As I said the other day, I recently had the chance to interview Brandon Bird, “humorous, realistic pop artist.” Not only is Brandon a terrific and talented artist, he also has a great and strange website, which won the 2005 People’s Voice Webby award in the “Weird” Category. The site features all the art I’ve shown, and available prints, Mr. T Christmas Card, SVU Valentines, and a do-it-yourself Walken mask.

Trick. Or. Treat.

And now, back to the interview.

Me: As you become known for your art, what’s the best fan perk you’ve gotten?

BB:I got to go to the set of Law and Order. Yes, that was the coolest thing ever.

Me: How did you come up with the idea for Law and Order: Artistic Intent, and what was the reaction of artists you asked to be involved?

Justice Commemorated by Zoe Piel

BB:It was early 2003, and I started watching Law and Order reruns on TNT. And Law and Order, before then, was something I’d seen a couple times, in high school I saw it and was like, “Oh wow, this is really cool, except I’m exhausted and I have to go to sleep right now, because I have to wake up at like six in the morning.” And then, to see three whole episodes, back to back, was just mind opening.

BB:(Cont’d) It’s cool, if you watch an individual episode of Law and Order it’s gripping and conceptually sound and there’s a point to it and a theme, you’re like, “Wow, what a great show, I didn’t know how that was going to turn out and they tied it in to some social more of the day, wow.” But then if you watch ten of them, it becomes completely ridiculous, because that does not happen to anyone ten times in a month. I was watching it and the more I watched the more I was like, “One: I shouldn’t be spending so much time watching this, and Two: this is insane in a couple different ways.”

Dianne Wiest (as D.A. Nora Lewin) by Noah Buchanan

BB: (Cont’d) And it happened the place I was working, which was this weird kind of software company kind of ran out of money, so they had to let everybody go, and we had this big loft space, and they said, “Well, we have to fire everybody.” And I said, “Well, you still have the space for the next two months, right? Can I use it for an art show?” And they said, “yeah sure,” so I had this big, weird loft space to do an art show, and I decided I was going to make a Law and Order art show, because it was all I’d been thinking about.

Courtroom Sketches of Sam Waterston or The Three Faces of Jack McCoy by F. Justin Frazier
BB: (Cont’d) Most of the people who gave me stuff were friends of mine who I knew from the art department, and the year before I’d done an Edward Norton art show, and when I was putting that together people were like, “What?? What are you even talking about?” but after I did it people said, “oh, I wish I’d done something for it.” So when I said, “go with me on this, we’re doing a Law and Order art show,” people said, “okay, cool, I’ll do that.” A lot of them were people who hadn’t seen the show, I had to make tapes, and be like, “here, watch an episode.” And some of the stuff, I put a notice on my website saying I’m going to do a Law and Order art show, if you’re interested let me know or send me stuff, whatever. That was in March or April of 2003, and that was the first time I started getting linked around places, and I was able, because of that, to get random pieces from people living all over the place. And it was like, “Oh, somebody sent me a framed, completely awesome portrait of Lenny Briscoe eating a hotdog.” It just showed up in the mail and was the best thing in the art show. But initially the Artistic Intent art show was just sort of fly by the seat of the pants, I had an art space, put on an art show kind of thing.

Lennie Grabs a Dog by Brandon Hunt

Me: and the Norton Anthology? And I just have to interject that the names of your shows are super clever.

BB: Thanks, although I think my sister’s husband suggested “The Norton Anthology.”

Me: You should never tell anyone that, take credit.

BB: Okay. I think part of being an artist, or any creative person, is… it’s not stealing people’s ideas, but it’s like you’re looking for stuff and someone casually mentions something, and it’s like, “wait, you don’t realize it, but you just had an idea.” And usually that idea is totally applicable to something.

Me: So how did the Norton Anthology come about? What was the thought behind that?

BB: That was my last year in college and I had already done my senior show thing you’re supposed to do, but I ended up getting a second art space for the spring semester, and I thought, “I do not have time to make a whole new series of paintings, but if I made it a group show, and got a bunch of people to do stuff, why don’t I just make it a room filled with Edward Nortons? And that’s what I did. There’s no real point to it.

Me: were you watching lots of Edward Norton at the time?

BB: The Edward Norton thing started as an inside joke between me and my brother, because in 2000 he got his first DVD player and the Fight Club DVD, and over a summer I think, I can’t remember the time line on this, we watched all the special features, and all of them are like, Edward Norton explains why Fight Club is an important film; Edward Norton giving a lecture to the Film Critics Association; and stuff like that. And we were like, “Wow, what a- what a nerd.” We just kind of realized that Edward Norton is silly; he’s so serious, and he’s supposed to be this great actor, and he takes on very serious roles, but he seems to really over think things. You know the kind of person who has to explain why something is funny. That’s why I latched on to Edward Norton as a concept, because he’s not funny or interesting, he’s just sort of a bland, intellectual guy. And I cannot wait for him to play The Incredible Hulk.

Norton Defiant

Me: If you were ever to curate another show, is there a property you would focus on?

BB: I don’t really know. I’ve thought about it and there’s nothing that really jumps out at me. I feel if I did one right now it would be kind of derivative; like, “Oh, another random actor.” I’ve thought about it and everything I’ve come up with I realize is the same concept, but with a different face or a different show. So, I would like to curate something again, but I haven’t really figured out exactly what the perfect concept would be.

Me: If you were to paint yourself with a celebrity, who would it be and what would you be doing?

BB: Maybe the ghost of Jerry Orbach, and he’d be teaching me how to play cards.

Me: You have a solo show coming up?

BB: Yeah, sometime in 2009 at Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles.

Me: Is there a theme to the show?

BB: The theme will be how completely awesome I am, how talented I am at painting. Just, I am being silly about that. No theme. I pretty much know what I’m going to paint for the show, and it’ll all fit together, but it’s not it’s not all the same subject matter. But the styles and stuff will all fit together… and it’ll be totally rad.

No One Wants to Play Sega with Harrison Ford

Me: Wrapping up, do you have any advice for aspiring and/or young artists?

BB: Yeah. If you’re serious about it, stick with it. Don’t move to a city just because it’s cool and all your friends are doing it, and then you have to work three jobs just to survive and you can’t make art any more. Don’t do that. And try new things; go to new places. Take criticism but don’t get all sad if you don’t like the criticism. A lot of people – and this is just my experience from looking at a lot of art programs, and people do email me and ask for advice – it seems like there’s a trend to go straight from undergraduate to grad school, and a lot of it is motivated by people not learning what they wanted to learn while undergrad, and thinking, “oh I’ll go to grad school, and that’s where I’ll really learn about art.” I wish it wasn’t that way. I would recommend taking time between undergrad and graduate school. I haven’t even gone to graduate school yet, I don’t even know if I will, but I’m glad I’ve had buffer years, where I figured out what I still needed to learn and what I still needed to do. That’s my advice.

Me: Is there anything else you want to say to fan artists, or fans of art, or even artful fans?

BB: I guess that for people who make fan art but want to be professional artists, I would suggest that they draw things besides what they’re fans of. Given my druthers I would just draw Transformers all day long, but I don’t think that would really get me anywhere, and I don’t think that would mark me as being special or uniquely talented. Basically, the more skills you have the more you’re able to play around with your subject matter. If you’re only trying to draw one thing, one way, you might even fail at that. But if you can draw anything, then you can draw anything… that was kind of stupid sounding.

Me: It’s good advice.

BB:Yeah, if you want to draw one thing, learn to draw everything.