APPArt Interview with Brett Chenoweth – Layers of Truth
Please enjoy this interview between our APPArt Editor Bobbi McMurry and Brett Chenoweth who graciously answers questions about his work and process, revealing the complex layers of thought, craft and expression that go into his outpourings.
Chenoweth is illustrator and artist who takes his inspiration from his own photographs. These he uses to collage and layer images created with his iPad. “Often, it begins simply by taking a couple images, usually photographs, and playing around with them, the image builds and changes according to its own narrative. I work very intuitively“, explains Chenoweth. (Foreword by Joanne Carter).
Would you tell us more about your art background and transition (if appropriate) to working with mobile hardware, i.e. iPhone, iPad, tablets.
Thank you of this opportunity! Back in the day I did the art school thing – degrees in photography, art history, and painting. Post School, I maintained a studio and low key but consistent career as a painter. After a solo show in 2005, life events (including the birth of my daughter!) challenged my painting process, I wanted to rethink and re-evaluate my work – big questions like why? how? and to what end? It turned out to be a much longer process than I ever imagined possible. While caring for my daughter, I had less and inconsistent time to work in the studio. I moved from painting to drawing, and from abstract to narrative work. I picked up a camera again, both to photograph her and to photograph source material for the drawings. Four years ago, I was forced to give up the studio altogether. This coincided with my first iPhone. After reading a chance article about replacement cameras and subsequent research I discovered this great community. An iPad became my studio. I have been playing ever since.
“Brett” – ©Brett Chenoweth
Please describe your style of art and your portrayals.
Tough question. Our community playground is large and expansive, intuitive and fast, so I create a lot of different work. I think the works I take most seriously are my street collages. I use all aspects of my art making in my digital work: painting, drawing and photography. I think that working this way is still new for me still growing and maturing. I am very excited to see where it goes.
How are you inspired, motivated and nourished in your work?
Life and play. Everything I do, think, make, see, read, my history… All of this and more filter into the work. Inspiration has never been a problem. Life is full. That said, making art in a community like this one is jet fuel. I love how we feed off one another, inspire and learn from each other.
How often do you create images? Do you feel under pressure to produce more and more or do you not subscribe to this? If yes, does this sense of urgency help you in your creation process?
I used to put myself under tremendous pressure to produce. Every thing had to be this unreachable idea of “good”. I think by 2005 all of that became too much, and it took some time to unwind it. One of the things I have learned in that time is that I am going to make stuff regardless. It is as natural to me as breathing. “Good” doesn’t matter so much play is essential. By letting go, I have let it flow. I no longer worry about art things like consistent portfolios, shows or any of that. Having fun has won out over being serious. Following creative pathways no matter how disparate is not only ok, but the very thing that keeps me fresh and excited.
“Ancient Parallels” ©Brett Chenoweth
Do you adapt a similar ‘routine’ to creating your images or do you change and vary your process depending on the piece?
Both. I still paint on canvas, draw on paper, I am even going to play with a 35mm toy camera soon. What ever suits the mood, really. I have begun to use my iPad pro as my drawing sketchbook – I think this will change my digital work to come. All that said, the processes of each media have their own routine.
What three apps do you favor at this time? Why?
Procreate really does almost everything I need and I’m using as my sketchbook as well. I find it intuitive for me to layer images, mask by erasing, paint, draw, and smudge into images. I like keeping everything in one place so to speak. So Procreate is my hub. I like Filterstorm Neue for photo development. It does it all well, from editing to resizing images. I also like Stackables quite a bit for filter creation.
You have a young daughter, what does she think of your art? Do you spend time creating together?
She doesn’t say much about my work until she has a friend over, then she brags and shows off my art. Then of course I melt into daddy putty. We do spend time creating together, drawing and painting. She likes to teach me the things she does in art class at school. She is a very good and patient teacher. More than anything it is her spirit that keeps both my work and me playful.
“Upon the Ground we Stand” – ©Brett Chenoweth
Do you have a particular methodology in your work? Do you allow a specific time frame to complete an image? Do you need to work in a certain creative environment?
My dining room now doubles as my studio. I am a homebody and I like a quiet work environment (I must be getting old). In the old days I worked to loud, up-tempo rock’n roll. Mornings seem to be my best creative time these days, but that changes. I often begin the day doodling and drawing. Different work comes at different speeds. Most of my digital work finishes itself within a few days. Often, it begins simply by taking a couple images, usually photographs, and playing around with them, the image builds and changes according to its own narrative. I work very intuitively.
