Zymbol: How long does it take to create one of your drawings, from conception to finish? Do you plan the scene in advance? Or do figures start to emerge as you draw?
It depends on the size, but it should be on average between 70 and a 100 hours for a standard size 30x20 cm piece. The scenes are planned in advance only with regard to the overall composition. This composition is pre-designed in pencil to provide a framework. The framework is the vessel or the idea. There are always more ideas than there is time to create the pieces, so there is an ever growing list, I call it 'the fridge', that will probably never be realized.
On the other hand there is the element of improvisation which is used on the detailed level when modelling the individual characters. Take the first thing that comes to mind without second guessing, drawing from a deep well of imagery that I built up in my mind through the years. When you combine the two approaches of planning and improv, you get this effect of controlled madness, both familiar and strange.
In the entire process, the idea and the design of the composition make up less than 10% of all the work, but this is nevertheless the most important phase. My tendency in the last years has been to spend more and more time on the structure in advance. There was a time when I felt under pressure to create, now that I am starting to have more breathing room, I can create scenes with increasing complexity and see how far I can take that.
Zymbol: Major elements seem to be suspended, or absent, from your drawings: oxygen, gravity, perspective, time. The characters often wander what seem like abandoned planets, or inhabit scenes without atmosphere or depth. Characters also mingle from different time periods - there are figures in medieval garb, side by side with men in space suits, aliens, fantasy creatures... The absence of oxygen and time makes your drawings feel like mystical allegories. How much of this is an intentional part of your imagination?
All characters and objects can be mapped on a 3 way axis: the physical, the metaphysical and the symbolic. The physical is how it resembles something in the real world as closely as possible (f.e. a portrait of Toby the donkey), the metaphysical is how it transcends the the real world as an idea (f.e. a donkey in an encyclopedia is a generic donkey that is not prone to aging or disease, representing the idea), and the symbolic is how it refers to something else outside itself as a metaphor (f.e. the donkey as a symbol for hard work, stubbornness or cuteness) . I'd like to think the characters can be seen as "equations" having certain parameter values in these three categories.
The resource of imagery that is available in our modern world is unprecedented in human history. Its an asphyxiatingly rich pallet, that has become too wide to choose from.
I think a super market rack is good example of that. There is corn flakes, coco pops, frosties, crispies, fruity loops, honey pops, cinnamon crunch, special k vanilla almond, pink panther flakes, pirates of the Caribbean cereal,... and on and on.
For me, the scenes are in a way a metaphor for society at large today. We live in the crazy, exciting age of the remix: complex, confusing, overcrowded, there is an absence of purpose, narrative and interaction. That is what the composition attempts to do: to create a setting in which confusion can take place; a failed attempt to catalog the world, a "mind-dump". Conceptual aggregation, remixing, is a powerful tool to create new elements from an already overabundant base; it is the mechanism by which we end up with a strawberry-vanilla-caramel-pirates of the Caribbean flavor.
Zymbol: You create immensities from miniature: a sort of creation-myth scene in the mind of a squirrel, for instance, or an intergalactic confrontation within the body of a smiling whale. It seems that the title of this series, "Godmachine" is very appropriate. You've remarked that you fill canvases with the "greediness of a child-like creativity." Do you think about the connection between a child's desire to "acquire," and god-like power?
This is the most attractive feature of creating the work for me: its so simple in its application, pen and paper, it makes you feel powerful, like you are in total control (unlike painting which is flat out SCARY if you have ever tried it). Its a place where I can go back to be the "Godmachine". I sometimes get an offer to do book covers or illustrations, but it seems that as soon as the discipline is applied to a purpose outside art itself, it loses its charm, so I always decline. Next year I will look to start a new project for children in art classes, where they can create a mural from an existing piece, using a standardized method and working in a team. I find this a much more interesting way to get into an applied field. Children are always drawn to the work, adults often just ask "Why are you doing this and who are you making this for?".
In the past five years have been drawing almost non-stop to the neglect of myself and those around me, it becomes an addiction. The last two years I have been working on a single huge piece 200 by 130 cm. I expect to finish it by summer 2016. I really am starting to feel like its time now to take a step back, and this series is coming to an end. Its important to retain the ability to reinvent yourself as an artist. Into something bigger, into something that before, you could not even have imagined.
Zymbol: What are your plans for the future - what new worlds would you like to explore, or growth would you like to see, as an artist? What's your idea of "success"?
I am trying to arrange at least a few exhibitions a year in various places. The plan is to keep growing and add to the fan base. Lately I have been getting so much positive attention from all around, so things are going great. I hope I can keep climbing the steep curve for another while. In time, I want to find a suitable gallery that can represent my work, right now its about taking up every lead that is thrown at me and pursue it to the max.
I think the greatest form of success you can achieve as an artist is to one day influence and inspire other artists. Practically, for me the greatest challenge is to become self-sufficient. I have such a long way to go that it is scary when you think of it, so its better to take it one day at a time and just go for it.