Monday Motivation #1, Studio Questions w/ @Chongolio!
Chongolio kindly answered the many questions I had about his creative days and his awesome studio in Hawaii! We have been bloggin’ buddies for a while now and I thought it was time he was featured on BJR.
RJ: After doing the awesome guest post over on your blog, I couldn’t wait to have you featured here on BJR! Let me thank you for doing this for me. I know you have a crazy schedule with all of your new blog stuff, vlogs, and projects. You have one big project in works right now. Can you tell us a little more about your Tiki Mug project and any other works in progress?
C: The Mug project is a collaboration with my good friend Holden Westland who owns and runs Tiki Farm. Holden and I have talked about working on a mug using one of my designs over the years but both of us keep pretty busy schedules and our timing never really synced. However, at the beginning of the year, Holden had contacted me and asked if I was interested in a special mug project that he wanted to work with me on which involved a series of mugs that were based on the authentic tiki gods and legends of Polynesia. Since he knew of my interest in Hawaiian culture, the artistic influence it has on my creativity and I was actually living in Hawaii he thought I was a pretty good candidate for this project and my plate was pretty much cleared off at the time. I am actually very honored to be picked for this project since Holden has worked closely with some amazingly talented artists in the past. If all goes well with this series of three mugs we are hoping to move onto some of the other legends and mythos of other island located in the South Pacific.The Tiki Farm mug project is the biggest project I am currently working on, but I have also been doing a bunch of the backend stuff and research for creating ebooks and online workshops that can help others to get in touch with their own creativity and inner artist. Essentially, this is what my Video logs (VLOGS) and blog are the start of and I hope to expand off of over the course of the years ahead. I also continue to work on logos for clients and friends and always have a dozen or so of my own artistic noodlings going on. Keeping on top of all this stuff is hard work and time consuming but I love it and wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
RJ: After looking at tons of work in progress photos and studio shots, I didn’t think I could be surprised. Of course, I was terribly surprised when you sent yours over! It’s so full of neat things, nooks, crannies, and stacked goodies! Have you ever taken a panoramic of your studio? Have you ever sat back and really, truly looked at it?
C: Part of the reason my home studio is so jam packed right now it that I just moved out of a space that I was using as my art studio. It was nice to have the room to stretch out, work and make a mess but I have recently moved and that space is no longer close or very accessible anymore. I also found that having to drive somewhere and designating a time to be creative wasn’t really working for me either. I need to have my stuff near me so when I am inspired its at hand and close by. Back to your question, yes, I have taken steps back at times to look at my creative space and I get overwhelmed by all the unfinished works and ideas that I have started and want my attention who compete with the calling of the ideas and projects that want to get started. I am trying to be more focused on the things I choose to work on and starting to look more actively for the common threads that links several projects together so that they can help each other to develop. I suppose a good example of this would be the characters I draw and create that become the subjects of songs that I am working on, which are played on instruments that I am building while thinking about the characters that I envision. It’s a kind of a circle of dots that I try to connect whenever possible. I find making those connections inspirational and it does help keep me motivated, finish works that I have started, flush out ideas and stay somewhat focused. When one artistic piece or idea is not quite working out or becoming clear I find by moving onto something else the puzzle eventually will unravel and the solutions will come and help loosen the part I was stuck on. My whole life seems to work on a weird level of random connections that somehow end up helping each other to develop and work themselves out. I am very into this whole notion of cosmic serendipity especially when it involves creativity and events in my life. But that is another topic that I can ramble on about for hours. For now I will stay focused on your questions though. See? I am getting better at staying focused ;)
RJ: I especially like the view from your window/door because you live in Hawaii! I am from the East Coast, so water is really important to me. I bet you can smell the salty ocean and hear the crazy beach birds. Tell us about what you see everyday, and does it effect the way you work, and what kind of projects you make?
C: I absolutely love where I live! Seriously, a day does not go by where I am not grateful for the ocean I get to surf in, the waterfalls in the green mountains that I can see from my yard and all the wonderfully noisy critters that I share this paradise with. I have always dreamed of being an artist living in a tropical location so this really is a dream come true. I find so much inspiration in nature, especially when it is untamed and running wild. Personally, I find nature’s boundless creativity and endless ways of expressing itself totally inspirational and here on the islands you cannot ignore it. It doesn’t yield to man’s demands and does what it wants. You can put concrete on the ground and surround yourself with walls and try to hold back the plants and creatures but eventually the grass is gonna grow up from the cracks, a spider is gonna find its way into your bed and bite you on the ass and a gecko is gonna crap on your stuff. It’s not all pretty and sometimes it can be a bit gross but it’s all part of the big picture. I try to remember that when a painting I am working on goes sour or something just falls apart on me while I am building it. It may not be pretty or come out how I expected, but in the larger picture, it is serving a creative purpose and helping me to grow and learn. Kauai is a part of everything I do now and really has become a part of who I am artistically, physically and emotionally. I love this island and I am pretty sure she likes me too, but sometimes she has a strange way of showing it.
RJ: One of your most recent VLOGS, #16, included little buttons, plastic found things, and knick knacks used for altering art. I have watched all your videos and I personally liked that one best. That particular video inspired this feature. I am so curious about where you find things. How do you decide what to keep and what to leave stuck in the sand? Do you have any favorites that you just want to be a part of the collection, rather than being glued and spray painted onto an art journal?
