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Q&A by Tina Long {printed in Art Bureau 9}

Editor's Note: Dave’s interview was conducted in the spring of 2005 for a wonderful little zine called Cough, maintained by Tina Long out of Half Moon Bay, CA. The interview was reprinted in Art Bureau #9 with several pages of his artwork.

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Where are you from?
I grew up along a stretch of coastline, laced with small towns, outside of Vancouver, B.C., Canada. Its biggest claim to fame was the show “Beachcombers” on the CBC channel.

How did you get here? Did you go to a specific art college?
I didn’t really “get” anywhere. This is something I’ve always done, from coloring books in my adolescence to the black books I drag around with me now. It all figures into here somewhere. I never went to any specific school, or art college. I’ve tried a few times, but have never been able to stand still long enough to attend. Basically, no one has ever trained me on this. I’ve come to it myself, like some psycho journey of self discovery and dedication. In high school, I had an art teacher, Enid Kelly, who recognized my potential and just let me run with it. I’m indebted to her for pointing out that I should be an artist, instead of a half-functioning drunk teenager who liked to skateboard. While that had its day, and it’s fun, it was a serious waste of my potential.

Why do you do art?
My art exists as a reaction to the world I live in. Like a storyboard for the comic strip I’m waltzing through. It has come out of a desire to document these adventures and characters I’ve encountered along the way. Also, and remember this kids, I do it because it’s fun. I’d like to dispel the notion that creating art is serious, snobby-shit. You do have to be serious about it, but I know, I produce this stuff because I want to express myself and it makes me feel good to create—and that will always suffice for me.

Why is art important to you and the world?
If we didn’t have art, we’d have a lot more empty walls and I think with the proliferation of graphic designers who constantly update their equipment with technology and represent art with computer screens, it has become increasingly important to rock some of the more analog methods. I’m no traditionalist, but it’s essential (at least in my experience) that there is no “undo” button for art. Maybe by throwing some paint across a canvas I can remind people that there is some sublime beauty out there in simple acts of expression. No matter what vehicle you use to get there, it’s the act of expressing your thoughts and struggling to create something valid that makes this world beautiful.

What is your process of creating a piece?
Do you usually sketch out an idea first, or do you just go for it?

When I am staring at a huge blank canvas, I do have a certain image in mind, but all these creations exist in my head. Most of the time, I will throw the brush at the canvas and planning takes a backseat to passion and expression. Other times, I’ll sketch some thought in one of my sketchbooks and carry it around for a while and finally paint it. I usually just start painting and try to keep my mind clear. Over-analyzing and thinking about how something is supposed to be would destroy me—quite often it has. Right in the middle of creating a piece, I will turn up the stereo and get knuckle deep in it.

What are your favorite mediums to use? Least favorite?
I’ve used acrylic for a long spell now, something like ten years, but lately I’ve been nodding my head at some oil pieces I’ve seen—saying “damn, I love that shading,” I haven’t exhausted acrylic by a long shot, but it definitely has its limitations. As far as “least favorites,” I would have to say pastels. I used to knock watercolors, but now I would definitely say pastels. I make a mess with that stuff.

When did it really hit you that this is what you wanted to do as a career?
I had a dream when I was a kid and all it consisted of was a pen unraveling a thick black ink ribbon across a blank page. That has stuck in my head ever since. Every morning when I get up, it hits me that this is what I want for a career, but art is elusive. How many kids are really down for life? I mean, I work a full time job six months of the year so that I can have, at the very minimum, the other six months to focus exclusively on my art. It’s still not enough—I doubt it ever will be for me.

Any secret messages behind any of your works?
Not really. I try to leave the interpretation up to the viewer. Sometimes there is something deeper to it all, but I keep a distance about revealing it.

How did you come up with “Venice is Sinking”? What is the idea behind it?
There’s no real concept behind Venice is Sinking that is easily discernible. I needed a vehicle to push the art out there, something to give me a platform. Galleries are elusive and few and far between (at least in this neck of the woods). The city of Venice is supposedly sinking at such a rate that in the next 20 years it will disappear. That is not a long time at all…all that beautiful, historic art is now dangerously in peril. Basically, you can’t stop nature.

What was the most discouraging thing that someone has ever said to you?
Give up.

Best advice you have ever got?
"Don’t be a horse race, be a marathon." It’s from a Franti quote. It’s not so much the artist, or the song itself, as it is the lyrics. Sometimes the most poignant advice comes from the simplest of sentences.

Best advice you could give to an aspiring fine artist?
Always remain an aspiring fine artist. Aspire for greatness, aspire for whatever the hell you want. It’s only in trying to reach somewhere that we ever seem to get anywhere, so you might as well rock the hell out. See how far you can take it.

Any other comments or last words?
I have somehow had luck along the way. I’ve figured out one second of what I am doing along this crash course through life. That is it. Only one second. There are so many possibilities, so don’t sit on it or sleep too often. There is enough time to enjoy everything, but don’t wait too long for it to come to you. Get out there and take it for yourself. There really isn’t anyone who will bring life to you, so the sooner you get down with it on your own terms—the better.

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Tags: dave oram, tina long

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