Gary Bedell: Bump in the Night
Written by Tamara Styer
GARY BEDELL IS A NAME you'll hear often on the streets of downtown Springfield, Missouri. He is a staple of the independent arts scene, often doing live art in the window of a gallery called Canvass during First Friday Art Walk. He supports other artists and musicians and performs as a DJ, Agent Traxxident. He is one of the most sought-after artists in the area, doing everything from art for band posters to publishing his own books and creating video games. Deitra Mag sits down with Bedell to discuss his art, influences, dreams and upcoming plans, and why Springfield is where he wants to be.
Deitra Mag: When did you start doing your artwork and where did you get the influence to start doing it?
Gary Bedell: I was like three years old. My mom noticed that I interpreted things differently than other kids my age, and that I would draw full forms. It was still a kid’s drawing, but she noticed I understood anatomy and that kind of thing. She didn’t think too much of it at first but the older I got, she was like, “Okay, he does art, that’s what he does.” Professionally I started when I was 18 years old. I did a poster for Slipknot when they came to town. It was crazy. I barely knew anything about graphics and stuff like that. It was literally a black and white drawing on this red sheet of paper and I drew the images, I printed out the lettering for it, literally exactoed all the text on there, so if I messed up I had to cut around it and replace it. I was doing it old school style.
DM: How did they get your name and know they wanted you to do their poster?
GB: I was just kind of pedaling my wares downtown. Nobody really knew who I was. I was really young and had just come out of high school. At the time I didn’t have my own computer or Photoshop, so when I was doing these jobs I was literally doing them manually. Once word of mouth got around I was getting gigs here and there, and it just kind of spread out.
DM: Is getting your name out difficult in the Midwest?
GB: A lot of people don’t realize that you can, no matter where you are. The Internet it connects us to everybody. You can live in Wisconsin and work as a concept artist for a Hollywood film. It all depends on where your mindset is. Because I think people who are our parents age, they don’t understand the concept of the internet and what you can do with it and who you can reach out and touch and how things have become more realistic and more standard now. They just think that you’ve got live in L.A. to make movies, you’ve got to live in New York to draw comic books and if you’re in the Midwest you’re fucked. It’s not like that at all. I’ve been living here a long time, and I make a good living at what I do, even though a lot of my clients are out of state, it’s fine. You can travel whenever you want, go to conventions, network there and network at other stores.
DM: How do you make those connections with people?
GB: Facebook, my forum site, CGTalk a lot of artist community stuff, even game companies and comic book companies will have a forum linked to their website and a lot of artists commute there. Those companies go in there and they’ll hire you based off of your activity in the forum. And of course musicians want to hire you all the time. I’ve gone to a lot of conventions too. I had folios, business cards, and I remember when I was doing stuff manually through the mail, like snail mail, like big ugly envelopes with a lot of shit in it, sending it out to these guys. There were times I had to save my own bacon with that. One time I was doing freelance.I had 100 bucks left in my account, and it was three more weeks until I had to pay the rent on my apartment. I was literally shaking in my boots. So I’m looking around and I start picking up a bunch of shit that I had drawn previously and I was like, wait a minute, I could take this, go to Kinkos, and make a book, and just sell these books for 10 bucks each. There used to be a little shop, a couple named Pat and Patty used to run it, it was a print shop that had probably been there for 20 years, it’s gone now. But I went to them and I was like, I need a bunch of these books, I have 100 bucks left and I need to make rent. Print this book for me, print as many as you can. And they actually printed 100 more for me than I needed. And I totally made my rent in three weeks and then some. And actually the book was called When the Rent is Due. It totally saved my bacon. It was insane.
DM: That is awesome! How did you get your latest book, Thawed, published?
GB: I went through a website called lulu.com. I like them because there’s no middleman. And if stores want a certain amount of the books, they can go to the website and order them themselves. Thawed will be in stores soon too. National Art Supply and Good Girl want to carry it. You can also get Thawed digitally on lulu.com so you can get it on Kindle. I’m thinking about doing another version of the book called Thawed Blue, and it will be the same book with edits and new materials. It will be on amazon.com.
DM: What are some other things coming up for you?
GB: I sell t-shirts on redbubble.com, and I’m going to be adding more as the months pass. The stuff that I’m currently working on I can’t really talk about, but it’s really cool stuff. All I can say is… games and animation. I’m also releasing an EP soon called Kanye Twitty. It’s going to be free online. Download it. It’s going to be great. I’m taking Conway Twitty songs and chopping them up and turning them into hip-hop instrumentals with Kanye West acapellas on them.
