Art Chat with Adrian Landon Brooks
Influenced by the purity of Folk Art, Adrian Landon Brooks strips illustrations to their minimalist core and uses found materials such as wood, metal, and old photographs as repurposed canvases to instill an underlying sense of history for each work of art. In contrast to his defined lines and geometric shapes, Brooks' subject matter is brimming with romance and mystery as nomads, bird people, portals, and golden moons fill each canvas. In anticipation of CONVERSATIONS with STRANGERS, his duo exhibit alongside Caleb Hahne at Stephanie Chefas Projects, we took an opportunity to have a chat with Brooks and gain more insight into his work. Here he talks about his inspiration behind the show, finding that right piece of wood, and his recent crash course in home building.
Your latest collection of work presents universal themes of love, loss, and redemption. Tell us about the inspiration behind these paintings.
I am incredibly inspired by mystical iconography and the occult. I pull from many different cultures to create scenes of sacred rituals, Intimate exchanges, and human-animal hybrids. By incorporating things like wormholes, starscapes and portals into my work I attempt to share my vision of a higher power and purpose.
Each and every unique piece of reclaimed wood I use inspires me. This series has pushed my skill level with a brush and opened up tons of possibilities. I believe that as an artist it’s important to be just as creative with your material’s as you are with your subject matter.
You have a meticulous flat style that when applied to wood panel is super clean and when applied to found wood creates a wonderful juxtaposition for the eyes, adding depth and texture. What's your process (from conception to completion) and does the wood dictate your narrative?
The majority of my recent work is painted on reclaimed wood so my process begins with the hunt for materials. I am very particular with the wood I use and it’s not always an easy task to locate. Almost all my work has a visible wood background so I’m looking for the best natural contrast with the painted imagery.
After I’ve located my materials I will trim and shape the wood to useable sizes. I enjoy that the material hunt and shaping leave some of the process up to chance. I have a tendency to over plan and I think it’s important to leave flexibility in the creative process. The final shape of the wood sometimes decides the direction and overall mood of the painting.
When I have a new piece of wood in front of me it’s just a matter of finding imagery that is the best fit for the shape. Sometimes I will flip through collected sketches and other times I will draw directly on the wood. After a rough figurative sketch is drawn I will measure out the geometric elements of the painting with a ruler and drafting tools.
Once I have finished the prep work I am ready to lay down the paint. My process is slow and tedious because of the application of super flat acrylic. My ultimate goal is to achieve a uniform smooth surface without any visible brush strokes. This takes multiple coats with certain colors and a careful hand not to mark the freshly painted surface. This process is important to me because I believe the painting becomes one with the object. The flat paint soaks in to the porous raw wood instead of sitting on top of it with a plastic sheen common with other paints.
The colors in your work are gorgeous and vibrant. What does color mean to you in relation to the narratives?
Bright pastels serve as a softening contrast to some of the heavy imagery in my work and contribute to an otherworldly vision. Geometric shapes and pattern add detail and form to otherwise flat figures. I use those elements as tools in the image but it’s also the most satisfying part of the painting process for me. It is incredibly soothing to my psyche to try out different color combinations and see how the cluster of colors interact.
If you could have only one artwork from history in your home or studio, what would it be and why?
Portrait of Gerti Schiele – Egon Schiele (1909)
I saw this painting in my teens during a traveling museum exhibition. I remember standing in front of it for at least an hour and leaving the museum with the most intense drive to create. Schiele’s work in general was very inspirational to me in my formative years but this painting in particular really shook me to my core. I am still floored today by the geometric gown, soft minimal background and beautiful hard edges.
If I were to spend the day with Adrian, what could I expect?
The last two years have been a whirlwind between studio work, the birth of my daughter and building a home with my wife. You could expect to see a little bit of each of those things any given day. It feels a bit like having three full time jobs but I wouldn’t change a thing.
Tell us something about yourself that we wouldn't necessarily know.
I have spent the last few years taking a crash course in home building and carpentry. My wife and I packed up our rental home in the big city and moved to the hill country outside of Austin, TX. When we bought our land the property lacked any kind of infrastructure so we literally built everything from the ground up. We have had a few brave men help us along the way but have done a great deal of the work ourselves.
I never expected how much of an impact the building process would have on myself and my work. The constant cycle of leaning new technique’s has opened up many ideas and options for my artwork. I am excited to put some of the same techniques in to action with future collections and installations. Stay tuned!
CONVERSATIONS with STRANGERS on view through August 5th at Stephanie Chefas Projects, 305 SE 3rd Ave #202, Portland, OR 97214, www.stephaniechefas.com