Thursday Spotlight: Todd White

Tell us about your background.

I grow up in Orange County, California living with my mom in a small apartment. My mom was really supportive of my art making at young age. She actually dropped out of art school and became an interior designer and party planner. We had a small place, but my mom had a really strong design aesthetic. Our house had really modern all glass tables and teal walls with sparse branches in tall tube vases. It was amazing compared to my friends houses. That sensitivity to how space works and who colors work probably had an important early impact on me.
When I was 13 we moved to New Hampshire which was huge cultural shift and also gave me a fresh perspective on life. Mostly that culture and values are circumstantial and can change vastly even in the same country. The way life looks and feels in rural New Hampshire is completely different then Southern California!
I bounced between the two coasts for years. Currently, I am living in Santa Fe, NM.  I found a place in the middle that I really enjoy. I am currently teaching Advanced Illustration at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design.
Name some people, artists, artistic genres, etc. that have been influential in your work.
 I try to take in lots of work. I am interested in the drawing process and interesting representations of abstract ideas. I like classical print making, Durer and Rembrandt. The way they draw clouds and light and religious or magic glory, that has been of continuous interest to me.
  The single artist that has had the greatest impact on me would be Joe Biel, a Los Angeles painter that has been a continuous mentor for me.  It is really helpful to have artists to grow with. People that you admire and respect and can watch over time to see how they change and grow over time.
The other obvious influence would be music. I am an artist who is deeply passionate about music and often directly with the people I admire.
Where and how do you get your ideas?
Many of my ideas come from selecting a single element that I want to explore ie: clouds, spider webs, snake scales, repetitively replicate those into forms. It allows for a meditative process while creating an image that is both representational and abstract. The other idea that comes up for me a lot, is how to create a sense of vastness personified. Images that would embody the huge outside physical world and the huge inside psychic world becoming one.
I have lots of more illustrative ideas as well, I can’t help but draw wizards and warriors sometimes.
What materials do you work with? Describe your technical process.
Lately my process and materials have been very simple. I use technical pens and high quality watercolor paper. Sometimes I use watercolor and gauche. I am trying to only paint when it feels necessary. I want to let the drawings stand alone. It is easier to experience the abstract portions of the work without color being involved.
I have started casting custom sculpted circular frames, which has been a long time goal of mine. It is nice to have circular drawings in circular frames. It is a much more psychical process and very messy but a nice change of pace.
Working with clients is very different. I have to make lots of sketches and create a clear vision before starting.  I often use photoshop for the coloring process because it is so flexible. Working for other people is a great change of pace. The only problem is overly specific requirements about details that won’t be important to anyone else. Let the artist breath and re-imagine the ideas and you will get a more personally refined image.
What do you find to be the most challenging part of being creative? What is the best part of being creative?
Making art is just hard work. I feel like all of my good work takes so much time to create. The hardest part is making time and arranging your life in order to support your artistic process. Creative ideas are relatively easy, but the execution is the continuous struggle.
The best part of being creative is that there is a deep personal meaning to every day. That your life has a focus and that you can build your own unique world to have a dialog with. Creating art is a life long path and the time scale and perspective it gives you is completely different then someone not engaged in a personal practice. I am going to make drawings that take four months to complete. if I want to show 5 of them it will take two years of work. That is a completely different life perspective compared to the nine to fivers.
What advice would you give to someone seeking advice about being an artist?
My biggest advice would be to get involved in the world and doing things you love and then think about how your art can incorporate those things. I love going to concerts and talking to musicians. I always look for opportunities to make art for those occasions.  For my last show I booked 15 bands in the gallery space and it became like a small festival. Art is very flexible and inclusive. Think of the things that make you happy and make them part of the process. That way which ever way your “career” goes, at least you had fun.
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