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Home FEATURES Artist Interviews Tom Long Interview

Tom Long Interview
Thursday, 19 June 2008 05:18
It took Ryan some time to track down this Brooklyn based artist who creates ultra microscopic, insanely beautiful, and intricate gouache paintings on paper.

Not too long ago, I went to see a very underwhelming painting show, thinking it would be good, but it wasn't. It was just okay. They can't all be winners, right? But! The neighboring gallery had something very interesting going on. It was Tom Long, and his most recent batch of ultra microscopic, insanely beautiful, intricate gouache paintings on paper. With a packed house and a near sell out show, I thought, "Hey, I'm pretty cool, how come I haven't heard of this guy?"

Upon further research (going home and googling every variation of his name I could think of) he seemed non-existent. Like the island in LOST, I found him once, and after I left, it seemed that I would never see that work again. I speculated that maybe he wasn't even real. Maybe an artist by another name?

After lusting over these paintings for about a year, I finally found him again at NEXT. A hidden wall in a little alcove, that was known as the STOP SMILING booth, exhibited four of Long's paintings. Not only was I excited but felt that maybe Tom Long was actually real. So I tracked him down (very easily) and sure enough, he's real, he has friends, a sense of humor, answers to my questions, and what could be the most idiotic/smart idea of the century. Hurry! Someone get this guy a factory and a production line.

Who are you? What do you do?

My name is Tom Long. I paint and work part time at an arts foundation. I live in Brooklyn.

I noticed that you left Austin to come to Chicago. What drew you here? What are your favorite things about Chicago?

I came to Chicago to get my MFA. The decision making process was a bit half-assed, but there were some things that came out of Chicago or passed through Chicago that I liked- Chris Ware, Thrill Jockey, Henry Darger, Studs Terkel. The Art Institute is also a fine museum with a great Japanese prints collection. After living there, I came to really appreciate how bike-friendly it was, how everybody makes a point of eating outside and enjoying warm weather when it happens, bars where you can get six packs to go; Hot Dogs; and the blackened catfish with smoked gouda mac-n-cheese and collard greens at Handlebar.

Was your work always like this? If not, what was it like and how did you arrive here?

I always enjoyed drawing and doodling. As a teenager and in college I was exposed to oil painting and was interested in art in that medium- the post-impressionists, Picasso, Spanish painting in general. As I got more interested in painting, I began to go to the art library at the University of Texas, which is actually quite wonderful. I think I became interested in graphic traditions partly from spending all that time in the library- Velasquez or Rothko doesn't fully come across in a reproduction, but a Persian miniature or an illuminated manuscript is intended to be viewed that way, more or less. But I still worked in oils and I really wanted to make big, awe-inspiring paintings that would melt people's faces off. I was very unfamiliar with the "art world" at that time- I didn't have any artist friends, I didn't go to galleries, and I wasn't really interested in anything outside of that library. I would thumb through magazines now and then. But I became very paranoid about how the art world would judge my work- that it wasn't political, it was unoriginal, not challenging, boring material-wise, and extremely derivative. All this self-criticism was good to an extent, but it became a bit paralyzing, trying to please this imaginary audience. So four years after college, I finally made it to grad school, and that was extremely helpful in that, among other things, it dispelled the myth I had created of this monolithic, super-sophisticated, hyper-critical art establishment. It was good to meet artists that made minimalist or abstract work that was frankly beyond me but who still laughed at a well crafted fart joke. It was equally helpful to meet makers of really polished work that seemed somewhat full of it. So I feel like I really got on the right track when I stopped sweating the art world stuff and more fully embraced my own interests, aesthetically and otherwise.

I really enjoy your work, however I don't have the foggiest as to what it is about, could you shed some light?

That's tricky. I don't want to be coy, but I also don't want to shut down anyone's experience or interpretation of the work. I basically have these three characters that each possess a particular set of attributes; in different environments and in different groupings of characters, there are differing results. Hopefully as I make more work, the core of what these characters represent will become more obvious, while their interactions will become more complex.

What are the major driving influences behind your work?

Various graphic painting traditions- Safavid-era miniature painting, Japanese printmaking and painting, Himalayan art, illuminated manuscripts. These traditions often illustrated mythic narratives, which was influential. I'm also a fan of science and scientific endeavors like particle accelerators, telescopes, and space stuff- though I don't understand most of the underlying math or physics. But I enjoy learning the basics. Some of the general insights of 20th century physics are mind blowing and inspiring. Plus scientific equipment can be very beautiful.

