“How do you begin?” I asked. "Well, I usually start with the head, the face, the eyes. Once I get the eyes I can move on. The process becomes easier for me. It is at though there is a conservation going on between me and the piece and it is all because of the eyes. You know Lucian Freud always started with the nose, from there he would work his way out, letting the piece unfold naturally. I start with eyes and work out from there. When I painted it was different I would mass in areas in paint with certain color values and that would be my guide to the rest of the painting, collage is different at least for me...."
According to Wikipedia, Street Art is any art developed in public spaces — that is, "in the streets" — though the term usually refers to unsanctioned art, as opposed to government sponsored or private initiatives. His moniker is ELBOW-TOE, a name taken when the hard surface walls of the city became his canvas. That was then, now Brian Adam Douglas is busily working creating a series collages for an upcoming museum show in England in December. Collages are his current focus and have been for the last 2 years. Some are portrait pieces of great strength and character, while others are allegorical statements, some with intricate emotional elements, others more simply presented, like a young man’s face set intently upon you.
His allegorical pieces have a sense of whimsy. Sweetness provides a nice foil for darker fare that bubbles just under the surface. Brian has an affinity for double meanings. The “flip side of the coin” is where he finds his inspiration. Nothing is simply at face value in Brian's art. Beauty is always balanced by the opposite. It is evident in all Brian's work and sometimes it is in the guise of a torsion twisted figure. Strong contorted hands manifest an honesty of emotion that is mirrored by the steadfast gazes of his subjects. Brian offers up an assortment of elements for the viewer to enjoy. His energy and style is immediately seductive and naturally we want to look deeper. This is where the visual discourse begins between artist and audience, from his great technical skill to his uniquely singular voice that allows anyone to look at any of his work and recognize the telltale signs that identify the work as an Elbow Toe. This has always been the case from his collages, to his early paste-ups that papered the city, to paintings, stencil work and lastly his red lined ink sketches he does in a notebook on the train.
Where did it all begin...
Brian always desired to be an artist; his hard work got him into the School of Visual Arts. However the same self-assurance and certainty that got him into art school, worked against him when it came to getting into grad school. A job in computer programming only drove him to make more art and put it on the street. That was his release and passion. At a certain point he had to choose: the sure success he would have in computer programming or the less than certain success he would have as an artist. Elbow-Toe already attracted a following from his street art. Response to his work was tallying up in comments on Flickr. He enjoyed great notoriety and fame surrounding his work. And he also enjoyed the online dialog he had with his audience. It inspired him and making street art became a true passion for him. During this time Brian challenged himself at every turn, working to master techniques of painters he loved. In one of our conversations, he showed me work from his early periods. Showing how this technique or that style was important to him to understand and be able to do it himself. Painstakingly he worked something over and over again to achieve the desired effect. He was never short of ideas and he produced art at a terrific pace one that even surprises him when he thinks back to that time. It was simply so rewarding to him. As his following grew he garnered a gallery, Black Rat Projects, which he works exclusively with in London. It was there that he began making collages for a show last year. Since that time he has produced a number of paper piece treasures. Initially the collages were tight and controlled and he felt they lacked the freedom and fluidity that is a signature of his art. He produced two portraits: one of himself and the other of his wife Margi. These pieces are life size and luminous. Brian describes a rigidity that exists in these pieces, he since has learned to do away with replacing it with the flow and grace he loves. His technique of collage is often perceived as painting instead of small confetti sized pieces of colored paper, deliberately placed to create these wondrous works.
Often in Brian’s work there is a central axis where energy and motion swirl around. In large pieces it may be compositional, with many elements moving around an invisible axis or in the case of a portrait, the figure is pulled and twisting, like the smoke from a candle that twirls gracefully up and above a burning flame. My sense of Brian is that in making art it is the process and discovery that is most enjoyable. He comes up with an idea maybe two, three or four ideas and how those ideas flesh out is where the joy of creation is born. It keeps him striving for more and keeps his audience happy to see new work. Please join us in an evening of conversation with artist Brian Adam Douglas on Wednesday, September 1st @ 6:30 on the 6th floor of the Mid Manhattan Library.