of Montana. My work is still settling into it’s new home, as am I.
Any of your past or present projects involved motorcycles? Do you have any relationship with them? Are you inspired by motorcycle culture?
Not too many, but I would like to change that. I have done a few jobs for Hillmoto, a motorcycle fabrication shop in Portland.
I have had a number of motorcycle-riding friends talk to me about painting or lettering their gas tanks over the years, but none of those have never happened, sadly.
I would really like to get a chance to do that one day. I wish I had a greater personal relationship with motorcycles. I went so far as taking the required training classes to be able to be able to legally operate one, but I have never had the extra money at a time where it makes sense to buy my own motorcycle. Some day soon, hopefully.
I think what inspires me the most about motorcycle culture is the idea of working on your own bike; fixing it yourself when it’s not running right, and being able to customize it to your own needs and desires.
What are your current projects and what will be the next ones?
I’m working on a number of small painting commissions at the moment. I just finished a solo gallery show of 16 screenprints entitled “Quality Remains.” It opened September 1st at One Grand Gallery in Portland, OR. As I mentioned briefly before, I’m currently in the brainstorming stage of working on pieces that are interactive. These range from as simple as lettering-based paintings in which the viewer can change the wording, but get as complex as creating a fully interactive, all mechanical arcade game, which I’m hoping I can finish before summer 2018.
I am also leading the organization of a member-based, multi-function, art and creation space here in Butte, called the Phoenix Fabrication Studios. We are building out a very large, old warehouse to include printmaking equipment, a wood shop, ceramic studio, photo darkroom, metal fabrication shop, and any other equipment that the community here can use. We will be starting major studio buildout and renovation of the electric system in the building this winter and hope to be able to welcome members in early to mid 2018.
Where can we Follow “BT Livermore”?
My work with the Phoenix Fabrication Studios can also be followed on Instagram at @phoenixfabstudios and we are currently doing a quick survey that anyone can fill out about the project at phoenixfabstudios.org.
We welcome any and all opinions for the survey.