Everything is Valid, Nothing is Wasted.
The Visual Notebook of
Barrett Cook interview:
What tools do you use?
An exacto knife, gel medium, and glue.
What do you do when you are not making artwork?
Most people don’t get to say this but I work a 9-5 job that I really enjoy. Music is a large part of my life. I’m either listening to it or searching for it. I am a record collecting nerd. Also, I have just started making music again after a lengthy hiatus and it feels great.
What (or who) keeps you focused?
Making art is an outlet for me. It’s not something I choose to do. I have to make art. Otherwise, I don’t feel right. It’s like creative constipation. So, focus is not something I usually worry about. I like the disorganization that comes with working on 3 to 4 different things at the same time. Some projects die fast others move on. It’s survival of the fittest. In some cases un-focusing helps me focus.
Where does the idea of your art come from? (the spark of inspiration)
The idea of my art is definitely influenced by my surroundings. I live in Oakland, California and the bay area is a great place to be inspired by. Juxtaposition also plays a large part. I love vintage vs modern. Analog vs digital. Finding something unwanted or discarded and creating with it like paper scraps, chunks of wood, and old book covers.
When/if your mind is blank, how do you create?
Music is my muse. I always have to have some tunes on. I’ve been in an African music phase for a while now. Obscure stuff from the 60’s to 80’s. Also, free jazz, drone and other world music has been on the turntable.
Can you describe your process?
For me, the most exciting thing about collage is the process. Some of my most satisfying results have come from mistakes. Especially hand made collage. Gluing something down and than tearing it away. Having to work around saving a piece of work that you think you may have ruined. These moments of uncertainty can give birth to absolute creative utopia. Only for a moment though. Than it’s on to the next thing. I’m a fan of old weathered paper. I frequently wash ink off of old magazine pages to get the look I want. I will use glue or acrylic gel medium depending on what surface I’m using. I work in layers from there with a mix of collage and decollage. Recently I’ve been experimenting with pigment transfers on found paper and found wood panels.
What words of advice would you give to young people?
Create everyday. It’s a simple motto but not necessarily simple to follow. Weather you are planning/brainstorming future projects or actually doing them, I think it’s important to keep the flow of creative energy as constant as possible.
Can you work with distractions/others around? or do you need special conditions?
I always thought I could make art under any condition but I don’t think that is true anymore. As I mentioned earlier, I work a 9-5 job. I’ve noticed that I am more creative on weekends when I don’t have a set amount of time to work with. It is rare that I do art on weeknights unless I’m under a deadline. I’m trying to cut down on worthless television as it is my pacifier after a long days work.
Do you think hard work is the key to inspiration? or deep thought? is it the same thing?
The two are intertwined for me. It’s a constant ebb and flow.
Does your work have humour?
Not usually. In a few instances I’ve made fun of American politics or religion. Both can be an endless source of comedy.