Derek Gores

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FAQs

On Collaging

Materials Used

I use liquitex gloss medium for my glue, but elmers or mod podge or other things work too. I varnish when all done with a golden UV gloss varnish.

My One Rule

When I teach this, I have one rule – you can’t use pictures of the actual object when making that object – so for example, no hair to make hair. no eyes to make eyes, etc. Makes you think of other more wild solutions. You have to see beyond the actual literal texture, or words, on the magazine page to see them as tones. Don’t just let the students look for the flat value… have them squint and look from far away.

My Biggest Secret

Here’s my biggest secret: looking for pieces of paper that can do 2 things at once… maybe a piece with a dark area and a light can create 2 parts of the picture. When you do this, it starts to create an ambiguity, a double reading of the space in the picture… that I think is what people enjoy most in mine.

Rip or Cut?

I mostly rip, not much cutting. I like the ripping because it is faster and it keeps me from being too precise. Plus the images in the pieces have enough clean edges that I prefer the ripped edges to add something else to the result. I use magazines, maps, schematics, cd jackets, handwritten notes and digital textures.

How to Make "Edges"

I try to make all the ‘edges’ in the piece out of a line or transition within the piece of paper I find, rather than by putting two pieces of paper edge to edge. This is what creates the spatial ambiguity that is fun to look at. I squint a lot.

Favorite Size

My favorite size is 48″ x 48″. I do love squares. I’ve done lots at 24″ x 24″, and the shoes and drinks series I do at 12″ x 12″ usually.

How I Start

I start with a photoshoot which is essential to getting in touch with the subject, the actual physical space and mood… I do play with photoshop to try out color directions and moods etc. I can also use photoshop or illustrator to create digital textures in a particular color. Song lyrics for example I use alot and can make them any color or shape I wish and then print on photo paper. You bet I use technology.

Regarding the Wrinkles

They are Going to Happen
The wrinkles are going to happen no matter the glue… I just don’t worry about them and enjoy that they are there. ‘Fragility’ and all that. But, if you really wanted to, you could experiment with pre-moistening the paper, for example with a little spray mister before you glue each piece. That would make the paper expand a bit before you place it on the canvas. That would be far too slow for my sensibilities.

On Mixed Media

The Tools I Use

For the mixed media pieces, the tools I use most of all are charcoal and water. I pour a bunch of water on my paper, or canvas, and additionally play with dipping the charcoal into a cup of water before drawing with it. This makes for a barely-controlled drawing tool, and that is the point. I was very tight as a younger artist, and learned that by making the process faster and larger than I could control, I would let go of that worry. Interestingly, after a while the mind speeds up and you do gain a heightened sense of control of the picture. I also usually draw with both hands at the same time, for the same reasons.

How Paper Reacts

For some reason, I haven’t really every kept track of how different papers react, so I recommend trying all kinds. Some will fall apart, some won’t. Some will repel, some will absorb. But all that can be useful. Some of the pieces you see on my website are actually several layers of tattered newsprint. The art only exists in the photo… the paper was too tattered to last. Ah but the fun…

Flat or Vertical?

When drawing with the charcoal, I work flat some of the time, or vertically some times. I let drips be part of it. You can also play with drawing more dry, and then using a spray bottle to wet parts of the drawing and then dragging into it with your wet fingers. (the sense of touch is a huge part of the appeal to me.)

Yes, it's Messy

The charcoal leaves your hands dirty for a few days, but … worth it I think.

Color

Later, add color to your exercises by using soft pastels. But I highly recommend getting the most out of simple black charcoal for quite a while first.

How I Make My Marks

I use my fingers, some brushes, scraps of rag and cardboard, the back end of paint tubes, – whatever it takes to get an interesting array of marks to help me explore the picture. It can be useful to play abstractly, as well as in pursuit of a real image from life.

Tell Your Story

I like telling students: We can all agree that it takes a verbal vocabulary of maybe 15,000 words to hold a good conversation or tell a compelling story. Well, it takes just as many ways of touching the canvas, making a mark… your visual vocabulary… to make a compelling painting or drawing.

