Here’s another one from my archives (as this blog is now semi-officially dedicated to older pieces & items of potential historical interest) — in June 2005 I was featured on the cover of the now-defunct (I think, or mutated & folded into something else, at least), Hudson Valley arts magazine, Pulse. I was having a small exhibit at my friend Rick Stone’s Alternative Bookstore in Kingston, so I lucked out & got the cover & artist interview of Pulse that week. Cover image is “Happy Green Face”, which I gave to Rick for his personal collection after the show (“Small Works on Paper”.)
And here is the interview, which they did via email. It’s a “10 Questions with William T. Ayton” kind of thing. I don’t think they edited my responses much, if at all, but here’s what I sent them:
1. Why are you an artist?
I don’t really have a choice & nothing else works very much (I also do graphics & web design, though, but that’s kind of similar in that it’s visual and somewhat creative). From a fairly early age (5 or 6), I was always drawing — originally inspired by American comics. I was a little kid growing up in the wilds of Yorkshire, in Northern England, and I discovered these things called Marvel Comics, and that’s what blew my mind and first inspired me to draw things. Thank you, Jack Kirby et al. Then I got a bit more sophisticated (but only a bit, sometimes) and discovered a lot of other influences.
2. Tell me about yourself, where you live and your background/lifestyle.
I’m happily married with 3 kids, live in a converted old schoolhouse not far from the Hudson River. I live a fairly quiet life — when I was younger I lived in Edinburgh (where I studied), then later lived in Madrid, Spain and Paris, France, for several years in each place. Then I moved to the US (my wife, Diana — muse, goddess, poet, mother of the Ayton offspring — is originally from Oregon) and we lived in Brooklyn for 7 years. That’s why I now have a Brooklyn accent — not really, but some people think I’m Australian, and I suspect that it’s because a Yorkshire accent mixed with Brooklynese sounds Australian. Fuhgeddaboudit.
3. What would you like to be better at, and why?
I’d always like to be better at drawing and painting in general, and I actually think I do improve as I get older. The biggest problem is doing a very good drawing or painting, and thinking, “well, that’s it. I’ll never do better than that”, which of course is a dangerous thing to think as it tends to stop you from trying harder. So I always try to do better. Sometimes straining oneself to do better helps, and sometimes loosening up and letting it flow naturally is also good. Probably a combination of both, a balance.
4. As a creative individual, do you believe that you perceive the world differently from other people?
Probably, but then I think that everyone perceives the world slightly differently from each other anyway. That may explain why some people or groups of people want to harm or destroy other groups of people — fundamental differences in worldview. Artists probably have an enhanced visual view of the world — but then maybe they don’t. Maybe we’re just compensating for a deficiency in visual perception.
5. Do you have any formal artistic training? If so, how important do you think it has been for the development of your art/style and your career?
I went to Edinburgh College of Art from 1976-1980, where I studied drawing and painting (BA Hons). It was a useful exercise, being forced to show up every day for four years and paint, draw, or whatever. I did meet some interesting people and have interesting life experiences. I’m not sure it did my artwork a lot of good however — it probably only set me back around 10 years in terms of artistic development. One of my best friends at art school wound up as a bus driver, so I probably did better than him (not that there’s anything wrong with driving a bus, I hasten to add).
6. Who were and who are your favorite artists and why?
There are so many, and it changes from time to time as I get interested or obsessed by a particular artist or artists. Mostly, I’d say I’ve been influenced by Flemish painters like Bosch and Breughel (The Elder), with their dark, post-medieval, surrealistic worldview. James Ensor, the Belgian artist is also a big influence. The surrealist painters — Dali, Ernst, Magritte and so on were also a big influence, with their destruction of logical reality. I like artists who don’t quite fit in pigeonholes, such as Odilon Redon (French Symbolist), William Blake, Gustave Moreau, Alfred Kubin, and so on. Then there are the hugely influential artists that most people like, Picasso, Matisse, Vermeer, Leonardo, Rembrandt. The list goes on. Once in a while I discover an artist I hadn’t noticed before — such as Leon Golub or Irving Norman. Just when I think there’s nothing new to see, another one pops up out of nowhere, it seems.
7. Describe a typical day. What kind of schedule do you make for yourself?
I get up, help get the kids to school (on the bus or drive). Check e-mail. Drink a lot of coffee. Later, I switch to decaf. Attend to any mundane non-artistic business that I need to do (sometimes takes all day). Then make art. Then the kids come home from school, we have dinner. Talk to family. Check e-mail. Watch a bit of TV, maybe. Maybe make more art. Sleep.
8. What do you do for fun (besides art)?
Read, go to movies, take a walk in the countryside, play with or read to the kids, talk to my wife. I also have a small collection of cheap electric guitars that I abuse from time to time. I’ve been playing for around 30 years, but I’m still not very good. I take solace in the fact that Picasso apparently couldn’t play the guitar either, he just decorated it and stuck it on the wall of his studio. Or something like that.
9. Describe yourself in one word? What is that word?
10. Would you give us your personal definition of Art?
Artificial visual construct designed to provoke thought and/or emotion. I see you saved the really difficult ones for last.