Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Balancing Act, An Interview with Blaine Fontana

I just adore Blaine Fontana. I love his style, his personality, and his openness. He's married to the fantastic, Eugenie Fontana, and their studio is just down the street here in NOPO Junction. When ever I see his work, I automatically recognize the distinct style. It's organic and architectural, painterly, graphic, and lovely. He's a wood worker, a designer, a fine artist and so much more.

If your in Portland, please join us for a night of inspiration and fun with Blaine on Friday, March 7th as we explore the multiple facets of his work.
Date of the event: Friday, March 7, 2014
Time: 7:00 – 9:00pm
Check-in begins at 6:00pm. Doors close at 6:45pm.
Place: Tillamook Station, 665 N Tillamook Street, PDX 97227
Cost: $5 Suggested donation at signup
Registration Begins: Friday morning at 9am, Februrary 28th
Space is limited. Be sure to register early!
Forest for the Trees Mural Project
Your influence in graphic design and fine art is a nice blend. When I first met you I thought your focus was just fine art, but as I discovered, I realized you're so much more. Often, graphic design and fine art are disconnected, would you agree?
BFEach discipline has a way of frowning on a multidisciplinary individual. Sometimes the gallery scene will not get involved with artists who are doing commercial work, and vice-versa. 
However, there's something to be said about the phrase, “Jack-of-all-trades”. There’s pros and cons to it, but for me I like to say that I am just trying to master my life. It keeps me sane and helps with all the different genres I do, and industries I work with—from project to project, they inspire each other.
It wasn’t until after we left LA that I started to push the design work. I had had been doing it privately the whole time and decided to bring it to the foreground and say fuck it, I’m doing this too. 
YPEA lot of your older work has been inspired from metaphysics. This new body feels different, more typographic and lots of layering. Are you in a new series or is this your style now? Has it evolved into something different?
BFWhat I’m doing now is sequential bodies of works. Series after series- and they overlap sometimes. One of the first series I did was the “I Dream Series.”  It integrated design with a multimedia approach. That’s winding down, and now I've started doing these board panels. I call it, “This Perversion of this American Cultural Cannibalism.” It’s still work in progress, there is still a very heavy process, now it’s more calculated.
This series is introducing a very pragmatic approach, they are graphic but have a very painterly quality at the same time. I’m always challenging myself to make a piece that creates a reaction in an audience—where they look at it and ask themselves, how was that done (formally and technically)? For me, that’s an incredibly successful piece, especially in the fine art sense.  
YPEYou’ve done a lot of books. I love your personal book, Amalgamate
BFI collaborated with Derrick Brown, a brilliant poet on that book, he's a good friend, and one of the most charming man I’ve ever met (he even married Eugenie and I). Derrick was around when my career in LA started blossoming. It was perfect for him to write the book. He’s been a very integral figure in my work. 
Kirk Pedersen is the publisher who runs Zero + Publishing. We work together when selecting the artists for the books. Often he handles the in-house design of them. However the ones that require heavier design, body copy and custom graphics, I create. Kirk is another very inspiring person and after the last four years of working together, we’ve developed a two way mentor-mentee relationship. 
While I was designing my book, I started working on another book called Heroes and Villians- a photo collaboration by Tatiana Wills and Roman Cho. They managed to shoot artists all over the world of different movements—post graffiti, pop surrealism, and urban contemporary, to name a few. They shot around 300 artists in wide format film. 
The Heroes and Villians book was my first time designing a large scale project on a large scale timeline. It was an incredible challenge to suspend myself and my ego. I am so used to putting my own style, stink and funk onto everything, but for this book, I did completely the opposite. 
After I designed this book, I finally felt I could consider myself a designer, even though I had been designing for over a decade. That’s when I was comfortable enough to say "I do fine art and I do design." It’s not some hobby thing I do on the side or because I have to, I choose to do design, I choose to do illustration, and licensing, and fine art. I choose to do all these things. I have the same passion for design, layout, and typography. I have a passion, especially, for the architecture and tempo of a book: how it flows and how you enjoy it, as much as I have a passion for the process of a painting. 
YPESo you just finished up an immense fucking awesome mural project with Vans. It was so great to see it unfold on Instagram. How did that project come along and how many pieces did you end up doing?
BFI have had this awesome relationship with Vans for about seven years. I was introduced to the VP of Vans at a surf tournament in Hawaii. He became a big fan of my artwork, and over the years I’ve done multiple projects with him, primarily fine art.  This project was a total of 23 boards and the piece in it’s entirely put together was 4 feet tall and 96 feet wide. It took 3 weeks to get the project pushed through, and then I was left to my own, to do my thing. I just had to represent Vans ethos, and lifestyle of So Cal culture of surf and skate. The project was finished in 2 months.
YPE Something this size must have been awkward to work on?
BFTThe work had to be created in a certain way in case they moved the final piece again. I also was limited by my studio walls and could only work on 12 foot sections at a time.
This whole process had to be streamlined to ship down there, but it had to function as a whole. I have not seen the piece put together in it’s entirety— I've only seen sections of thirds, because that’s all we could line up outside of the building here.
YPETwo months is a tight deadline, and not much time to process the end results. How did it make you feel?
BFI crated it up and gave them a care package of materials to help them install it. The crates aren’t fun at all.  Being so "in" the work, it’s a little depressing to send it off after it’s done. For a short while, you're so involved with this kind of child of yours. You see it grow up, have it around for about a week then off it goes. That whole high and adrenaline of getting it done is just gone—you're coming down and packing it up and thinking, crates suck. It’s sad, but it was amazing project.
Blaine has designed and licensed work for a number of companies including SCION Installation Art Tour, Patagonia, Nike, Vans, Toyota, Kid Robot, Upper Playground, Supreme Being, Quiksilver, Ocean Pacific, KFC International, Arbor Snowboards, and Hop & Vine. 

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