Thursday, November 15, 2012

Meet Hank Brooks, Painter

Artist Hank Books sent this autobiographical note... My name is Hank Brooks, and I'm originally from Wilmington, NC. Since graduating college I've bounced around a bit, from Portland, Oregon to Boston and just recently settled in Austin, TX where I live with my fiance, Cristina, and our dog, Django. The idea for my Etsy shop "we call ourselves an Institute..." originated with idea of trying to create original art for art print prices: original works that wouldn't break the bank. The individuals displayed in my work are an array of pop culture icons from authors, musicians, artists and more. The hope is to create images of subjects that aren't typically covered in the pop art world or unique takes on some of the ones who have been covered at length.

1. How many paintings have you done in your series of pop art portraits?

So far, there have been about 30 different images. All images are part of a 10 painting series, and I never duplicate the background color block for a single image. I don't just want to provide affordable art; I want each to be an original. Covered subjects include authors such as John Steinbeck and Kurt Vonnegut, musicians ranging from Nina Simone to Nick Drake and Elliot Smith, and creative pioneers like Jim Henson and Salvador Dali.

2. How do you choose the subjects for your portraits?

Originally, I chose all of the subjects. I wanted to feature people who haven't typically been covered through similar means: pop icons that I personally found it difficult to find other artistic works of. They also needed to be personal heroes of mine. My first in the series was the Ernest Hemingway (which is still my favorite--see image below), and I went from there. I have since taken requests, ranging from Johnny Cash to Sly Stone. But the basic idea remains, in that I hope to provide a unique perspective on the individual.

3. What made you decide on acrylic/pen/canvas as the media for this series?

Trial and error mostly. I've worked with spray paint in the past, but could never get the sharp lines I wanted or the small details. By working with the pen, I can start with a fairly basic stencil image and embellish the details that I want. I've also worked with different mediums like wood or skateboard decks, but I didn't like the final product. With the acrylic/pen/canvas, I feel like I can create a unique black and white image that really pops with the given background color. The materials also help to keep the overall cost of the final product down, so I can keep the prices low for customers.

4. What are some other projects you've been working on as an artist over the last several years?

My previous works haven't been quite as uniform or thought out. In college I kept a sketch book of the same sort of cartoonish character in various social situations. Looking back on it now, it was very sophomoric and half baked. I've done some pieces for family, including a couple interpretations of the cover for Shel Silverstein's book The Giving Tree, which has a lot of significance to my sister and me. There are paintings here and there, but the recent works have really been a new kind of approach to my art.

5. What's your experience been on Etsy and other online venues for artists?

Etsy has been really great for me, especially as someone who is new to selling their art. The internet opens your work up to so many more people than you could ever get in a coffee house or gallery. Sales aside, just having that much exposure is really exciting. One of the great things about Etsy is that it's a social networking site as much as it is a online market, so you can connect with other artists who offer praise, advice and even constructive criticism. It lends itself to a bit of a communal feel, where everyone shares and helps one another.

Thanks, Hank!

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