Interview: Jamie Berry

Jamie Berry

Jamie Berry

Today's guest is artist Jamie Berry from New Mexico, The United States. Jamie works with natural media and experiments with photography. Jamie is a digital pioneer with a sense of wonder that comes from being present and viewing life through the lens of creativity.

Name: Jamie Berry Location: New Mexico, The United States Web Site: Jamie Berry

Hello Jamie, please tell us a little about yourself, your background and your passion for art and photography?

Jamie Berry

Jamie Berry

Hello, Kate, and thank you so much for having me! I was born into a family filled with creatives of every type - performers, musicians, painters, photographers, and writers going back for many generations, so you could say in some ways it that it was just hard-coded into my DNA. I grew up surrounded by art and creativity and the implements with which to give it life. The funny thing is that in spite of all of this, quite simply art is something that just what drew me in, no pun intended. I grew up fairly poor, in a city that was rapidly becoming a gentrified and wealthy cultural center that had formerly been one of the poorest parts of the United States. As I matured and emerged into my own life it became a powerful tool for communicating and relating myself to the world - it was something that came from inside me, a way of seeing that was independent from material resources or the lack thereof, a way to express things with an eloquence that being very young in age was otherwise elusive to me.

Still later I discovered many additional benefits to viewing life through the lens of creativity, likely too numerous to go into in great detail, this is certainly not restricted to the arts, but nevertheless art can be the most immediate way of communicating anything that's difficult to articulate with words. My passion for the visual arts is derived from this. The connection with what we can see in color or texture is much more immediate and visceral than what we might, for example, read and then process intellectually to extrapolate its meaning for us personally. The visual arts have a way of sneaking around the intellect and showing us a truth that is unhindered by our preconceived notions about things. While both are certainly powerful means of communication, and as I'm sure you well know, they can pack quite a punch in combination with each other, I would liken the visual arts to being more akin to a lightning strike whereas the written word is a bit more like an ember, which burns more slowly before there is the all-out inferno of having been catalyzed. So, for me, the visual arts and music in particular have more power to shake us immediately from our torpor and engender excitement, inspiration, wonderment, and even hope, and of course nature itself does this best of all.

Photography by Jamie Berry

Photography by Jamie Berry

Could you tell us some more about your work?

Kaitlin. Art work by Jamie Berry.

Kaitlin. Art work by Jamie Berry.

Of course. Because art, for me, is primarily about communication, whatever the message may be, a sense of story is very important to me. I like things that have a visual impact but contain more for us to chew on the more time we choose to spend with them. I am also a big believer in form following function, so the medium is usually determined by the message, I actually stop and ask myself what is the best vehicle for a particular thing and take it from there, I think it's good to have the versatility of being able to work with whatever best suits our purposes, or even with what we happen to have on hand.

Harriet. Art work by Jamie Berry.

Harriet. Art work by Jamie Berry.

We learn of course that color, design, light and shadow, these are a language we can use to convey what we can't quite say with words. But taken further, when we integrate this language it becomes a working vehicle for our inspiration. I think this is the point when, though the challenge always remains, and what good is life without challenge, really, It's how we grow, but at this point things cease to be a struggle in our works. And for me, whatever a viewer may take away from anything I've done, this is what I put into everything I do, to create that harmony, even if it is a harmony of dissonance, to meet that challenge, not just artistically, but in presenting the story of a particular experience or, time, or bundle of sensations, thoughts, and feelings, that heat of being there. In the end that's what determines a success to me, these are the things I am proud of in my own work, and it spills over into the rest of life. It can't help but do so. And yes, sometimes I do see something and just go, 'Wow. That is SO cool!', and that's good enough for me.

What keeps you motivated and inspired?

For me, it really is as simple as living, continuing to meet and encounter my life directly. A healthy curiosity here coupled with a willingness to embrace whatever it is that's actually right in front of me and use it as my raw material, a place to begin, is all the inspiration and motivation myself or anyone will ever need as far as I'm concerned. Also loving the things that I really love and am interested in, not being coy with myself about it. You gotta own it. It is from this space that our voices emanate - life is something that is continually evolving for each of us together and separately, macrocosm to microcosm, and you know, openness and trepidation cannot occupy the same space simultaneously. All we need to do is astonish ourselves with our own boldness, our own daring, and life will present the opportunities over and over again, and it's up to us to accept them. There is always something new for us to encounter. What we make of it is art, and this is what sustains me - as life goes ever on, so does the necessity to share it if we are not shut down to the new facets of it, the possibilities that are around every corner.

Art work by Jamie Berry

Art work by Jamie Berry

As an artist, what has been your greatest resource?

Definitely my family. They have always believed in me and have supported my efforts, even the stranger ones. I think things like that are what inform the other stuff - a sense of well-being makes everything else easier, we all need people that love our weirdness.

Which is your favourite creative project so far?

Photography by Jamie Berry

Photography by Jamie Berry

I'm always sure my favorite will be the next one! But honestly, my own life is my most important creative project, and again, that comes back and inspires everything else, without life, there is no art. The most fun project I have had thus far working on though, was an independent Japanese action/horror film I worked on a number of years ago. The creative camaraderie of something like that when everyone is on the same page is pretty breathtaking. I have enjoyed being independent in my own creative interests on the web these past couple of years as well, the spirit of exploration is terrific fun. Extending this back out into the 'real' world is also quite an adventure.

Could you tell us more about your creative process?

I don't have a rote process, really. An idea will get catalyzed for me and then it just sort of comes about of its own accord. I see images that are born of experiences and I develop them by following them where they want to go. Let me tell you, this made me a terrible commercial artist! They used to tell me to stop feeling and just spit it out (which is actually good advice at times)! Just generally speaking though, regardless of how I actually end up making something, I usually begin with either written notes or drawings. This relates to the next question though, so more on this in a moment.