C: Really glad to hear you like the videos! Leaving stuff behind is hard. As I mentioned earlier, I have recently moved my art space and honestly could not believe how much stuff I have collected over the past five years that I have been living here especially after making a huge purge before I moved. If you were to see all of the stuff I have collected together in one place you would think I didn’t leave anything behind. Right now space is really the determining factor for what I keep and what gets left behind. If it is really something I can use right now and is going to be put to use I will grab it. If it is just going sit around and take up valuable real estate I have to leave it behind. I really am a pack rat but until I can find a permanent space to call my own I try to remind myself of what a pain it is too keep shuffling buckets of driftwood, boxes filled with old toys and bins of discarded electronic equipment from place to place. I am trying to get better at letting stuff go and the feeling that I have to hold onto things for that one “special future project.” I suppose the stuff that is the hardest to let go of are the items that I have collected while I was growing up. They have so many memories and still hold the magic that I found in them when I was younger. I really do have a loving relationship with all my little toy creatures, figures, knick knacks and scraps of stuff which at the time, and still are, keys to the world of my imagination. I never outgrew any of those things and have a hard time sacrificing them to art projects which could mean losing them.
RJ: One thing that sets your studio apart, is the music stuff. For those readers that don’t know about the kind of music you make, can you give us some info about how making music fits into your usually visual artisticprocess? Are you currently working on any musical projects?
C: Music is another one of the keys to my imagination, I have always loved music and drawn so much inspiration from it. I have played guitar and ukulele for many years and wanted to be a drummer when I was a kid but would often get discouraged by my lack of ability. It wasn’t until recently I figured out how to stop comparing myself to others and began to accept my music as something I do purely for myself and for my own enjoyment. Sometimes the music I make can only be described as noise or what I like to call “ambient collage.” However, I am trying to write more traditionally structured songs with lyrics that hopefully will be a little more easier to listen to by others. I have committed myself to writing and recording a proper song each month for the year of 2012 with something resembling a common verse, chorus and bridge structure. My songs are usually written about characters that I have thought up and created. This is mostly because I found my writing about life, love, happiness and despair sounded pretty lame and cheesy. I also write all the little snippets of background music in my VLOGS which tend to be more in the way of musically wandering around with not a whole lot of thought going into the direction I am going with it. That stuff is usually added at low volume and hidden behind the narrative so I can get away with a little more experimental sounds and noise. I do try to keep it interesting and not to grating on the ears bones.
RJ: Give us a normal day in your shoes, or no shoes since you are usually barefoot! From breakfast to bedtime, tell us your creative process.
C: I will give you a day when I don’t work in the silkscreen shop because those days are boring and tend to be creatively stagnant for the better part of the day. However, everyday starts with writing at least 750 words right when I wake up. I use this time to acknowledge all the things that I am grateful for as well as to write down the things I want to get done that day and as any other thoughts, snippets from dreams or random musings that are rattling around in my head. I also do most of my online posting before I get out of bed as well. I then make a cup of coffee, a bowl of oatmeal and pack a lunch before I head out the door usually by 8:00 clock. If I am not going to the shop, I am headed to the beach to go surfing. After a morning surf, I will do whatever errands need doing in town and will usually pop into one of the thrift stores to see if there is any bargains to be had or little toys or things that need a new home. On my way back home I like to stop off again at one of the other beaches and eat my lunch and write in my daily journal. I will usually also pack up some art supplies and work on art for a few hours if the weather is nice. Once I get back to my studio, my tendency is to get online and catch up with all the blogs, people, groups and forums that I follow and participate in as well as any research or info gathering that I am doing. I am not really very artistically productive in the afternoons and will usually just clean up, work on my gardening and do paper and busy work until I hit the 3:00 clock wall and then go down for an afternoon nap. After my nap is when I get my second wind and will start digging into what ever is on my creative list of things to work on which include everything from recording audio and video for my VLOGs and songs to working on artistic projects that are on the front burners or in my art books and journals. I like to take and evening walk before dark and go feed the horse down the street some apple slices. After that I just keep working on my projects until about 10:00 and then will sit in bed and mess around with music apps on my iPad until I crash out. I lead a pretty simple and easy life and I am grateful for every stress free second of it!
RJ: I know that an artist and his studio are one and the same. Is there anything you would change about your studio? Are there parts that are “classic” Chongolio, or is all of it inspiration for a creative lifestyle?
C: I would like to have more room and space that I can call my own so that I can feel less transient and more grounded. I think I would be more likely to take on bigger and more permanent and challenging projects if I didn’t have the nagging voice in the back of my heads always telling me “You are gonna have to tear that thing apart and move it when you move.” So I suppose classic Chongolio would be the portable and easily mobile nature of my studio and the improvising of furniture and areas to work in. I would also have to say when describing the Classic Chongolio studio you would have to include the word cluttered. My studio is always a part of where I eat, sleep and live so it really is an extension of myself and my lifestyle.
RJ: If you could give advice on how to keep a creative, inspiring, and stimulating studio what would it be? Sometimes artists need a break, even from their own space. Are there any other neat places that you like to brainstorm and create besides in the studio?
C: For me organization is key. My spaces are always packed and cluttered but I know where everything is most of the time. Also, keeping the stuff you use frequently use to create close at hand and at the ready to use is a must too. Which also ties into me always trying to keep at least one table free at all times so whenever an idea hits I don’t waste time or lose the impulse because I had to find a place to work or take time to clear a space. As mentioned earlier, I love being outside, in the water or just walking down my street and feeling the wind and seeing the mountains and the ocean. I also like goofing’ off in the garden that I have recently started to put together. I really strive to find a balance in my life where the technology computer geek, the dirt loving hippy, the adventure seeker and homebody can all coexist without hassling one another.
Thanks for reading! For more art, tips, tricks, & techniques by Chongolio: please visit his blog, watch his VLOGS, and follow him on twitter for fun links & #photofriday!