The Creative Process: interview with artist, Anthony Brass

February 14, 2014 Writing  No comments

To end the series of posts on the Creative Process, I thought I’d dig up some of my journalism skills from high school and interview a talented friend of mine, Anthony Brass, who has been putting out some pretty incredible paintings that have caught my attention.

Bribing him with coffee (that I actually didn’t pay for), we met up at the Bean & Leaf in Royal Oak to talk about his paintings and his creative process.

Me: I’m going to ask you some basic questions before we get started.
Anthony: Like what my favorite color is and what not?

(What a jokester! )

You go to Wayne State University now, what are you studying?
Graphic arts. So I can go into advertising and be apart of the creative process.

Realistically I felt like what was I going to do with a painting degree? If i’m going to be a painter, I’m already doing it, so I should do something that is more realistic.

When did you start getting into painting?
Probably my senior year of high school through art class. I also got paints from my parents for Christmas, and I had them laying around for the longest time, and I just decided to pick them up one day and taught myself that way.

Do you know what you’re painting before you do it?
It depends. Sometimes I’ll just pick up some paint and a brush and just paint – and I have no clue what I’m painting. But that’s rare. For the most part, it usually just comes from my little sketches or little ideas that pop into my head. I’ll be driving in the car or something and get an idea and I’ll just put it in my phone real quick. But I usually know what I’m painting before I start.

Do you draw on the canvas before you paint?
Yes, for the most part – simple outlines and shapes

For the animal paintings, do you go online and look at pictures or do you go from what you think they look like?
I look at different pictures of real life images of animals or whatever I’m painting to get the form to make it realistic – it’s hard to remember every little curve and shape to a figure.

King Kong

King Kong ’12 © Anthony Brass
16×20 stretched canvas giclee print

When did you start sharing your paintings?
The first painting I did! I was like, ‘Check this out’ – it was a werewolf with yellow eyes. It was like, ‘Oh my god I painted this!’ It was sweet, even though it wasn’t that cool.

So are you not afraid of what people think?
Oh no, not at all. I like when people critique me and say they don’t like it or say it’s weird. I just like any kind of feedback.

No, I agree. I know so many writer’s who are afraid to share their work. So for me, I’m going forward with my manuscript, and I have so many people telling me to put it away for right now and work on something else because it’s my first book, you know? So it’s not going to be the greatest. And so many writer’s I know are afraid to put their stuff out there, afraid of what people are going to say.
Well, how do you feel about it?

I just feel like, there’s not enough time to be afraid of it.
Yeah, you’re not going to get anywhere if you don’t. Even if once you do get really good, you’re still going to have work that’s not the best. And two, you may not think it’s the best, like with a lot of my work, my paintings, I don’t think they’re great at all, but then someone else likes it.

Yeah, that’s kind of how I feel. I think of all the books that I have absolutely loved and what if that author was afraid to put it out there or said, ‘I don’t want to do this because I think it’s bad.’ I would’ve lost out, if they had done that.
Somebody will like your work, for sure.  

We digressed for a moment here into talking about my book. Blah, blah, blah. Moving on …

Is there anything in particular that inspires you? Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 11.41.03 AM

That and other paintings, I get ideas or I like a particular colors scheme.

What are some of your favorite artists?
Agne Cecile, she’s an Italian artist. She does a lot of figures, female figures, and she works with watercolors.

(Okay, I Lauren, know NOTHING about art but her paintings are effing AMAZING!)

mr. afterthought by Agnes Cecile  agnes-cecile.

mr. afterthought by Agnes Cecile
One of Anthony’s favorites


wakeful by Agnes Cecil  One of my favorites

wakeful by Agnes Cecil
One of my favorites

And Henri di Toulouse-Lautrec – he invented the poster pretty much.

Study for Elles Woman in a Corset by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Study for Elles Woman in a Corset by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

So do you find that your formal education helps you artistically?
Oh, for sure. Any kind of art, even if it’s just sculpture or that ceramics class I took, all the finishes on the ceramics – I can use as a color scheme for my paintings.

The most helpful art classes I’ve had in college was probably my life drawing class where models came in and we worked on drawing the figure. That really fine-tuned my figure-anatomy drawing skills. And I also took a painting class, where I learned how to stretch canvases and learned how to use oil paints

Do you do oil paintings?
Yeah a little bit.

What do you usually use? I know nothing about paints. At all.
I started with acrylics. They are plastic based so they dry really fast, and you can’t spread them that much. They are less messy. But oil paints, are made out of oil, so they can take a week or two to dry. But what you can do is spread it and work with it. So for my abstract paintings I use oil paints because it’s easy to work with, but some ways its harder.

Do you want to experiment more with doing figures?
There’s like 3 different paths I can take. Every artist has to have his own style and mines like all over the place …

I was really into painting animals but I’m kind of over that, and I just recently started doing abstract paintings. I really like those because they look good on walls, as opposed to a gorilla face or something.

I also like doing figures. Right now I’m working on a naked female figure, but not colored in – like an outline, and I’ll paint the hair all crazy.

He pulls out his phone to show me the example …

Look Me In The Eyes '12     © Anthony Brass

Look Me In The Eyes ’12 © Anthony Brass

Then he asks, So wait what was your question again?

I don’t even remember, something about naked people. Moving on …
So when you were talking about nature earlier –

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 11.59.50 AM

At this point in the interview, I get all philosophical about wolves and morality. Get over yourself already Lauren.

