Interview: Eric Dyer
Painting has the ability to slow time. Every day I take in more but remember less. What did I do last Wednesday night? The week before that? Today, three years ago? So, while trying to make conscious decisions about how to think and what to pay attention to, I paint. I paint buildings I see on my walks around the city. I paint pictures of photos my parents took when I was a kid and portraits of who I may be today. (I’m still unsure.) I paint past art that I made but no longer have. I paint because my paintings can never be perfect. I paint to hold on just a little bit longer.
I currently live and work in San Francisco, California and studied Studio Art at California College of the Arts (MFA) and Painting and Drawing at the University of North Texas (BFA).
What is your artistic background?
The need to create is embedded in our bones.
That need has led me to study Drawing and Painting at the University of North Texas for my BFA, and a MFA from California College of the Arts.
Now I'm wandering around cities, doing what where I can.
Your work features images of architecture and buildings. What is the story behind these structures and what inspires you to paint them?
Anywhere can be fascinating, there is usually just too much in the way to see it; usually, not enough time to slow down. Each building carries its own story—you can find them if you look long enough. I paint these buildings in hopes of sharing these stories.
You mention that you use art to retain memories and slow down time. Would you say your current work is meditative? Explain how you approach your studio practice.
My approach to making work is a daily ritual.
After waking up and getting ready for the day, I make sure I have my two Leuchtturm notebooks on me, right now one is pink and the other is teal. I use the pink one for sketching and the teal one is lined for writing. Generally, most of my ideas come while I'm on the go, and I find the physical act of writing helps me remember things and is less distracting than a phone.
Walking is my main mode of transportation in San Francisco. Meandering through the streets allows me to see a lot of the city and learn about its different neighborhoods.
I want to get lost, not knowing the time or day.
After walking around (sketching, writing, and taking photographs), I build up enough material that I just try to find what works in the studio to start a drawing or painting.
For my current series, I use a dip pen with a few nibs, a Winsor & Newton Series 7 brush size 0, and some 300 lb cold press watercolor paper. I’ve recently fallen in love with Dr. Ph. Martins Black Star matte ink.
When starting a piece, I never sketch anything out on the paper before hand. I want the buildings to breathe, and for marks to have a living quality to them. Whenever I make mistakes, I just run with it. That’s life.
What do you hope to communicate through your work?
There is more to living in the moment than just being. The average person will live around 80 years and a lot of that time can seem boring or trivial. Our challenge, as Rory Ferreira says, is to “flourish in the lag time,” that is, to use our unfilled time wisely.
What are you currently looking at, reading or watching that is fueling your art?
I love reading!
Currently, I’m working on Italio Calvino’s Numbers in the Dark, which is a beautiful book of short stories. I'm also reading a book of Ray Bradbury’s short stories (if you haven't read much Bradbury I'd recommend starting with The Veldt or All Summer in a Day), A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit, and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Major Works.
Up next is Citizen by Claudia Rankine and an anthology of writings connected to the New Narrative movement formed in the late 1970s in San Francisco
(recommended to me by Patrick Marks, owner of Green Arcade Books) Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative 1977–1997.
I can't stress enough how much libraries and bookstores mean to me. I think in part it has to do with my mom raising me to believe in the magic of reading, and many of the people I admire are writers. Some of my favorite book places in San Francisco include City Lights, Green Arcade, Aardvark, Green Apple, and of course the main public library!
As far as movies go… some that have been sitting in my mind are: Diary of a Lost Girl, directed by G.W. Pabst and starring Louise Brooks; Fitzcarraldo directed by Werner Herzog and starring Klaus Kinski; and The Night of the Iguana written by Tennessee Williams and directed by John Huston.
What is your favorite part about being an artist?
Learning more about the world and sharing ideas with the lovely people in it.
Share a favorite piece of advice or quote.
“When bad things happen, I know you want to believe they are a joke, but sometimes life is scary and dark. That is why we must find the light.” — BMO, Adventure Time
“No matter what happens, even though the world can try to crush you or put you down... you can break up through the concrete and say ‘Damn it all! I’m a blade of grass and I will survive.’” — Ray Bradbury
Never stop learning or reading. Books are where secret lives hide, where places that we could never travel to exist, and where dreams stay alive. Living is difficult, there is no way around it, but we can all be here, for each other, to lend a helping hand.