In conversation with analogue collage artist Sean Christopher.
Can you talk about your journey into or interest the arts?
I’ve always loved making things since I was a kid, but never had the patience for fine arts. I started journaling when I was 14 and I’ve always kept scraps of things, so I began doing some more personal collages in my mid-twenties.
What started as primarily writing with some collage turned until just collage by the end. I stopped journaling consistently probably 8 years ago. This past year, because of the intensity of my job – I got interested in making things again – particularly with painting, and have been really consistent since then.
I never went to art school, but have many friends who did. When I originally came out to Oakland CA, a couple of childhood friends were attending California College of the Arts. They encouraged me in my work, and taught me informally about composition and different techniques I could use.
Do you use a sketchbook? I’m interested in what a sketchbook means to you and your work?, or how people develop their ideas.
All my work for the most part comes out of a sketchbook. I honestly have far too many, I like to use a lot of different sizes in my work but am limited by my space. I wouldn’t say the sketchbook I use now is what I would consider a sketchbook in the past. Right now I primarily use the heavy duty mixed media paper notebooks, because I like to use a lot of abrasion in my art.
In the past, I would just use composition notebooks for my collage/writing, but this was prior to me using painting at all.Sketchbooks have always been important to me, especially to notice your process through time. In developing my ideas, I love the process of coming back to a work you made a year ago and seeing it completely differently. There’s always that one collage you just can’t figure out and everything goes wrong, but come back in a year and maybe it will click for you.
Your work often uses archival magazine material, what are you exploring through this?
I honestly feel like I’m figuring that out as I go along. I find the hunt for material to be a really fun part of collaging. This has changed for me for me over time. In the past I would dumpster dive thrown out magazines from Borders or other bookstores in my hometown. That is when I got really familiar with a lot of different types of magazines. Now I buy things (ha ha).
I think about sampling in music a lot with my work, and just the really strange combinations you can make through chance. I think that’s what’s most interesting to me with archival material; there’s this re-frame that completely changes the meaning of the original photo. I think the types of materials people choose is really interesting and tells you a lot about them.
You describe yourself as an analogue artist, can you talk about this, and how that differs in principle or process to more digital based work?
I like my work to be tactile. I like ripping pages, tearing away. Digital is really interesting to me and I have experimented with some iPhone collage apps out of curiosity. This has primarily been when I don’t have access to my materials.
I prefer the analogue aesthetic, meaning I like the worn and yellowed colour combinations better. Mixing media is really important for me too, being able to paint, pastel, watercolour etc. I think you can achieve that with digital too, but so much of my life is on the computer – so anything I can do to get away from screens I will do. Digital also offers a lot more possibilities that are beyond my individual scope or skill, and I’m sure I will continue to experiment with it, but analogue is how I started and I can’t see myself changing that.
Can you talk about your process of working. How do you work, how often, is there a particular pattern?
I would say I have a couple patterns that contribute to the final product I make. I’m always thinking about different combinations or different painting styles I’d like to try for my background. Sometimes I just want to paint, and I’ll spend most of my time doing that without thinking about the collage aspect.
The past couple months, I’ve been more into looking for materials, cutting them up, categorising them has taken up a lot of my time. It’s kind of like cooking I guess, I like to have a full cupboard of many ingredients depending on what I’m in the mood to create.
I would say I do something related to collage almost everyday. I live in a little studio, and so my materials are always in my face, so I tinker here and there. When I really finalise things it tends to be in a burst for a day or two, where everything is clicking and I’m either making originals or redoing old collages. I find the redoing of old collages the most satisfying; when you finally figure out what works.
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 do find the multiple processes of creation to be very therapeutic. Like I said before, I got back into creating because of my job as a social worker. I see and hear very traumatic things five days a week, and these are things that I can’t speak about because of client confidentiality. Being able to express myself visually helps quite a bit with that.