Some General Recommendations

Start By Drawing

I started with lots of drawing, including from real life and things made up from my head. I explored painting (both realism and then abstraction which really made a difference), sculpture, studied a little architecture, followed my interests in nature, being outside, a bit of history, cultures, lots of listening to the inspirations behind a wide range of music… all that stuff added up to my knowledge. Sure it takes lots of time and study, trying hard things, and trying fast things. I was a very tight artist when younger, and learned to loosen up while studying abstraction and more raw figurative art. Those things are very useful when I want to make a tighter image too. They help me give the art real form and presence, in a way that I could not have achieved before.

Did I Mention Drawing?
Draw tons. From life and not.
In Addition to Drawing
Paint tons.
Referring to Photos
Don’t be a slave to photo reference. Learn to use it if you want, and not. But if you do, be in charge of it instead of vice versa.
Series
Try a series. same subject, same viewpoint. the familiarity will take you new places in each one. See Monet’s cathedral series. note the attention to the changing light thru the day.
Turn Within
Self portraits are great because you have a free model in the mirror.
Diverse Styles

Remember there are infinite art styles out there. Many young people want their art to look like photographs. I say, the world already has photographers, and while there is lots of worthwhile stuff to learn in mastering the touch and control necessary to render a picture like a photograph, not all hands or interests lean that way. Encourage your students to find their own visual language, to explore the marks their hands naturally make and to create things the world has never seen.

Be Passionate
I found that along with the results of lots of work and time and study, people became interested in my work as soon as I started making what I really wanted to make. People respond to passion. They can smell a fake. Much better than second guessing what people will buy.
Success
How I achieved my success? Well, years of work, personal artistic exploration… being a student of art history and other history… tying in my very personal interests and things I intuitively know the most about. Tons of drawing and painting and searching and trying assorted mediums… and then definitely I know that people started paying attention as soon as I started making the images I wanted to make.

As for ‘Marketing’

Personalize Your Marketing
Marketing, which is simply the flip side or concurrent with all that continuous exploration I just mentioned BEFORE the art: The tireless talking about my art, seeking people/businesses/partners near and far, brick and mortar and online, the individuals and those with media megaphones with whom I can talk about my work and daydream and scheme up the next fun art to be made. That’s a decent answer. Truly, even the ‘Marketing’ can and must be personalized to your own, well, personality. I see it as part of the art, part of the creativity, part of thinking that the inside of the audience’s head is the actual art gallery.. . . Start there.
Robert Genn
I highly recommend Robert Genn’s twice weekly letters. Look that up and tell your students. Tons of good stuff to think about… most common theme is individual hard work and exploration.

Inspiration & More

What inspired you to work with magazine collage instead of more ‘traditional’ materials?
My first was a school assignment. I didn’t think much of it at the time. But I now realize that it was a step to take me away from controlling everything in the art. I was very tight and controlled as a young teenage artist with pencil or pen. Later I was introduced to challenges like working with blunt tools, and water, and with both hands at once.. and then collage. All are ways to add what seems like randomness and imprecision, … but you eventually gain a heightened sense of influence on all these and it makes the art better than what I could have planned.
How long does a large-scale collage take you to complete?
I have made some very large, like 30′ x 15′ for example. Those can take over a month. My favorite and most common size is 4′ x 4′. A complicated, full color image is usually about 2 weeks. However I often work on several at once, so that as I find scraps, I can intuitively place it in whichever artwork I wish.
How old were you when you first felt you were an artist? What first inspired you? When and how did you get your art noticed?
I have always drawn… I drew Star Wars characters as a kid, then made up my own. Drawing was my thing, something passionate that others could see too. I just kept at it and fortunately my parents helped me to pursue it in school, and before you know it I get paid to follow my passion!
Do you always see yourself working with collage, or do you plan to try something new?
I also still love wet charcoal, and digital design (I do lots of concert design for tshirts, etc., bands like Van Halen, Madonna, even One Direction I do simple creative things each day, often with my kids. Playing with tape, leaves, words.
Why are most of your images of women? Where did the idea of shoe images come from? What have you got planned next? (Landscapes, animals?)