So, do you have any other artistic ambitions? Other forms you want to work with?
I did like ceramics a lot, but it’d be really expensive and I don’t see myself getting into it. I think for right now I’m going to stick with painting and graphic arts.

Do you have a preference over painting verses working on the computer?
Oh, painting for sure. I’m a fine arts kind of guy.

Do you find you’re more productive with a schedule or without a schedule?
I need a schedule. I’m like all over the place. When I have a calendar and a schedule, I find myself being way more productive and painting more.

Do you ever feel stressed out about being too busy? Or do you find yourself frustrated when you don’t have time to be creative and paint?
I do get stressed out when I procrastinate and wait until the last second to do things. I will tell someone I will paint a picture for them, and I’ll start it, and then I don’t like where it’s going, so it’s hard for me to finish it. I have to force myself to do it, and that gets stressful.

When that happens how long does it take for you to go back and do it?
I just usually force myself to do it after a break. It happens randomly where I’ll just get this motivation to finish it. And once I get that I’ll be non-stop until it’s done. Even if it’s 3 AM.

So you lose yourself in it?
Yeah, definitely. I get manic. I’ll be in these phases where I just stay up all night painting.

Do you drink when you’re painting?
Sometimes. Not heavy, but if it’s a Friday night, and I’m not going out and I just want to stay home and paint, I’ll pick up a 6-pack and drink half of it. Makes it fun.

Do you find it helps?
To an extent. If you drink too much than, no.

Does it make it different for you to be paid for your work? Does it put pressure on you?
Yeah, there’s an element of stress when it’s for someone because I want them to be happy with it. And for the most part, when someone commissions a job they want something specific, so it’s not really my art. I mean it’s my art coming out, but if they want it so specific it’s not my art, I’m just painting it for them. It’s not as fun. What I like doing is just painting my own stuff and if someone likes it, then I’ll sell it.

Is it hard to sell your work?
It was at first. If I like one that much I’ll just make a print of it.

Do you listen to music when you’re painting?
Oh, definitely. When I can.

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 12.01.18 PM

Well, that makes sense because you’re also a musician, aren’t you? You were in the band right?
I was in band from middle school through eleventh grade. I played snare in marching band and percussion in concert.

You were also in a band right?
Yeah, we wrote some of the songs and did covers.

How long have you been playing the drums for?
Since I was 9, so 14 years. I still play for fun and take lessons.

Okay here’s a double-sided question for you: do you find meaning in your art or does your art give you meaning?
A little bit of both. Most of the time I’ll paint something, and I painted it because it looked cool, but when I’m done with it I find meaning in it just by looking at it. But other times I have an idea …

Like right now I’m working on a painting of a girl – her back side and she’s lifting her shirt up and you can see all these fingerprints all over her back, like a lot of guys have touched her. Like slutty, for a lack of a better word. But it could also mean she’s just so attractive you can’t keep your fingers off her.

That sounds really cool. Now, I have a very philosophical question for you: what does creativity mean to you?
[He pauses for a second] The ability to think outside of the box and express it. Not necessarily in any meaningful way.

Compared to most of your friends or peers who aren’t artists, do you feel like you think or see things differently?
Possibly, I have no clue how other people think. But I do have a weird way of looking at things. I feel like I see things very in-depth and over think things.

I was reading about the artistic personality and it was saying that artistic people tend to see problems where other people don’t and they tend to see the world as very chaotic and not making sense and so art is their way of fitting it into form and making sense of it. Do you agree with that?
Yeah a little bit. There’s just so many things going on out there, and if often doesn’t make sense because there’s so many crazy things going on – so much activity.

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 12.02.00 PM
Why do you think you feel the need to create?
Its just fun. It’s just my passion. Without it I feel incomplete.

Do you connect your self-worth to you art?
In a way but not really, but it is my work and I want people to be impressed by it. It’s not my only goal, but if someone doesn’t like it or isn’t good enough I don’t feel like I’m not good enough.

If I paint something and it looks like crap, I’ll just get pissed at it and throw it away.

Is that a gut feeling?
Yeah, either you feel it or your don’t. If it feels good, you just run with it. But if I take too long of a break, and come back a week later, and I lose that momentum – it can ruin the painting.

How often do you try to paint?
As often as I can. But I usually need motivation. Something inside of me that says, ‘Paint!’ and that’s when I get my best work

Are you the kind of person who can always be doing something or do you need down time?
I need downtime. TV helps me wind down. I watch a lot of Netflix and documentaries.

Do you consider yourself an engaged and/or sensitive person?
I’m definitely engaged, and more aware of what people are feeling. I do over-think a lot of things. I’m always conscious of what other people are doing and saying.

Do you consider yourself anxious?
Yeah, definitely.

What about depressive?
Yeah. Out of nowhere I get these weird mood swings for no reason. I’ll be a little depressed and sometimes I’ll be super happy. Almost manic.

Do you struggle to find meaning in life sometimes? For me there’s such a disconnect between how I think life should be and how it really is.
Oh, what I think life should be like is definitely not what it is like. But, if it was my ideal life it would be a lot simpler. There’s so many different layers of life you have to have on track like school, work, health, relationships – there’s just so much built on us, weighing us down. I feel like life should be way more easier.

It’s overwhelming, I struggle to stay on top of everything. I can only do one thing at once.

That ends my interview with Anthony.

The one and only, Mr. Anthony Brass

The one and only, Mr. Anthony Brass








You can find out more about Anthony and his paintings here. Definitely check his work out. And yes, ladies, he is attractive, artistic, sensitive, and single 😉  

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