Thomas Stubbs

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Oly G. Archy interviews the artist  for the magazine Civil Eyes1, 2003

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Oly G. Archy: Why do you make art that is difficult to sell?

Thomas Stubbs: I do what I do because it is a passion not because I want to make money. There are those who have a passion for money, or making money. I do not regard that as success, rather more like Sucksess, because one has to suck up to their owners and embarrassing compromises result.

I supplement my art production with teaching, which allows me the freedom to visually say whatever I want. The result I think is that my art comes from a real place, unfettered by commercial motives.

OGA: Why are you so iconoclastic?

TS: It is my job as an artist to question and reexamine everything in my path or wherever I stray. I do not do it to be contrary, it is just my nature to think and create the way I do. It is also an artist’s job to illuminate other ways of thinking that is outside or beyond the notions of conventional or indoctrinated thought.

I sometimes feel as if I am basking in the saliva of God, other times I feel uncertainty; that my scope of knowledge is limited. I struggle with this every day and that is sometimes why it takes a long time to finish a work.

OGA: When are you going to get your act together and get with the game? I mean your work is so eclectic.

TS: First of all the word “act?implies that a person is rehearsed to be a certain way to fit in to a particular agenda. As for the word “game?I do not follow games nor do I play games. Both of these words imply total dishonesty and denial of the real person that one might want to cover up or are too timid to show; people like this lack intuitiveness, creativity and spontaneity.

It might work for politicians but I have too much integrity for that kind of nonsense. I find it amazing that someone could think they are being spontaneous when in fact they are acting and thinking in a conventional manner.

As for the question of eclectic, I work in a variety of mediums and am writing a book on the subject and therefore have enough understanding of each medium that I can exploit them for their unique characteristics. In other words, if I am working with encaustic painting (painting with pigment mixed with hot wax) I do not try to make it look like an oil painting or a watercolor for they have their own characteristics to exploit.

An egg tempera painting is best represented by careful execution that reveals the underlying draftsmanship as well as those carefully placed hatch lines that are built up with wonderfully delicate translucent layers—it is not a medium for the hack because it takes a long time to do and a great deal of planning. In other words sometimes the media can dictate the type of subject matter I use.

Another reason why my work might seem so eclectic is that I like to explore a variety of different types of subject matter; political, sociological, philosophical, psychological issues are present in most of my work. I like to innovate color schemes as well and have written a couple of essays on the subject based on my findings.

OGA: Why do you refer to yourself as the Tunnel Visionary, Rogue Philosopher on your business card? Doesn’t this deter potential customers?

TS: I first of all have to admit that the purpose of the term tunnel visionary is an admission that I, like everyone else should question what appears to be reality at any given time, that perhaps because I am outside of the box as they say, does not mean that I unknowingly might be inside of another equally small box somewhere else.

Each epiphany and every intellectual paradigm shift I have is followed up with my critical eye and skepticism. I know that I cannot know everything and that I might dispute my own ideas the next minute. As a rogue philosopher, epistemology especially where it involves my own investigations of knowledge versus intuition is a constant, also keeping an open mind and being very self-critical.

I disdain the indoctrinated or fanatical types who think they have the answer, because I know that absolutes are not attainable given the templates of human understanding.

OGA: That brings up another question. What is with you and your disdain for religion?

TS: I do not disdain religion. So much great art was made under the auspices of religion. I do not like those who like to commit murder in the name of God like the Bush administration for example.

There is no justification for murder and unfortunately the bible is probably the most genocidal tract in our cannon especially when the ambiguities can be easily interpreted to do such things to other civilizations. Of course any book with the edict “obey?and “do not question His totalitarian authority?should be coined obsolete when considering things like freedom of speech and “Separation of Church and State.?

I once put a sign up in the back window of my car stating, Bible thumping fanatics can kiss my arse, and if they don’t like it they can turn the other cheek.?/i> I never seen more murderous looks than on the faces of those so called “benevolent followers of God.?

1 Civil Eyes, a southern California art publication now deceased.

OGA: It has been said that you go over board as a teacher, I mean you refuse to dumb the language down for the student. Why is it that you insist on sticking to a language that might be difficult for some to understand?

TS: I love words, they are powerful tools for expressing ideas. I do not want to insult my students by denying them the beauty of the language and besides the fact that I do not want to be underestimating or overestimating their intelligence and finally I do not want to be credited for lowering the academic standards to cater to those students who are not really all that serious about learning.

The purpose of education is to raise the level of our citizens not lowering education to an equilibrium of trade-tech moronics. I started an ASL (Art as a Second Language) program before classes at Mount San Antonio College and Laguna College of Art and Design to aid students in the language of art. It basically replaced what is known as an office hour.

I am also nearing the completion of my book on figure drawing which is geared to give students an alternative to animation based figure drawing which is an ever omnipresent influence in this region nowadays.

The biggest problem I had with writing the book is that I am not a writer and initially I wanted to jokingly call the book The Thomas Guide (Rules of the Road for Drawing the Figure, Drawing Defensively) or whatever. Filled with many references to driving I began to steer away from the use of these metaphors. The real driving force underlying the book was some of its unusual features like, comparing and contrasting the difference between Basic Form Construction (that is, deducing the complex form to blocks, spheres cylinders and so on) and the intuitive nature of Gesture Drawing.

Ironically many animation artists think that both are one and the same thing but in fact they are opposites: one mechanical (Abstract simplifications) –the other intuitive (Creative and not based solely on deductive logic but enhanced by it).

The other features of my book include why Visual thinking methods of Construction are explained and demonstrated in terms of purpose as a tool or means—but not to an end as most animation people are led to believe?/i>in making art, and a chapter on hatching and cross hatching, what direction the hatch lines should go and how and where to give volume to hatch-lines (This is unique because it stems from my experience as an engraver/printmaker and an egg tempera painter not an animator with some slick methods of expediting form mechanically to fit into the totalitarian needs of the animation industry).

OGA: It has been said that your writings seem a little self-absorbed or indulgent. What do you have to say about that?

TS: At least they are my point of view instead of the typical claptrap that I have coined conventional and derivative.

Artists especially studio rats like myself tend to be somewhat isolated and alone. It is not a social activity to make art. So with alternative radio or modern classical music to keep me company, I plug away for hours. I have been in the company of the greatest minds of our time from Bertrand Russell, Jonathan Kozol Noam Chomsky, Michael Parenti, Greg Palast, Nietzsche to Music of Charles Ives, Bartok, Schoenberg, Gorecki to name a few giants, mavericks and luminaries. These influences are not auditory wallpaper they are intellectual stimulants that provide me with a conducive atmosphere for creativity, they evoke both the Apollonian and Dionysian spirit in my work.

OGA: How do you manage to raise two children as a single custodial parent and accomplish what you do?

TS: I do it because of my two beautiful children, they represent the great example of what humanity can potentially become. I am not alone however. My mother sold her house in Illinois to move out here and help me raise my children. My mom is a great person for doing this. My children and I are thankful for the huge sacrifice that she made. On many occasions I have put my children into my paintings. I am just as likely to paint the things that I love deeply as those things that fascinate me on other levels. My house is full of love and in part that is what generates my creativity.

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