I do like lots of subjects, but most compelling to me is the human being… to try and honor or capture that essence of being alive… to see thought and memory in the eyes of the subject. I try to make art of what is mysterious to me, as a way of exploring. Since I am a man, I know some about being a man. Women however, I know less about and so there is much to study. Also, I am particularly interested in a strong woman. Not one who requires a man, or waits around to be rescued. This is a subject I follow in society and in other art forms. And some of it is purely aesthetic- contrasting a feminine curve with linear elements of machined design as found in my magazine scraps.

As for the shoes… I enjoy fashion and style and design– the manners in which a person can frame themselves and enjoy projecting personality to the world. The shoe collages began as a way for me to make smaller pieces of art (usually 12″ x 12″) that belong in the same story, or art show, as my fashiony/figure pieces.

I’m unhappy with how my collage is going. What advice would you give me to help ensure my collage is effective?

1) most important is to relax and let your collage be its own thing. I’ve found that usually when people are least satisfied with their collage, it is usually when it is trying to hard to be tight and exactly like their reference photo. I like to say that the world already has photographers, and for us not to worry if the collage strays from your photo reference. In the end, it has to live on its own. I am most satisfied when they become almost abstract… and our eyes (and the viewers’) have to work to put the image back together in the brain.

2) try more variety of textures. I almost never use just flat areas of color. Try wild textures, text, images, etc. I usually have one rule: don’t use pictures of the object to make the object. For ex., no hair to make hair, etc. If you go with that, it gets more loose and exciting.

Which of your images is most meaningful/ most important to you?
The one called ‘Bedazzled’ was a breakthrough, where I felt I really caught the life in there… and the abstract shapes disappearing into the darkness tied in many of my interests and influences. ‘All Summer Long’ was one where the color and technique took hold. I love the white spaces in this one. More recently, the ‘Full Volume’ series means a bunch, where I can experiment with exciting abstract spaces within the framework of a familiar figure.
Who are some of your influences in art?
My Dad especially- drawing streams and staircases together as a kid. And long adventures in the car. As for other artists: Goya’s drawings, Gustav Klimt’s pattern and play with flattened space. Egon Schiele’s writhing linework was massive for me. George Inness’ atmosphere and mystery in his very late paintings. Rube Goldberg’s absurd invention sketches. Max Ernst’s surreal collages. Closer to now, I enjoy Hush, Brad Holland, Cliffton Chandler, Shawn Kenney, Christopher Maslow, Jeff Filipski, Scott Conary, Audrey Kawasaki, Robert Moody. And even outside of visual art, I like anybody who documents an expanded definition of beautiful- especially Brian Eno, Eddie Van Halen, Neil Young, Waterboys, David Gilmour, Bruce Springsteen.

FAQ!

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions… ask new ones in a comment and I promise to add as time allows~

