In conversation with Joe Read (See-Through).
Can you talk about your journey into or interest in the arts?
I have really early memories of drawing and painting. Maybe I was encouraged to do that by my mum (who’s a great artist), or maybe I just moved towards those things naturally. I was always told I was good at art stuff; I guess we’re kind of guided by validation when we’re younger, and skill eventually develops from the invested time.
I wanted to be a video game artist at the end of high school, because I thought it would be a happy medium between making art and actually getting paid for it. I ended up working as a concept artist for theme parks, and then eventually as an artist for mobile games. I worked really hard to get those jobs, but realised that I was ultimately unhappy living the 9-5 lifestyle. I decided to save up my money and try to make things work as an artist/brand, and here I am today. It felt scary at the time, but I’m glad I took the risks that I did, and I would encourage others who are on the fence about their futures to take that leap!
Do you use a sketchbook? I’m interested in what a sketchbook means to you and your work?
Yep, I keep a lot of ratty sketchbooks in a private drawer where I work. I think sketchbooks are quite intimate, and I would never even think about showing them to anyone. I guess I have some egoic attachment to being ‘good’ at drawing, and the drawings in my sketchbooks are certainly not good! I mostly just use sketchbooks to capture half-baked ideas before I forget them. Often I record an idea knowing that I can’t currently execute it, but that my future self might be able to. I’m always grateful to stumble upon a really old idea of mine and to finally be able to put it to use; it’s kind of like getting a leg-up from your former self.
Your work seems to explore the relationship of the outside of a person to the inside. Is this an extension of your interest in loneliness and mental health?
Yeah, I guess so. I just try to make stuff that ‘feels right’ to me, and hope that other people resonate with it too. I like the theme of mortality because it is universal. Being reminded of death lets us forget about our trivial problems, and helps us focus on what’s really important while we still can.
Can you talk about your process of working? How do you work, how often, is there a particular pattern?
I only left my job last year, so I’m still in the process of learning what works best for me in regards to productivity. I’ve experimented a lot in the past with different time management systems, and I’ve sort of taken what works best for me out of each one and come up with my own thing. I used to really attach my self-esteem to how many hours of work I was able to do per day, which is kind of weird. Looking back, I think that a lot of my struggles regarding productivity stemmed from simply not enjoying the work that I was doing. I find that if I’m working on something fulfilling then I’m able to happily work away all day, without needing to trick myself into doing it with Pomodoro techniques or whatever else.
Do you find the process of creating work relaxing or therapeutic? I’ve become increasingly interested in the relationship of the sketchbook and the work to the artist.
I guess I’m quite conscientious, so I find hard work relaxing in the sense that it quells the guilt of not working. I’ve learned that if I don’t work hard then I feel bad about myself. If the work is engaging enough then the process of problem solving distracts me from my inner world, and I guess there’s some peace to be found in that.