Interview with artist JEREMY KIRCHNER (ABSTRACT MAELSTROM)
How long has your Facebook community page Abstract Maelstrom been active? How much traffic does it usually get?
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me and giving me an opportunity to speak about Abstract Maelstrom. I started Abstract Maelstrom in June of 2017 as a way to showcase and promote my artwork, but I would eventually like to branch out and showcase artwork from others. I've been fascinated with abstractions since I was in grade school. Everyone in my class was assigned an artist from history and I was assigned Jackson Pollock. We were supposed to study them and try to do a painting in a similar style. His method of throwing paint at the canvas went against everything we were traditionally taught, and it made me look at art in a completely new way. I've been hooked ever since!
When basing your first painting on Pollock’s, how much of your vision did you see? How much did this inspire you?
When I did the first painting I had no clue how to start replicating his process, so I just picked a couple of colors I really liked and began using a brush to splash it at the canvas. Slowly as I began to put certain colors in certain places I gained an understanding of how to layer the paint in a way that was appealing to me. With abstract art it's hard sometimes to start with a vision in your head of how the final product will come out. There's a level of chaos involved where you're just painting on feel and making changes on the fly until you feel you're done. I felt a wave of inspiration after this because I began to look at art differently. It wasn't about trying to get as close to a realistic representation of something as it was just trying to create something visually appealing to me. Once that idea clicked in my head I was off and running. I think I honestly went through three to four entire sketchbooks, just of abstract splatter paintings. Sometimes it was very minimalist with only a couple brush strokes or splashes here and there; other times the page would be a maelstrom of different colors and stuff everywhere. That's where I came up with the idea for the name Abstract Maelstrom.
What spoke to you about Pollock’s approach to painting? Did you study more of his work after your class assignment?
I think the thing that was most appealing to me about Pollock's method of painting was that it was controlled chaos. You would have control of the brush and the paint, but you're not trying to specifically control what the paint does after you throw it towards the canvas. It's a carefree and worry less form of painting, which up to that point I had found to be a source of anxiety for me. I couldn't get my figures to look right, or things to look how I wanted them to in my head and I would regularly grow frustrated with my paintings.
I studied some of Pollock's work for a while after we were done with the class assignment and that's when I started to really learn more about the man behind the paintings. I began looking at the school library and eventually branched out into looking for information about him at the local town library. I got out books and tried to learn more about his creative process and what made his art so unique and creative. I learned about quite a few other artists during this period, Salvador Dali being one of the ones I continue to be fascinated with to this day.
Which books about Pollock’s career were especially informative about his background?
I can't recall the names of the books I had gotten on him. It's been 17-18 years since that class. There are a few documentaries out I have watched on him as an adult that were quite interesting. Most are available on YouTube and other free video platforms. While he was definitely the inspiration for the initial push to begin painting there is so much great art and talented artists out there it's hard to showcase just one I pulled from. That's part of the creative push that keeps me going on a regular basis, talking to other creators and picking their brains.
Which documentaries about Pollock would you recommend for their information?
I don't think I watched too many documentaries and the names escape me. It's been years and it's hard to recall, but I am pretty sure one of them was from the late 80's. It had a lot of interviews with his friends and other people that knew him along with footage of him painting from way back. There's another one that came out later on I watched called "Who the #$%@ is Jackson Pollock" that I found particularly interesting.
When did you discover Dali’s paintings, and what fascinated you? Did you do as much research on him as on Pollock?
It must have been eighth or ninth grade when I discovered Dali's paintings. His style of combining realistic characters and items with surreal landscapes and mixing it all together really blew my mind. I had went through a period of stagnation artistically beforehand and his works along with a few other artists, one of which a local artist named Thomas Small really helped me get back into the creative mindset. I definitely didn't do as much research on Dali as I did with Pollock mostly because it wasn't a requirement for an assignment but his style is something that inspires me. I wish that I had the ability to translate my thoughts into artwork as well he was able to. I think for now I will stick with what I do best!
Do you feel fortunate about being opened to new ways of viewing art?
I do feel fortunate that my mind was opened to new artistic concepts. It's always good to be able to see things in a new light; sometimes it can open doorways that you didn't know existed. I love things that help me to look at anything from music, to art, to movies in a new and interesting light.
Who else has helped you to view painting and artwork from different perspectives?