On collaging:
I use liquitex gloss medium for my glue, but elmers or mod podge or other things work too. I varnish when all done with a golden UV gloss varnish.
When I teach this, I have one rule– you can’t use pictures of the actual object when making that object– so for example, no hair to make hair. no eyes to make eyes, etc.  Makes you think of other more wild solutions. You have to see beyond the actual literal texture, or words, on the magazine page to see them as tones. Don’t just let the students look for the flat value… have them squint and look from far away.
Here’s my biggest secret:  looking for pieces of paper that can do 2 things at once… maybe a piece with a dark area and a light can create 2 parts of the picture. When you do this, it starts to create an ambiguity, a double reading of the space in the picture… that I think is what people enjoy most in mine.
I mostly rip, not much cutting. I like the ripping because it is faster and it keeps me from being too precise. Plus the images in the pieces have enough clean edges that I prefer the ripped edges to add something else to the result.
I use magazines, maps, schematics, cd jackets, handwritten notes and digital textures.
I try to make all the ‘edges’ in the piece out of a line or transition within the piece of paper I find, rather than by putting two pieces of paper edge to edge. This is what creates the spatial ambiguity that is fun to look at.
I squint alot.
I let the shapes run together and let things disappear. I thank egon schiele and franz kline and maybe barry moser for that stuff. And david and goliath.
My favorite size is 48″ x 48″. I do love squares. I’ve done lots at 24″ x 24″, and the shoes and drinks series I do at 12″ x 12″ usually.
I start with a photoshoot which is essential to getting in touch with the subject, the actual physical space and mood… I do play with photoshop to try out color directions and moods etc.  I can also use photoshop or illustrator to create digital textures in a particular color. Song lyrics for example I use alot and can make them any color or shape I wish and then print on photo paper. You bet I use technology.
Regarding the wrinkles: The wrinkles are going to happen no matter the glue… I just don’t worry about them and enjoy that they are there. ‘Fragility’ and all that. But, if you really wanted to, you could experiment with pre-moistening the paper, for example with a little spray mister before you glue each piece. That would make the paper expand a bit before you place it on the canvas. That would be far too slow for my sensibilities.
On the mixed media work:
For the mixed media pieces, the tools I use most of all are charcoal and water. I pour a bunch of water on my paper, or canvas, and additionally play with dipping the charcoal into a cup of water before drawing with it. This makes for a barely-controlled drawing tool, and that is the point. I was very tight as a younger artist, and learned that by making the process faster and larger than I could control, I would let go of that worry. Interestingly, after a while the mind speeds up and you do gain a heightened sense of control of the picture. I also usually draw with both hands at the same time, for the same reasons.
For some reason, I haven’t really every kept track of how different papers react, so I recommend trying all kinds. Some will fall apart, some won’t. Some will repel, some will absorb. But all that can be useful. Some of the pieces you see on my website are actually several layers of tattered newsprint. The art only exists in the photo… the paper was too tattered to last. Ah but the fun…
When drawing with the charcoal, I work flat some of the time, or vertically some times. I let drips be part of it. You can also play with drawing more dry, and then using a spray bottle to wet parts of the drawing and then dragging into it with your wet fingers. (the sense of touch is a huge part of the appeal to me.)
The charcoal leaves your hands dirty for a few days, but … worth it I think.
Later, add color to your exercises by using soft pastels. But I highly recommend getting the most out of simple black charcoal for quite a while first. :