DM: Tell me about your artistic process. How do you think up your designs?
GB: It depends on what I’m doing. If it’s for a client then I usually start with x amount of concepts, and let the client see them. Then I’ll go into the final concept, which is actually my favorite piece of art out of the whole process, because it’s so rough and it’s so finished at the same time, and a lot of the final pieces I do are based off that final concept. Sometimes I’ll just take that final concept, scan it in, blow it up, and I’ll start painting it. When I’m doing something on my own, a lot of my ideas and my influences are from dreams that I have. I like that because it’s kind of like your personal vault, it’s like a clubhouse that no one else can get into, the tree’s too high for everyone else to climb, except for you. There’s stuff that I’ve seen in my dreams that I never would have thought of while I was awake, and I just think that that’s really interesting.
DM: Who are your favorite artists that have been influential for you?
GB: Hands down, I love Arthur Adams. He’s awesome. He did Fantastic Four and he did New Mutants in the 80s. I’ve got a huge list of artists that I just love. There are so many, it’s hard for me to name a handful, because they’re not just all comic artists or just painters. I see something that influences me every day. Guys that you see locally, selling shit on the sidewalk downtown. You see some great stuff from all ends of it.
DM: What would you say to aspiring artists who are trying to pursue art?
GB: My advise to them is don’t get discouraged. Don’t follow trends, because trends are traps. You get people who do everything the same way, and it’s popular for like two to three years, and then it’s dead and you’re stuck with this style that you’ve been practicing for two to three years, and you can’t do anything else with it. I’m going to be bold enough to say, don’t listen to your professors and your teachers. Learn the basics. If we were all building houses, we wouldn’t all build the same kind of houses, but we would have to know how to lay down concrete, how to put up drywall and how to make stairs. It’s a house. You’ve got to learn how to build the house, but all our houses aren’t going to look the same. I think a lot of people, especially professors, have that problem with their students. They teach their students how to draw like them. They flunk their students that don’t draw like them, or produce art like them. It’s really weird, and actually I feel that high school art teachers have a broader horizon than college professors do. I think all artists, anyone who’s into the arts period; it’s a brave thing to do, especially if you’re going professionally with it. You can’t give a shit about what everyone else is doing. I’m going to use the music industry for instance, like pop music, a lot of pop music sounds the same, a lot of the punk music that’s out, sounds the same, all this new heavy rock sounds the same. You just can’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Because that’s what makes you popular, when you step outside the box and you are willing to take risks.
DM: What do you think about the local arts scene in Springfield?
GB: It’s all about networking and talking to people. I think the Midwest is the toughest. If you can survive here on it, you can go out to California or New York and live like a god if you wanted to, but it’s all about your effort. But the thing you’ve got to keep in mind is, this is a very impressionable city. So if you come up with something cool or do something cool, people are going to remember that and they’re going to expect you to do more of it. Then they’re going to bring their friends, and those friends are going to tell more people. Let it do what it needs to do. A lot of artists don’t realize that. They kind of expect some talent fairy to come in and be like, okay here’s your big ass contract and here’s your suitcase of money and your harem of women! Enjoy! (laughs) I wish it did, but it doesn’t work like that. I think that people need to keep in mind that this is an impressionable city. You can make it whatever you want, because a lot of venues and people want to work with each other. I’ve been to bigger cities where people don’t want to work with each other and they are supposed to be good art cities or good music cities. I lived in St. Louis for a year and that is the most segregated arts scene ever. It’s that kind of attitude that retards things and keeps them at a certain level, because you do have all these artists that don’t want to work with each other. It’s not like that here, and I think a lot of people don’t see that. But a lot of people need to go out and see it on their own. I think that’s why so many people end up leaving here and moving back, because the grass sometimes isn’t greener. Actually it’s brown as fuck over there. They just kind of need to appreciate this place more, and put some oomph into it, because this place isn’t going to grow or become the entity that they want it to be unless they do something about it. DM
|Bump In The Night|
All contents property of Deitra LLC, Copyright 2011, all rights reserved. All art property of Gary Bedell, Copyright 2011, all rights reserved. Photography by Blake Sellers, Copyright 2011, all rights reserved.