Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Interview with Richard Sayer.

One of the greatest advantages of being an artist is meeting and getting to know other creative people. I have been extremely fortunate to have been surrounded by some extraordinary artists and designers over the years.  I also think that there are many mysteries and questions regarding "art" as a profession.  I find that I'm constantly being engaged in discussions on the topic of art as a career choice.  On a regular basis I will post an interview with a selected individual who in some way, designs, makes, creates, or arts it up.  The interview will be always the same set of ten questions. Visual examples of what they produce is a must.  I hope that you enjoy these as much as I will.

1.  What is your name? Richard 'Dick' Sayer, I go by many names!

2.  What do you do? I make pictures with camera, with pencil, sticks and brushes, my mind. Mostly my camera and my computer now.

3.  Do you support yourself financially with what you make? Actually yes. Photography has been very very good to me.

4.  Do you ever think about doing anything else as a profession? Only variations on the same. teaching more yes--I think about this a lot. But I really need to be able to make and explore the making process.

5. What is your earliest memory of making something? Probably a tie between snapping pictures with some kodak instamatic camera and drawing pencil out line pictures of cardinals and chickadees. Even back then my photographs were much better than my drawings. 

6.  How do you come up with your ideas? Well, I think I'm still working on the first idea really. Each idea evolves into the next. I revert back to old work all the time and see where it leads this time with more knowledge and ability. Seems most things end up being self portraits in the end. I do separate my documentary photography work from this however--that is I react and discover based solely on what I see, and hear--much less about what I think--in fact I try very hard to keep my thoughts out of that work. The process is similar in both in that I do react to what is happening in front of me and make decisions on how to proceed next. In that way my personal creative work and my documentary work are very much the same. I also think and rethink things--this often leads to new ideas or approaches. I don't really think to much about the how--but I do hope they don't ever stop coming--though sometimes the ideas could slow down a bit and let me catch up.

 7.  Do you consider what you make to be art? Not everything--though I do consider that I can make work in many ways because of my knowledge of art and its processes that I am continuing to use and learn new. I believe my eye for pictures can take what I do to high levels within the framework of what purpose the work is to have--but some of the work I don't really consider my art---because it isn't as personal I guess. so I think work that I do that I don't think of as art I think of a documentary, fashion, portraiture etc.... but those have the same value to me as does my art.

8.  What are some of your creative influences (other artists, nature, music, etc.)? The list is quite long. I get influenced by many sources. I love people who succeed despite their limitations, Neil Young and Bob Dylan make a living as singers--yet most people think they can't sing. I have been inspired by events such as a local frog jumping contest--its almost pathetic, yet its a big deal in this one community. I am inspired to work harder by more talented people than me. I've always managed to be around very talented people and I find a way to hold my own and be as one of them despite having lesser abilities. In photography I've known many people who have better eyes, and many others who technically blow me away--I strive to make work with them. In drawing and painting I'm not very gifted--my hand is harsh and seldom does what I want it to do--certainly not as well as I'd like it to--but I strive to make work that is the best I can make it. I get excited by seeing people make better things--it pushes me to be better. It sounds like I'm competitive-but its not really that--at least I don't get bummed by others being better--I just get myself working harder--its hard to explain and I'm probably getting off topic. A guy who faithfully played Santa Claus inspired me a great deal. My teacher Ernico Pinardi and Chuck McCleary especially influenced my way of understanding how art is a personal exploration and seeking the poetry from within us will determine its overall worth to us personally. Van Gogh's letter and work ethic certainly taught me a lot. As did studying Degas and Sargent's mark making. All painter--even the ones I don't like really have helped me learn how to paint more effectively. Cartier-Bresson and Kertescz really got me going in photographer and guys like Rob Finch and Brian Plonka more recently--guys I went to school with like Craig Walker and Dan DeLong and even guys like Tracy Scott who became a cop and Duane Thomas who puts in AC units in high rises. I think If I designed my own totem it would have more than one Rat on it. I don't care for rats, but I understand them and they find ways of doing what they need to survive. I could probably go on.

9.  Do you ever get emotionally attached to things that you make?
Not emotionally attached...no...I can give anything I make away without any care at all really. I do feel a little sad when I hear of something I made somehow destroyed--but then again I end up destroying most things if they're around long enough. I will paint over anything--the only grad school pieces I have left that haven't been painted over or modified are the few that sold or I traded or gave away.

10.  Do you think art has a purpose? Oh god yes! Art is simply the best way for people to understand how to think or develop thought processes. Problem solving is a creative endeavor--we need problem solvers--why not get people solving problems in creative ways. Its hard to conceive and make something from scratch--from nothing. Why aren't we making this understood from the get go--hard doesn't mean a damn thing--hard doesn't mean don't do it. Hard only means its a challenge to be overcome. Just like sport is important and team sport is important for developing leadership and cooperation skills--art teaches how individual thought can look at things uniquely and without the constraints of teamwork and cooperation.
Thats another thing I wish we would teach more--we cannot be held accountable for our thoughts--so think them through despite the fact they might not have political correctness, or they might be vulgar or distasteful or even violent--the place for all of this is contained within the mind and in the mind they are fine. Acting on them is another issue. If we're feeling as if we're free to think what we want--we will and then hopefully allow ourselves the freedom to think beyond. If we constrain peoples ability to think--which society does at will--I really think we do a disservice to mankind.

That concludes the blog interview with artist and photographer Richard Sayer.  Thanks Dick!

Richard Sayer is an award winning photographer for the Meadville Tribune and a professor of photography at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA.  If that wasn't enough, he operates a commercial photography business "Sayer-Motter Photography" with creative partner Harmony Motter.

I have known Richard since high school art class (pictured above top), and in all the years since, I can honestly say I have never known any artist that works quite as hard and with the passion as he does.  He is the persistent "rat" that he so admires in others that have to struggle with less natural ability.  It's being around artists like Richard that makes me raise my game to a higher level.  Unfortunately  life and distance  has separated us for many years and I certainly miss being around him. It's no wonder that I named my only child "Sayer".  

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