My art practice has run parallel to my poetry practice since I was a teenager. My art making really ramped up during the early ’90s when I was making all the posters, postcards, and album covers for my band, Drunken Boat. During that period, I learned how to make things quickly, efficiently, and economically and create images that would stop people on the street when they’d walk by one of my posters. I’ve always taken great delight in finding combinations of colors that activate one another, and, of course, my own rods and cones. Certain oranges, yellows, reds, and blues can make me feel absolutely jittery and ecstatic. I’ve never felt any tension between figuration and abstraction, so I freely go back and forth between the two all the time.
Sometimes I feel the need for language to enter the painting as humor or commentary, when I see a necessity for it. I always try not to be hung up about anything while in my studio and just make and do and pick up the pieces and refine later. The creamy center for me is when I’m flowing with a million things happening at once as I bounce around my studio making things. It’s all part of my tool chest as I create.
Speaking of which, my composition process is also similar to my art making process. I accumulate images, brush strokes, marks, color fields, and various scraps of writing, and then assemble them by cutting pieces of canvas and affixing them to other canvases, or adding layers of color or image on top of each other, which is something you can’t do with writing as directly as you can with painting or drawing. That tension between foreground and background using both shape and color, and the distortion of lines of perspective are my meat and potatoes.
I like to think of my paintings as physical evidence of time passing. I may have made a mark on a canvas a year ago and then I’ll go back in and make another mark, or color form, or add some writing and change the piece. This process of adding elements over time is like communicating with myself in the past, but it’s also about feeling removed enough from the preciousness of the original piece to go in and mess with it, like doing graffiti. It’s a feeling of being liberated at that moment of alteration that is downright breathtaking for me.
TODD COLBY (http://gleefarm.blogspot.com/ Instagram: @toddjcolby) is a Brooklyn-based poet and artist. Colby is the author of six books of poetry. His most recent book, Splash State, was published by The Song Cave. His writing and art have recently appeared in The Believer, Bomb Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Denver Quarterly, Dizzy Magazine, Hyperallergic, and Poetry Magazine. Todd Colby photo by Tara G.