I use my fingers, some brushes, scraps of rag and cardboard, the back end of paint tubes, – whatever it takes to get an interesting array of marks to help me explore the picture. It can be useful to play abstractly, as well as in pursuit of a real image from life.
I like telling students:  We can all agree that it takes a verbal vocabulary of maybe 15,000 words to hold a good conversation or tell a compelling story. Well, it takes just as many ways of touching the canvas, making a mark… your visual vocabulary… to make a compelling painting or drawing.
Some general recommendations:
I started with lots of drawing, including from real life and things made up from my head. I explored painting (both realism and then abstraction which really made a difference), sculpture, studied a little architecture, followed my interests in nature, being outside, a bit of history, cultures, lots of listening to the inspirations behind a wide range of music… all that stuff added up to my knowledge.
Sure it takes lots of time and study, trying hard things, and trying fast things. I was a very tight artist when younger, and learned to loosen up while studying abstraction and more raw figurative art. Those things are very useful when I want to make a tighter image too. They help me give the art real form and presence, in a way that I could not have achieved before.
Draw tons. from life and not.
Paint tons.
Don’t be a slave to photo reference. Learn to use it if you want, and not. But if you do, be in charge of it instead of vice versa.
Try a series. same subject, same viewpoint. the familiarity will take you new places in each one. see monet’s cathedral series. note the attention to the changing light thru the day.
Self portraits are great because you have a free model in the mirror.
Remember there are infinite art styles out there. Many young people want their art to look like photographs. I say, the world already has photographers, and while there is lots of worthwhile stuff to learn in mastering the touch and control necessary to render a picture like a photograph, not all hands or interests lean that way. Encourage your students to find their own visual language, to explore the marks their hands naturally make and to create things the world has never seen.
I  found that along with the results of lots of work and time and study, people became interested in my work as soon as I started making what I really wanted to make. People respond to passion. They can smell a fake. Much better than second guessing what people will buy.
How I achieved my success? Well, years of work, personal artistic exploration… being a student of art history and other history… tying in my very personal interests and things I intuitively know the most about. Tons of drawing and painting and searching and trying assorted mediums… and then definitely I know that people started paying attention as soon as I started making the images I wanted to make.
As for ‘Marketing’, which is simply the flip side or concurrent with all that continuous exploration I just mentioned BEFORE the art: The tireless talking about my art, seeking people/businesses/partners near and far, brick and mortar and online, the individuals and those with media megaphones with whom I can talk about my work and daydream and scheme up the next fun art to be made. That’s a decent answer. Truly, even the ‘Marketing’ can and must be personalized to your own, well, personality. I see it as part of the art, part of the creativity, part of thinking that the inside of the audience’s head is the actual art gallery.. . .
Start there.
I highly recommend Robert Genn’s twice weekly letters. look that up and tell your students. tons of good stuff to think about… most common theme is individual hard work and exploration.
Derek
A few interviews you might enjoy:
http://www.sourharvest.com/2011/03/12/an-interview-with-artist-derek-gores/
http://www.juxtapoz.com/Features/interview-with-derek-gores-intricacies-of-collage
http://www.emptykingdom.com/main/featured/empty-kingdom-interview-derek-gores/
http://artattacksonline.com/tag/derek-gores/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okD9UdA2bl4