These are so packed with intricate details; do you paint them with an eyelash? Are all your pieces long because your last name is long, a bit about your process?

I was actually born Tom H. Cocksucker III, but was later adopted by the more reserved Longs. I typically do lots of thumbnail sketches; I'll find some reference images online. When I settle on a composition, I'll draw it out on this thick cream-colored paper, and then paint over that with gouache. I'll tweak the drawing and change things after I've started painting. Color is a real challenge for me, so there's a lot of trial and error with that. I've started to make preliminary watercolor sketches just to get the broad color relationships sorted out. I do use tiny brushes. The tiniest are actually easier to find at more arts-and-crafts-type stores. I guess they're good for detailing the battle shields of pewter warriors.

With Boyle's gallery closing down, what's the game plan? Anything exciting coming up?

No big shows, but I'm working on a group of pieces that I'm excited about and frustrated by. I'm looking to have a productive summer.

Does anyone give you "art envy"?

Hmm. There's a lot of really talented people out there. Honestly, I just enjoy seeing interesting work and tip my hat to anyone that can pull it off. And I admire anyone that can make a career out of their art. I guess I would envy someone like Hokusai, who had a long career, and remained so creatively potent and engaged.

Name drop list?

Werner Herzog, Pavement, Ironman (the album), guacamole, Polvo, Who Could Win a Rabbit, Barton Springs, the Met, Neils Bohr, Devin the Dude, Ernesto Caivano, When We Left Earth, Jerri Blank, Yoshitoshi, Michele Norris.

Invent something right now, what is it?

A bong that reads your mind. {moscomment}

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contact FF

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IMG_9585_sm

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a_m


 

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lead

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17_ms

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charlie

 

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tiburonbridge

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park_life

 

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//////////
Wednesday, 16 June 2010 17:39


Headlands Center Fundraiser -6/4/14
Tuesday, 20 May 2014 07:54

SAN FRANCISCO --- The Headlands Center for the Arts is preparing for their largest fundraiser of the year set to go down on June 4th at SOMArts here in the city. Art auction, food, drinks, live music, etc and all for helping to support a great institution up in the Marin Headlands. ~details

ABOUT HEADLANDS
Headlands Center for the Arts provides an unparalleled environment for the creative process and the development of new work and ideas. Through a range of programs for artists and the public, we offer opportunities for reflection, dialogue, and exchange that build understanding and appreciation for the role of art in society.

headlands

 

 

 


 

 

 

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Serge Gay Jr. @Spoke Art

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Sun Milk in Vienna

With rising rent in SF and knowing mostly other young artists without capitol, I desired a way to live rent free, have a space to do my craft, and get to see more of the world. Inspired by the many historical artists who have longed similar longings I discovered the beauty of artist residencies. Lilo runs Adhoc Collective in Vienna which not only has a fully equipped artists creative studio, but an indoor halfpipe, and private artist quarters. It was like a modern day castle or skate cathedral. It exists in almost a utopic state, totally free to those that apply and come with a real passion for both art and skateboarding


"How To Lose Yourself Completely" by Bryan Schnelle

I just wanted to share with you a piece I recently finished which took me 4 years to complete. Titled "How To Lose Yourself Completely (The September Issue)", it consists of a copy of the September 2007 issue of Vogue magazine (the issue they made the documentary about) with all faces masked with a sharpie, and everything else entirely whited out. 840 pages of fun. -Bryan Schnelle


Tyler Bewley ~ Recent Works

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Kirk Maxson and Alexis Mackenzie at Eleanor Harwood Gallery

While walking our way across San Francisco on Saturday we swung through the opening receptions for Kirk Maxson and Alexis Mackenzie at Eleanor Harwood Gallery in the Mission.


Jeremy Fish Solo Show in Los Angeles

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The Albatross and the Shipping Container

Beautiful piece entitled "The Albatross and the Shipping Container", Ink on Paper, Mounted to Panel, 47" Diameter, by San Francisco based Martin Machado now on display at FFDG. Stop in Saturday (1-6pm) to view the group show "Salt the Skies" now running through April 19th. 2277 Mission St. at 19th.


The Marsh Barge - Traveling the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to quit my job, move out of my house, leave everything and travel again. So on August 21, 2013 I pushed a canoe packed full of gear into the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, along with four of my best friends. Exactly 100 days later, I arrived at a marina near the Gulf of Mexico in a sailboat.


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