ARTIST INTERVIEW – BRYANT SMALL
May 22, 2020
Sum up your creative process in one word/phrase, and explain why.
“Experimentation meets Imagination and Exploration” – each painting that I create begins with color. From there a true experiment derived from my imagination and exploring what alcohol ink does organically, or can be manipulated to do, happens. Alcohol Inks are highly pigmented, fast drying dyes that are activated to move, bloom, and blend when they interact with 91% rubbing alcohol. Every single piece is a unique experience because the medium overall doesn’t truly allow me to recreate a piece exactly in the same way. In my creating, I’m always experimenting and exploring the happy mistakes and colorful victories in my creative process.
Were you always an artist, even as a child? What was your path to becoming an artist?
I’ve always been a creative spirit and artist in some form. As a child, I was always expressive and it manifested through acting on the stage in school, and in my writing. Eventually, it led me to Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C., exposing me to an even broader scope of “friends and freaks” who truly understood me. They were artists just like me. Growing up in D.C. in the ’80s and ’90s in the shadows of the Smithsonian Institute with access to every museum and art gallery around, was a true cultural and artistic immersion! Fast forward a number of years, I made my way to NYC for school at F.I.T. and launched into a career in varying areas of Advertising/Marketing and Media. (20+ years later, I continue to balance my corporate and art careers around the clock.). Having a mother, also an artist, pushing me to be every part of my most creative self helped me to own my place in the word as an artist.
What is your medium of choice and what drew you to this particular medium?
My chosen medium is Alcohol Ink. I’m drawn to the fluidity of movement and overall lack of predictability. It keeps the work and process fresh for me and allows me to consistently push my mastery of the medium forward. The vibrancy and luminosity of the inks drew me in immediately. Alcohol inks, with their quick-drying properties, allow for unique layering and blending techniques that seemingly levitate from the surface. It’s also the key detail that I’m not really able to replicate a painting, so each piece is a unique experience and exploration. It never gets boring or mundane. I simply can’t predict what’s going to happen with 100% certainty. In some cases, I have a degree of understanding that if I do “x” then “y” will happen, but there are times that the universe steps in and something happens that leads me into something really…magical.
Is there any particular experience, person, place, or thing that inspires you to create? Tell us about that.
I truly am inspired by so many things. It can be a smell, a taste, a flashback to something when I was a kid, a funny joke, a romantic kiss – so many things! Music overall is a driver in my creating – so I know that inspires me. Color and sparkle inspire me, and I believe that reflects in my paintings, (A little glitter and sparkle never hurt anyone!) as does feeling good and being in a really happy place. If there is a particular person that I’m inspired by, of course, my mom inspires me as a fellow artist. I also look at artists from all different spaces and walks of Life. That’s the gift of social media – you can get exposure to so many artists from around the globe. My most recent Collection, The World Traveler Collection, is inspired by the colors and energy of cities from around the world.
What is it like showing your work to people and what do you hope people take away from it?
I’m always so excited about sharing my work with others and having people experience my work in person. My hope is that they feel the joy that I have in creating the work! Even if it doesn’t resonate with them aesthetically, the idea that they have the opportunity to take it in is key for me. The ultimate joy is a viewer looking at my work and trying to guess what the medium is, or mistaking the work for a photograph. For a brief moment, they are squinting their eyes and leaning a bit closer for inspection of the work. Often when that happens, they have the tendency to take a single step forward toward the work. With that single step, I know that I’ve done my job. Ultimately, I want them to take away in their minds: my name, the medium, and the experience. Bonus – is the painting with the gallery receipt.
What did winning the Award for Excellence mean to you?
The funniest thing with the Award for Excellence is it gave me a name change- haha. From that point on, I would ONLY be introduced as “Award Winning Artist – Bryant Small”. It also meant that I got to have my “Miss America” moment in a room of my peers, who all were sharing AMAZING WORK! But all kidding aside, the Award for Excellence provided me with validation and encouragement from industry leaders/jurors – to “keep going”, “you’re on the right path”, “people SEE you”, “the work IS GOOD”. It truly gave me that moment, albeit brief, that allowed me to breathe and say “Whew, you’re killin’ it… Be proud of yourself…” Then literally the next day, I set my next goal to “Keep going, keep growing and not rest on what was. Push for what IS and what’s to come!”
What advice do you have for other artists who may be looking to get their work exhibited?
My advice to other artists who are looking to get their work exhibited is “Stay ready, so you don’t have to Get Ready”. Always be creating. Always be thinking ahead. Don’t fall into the stereotype that people often cast onto artists “Oh…they’re just artists…” which allows them to think less of your business acumen. You are a business owner and mogul. Treat your art as a precious commodity. It is. Your Art Is The Brand. Your Art Is Your Brand.