My parents have been influential and encouraging throughout the process. I went through a long break from the age of thirteen to around twenty five. I have met a lot of artists online who have been supportive. I think the main thing that has given me new perspectives is the internet. There are so many places to view art and share creations online that it's easy to widen your horizons. It's tempting to get into a coasting mentality when it comes to creating things; you want to stay in that comfort zone but when you look at what other people are making and how they are doing it can be an eye opening experience.
How well known is Thomas Small as a local artist? Can people find his work on the net?
Thomas Small has been a friend of mine for the past fifteen years, and he's quite well known as a local artist around central Ohio. He has done concept art for card games and mural paintings in local businesses, and commissioned artwork for various individuals. He's always pushed me to be artistic and express myself through various mediums whether music or art. People can check his work out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ThomatorrArt.
Was Thomas Small’s inspiration on you conscious or something that rubbed off on you?
I think that his inspiration was in large part to the fact that we spent much of our teenage years hanging out together and he would always be sketching out these insane characters and scenery. His work is based on mostly fantasy subjects, but he does psychedelic scenery work and quite a bit of costume and weapons making. We would just spend hours hanging out in my jam room, I'd be playing guitar and he would draw a sketch based on something we were discussing and I would try to fit the theme musically. Those are some of my fondest memories from my teens. He was one of the people who kind of gave me the push to get back into painting as I'd been focused more on my music for a while beforehand.
When did you first meet Small, and what did you and he have in common?
I met Tom when I was roughly fourteen through a mutual friend. It's funny because when we first met we didn't get along and it was only after we both had a bit of a falling out with the mutual friend that we started to hang out more and became good friends. We got along because we were both really into extreme music and RPG games. We still are to this day. Stuff like Kataklysm, Jungle Rot, Libido Airbag, Slayer, and many others were the soundtrack to our teenage years.
What card games has Small designed for? Are his art commissions often in demand?
He hand drew every character and background for the locally based Imperia 13 card game. I know he does concept work for various places but it's so hard to pinpoint because he's done so much art. To my knowledge his work has always been met favorably, people rarely commission him from word of mouth without seeing his art somewhere first so most people know his stylistic choices. He's done some large murals for local gyms as well as painting anything he can get his hands on!
Is the Imperia 13 card game held at a specific location?
I can only give the readers vague information on Imperia 13 since I wasn't directly involved with it. I just talked to Thomas while it was going on and seen him working on it. It's based out of Columbus, Ohio. I think most of the packs for the game they sell are located in game shops there. I do believe that's where most of the games are held.
Did you and Small ever consider collaborating together?
We are actually talking about doing a collaboration now! It's definitely still a possibility. We discussed using my art for a background and allowing him to draw characters and detail work over that. We're both so busy with work schedules and other things that it unfortunately hasn't happened yet.
Why did you choose Abstract Maelstrom to name your Facebook community? Does the title give viewers more of an idea of what they’ll see?
I chose Abstract Maelstrom because I felt like the name represented the chaos and lack of control in the style of paintings I do. It's about creating something beautiful through a lack of control. Abstract for the style of art I do and want to promote actively on the page and Maelstrom because it's a plethora of mediums and different techniques. I would love for the community to grow into a churning mass of talented abstract artists sharing their works and information together and building something that extends beyond all of us!
How much of your work is posted at Abstract Maelstrom, and how much feedback does it receive?
I currently have about twenty unique pieces posted right now. I like to share a lot of work in progress; pictures and things of that nature. I have gotten great feedback from various people and especially artists like Thomas Small. The art community is accepting and open to experimentation and everyone can find their niche. While my fan base is still relatively small I do my best to grow the community and to make my followers feel they're a part of something bigger.
How actively do you promote Abstract Maelstrom? Do you invite artists to promote there?
I promote Abstract Maelstrom quite a bit. I try to post there as often as I can; normally things like work in progress pictures or things like that. I haven't gotten to a point where I have a lot of other artists contributing at the moment but I'm working on growing the community and showcasing other talented abstract artists from across the country and perhaps even across the globe!
Who are the U.S. and overseas artists you help promote? Do you usually contact them through Facebook?
At the moment I'm the only artist I actively promote through Facebook or in general. I'm trying to build the community at the moment and link in with other artists who might be interested in being promoted! I'm hoping that interviews like this one will help with exposure. You never know, maybe someone reading this would like to be featured! I use Facebook the most because it's the one that I'm most familiar with, but I do use Instagram quite a bit.