Jamie Berry's Journal

Jamie Berry's Journal

Do you keep a journal or sketchbook, and would you mind if we had a sneak peek?

Yes, I keep both. I'd be happy to share them with you. For myself, these are my sketchbooks, not my 'finished art books', they are a safe space to just play around and explore, to work out the kinks and keep things strong and aligned, sort of like artistic yoga! And using them is really the closest I have to an actual process - what happens here is what lies behind everything else, virtually all of my ideas for visual art emerge from the depths of these books, they are in effect visual journals. I keep written journals as well, my latest is one that a friend made and gave to me as a gift, a lovely handmade book. I write all of my insights down in it as they occur to me. Together, they leave a trail that's a little more tactile, a little easier to navigate than a trail of just bits and bytes. Though in the execution of our art things may be very spontaneous, those spontaneous actions usually consist of a multitude of impressions coalescing in the moment. One brush stroke can contain a thousand days in the mark that it leaves when we've lifted our hand, you know?

Jamie Berry's sketchbooks

Jamie Berry's sketchbooks

Would you like to share a photo of your studio space as well?

My work space is a little bit fragmented at present, I am in the middle of a transitional move! But I've sent you some pictures. Another yawn-inducing dictum from me: it's important to be able to work in the space we find ourselves in. Not all of the things I do are portable, but making the most of the space we have is a handy skill to possess. Art can happen anywhere.

Jamie Berry's studio

Jamie Berry's studio

What is a typical day like for you?

I actually wrote a small essay about this on my website entitled, 'A Formerly Typical Day', it was meant to imply that my days were rapidly becoming anything but typical, and this remains the case today. I do however hold the same basic ideas in mind: each day there must be work, there must be play, and there must be rest. That's it in a nutshell.

How has the Internet, self publishing and social media influenced your work as an independent creative entrepreneur?

Jamie Berry's workspace

Jamie Berry's workspace

Oh, my, where to start with that one? I've been with the web since the very early days, initially doing digital imaging and making websites (I began with Photoshop in 1994 when a power Mac could still set you back $10,000 and a 1 megapixel digital camera was in the same ballpark). I have always loved the idea of democratization, but it's worth noting that this is something that within the milieu I cut my teeth in as a very young man. The attitude was that if there was no alternative we would damn well create one, and this was before there was a world wide web. So my thinking had always been traveling along those lines anyway, I wouldn't say that for me personally it is an influence per se, and we were doing our own publishing and so forth then.

That said, the great thing about the web to me is its reach, and the opportunities for connection can be fantastic, people are using it all in a lot of cool, creative ways. I am of the first generation that grew up with a very visible and ubiquitous technological presence, and to me social media is really just a bundled amalgamation of pre-existing services and tools, some that have been around for a long time. I see it more as an evolution of things like BBS to chat rooms, to posting in forums, to blogging and so on - it isn't really anything new! But it is more convenient today, and that's a good thing. I know people have virtual Tupper Ware parties for crying out loud, so I suppose the opportunities can be as expansive as we'd like!

Drawing by Jamie Berry

Drawing by Jamie Berry

The trends I've seen in social media over the past number of years as they pertain to our conversation, though, at times it seems more akin to a recreation of the very systems we've been purporting to escape or outmaneuver rather than being an alternative to more mainstream channels! I personally think it's foolish to tie our work or our identity to a handful of services that we have no direct control over. Using the tools, but allowing them to be a supplement to our real world activities is important, I think. In spite of all that, things are always cyclical and always evolving, I still believe that the potential for impact is better today than it ever was in the past if we are mindful about what we are doing, and cool new ideas are proliferous. At present I'm on a bit of a social media fast, I closed my Twitter account, for example. To me it is showing up for our real world activities that ultimately determines our effectiveness anyway, however information pertaining to them may be relayed or disseminated. For me it's important to remember that tools are tools.

Drawing by Jamie Berry

Drawing by Jamie Berry

What do you find to be the greatest challenges and rewards of being an artist?

For me, the greatest challenge is the temptation to self-censor in an effort to speak very consciously about things, visually or otherwise. The funny thing is, once we've begun speaking our particular truth it is nigh impossible to backtrack anyway, but now and again I still have funny doubts about what I'm saying, or how best to say it. So far as the rewards go, I do know very well that our creative endeavors do make people's lives better, even if we can't explain exactly why. They do wonders for our own as well.

Where do you see yourself within the next few years?

I see myself doing my best work yet! And that, to me, is very exciting, and I think I am likely finally leaving the desert, though I suppose I'll take a little piece of it with me.

What is your advice for someone who would like to turn his or her creative dreams into reality?

My advice would be to always listen to that inner voice, that inner prompting, that spark inside you that just knows. Listen to those that are further along the path than you may be, but always trust your own wanting as well. Make friends that do 'get it', friends are priceless during creative slumps, and they will happen. Master your craft. Dream big and be bold, never dismiss anything as being too impossible to try, and above all live your life, for there is no art without life. And for Pete's sake, remember to have fun!

Paints

Paints

What do you do for fun (besides making art)?

I love to read. When I was a kid I read classical literature, things like Nabakov and Dumas, so I'm just over the past few years discovering things my friends were reading, like Stephen King! I love music, love to play it, and I still go to see the groups I like. I saw The Joy Formidable from Wales this year, and had a great time, they are fantastic. I am hugely into physical fitness and I love yoga. I love to cook, I am very proud of my swelling collection of recipes. I read comic books and I'm quite fond of astronomy and by extension, mythology. I am still a big Mac dork, I love my Mac. I love learning new things. And I love that you have shared your space with me, thank you, Kate.

Check out Jamie's web site Jamie Berry

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