Interview conducted by Mary Clare (MC)
Graphic Design Faculty Member
Published as part of the Artist Interview Series
Brian McCall (BM) is an artist who uses a variety of media to tell his stories.
MC: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
BM: At 8 years old, I wanted to be a baseball player. For the next 16 years, I honed my skills at baseball, signing with the Chicago White Sox in 1960. I hit a few homeruns in the big leagues but ultimately failed. Thus, I had to come up with a better scheme for my life. It was a very simple process of elimination; I didn't like doing what other people wanted me to do, so working in an office or a regular job didn't have any sway. I could always draw, so artist sounded like a good fit.
I went to the California College of Arts in Oakland, majored in illustration and photography, and, after school, moved to Washington, DC to begin my new career. I did illustrations for The Washington Post as well as courtroom drawings for local television and then opened a studio in the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia. The opportunity to sell to the public co-opted my illustration career, and I began making etchings and watercolors and was quite happy with myself. After a long relationship ended, I realized I was tired of the tourists and ready to leave, so I bicycled across the country to find myself again. Eventually, I ended up in Greensburg, Pa.
MC: You bring words and images together in your work. Which inspires you first?
BM: I start with scribbling—trying to cover the paper, then erasing, more scribbling, more erasing and trying to embrace the chaos and not knowing where I'm going. I don't trust the clever brain, so I'm trying to circumvent the conscious, intellectual side with the unconscious, intuitive side. The words are the last part of the process.
MC: How do you choose your medium for any specific idea?
BM: My most flexible medium is sculpture. For some reason, it doesn't scare me as much painting or drawing. I think I approach sculpture intellectually with very little emotion, so it goes without the agony and strain of trying to be creative.
MC: How do you preserve your outdoor work from the weather?
BM: Spar Urethane, epoxy paint and some of the very expensive resins for protecting polystyrene sculptures.
MC: What art do you most identify with?
BM: I love political art. Ben Schann's posters. In fact, all poster art is very inspiring.
MC: Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
BM: Death, destruction, and war.
MC: What’s integral to the work of an artist?
BM: You know, the artist has no more claim on creativity than anyone else in the world. This question assumes a place of respect for the word artist, but I hold judgment on anyone until I see their work. The work is the only thing that matters.
Stay tuned later in the week for the second part of this interview. View more of Brian’s work at http://www.flickr.com/photos/brianmccall/.