1xRUN Thru Interview
The Glass Menagerie by Nathan Spoor
1xRUN: Tell us a bit about this piece…
Nathan Spoor: The main goal of this piece was to make a work with lots of grand overtures and activity that overwhelms the majority of the piece, yet stays in balance overall. The actual focus of the work is the small girl standing on the bridge on the lower left of the piece. She’s holding a spyglass and is looking to the distant horizon on the right lower portion. The magician character (the guys biting each other with the yellow heads and serpentine arms) is holding a magnifying glass that is highlighting an umbrella that is very small on the far horizon of the grassy area. Essentially, there is a lot going on in her world, and she has the calm foresight to look past all the beauty and madness to spot the thing she needs to focus on.
1xRUN: What materials were used to create this piece?
Nathan Spoor: This painting is acrylic on canvas, stretched over a handmade pine frame, then gessoed and sanded several times to get the perfect surface to work on.
1xRUN: When was the piece painted and how long did it take to complete?
Nathan Spoor: This painting was finished in 2009 although I think I worked on it for a couple years. The sketching and drawing phase took a while, plus I worked a little differently 5 years ago. Today I draw out ideas in whole before I jump in. With this piece there were times of painting and re-planning and adding or removing elements as I worked. That can create frustration so I learned to do more thinking on paper and re-draw ideas from scratch each time to see what new developments appear as it comes to life anew with each fresh page. Plus, I work on several pieces at once, so taking years to finish something intricate isn’t a surprise. I really like having a methodical work ethic – less re-thinking and re-working to do that way.
1xRUN: Tell us how the idea and execution came about?
Nathan Spoor: It was pretty natural and unplanned. I was working on other paintings and this magician character kept popping up and I wanted to see how far it would stretch until it was too ridiculous to use. Turns out he’s very malleable and my attempts to make that character more dynamic are the tip of his iceberg. In the beginning of the series I had a nurse character that was more prominent in many of the paintings. As the lead characters in the series have grown, she’s been less noticeable, and this might be one of the last times she’s been in a picture as a main character that is seen falling into the tumult of the female’s life or mental flux. The magician is intertwined with the nurse and the manifestations of the female lead are populating all around her. Yet she has the fortitude to stand fast and keep her eye on the future.
1xRUN: Why should people buy this print?
Nathan Spoor: I’ve always felt the “why” someone collects art to be a personal adventure for the collector or patron. I’m always curious what the individuals connections are to the work, I love to hear those stories. They’re always quite diverse and have that one thing in common – they like it because they like it. Why someone collects something is a wonderful and personal thing.
1xRUN: Describe this piece in one gut reaction word.
Nathan Spoor: Focus.
1xRUN: We’ve talked before about your continuing storytelling with The Intimate Parade, how does this piece fit in with that series?
Nathan Spoor: The Glass Menagerie falls in what looks like an upswing personally and creatively within the series. I’ve grown to embrace how my personal life affects the work, it’s certainly not disconnected or an illustration based on someone else’s input. It’s a unique experience that occurs and is shared. So I’m happy to say that this painting was born from really happy and energetic moments, a really positive message with personal content. This painting foreshadows the transition from one state to another, and has that exciting magic of reveling in the moment of a multitude of surroundings and options.
1xRUN: What are some of the ways you begin these pieces? Is there much sketching or reference material or is it usually worked through improvisation and imagination?
Nathan Spoor: It’s a really interesting mixture of both. I generally get the inspirations out of the blue and mostly while I’m working on a piece that needs something to help it all fit together. When an element for a future piece appears in my mind, it’s usually a strong visual so I take a few minutes and sketch it out or work on a drawing of it. I remember sketching out portions of this painting and then going to the canvas to fit the ideas together. There was a good bit of improvised momentum in this, seeing as how it’s a very flow-oriented piece. I don’t use much in the way of reference material. Sometimes I’ll look up something like dollhouses or things within the common vocabulary so that I know where to start. Then I’ll go from whatever memory I have of that, or sketch an idea of what it would look like in a scene I have in mind.
1xRUN: These pieces tend to have a few recurring themes, characters and colors schemes. Can you highlight some of them for us and discuss some of your favorite aspects about each?
