Page 2 of 5
Do you also work from photographs?
I work from photographs and I shoot all of them myself and I know very little about my equipment except for this one specific thing that I do. The photographic process is really important in terms of the relationship that happens. Some people are really shy and reserved and I have to take 200 shots to get them to kind of loosen up. One person I shoot is actually a model herself, so I can ask her to give me certain things, which is different. She's the one I use for the more sexually evocative stuff because she possesses that. I can just tell her, "give me sexy!" Most people are just horrified that they're standing in front of a camera naked. That's the interesting part is that they react differently.
What's it like doing self-portraits? Is it any easier or harder to paint yourself?
Painting myself is kind of easier in a way because I have more freedom to push those paintings further because it's me and I can do whatever I want. I do feel a level of respect for the people I ask and I don't want them to see their portrait and be horrified. Some people have—my parents cried when they saw their portraits, and not in a joyous way. They weren't happy about it. So I'm aware that those darker elements come through, and I try not to restrain myself, but with my self-portraits it doesn't matter. So I can sand the face down more, or experiment with different ideas and have more freedom.
How do you come up with your titles?
Sometimes the title comes first. It's always associated with the person. I just think titles with the name are just so boring and I like there to be more of a narrative with it. Just a poetic little dot on top of something. A lot of the titles come from song lyrics, or often just googling different words until something sparks. It is an intent to add something to it.
That's a little unusual, no? Many artists are choosing titles that deliberately don't add anything.
It's sketchy ground for sure. I don't want to be like, "This is Will and he's..." Just something subtle and not too ironic.
There's a violence in the act of scraping the paint, like you're actually scraping skin; is that sense of rawness something you try to accentuate?
When I first started doing this technique I was really surprised at people's reaction. They were like, "Oh they look bruised and beaten." My mom said, "I've seen burn victims and these look like burn victims." My original intent was to create just a ghost or a mist of the paint that had been there, so I had to look at the reactions and ask, is that really my intent with this? And that's where the glazing came on top, where I set these bright colors on top of the sanding because then it kind of pushes it to a different place where it's not so much about the raw skin and it's more about the element that is disappearing.
But there's also a part of me that really likes that violence. Like in Francis Bacon
's work, I'm really attracted to the darkness and violence and I never want it to be too pretty. I know some of them are, but I always want there to be a complimentary kind of rawness in it, if I can. And sometimes even at the end I feel like I didn't succeed and it's too pretty, so I try to push it.