Do you intend your paintings to make a statement, or do you improvise and see how they turn out when completed?
Aside from the color scheme, normally I have no idea what I'm going for when I start painting. There will be times when I have kind of a vague outline of shapes or designs in my head but for the most part I just like to throw on music and paint intuitively. I feel like when I think about what I'm doing too much that's when I mess pieces up or I'm not happy with the finished product. I use art as a form of meditation it's something to focus in on and forget about all the other stuff going on in my life.
What do you listen to while painting? Do different genres inspire you in different ways?
I normally listen to instrumental rock/electronic music when I'm painting. I think the rhythm of the music definitely inspires me in different ways. I like to listen to really chilled out electronic stuff when I'm focusing intently on something because for some reason the lower tempos help me get into the zone. I listen to extreme metal when I'm doing splatter art because it can encapsulate the energy into the piece itself. Anything from Slayer to Nine Inch Nails.
Do you think many painters are inspired by bands? As some people still think extreme metal is a bad influence, how do you prove them wrong?
I would imagine a lot of different artists use music for inspiration. I find it hard to create anything unless I've got music on! Extreme music gets a bad rap but it's expressing emotions and feelings that people deal with day to day. Personally I've found extreme music to be cathartic and it allows me a channel to vent otherwise negative emotions and allow them to turn into something positive. There will be times when I'm really stressed or I've had a bad day and I'll throw on some Pig Destroyer or Napalm Death and just throw paint around for a couple hours and when I'm done I feel like I've done a week’s worth of meditation.
Having listened to extreme metal for so long, how many similarities do you see between metal and art in terms of challenging established perceptions?
The metal and art worlds are alike in the smashing of societal normalcy. There's such a loyalty among metal heads for certain genres in the same way there are artists who prefer specific mediums/styles. Metal is one of the only genres of music that I really feel I can express the full gambit of human emotions. Everything from anger, hatred, loathing and despair to love, heartache and other concepts. Art is the same way in that you can express practically anything that you can conceive. You're only limited by the talent you have to express that through your works. This is what makes both art and metal music so special to me personally because I feel like there's kind of a taboo for expressing certain emotions or feeling certain ways. We tiptoe in society around those subjects when in reality we need more time focusing on how we cope with them.
Does confronting society with its dark side lead to change for the better? If you think it does, what examples of it have you seen of it happening?
I personally think that at a societal and individual level that confronting darkness is always the best way to grow and move forward. There is a huge tendency among human beings to avoid things that cause us pain or discomfort but in many ways it can be our greatest sources of learning. Take physical fitness for example, it's almost always uncomfortable but the benefits greatly outweigh the pain you have to endure to receive them yet many people avoid working out for that reason alone. I also firmly believe this is why we are taught to never discuss politics and religion because we still haven't worked out a way to peacefully discuss those things without resorting to violence. I really don't like the term ‘dark side’ though since it sort of downplays the inherent role that negative emotions and feelings play in humanity. The duality of life is what gives it meaning. Our lives wouldn't mean as much if we never died. Love wouldn't mean as much if you have never experienced loneliness. We stray away from these dark places in our conversations and art because we don't like the way they make us feel because we aren't used to being confronted with them. For that exact reason I believe it leads to change for better. Anytime you're uncomfortable mentally there is room for growth.
Regarding the discussion of politics and religion and resorting to violence, social media in some ways has become a battleground between people who can’t seem to resolve differing opinions. How much of an issue do you consider this at present?
I think that a difference in opinions is a great thing when it can lead to a better understand for both parties involved but I also believe that voicing deliberate nonsensical or "troll" standpoints is a big problem in online forums. There's nothing wrong with having differing opinions but not being able to resolve to allows others to have opinions different than yours is a crazy idea! We live in a country built upon freedom and if we don't have the freedom to express individuality in our own thoughts and opinions then we have nothing. I think that the inability to accept this is what resorts people to violence because they don't know how to rationally cope with concepts they don't agree with.
Do you have an official site to feature your work? Do you promote it as actively as you promote Abstract Maelstrom?
I don't have an official website but I am going to be starting one here soon. For the moment I do most of my posting through Instagram, on Facebook and through my Etsy page. I promote my Etsy page most actively since that's the page where I have all the available paintings up for sale but I do most of the sales through Facebook and word of mouth.