Do photographic images feature in your work, what form do these take?
Yes. I love collaging and layering images, so I take a lot of photos. I work from the trail of photos I leave behind in my camera roll. I am a big believer in using only my own imagery, so if I need a certain element for a piece I make it or go out and photograph it.
Do you use any additional hardware to help you create your art, such as a stylus? Can you also tell us about any other hardware you use including, software, accessories including batteries, chargers, lenses, storage. Do you have a favorite tool?
I love my new apple pencil!!!! Otherwise I don’t really use any other hardware. I do back up my images to the computer and a Lacie hard drive and database them in Lightroom.
Where do you share your images within social media channels? How do you manage social media, sharing, learning, competitions etc., vs creating art?
Social Media, Facebook is our community mainstay for information and sharing, so I look through the feeds once a day, usually with coffee in the AM. I still find it difficult to choose which groups to post in. there are too many. I use Flickr to post a majority of what I wish to share. I look through the work of those I follow about once a week and it is easy to post into several groups – I think I post in four routinely. I also like discovering new work there. I use IG a little since I became one of the curators of #ig_artistry. I try to limit my time with all the above to under an hour a day and often less. Of course, I have always been involved with the New Era Museum. I have curated NEM self for a few years now and fully support Andrea’s vision.
I rarely enter competitions, I don’t believe in paying to show or to be seen (with social media more people view and react to my work than I could ever imagine!). That said, there are two exceptions, organisations that I wish to support and therefore will pay the entry fees – NEM of course, and the Kansas City Artist Coalition.
“Agitation Box” – ©Brett Chenoweth
Are you motivated by competitions/competitiveness or does your satisfaction come from within? How do you involve yourself in competitions, shows, challenges and what are your reasons for doing so?
I’ll admit to a little competitiveness mostly with myself. It helps to push my boundaries and make my stuff more interesting. I like playing in some of the challenges that come around for that reason.
Being in shows is fun, but not my goal. They have been a happy byproduct of my passions. It is the “making” that I love. My satisfaction comes from being able to participate with creativity itself, and participating in this mobile art community helps fuel that.
What causes you to pause and take stock of your existing work? How has mobile technology and connectiveness changed the way you see? This can be both literally how you see, and how you see yourself and your work. creative people were more isolated, in the past, and had to deal with less intuitive tools, digitally and in natural media.
I think the danger of social media is putting too much out there, both life stuff and mobile art. I certainly have put work out there before it/I was ready. In time I’ve learned that it is best for me to wait a day or so before posting work, to be more selective in what I post and where I post it.
As a painter in studio, more time is spent sitting with the work than actually painting, it could be a year or years before showing. It’s a much slower and more isolated process. Mobile art and social media can speed the making and sharing process into hyper-drive. What interests me about that is it’s similarity to being in art school again, walking around to everyone’s studio, feeding off of everybody’s work and energy. But, I don’t sit enough with my mobile work. I don’t have it on the walls like I would my drawings and paintings. As a teacher, I have always preached that every artist needs a physical wall on which everything goes – drawings, lists, inspirations, work in progress… Letting all that information seep in peripherally driving the work forward. Something I should think about I guess… I couldn’t live in my apartment with all that stimulation on the walls though, and mobile art has always been immediate, intuitive and playful for me, anyway.
Over the years I have noticed that I have a tendency to slow way down in the fall. Creativity comes slower, if at all. I think this is a natural time for me to reboot so to speak – a time of percolation.
Do you have any goals/resolutions in terms of your art in 2016?
Not really. I want to keep it all playful and light. Keep it flowing. Keep having fun.
How has TheAppWhisperer.com helped you with your art?
TheAppWhisperer, Joanne Carter, is the glue that binds us together. All her work and the work of her associates keep things fresh, brings new ideas and artists to the table. That’s a lot of motivation and energy in one place!
“Brett2” – ©Brett Chenoweth
@blackbulbbrett on IG
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Carolyn Hall Young
Brett, Bobbi, and Joanne, thank you for this thought provoking interview. Some of the ideas expressed here are ones that I have thought about, but had not been able to articulate, or resolve, as well as Brett has. This article is helping me be more clear in my path. Bravo and thanks, for your honesty and thoughtfulness, Brett.