sillyness:
http://www.spacecoastvibe.com/articles/view/Madame-Marie-Curie-Another-Derek-Gores-Exclusive-Interview
http://www.thecitrusreport.com/2011/features/derek-gores/


Another interview, by Beachside Resident:
Background:
Born in NY state, The Young Years were spent in Massachusetts, with little vacations to Cape Cod. The whole ‘roots of the nation’ thing in New England is tangible and a big part of my inspiration… as well as big stuff like how the man made structures harmonize with the woods and the ocean and the seagrass and the slate rock walkways and on and on, for me anyway. BUT at some point Mom and Dad tired of the snowy-ness and we moved to Florida. And here I’ve come to love a different kind of simplicity and minimalism.
Oh, I used to make up my own Star Wars characters sitting on the edge of my bed.
I think it has always been about people. The living moving pulsing energy of the human being. At age 7 it was those made-up fantasy characters and their worlds. Later it fit under the name ‘figure study’ but that somehow limited it to just the physical body. Now I hope I go after the beauty of what it is like to be alive, with all the intuitions and the peripheral vision and distractions and intense passions and butterflies in the stomach that go with really living.
You cite the angular design aesthetics of fashion and machinery as a driving interest. Could you explain a bit more?
In pursuing that living essence I described, I also enjoy the contrast between living beauty and man-made beauty, such as buildings, engines, typography, hard-edged creations. In my collage art, I hand rip recycled magazines, maps, schematics, etc to build the figures. Fashion design utilizes a similar idea, where very angular and sharp compositional shapes are used to accentuate the feminine qualities of the figure. By using fashion magazines in much of my collage artwork, I’ve been able to combine several of my influences and interests in one piece of art.
Tell us about your professional and educational background. What were some of your most rewarding classes?
I went to the Rhode Island School of Design, as an illustration major, and had a healthy inner and outer battle between tight commercial art and dreamy abstract painting. Each helped the other in my case. I came into RISD very precise and controlled, and was introduced to faster and wilder alternatives like drawing with both hands at once or using lots of gushing water to make everything just beyond my control.
I spent more than a decade working in the corporate art world, designing and then art directing eventually, for clients like the NFL, ESPN, Major League Baseball, Reebok. Eventually I went out on my own with the help of family and built things up from there with a mix of music merchandising artwork and my own fine art.
Age 18 or so. One of my early introductions to the idea that capturing the life might be even more difficult and exciting than capturing a frozen photographic moment. Egon Schiele’s work is more than 100 years old but still looks raw today. Schiele’s mentor was Gustav Klimt, and I try to borrow his romanticism.
I must have found his ideas indirectly. Only recently have I looked deeper into Rauschenberg, but I definitely find my thrills in many of the spots he did. He wanted to work “in the gap between art and life”, questioning the distinction between everyday objects and art which clearly I feed on also. He challenged the role of the observer in defining meaning in art.
People clearly respond to the beauty in your portraits, but there is more to it than that. How do you describe your concept or statement?
I don’t think I make a statement in the way that some artists do. I tend not to enjoy (making myself anyway) what I would consider an intellectual statement, requiring your logic or intellect to ‘get’ the meaning. I prefer a ‘felt’ response that engages the senses freshly at that moment.
Randomness and ambiguity are also facets of your work. Has they always been guiding elements?
The free-association creative thought process has always been there, but I trust it now more than ever before. While I work I incorporate stray thoughts, song lyrics I hear, and references to other half ideas in the art. Sometimes they act like a time capsule for me, or like a public joke for one person.
Only a bit maybe. We already have cameras to capture one particular kind of realism, so why go after it in painting? People can become closed off to other versions of reality. So in one way photography reminds me to veer in another direction. But, I do use photography as a reference for the collages. And then I run fast away from there, haha.   Another influence of photography- I remembered recently the first time I saw those great long-exposure photos of Abraham Lincoln. Something in the longer exposure, like a minute or more, combined of course with the weight in his eyes, and those flat 2D photographs seem to truly contain so much more than a typical ‘frozen moment’. I can sense the time elapsing. A good 15 years after seeing those I have found my way of hinting at elapsed time, memories, references… in my collages.
I know you create opportunities for other local artists. How do you do that, and who are some of the artists whose work you follow locally?
I try to be aware of all our artistic resources… just because I love art and I want to see all of it. And then once it is in my head, I do pass on leads to people, such as the Sports and the Arts organization who commissioned me to do several pieces for the new Orlando Magic Arena. I asked to hear their big picture, and then suggested about ten Brevard artists they ought to get involved to fill the particular needs. Locally currently I love seeing the work of Jeff Filipski, SONE, certainly Chris Maslow who is just on fire, also Marg Kuhl, David Burton, Larry Buist. Casey Decotis’ photos. Always Cliff Chandler’s big big plans. Ryan Speer of Speerbot made my website, and he is able to take graphic design to that higher level.
How did you come to amass such an impressive roster of clients? It seems like the dream of every artist to earn your kind of recognition. Does it inspire you further or do you feel it hampers your work at times?
It doesn’t hamper. Maybe when I was younger I couldn’t have handled it, but now I know that when I am hired, it is to be me.
Do you do commissioned pieces?
Oh sure. I don’t pursue them really heavily, but through word of mouth I seem to always have three or so going on locally. The custom collages are unique because not only do I make them look like the person, but for the parts of torn paper I use, I incorporate details from the person’s life… places traveled, favorite foods, song lyrics, family photos, anything that can add to their story. I also have done commissions for advertising firms, plus lots of music merchandising.
Each has its own story, but for example big bands like U2 work through a Merchandising company who play middle man and can source their art as well as produce any goods they need. Apparel, posters, etc.  I made myself visible to a few of the big merchandisers out of LA and New England, LiveNation for example, covering most of the big classic bands and bigger pop artists. I love music at least as much as anybody… and it is a thrill to try to create visual art that is a match or a complement to their form of art. I aim to not just be literal but to keep it mysterious and add to the flavor. Sometimes the bands come to the table with ideas, but many trust my process and probably appreciate it from their own creative process. For some reason it is always quick turn around, which always gives me more creative leverage, as long as I deliver stuff that works.
What advice would you give to a young artist just starting out today?
I have some things I like to tell people, and not just the new artists. Whether headed to art school or not, take charge of your own education. Create it and fight for it. And find your thing. Your real thing. Not a gimmick or a second-guessing of the buying public. I only started attracting interest once I trusted my quirks and my passions. I know a few artists who don’t paint the things they love, or in the way they love.
I also remind artists that we bring something to the community that no one else does. Art isn’t just ‘something pretty to look at’.


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