Our next artist, Raymond Biesinger, likes concepts, making music, politics, Instagram, and 19th-century bird’s eye view panoramic maps. Since 2000, he has been deploying physical things, electronic means, complex geometry and a BA in European and North American political history to make his complex and thought-provoking images.
The September issue of Papirmass will feature two of Raymond’s pieces! Join by August 31st to receive the surprise prints!
Tell us about the artwork featured in Papirmass. (not pictured)
This gentleman (titled, Better Cities Through Design) stood about 20″ tall in the 25 June 2014 issue of the Washington Post accompanying a piece about that city’s (and many other cities’) efforts at finding greater health through design.
This month’s postcard was originally published as one of a pair of full-page illustrations in the Spring 2011 issue of the Swedish magazine Soma, and it was on the topic of artificial organs, past and present. I’m a big fan of drawing construction cranes, little workers, assemblage materials and trucks, FYI.
What themes are in your work?
Since most of my work is for clients, I’m usually at their mercy. When they give me a ring, it’s usually to express some kind of progressive politics, liberal economics, business aim or conservation effort. It’s really a collage of what the world is thinking about and caring about, though I reject the clients who are trying to express something I find revolting. When I’m working on my thing, I’m finding myself locked into history and architecture and cities in a serious way. I studied modern history in school and have kept up with it. My more geometric work really expresses buildings well and quickly. I think I’m at my best when I’m working with both of those themes.
Do you have any creative rituals?
I know this is a very non-creative answer, but scheduling is both my routine and ritual. Every morning, I consult a spreadsheet that I’ve worked out in advance which tells me if I’m dedicating that day to sketching, working on finals, or doing the odds and ends that keep a studio like mine running. It’s kind of ridiculous that I only have three types of days and they don’t really mix. Maybe this place is actually a factory? Anyway, I think you can see that rigidity, mechanistic approach, and compartmentalization in my work, so it makes sense. And getting “into the creative zone” is never a problem. The schedule tells me to do it, so I do it. There’s no other option.
What is your studio like?
My studio is a double-salon with a great big window and two doors, which takes up 240 square feet of my Montreal apartment in the Plateau neighbourhood. One side is mine, where you’ll find a bookshelf, my grandpa’s desk, a Victorian couch, an enormous flat file, and whatever prints are currently exciting me from my collection stuck on the walls. And I do mean stuck—I’m not precious about that kind of thing. The other half is my assistant Zinta’s zone, and it’s more utilitarian than mine. She has a tremendous green work table, an Epson 3880 printer, a delightful little rolling cabinet, and everything she needs to print and mail art prints. Oh, and on the wall is a tremendous world map expressing what cities I’ve made “Lost Buildings” prints for and which ones are coming next.
What do you love about your studio?
Pretty much everything, though sometimes it collects a few too many things and needs to be kept in check. I especially like that it’s at home. I really don’t like commuting.
How has your creative practice changed over time?
In the early 2000s it was very much a collage-and-trace black and white kind of approach in which I’d reuse parts of my old illustrations and found and made images into something new. That stayed true for a long time, though the pieces I collaged together became simple shapes and lines instead of photographs. I started illustrating in a black and white environment—the student press (a newspaper), and it took a decade for me to become truly comfortable working in colour. I can also see myself spending more and more time on personal work as time goes on.
What challenged you the most at the start of your career?
Early on, the business end of things was absolutely defeating. There were few resources online, there were no locals in Edmonton (where I grew up) to talk to who had “made it” as an illustrator. There were very few Edmonton clients who felt illustration was something they needed, and those that did feel they need it didn’t feel the need to pay much for it. I’m lucky, I guess, that I didn’t really solve the “how do I get jobs outside of Edmonton” riddle until my style and approach had tightened up considerably.
What’s the best thing about being an artist?
I like the independence of it. Most of what I do is commercial work, but I’ve set up a situation in which if want to try something out on my own terms, I most likely can, even if it’s extravagant. Or if someone is horrible to work with, I can avoid them.
What’s the worst thing about being an artist?
I’d like to be able to say the uncertainty has gotten easier to deal with after 15 years, but it’s still there a lot of the time.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Do not be afraid of the commercial. Working for clients can both fund the purely personal work and raise a profile, and it’s also fantastic to work out aesthetic approaches while someone else is footing the bill.
Raymond Biesinger is our September 2018 artist.
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