In this edition of ArtListr, we’ll look at the story and creative process of some of the amazing featured artists on our Instagram page @arlistrgram. This week, we have Victor Goertz, an artist based in Vancouver, Canada, working in acrylics and pastels. His paintings explore the wonderful outdoors of the Pacific Northwest, conjuring images of old-growth forests, tranquil waters, and unique natural landscapes.
Here are 8 questions that we asked to get an insider’s look into his art practice:
1. Tell us about your background. When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?
VG: I grew up in the Okanagan Valley. I guess I just never did NOT want to be an artist. I’ve always loved creating things and spending time outdoors. I knew I wanted to pursue an art career in high school, in large part to having a great encouraging art teacher. I also loved cartooning and characterizing friends and enemies. For instance I got called out in the hallway in high school by the VP because I had made a cartoon in the school paper showing him brutally interrogating a student in his office, with the word on the door purposely written as “Vise” instead of “Vice”. After I left high school for art college, and studied art history, and began to experiment with different mediums, I realized how much more I could expand my horizons with my art practice.
2. Share with us your first steps when you were just starting out. How did you begin work as an artist?
VG: Working as an artist and getting paid to be an artist can be two different things. I guess I’d say I began to take it seriously as a profession when I rented out my first studio space for that purpose, a year or so after graduating art school. I also studied graphic arts and worked on web site design and game animation for a while and drifted away from fine arts in order to pay bills and have a steady pay cheque. Then there came a point that I realized I just had to go back to painting and the fine arts, even if it was less predictable, and lucrative, and I have never looked back.
3. Tell us about your everyday routine. How do you regularly work?
VG: I arrive at my studio, and like Mr. Rogers, I put on my working clothes and shoes. This helps me get in the right mind zone as well as protecting my other clothing. I usually just start as soon as possible as there is always some new step I am eager to add to a work that I may have been dwelling on since I left the studio last. Then there are periods of reflection and reworking, back and forth. I think its so important to step back frequently and study what you have done, and entertain the suggestions that flow through your mind for new steps. I like to work with music. Everything from pop to prog rock, to new age electronic.
4. Talk to us about your art. How would you describe the kind of work you do?
VG: My art is partly a journal of my interactions with the natural wild world, partly a study in human perception, and partly a study in the dynamics and power of space and colour. My work uses the natural world as subject matter, but comes out of my early love of abstract constructivist painters like Kandinsky. I am fascinated at how humans see, how we omit things in our vision, how we add. How even the outer boundaries of our peripheral stage changes. How every person sees a different world. I play with these ideas in my natural world reality based paintings even though my work would not be typically classified as “abstract”.
5. Share with us some personal insights. What are your greatest weaknesses and strengths as an artist?
VG: My greatest weakness as an artist might be just making myself go to work consistently. Being self employed one must be your own boss. But I must look at it like job (which may seem to contradict the romantic notion of an artist) in order to get work done. Add to that it is a lonely job, much like a writer. Other art disciplines, like acting or music, one can receive instant feedback. So there are times that I get a bit depressed and I need to be in a good state of mind to paint. It is a tasking mental challenge, like solving puzzles that have never existed before.
I could talk about the various techniques and tricks I have developed but my greater strength as an artist is just to be able to see amazing possibilities all around me. Just as musical artists are always listening to sounds, and to other musicians, all around them, the same is true of visual artists. Only our research is the act of looking. Looking more than the average person, and finding stories, anomalies, drama. I feel blessed to have developed this skill. The world is so much richer.
6. Tell us about how you deal with criticism. When people criticize you and your work, what do they mention the most?
VG: To be honest I haven’t had a lot of negative criticism that I remember. I am my worst critic. I actually appreciate any critical feedback. I remember one viewer exclaimed that my work was like caricatures of nature. I could have taken it as an insult, but I thought about it and I think he was right. Just as I began my artistic life drawing caricatures, I am continuing it in my later painting work. A caricaturist may amplify the size of a persons nose for instance, and instead of masking the persons identity, it actually personalizes him, makes him even more recognizable. This is one of my goals in what I do with my work using the natural world. To make elements in it even more substantial, familiar, and connected with the mechanics of seeing.
7. Share with us what motivates you. What are your compulsions and what inspires you to do your work?
VG: The natural wild world inspires me. I like to get out all year long as much as I can. But every Summer I take trips in my camper van to various wild places, old growth forests, remote beaches etc.. Immersing oneself in that environment even for a week changes your perception of what is the “real” world, and what is not. I love to find drama in nature. I look at elements like logs, trees, rocks etc. as actors on a stage, sometimes battling each other for position. If you sped up time you’d see one crash into the other, one rot away and new life growing out of it. I like to think I capture a small essence of that dramatic action.
8. Tell us about the direction your art is taking now. Where do you see yourself in the future?
VG: I have been studying the many forms of water and reflections lately. Taking a break from my deep Pacific Northwest forest work. Maybe its a need at this point in my life to calm down, and be reflective. I am also working on multiple paintings of all sizes that work together as one piece. Reflecting the human act of seeing. Where your eye darts from element to element as opposed to seeing everything in front of you, which is impossible. Continuing my fascination with how we choose to see the world, what we omit, what we elevate.
If you wish to see more of his work, please follow his Instagram page at @victorgoertz.
Meanwhile, if you’re interested to learn more about another featured artist, check out our interview with mixed-media artist, Suze Schneider.