Skip to main content

Six of the Best, Part 5

Part 5 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity. Today's artist is photographer Ian Talbot, from the UK. Click here to see his thoughtful and absorbing blog.


Philip Hartigan: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why?

Ian Talbot: I am a photographer, my medium is photography. I no longer use film and all my work is, therefore, digitally based. It is of little importance. A painter makes marks with paint and a brush. I make them with the light that falls on a sensor array and then I make further marks with pixels on a computer screen. These are then transferred to marks with either laser light or ink on paper. As I manipulate the tools I use with my hands, all my work is hand made. Any further distinction seems utterly artificial and pointless. The most important tool I use is the one between my ears.

PH: What piece are you currently working on?

IT: Not a "piece" but a project: I am currently exploring the nature of myth. Or at least that is my starting point.

Although a subject, and type of project too, that I have shied away from in the past, it is one I have been fascinated by for, well, as long as I can remember. This fascination has, for me, always gone deeper than the mere storytelling aspect, though. What really intrigues me is the mindset that produces the specific myths that all cultures, including our own, create. Questions, for example, of how aware is/was each culture of the "mythical" or symbolic nature of such stories? Did they actually "believe" them? Well, after all, a lot of people are quite prepared to believe our own current myths.

The images I have produced so far represent, I think/hope, the layers of meaning and interpretation that attach to all myths, which is to say, my interpretations, associations etc. All supposing, of course, that purely visual means are capable of bearing such weight.

As a visual artist, however, there is inevitably a degree of "illustration" involved along with considerations of more symbolic meanings. As this is not the main thrust of my intent I am currently struggling to detach myself from this. But it may be unavoidable. We shall see.

PH: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

IT: More an observation than a surprise, but the depth and possibilities of my chosen subject are proving to be virtually limitless. So no great surprise there, as I said. Yet this is proving to be a little overwhelming and therein lies the problem. In fact, this project has moved along at a pace I am unused to—so much so that I am finding myself having to introduce a sort of "hiatus" while I ponder progress so far. Virtually all my work is fairly tightly pre-conceived. Visually that is. I rarely, if ever, go out "hunting" for images. For me, the images already exist in my mind and so the actual execution is more or less trivial. This project has proven a fertile one in that way. Images have presented themselves in my mind in a virtual torrent. Having them convey the layers of meaning and association that are clear in my own mind is another matter.

PH: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

IT: The answer is "everything". The reading and deep research I do for every project I undertake (more for this current project than any previous one, incidentally). Normally the percentage of time I spend on this and just thinking as opposed to the actual execution would be around 95%. But that's when I can say I'm actually engaged with the project in hand. As well as that there's watching TV, online activities, conversation. The list goes on but you get the idea I think. Living in general, really.

But just to show I literally mean "everything": the best time for ideas, problem solving etc. is when I'm distracted and hardly thinking at all. It's exactly then when solutions and the BEST ideas will literally pop into consciousness. I suppose it's the same for most people.

"Wheat Dip"

PH: What’s the first ever piece of art you remember making?

IT: That's easy: I don't remember. As a photographer it never occurred to me (or many others, for that matter) that I was making "art". They were photographs, is all. It was enough. Well, the images are still the same but it turns out someone moved the goalposts and we photographers were making art all along. Who knew?

PH: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that’s meaningful to you: why are you an artist?

IT: I can't say I spend much time thinking about being an artist, let alone asking myself why. The slightly less flippant answer, I suppose, is this: I have a background in commercial (fashion) photography. At one time people would commission and pay me a lot of money to do it. As they no longer do, and I'm still doing it, it must, I guess, be for the art. In any case I do what I do and viewers are perfectly at liberty to call it whatever they want.

If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.

Popular posts from this blog

Restoring my Printing Press

I've just finished restoring and assembling my large etching press -- a six week process involving lots of rust removal, scrubbing with steel wool, and repainting. Here is a photo of the same kind of press from the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative: And here is a short YouTube video of me testing the press, making sure the motor still works after nearly seven years of lying in storage:

Brancusi in Plastic

Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times: Image copyright and Mary Ellen Croteau Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage . I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.

How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct. Incised lino block, from Etched lino block, from Steve Edwards A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these d