Nathan Spoor: That’s a good question. I’d have to really write the book out on all the characters and symbolism to successfully answer that, but I’ll try to honor as much of that as possible. I’ve come to realize that the main male and female characters are extensions of my psyche or persona, there’s a definite autobiographical element to art. What someone is made of shows up in the art, I’ve always felt that. That’s why I call the series The Intimate Parade. There are certain elements that are recurring in the work, the umbrella, gifts, bridges, nurses, balloons – very simple objects that stand for more broad concepts. The umbrella stands for a safe passage, the element that signals the next transition or road onward. The presents, the little white gifts wrapped in red ribbon, hold the girl’s memories of the past, present and future. So essentially, she could travel through time by opening or entering into different presents along the way. The nurses are caretakers and the balloons could represent something as simple as a means of travel or escape.
1xRun: Do you find yourself weaving the pieces together integrating characters or motifs just explored differently?
Nathan Spoor: Most of the time that’s the case. There are characters that are familiar that are often times evolving into new characters or new forms. If I see the opportunity or a way to make it interesting I’ll draw it out and see where it takes me. If it feels right then I know it’s either a part of a new piece or could fit into a piece that needs to move forward in some way.
1xRun: A while back you mentioned that there were a few different styles in this series, some of the more serene “traveling” or set up pieces and then the more ornate and intricate pieces with lots of color and action, what are some of the things you enjoy about each style and how do you go about painting each?
Nathan Spoor: I like the challenge of each avenue presents. It’s so much fun to get into the amount of detail or lighting and shading that goes into one of the more intricate pieces. But to be honest it also takes a lot of sensitivity to not over-populate a painting or add non-essential elements into the scene. I believe in the flow and balance of a painting, that each scene has essential elements and they should be in certain places for things to really sync.
I really like the way some of the more calm and simple pieces create a certain mood and say things on a very poetic level. The more intricate pieces are more prominent with me right now; that’s what keeps bouncing around my head and what keeps challenging me and making me excited to jump into and work out the complexities in.
I enjoy all aspects of the whole process, the whole way of living and helping these works appear and be shared is where my interests abound. An artist needs to be strong in each area to be happy and successful, and that is a way of life. To pursue these things one has to enjoy the challenge and accept the road that lies ahead. It’s different for each individual, and I’m happy that this is mine to travel.
1xRun: You’re constantly busy, bring us up to speed on what you’ve been up to?
Nathan Spoor: So much. I paint every day or take successive days to just paint though. That’s supremely important. No matter how much writing I need to do, how many drawings or sketches I need to work on, or even how much rest I need – painting figures in to all of those decisions. Even when at rest, the mind continues to work on problems or needs in a couple paintings. The mind is a fascinating instrument, so while I’m busy I try to respect what I need to maintain a balance so that I can continue the amount of work that needs to be done.
1xRun: What was the last piece of art that you bought?
Nathan Spoor: Well at first I was going to skip this question, since I really don’t collect art. But I do collect books. I love to read, and I really love to look at art books. I enjoy a well-designed book or a really nice volume with amazing art or thoughts about art. I definitely collect books written by art historians or critics as well as business / critical thinking as well – anything to keep my gears turning and learn more. I love Robert A. Heinlein’s science fiction works, those early works of his are like looking at a book pages and seeing a movie unfold before your eyes. They’re so vivid and well-paced, I could go on and on.
I may not collect art for myself but I do collect art things for other people. My Dad is obsessed with Crayola crayons, so I’ve been collecting vintage Crayola boxes for him and actually found a couple original 1905-1908 crayon sets. Mom collects Blue Willow china, so I’ve been looking around at resale shops and estate sales and found some choice pieces there. You kind of have to find a collector’s guide to research those things, there’s a lot of knockoffs around parading as antiques. But I’ve learned a few of the markings and found a few really nice pieces from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s from England and early American collections.
1xRun: Anything else we didn’t touch on that you’d like us to mention?
Nathan Spoor: I’d just like to thank anyone that’s made it this far in the interview. Hats off to readers!
1xRun: Any shows, events or other releases you’d like us to highlight?
Nathan Spoor: I’m working on a couple things – curating a show called The Convergence at Copro Gallery in March, and a new Suggestivism Chronology show in August, complete with an exhibition catalog. There’s also a really amazing exhibit called Masterworks at the Long Beach Museum of Art that I’ll be in in October (giant book with Gingko Press for that too!). So please come out to one of those and say hi!