How well does Instagram showcase your work for a social media outlet?
Instagram seems to be a great outlet for photo/video based mediums. I'm still relatively new to it as well but it's been extremely helpful in finding other artists! I have only recently started to promote myself as a artist but there's lots of support and other extremely talented artists on there.
How reasonably do you charge on Etsy? Has it been easy to conduct orders online?
I charge on all of my art based on the material cost and the labor costs involved to keep the prices reasonable for most people. One of the main issues I have with art is that sometimes there is a thick air of pretentious value to pieces. Not to say I don't understand having an emotional connection to your pieces, or the works themselves taking longer and costing more, but the idea of charging thousands of dollars for a piece of art rubs me the wrong way. I want to help make abstract art more available for people and priced well enough for them to own some if they would like. It's been invaluable what the internet has done as far as marketing and outreach for me. I've sold paintings overseas to a few places now and made friends I would have never been able to before. It's one of the greatest inventions of my lifetime despite all the issues that come along with the web.
Some artists promote their work by featuring them in videos on Youtube and other channels. Is this something you have considered doing?
I have considered doing videos but I am less experienced in that medium of recording. I think that for artists it can be a amazing way to showcase the methodology of your art and to share techniques and skills with other people. I've given a lot of thought to the idea of doing time lapse videos for the paintings since it might be a boring watch otherwise.
What resources do you have at your disposal to make a time lapse video, and how much creativity do your resources allow for?
I have a video camera and some basic editing software on my computer right now but I'm looking into investing in better equipment for filming my artistic processes as well as taking higher quality pictures. I think I'm only limited at the moment by my imagination mostly though, there are tons of free resources and video software out there I just have to research and find one suitable for the task I have in mind.
Do you appear at local science fiction, fantasy or horror conventions to promote your work?
I haven't appeared at any conventions yet, that's actually a really good idea! I've mostly tried to promote my art through word of mouth in person and online. I'm working on getting to know many other people in the community but this is something I've wanted to do for a while now. I put it off mostly because I have always viewed my art through a very subjective lens and never valued it as highly as other people's work. I think that every artist is that way. Sometimes when we're done creating we're so ready to create more that we never take the time to appreciate our own work.
Are there any conventions held near you, where you would consider appearing?
There's a ton of conventions in Columbus, Ohio but I haven't paid much attention to those that are open to artists. I know there's plenty of conventions since a lot of my friends actively go to them. I think my art would go with a psychedelic/hippy convention or maybe an art specific convention if they have those! I don't necessarily have a target audience; I think that anyone who looks at my art is the audience! Since I don't have a typical subject for my art, it can speak to a wide range of people.
Name some Columbus conventions where you would appear to promote your work.
I can't name any specific conventions off the top of my head, I'm a bit of a introvert so large gatherings like conventions aren't places where I tend to do my best. I prefer small intimate environments like local art shows and other small scale art exhibitions. It would be for a number of reasons, the main one right now is building connections in the community and meeting other like-minded people. It is always nice to bounce ideas off others and talk about things you enjoy with art and other subjects.
Have you done research on the internet to find out of state conventions to visit?
I haven’t done much research about conventions, that's an interesting idea. I will admit I have a tendency to be an introvert and a hermit unless I'm forced out of my shell. I tend to just focus on creating my works in solitude and then sharing them later in person or online. It would do me quite a bit of good to get out and communicate with other artists and creators in person.
Do you have connections who would help you get a dealer’s table at a local convention?
I don't have any connections in that aspect yet either but I'm working my way into that. Making connections hasn't really been a focus for me at all up to this point. Creating art has sort of been cathartic for me in many aspects of life and I have only recently allowed people to see that side of me. I'm hoping that through interviews like this and word of mouth though I can find like-minded people who enjoy artistic endeavors as much as I do!
What sort of projects and collaborations do you have planned for the months to come, besides your planned collab with Thomas Small?
Other than the upcoming collaboration with Tom I don't have too many things in the works other than new paintings! I am admittedly am a bit too introverted when it comes to branching out and collaborating on things but I hope that in time more people will see the artistic style I have and want to work together to get more abstract art out there to the world!
How would you like to be remembered as the artist in the distant future?
Just being remembered to me is a great honor, when we are dead and gone all we have is the impact we left on those who live on and the words and thoughts they have about us. I would be happy just to be remembered at all.
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