This past month, I had the privilege of speaking with Caleb over at TIABA as part of their ongoing efforts to promote artists making work and living and breathing the studio life. I dig their vision and what they’re doing is excellent for creatives like myself. In their own words, “Tree In A Box Artworks reps growing out of the box. The box otherwise known as the everyday grind. An online gallery from the mind of a starving artist ;)”
It couldn’t have been more fun to chat about our visions for the future, art that’s captivating us at the moment, and inspirations from our past and where that has lead us today.
So, stay back on your haunches and spend a quick minute with TIABA and I ~
TIABA: Where are you from?
JH: I was born in Thomasville, a small town in south Georgia, but my family soon moved to Atlanta, and this is where I grew up. My siblings and I were tucked back in a quiet community situated across from a small lake. We roamed the woods and creeks surrounding us, and we’d disappear for hours discovering waterfalls, giant turtles and building up fortresses we’d abandon at summer’s end.
I currently live in San Diego, California under the flight path where I can watch the metal vessels pass overhead and then all the way until they touch down. Its here that I have my studio loft and where I sit and draw, paint and mull over ideas for far too long and then sometimes, never enough.
TIABA: When did you start creating art?
JH: For as long as I can remember I have been drawing or making something. Mostly, I drew comic book characters with hand-styled lettering. About six months ago, my mom mailed me a package that included a collection of drawings from when I was 11 or 12. I remember one of these creations vividly. It was a pencil drawing of Batman standing on a ledge. I was 11 years-old and home sick from school. The moment I sat my pencil down that day I remember feeling better because I knew I had created a great picture.
Flashback to age 12
TIABA: Why art?
JH: I was fascinated by comic books from very early on. Growing up, there was a family cottage off the coast of Florida that was quite old. In it, there was a small cabinet in a back room that housed tattered comic book pages from the 50’s and 60’s. Every summer, I can remember working in earnest to piece the segments together, looking for clues as to how the sequence of story and art was meant to play out. Each year I kept thinking that maybe I would find another piece of the puzzle and the story would be revealed to me. In truth, there was nothing more to find but I was fascinated with the idea of how storybook frames worked to tell a story. Soon after, I was gridding off blank sheets of paper and penciling in stories of my own.
TIABA: What motivates your art?
JH: I’m motivated by the work or others. Not just other artists, but writers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and musicians. It could be a slice of cinema, a painting from a book, or a tightly designed graphic from a surf mag that’ll inspire me. I think that’s what i find so brilliant about living today – inspiration is everywhere.
TIABA: What types of mediums do you work with?
JH: My go-to’s are graphite or gouache. I love the control and personalities of both. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with cardboard and clay, scanning the creations and turning them into 3-D printed objects. I’ve just begun to explore this method and I’m pretty fascinated with it right now.
WIP: spraying 3D printed trashcans
TIABA: How do you know when a piece of work is finished?
JH: A work is considered ‘done’ in my eyes when I simply lose interest in it or my mind sees it as complete. I’m attracted to visual tensions, a hierarchy of details and a strong sense of space. To me, once I’ve achieved a sense of balance among these points mentioned, I put down the brush or pen and won’t pick it back up again. It can feel cathartic or it may feel as if the image has found peace. However, even as I say this, I know that many of the paintings and drawings in my studio are unsigned. I’ve never figured that one out yet. I just don’t usually sign my work unless I’m formally hanging the work up or letting it go to a collector.
TIABA: What sets you and your style apart from other artists?
JH: I don’t know that I fully have that answer. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a bit of a sponge absorbing experiences, words, images, sounds, people’s emotions, as well as the work of artist both new and old. And, not just within the fine art world. I’m extremely fascinated by high-fashion, modern animation techniques, and world-travelers. I can sit down with a great painter friend of mine, Joel Frank, and discuss the beauty and sincerity of figurative and landscape works. He’s one of the most talented painters I’ve met and its completely insane how jacked up to create I can become just by sitting and talking with him for an hour or two. However, I can then pick up a mag featuring the work of a modern illustrator and be completely drawn to the power of that particular artist’s expression. I’m very open to absorbing many different styles and distilling the elements that are most appealing to me. To isolate one constant in my work though, I would say that storytelling is at the root of all that I create. I’ve never shied away from being a storyteller.
TIABA: Do you use past troubles for motivation?
JH: I’m motivated very much by the thoughts and feelings I’m having while creating. I’m not sure that I dig too far into my past for these motivations but if I’m feeling melancholic, my approach to making lines is very different from when I’m feeling excited. Introducing these different emotions into the work results in very different picture. Just recently, I was in the middle of a fairly large painting and feeling quite far from the finish. However, my energy for being in the studio that night was pretty high so instead of grabbing a small brush to hit some details, I grabbed my biggest brush and soaked it in pure turpentine. A few bold moves later and the painting just clicked. It was done. Nothing more needed to be said and to me it was perfect. I’m very open to letting events like this happen and I still kinda marvel at them today. It constitutes a sense of pure abandonment and I admit I enjoy this.
TIABA: Do you have a favorite type of art? (Painting, Sculpting, Drawing, etc.)
JH: My favorite type of works today sway between the masters like Van Gogh, Matisse, or Sorolla and the obsessive and beautiful linework of James Jean or João Ruas. I recently discovered J.A.W Cooper’s work and was blown away by her arabesque lines and approach to making imagery. There’s something magical about seeing the preparatory sketches for any of the names I just mentioned. Van Gogh’s drawings rival his finished works as do James’. Because drawing is at the root of how I approach almost every 2d artwork, I have a keen interest in what lies underneath the oils and acrylics of others.
TIABA: Do you have a preferred subject when referring to art?
JH: There is certainly an affinity I have for the human form which draws me more to figurative works. When artists are capable of capturing the emotions of others; when you can see it in their creation’s eyes, in their hands, or in their body’s postures, I can’t help but fall in love with these efforts. However, if I had to pick one subject that intrigues me the most, its the female form tucked within a strong narrative.
The Salt Fountain
TIABA: Do you feel relaxed when you work or does the anticipation for the end product keep you going?
JH: I am usually either very relaxed or experiencing a surge of energy when making art. If I’m working from life, my energy is usually very high, almost anxious to take what i see and lay it down on paper or canvas. Digital coloring is perhaps the most peaceful way of working to me. I am usually calm with a ‘control-Z’ in my back pocket, which now, when i say it, seems a bit backwards. But its true. I think that although you can always paint back over anything, i tend to think of paint and ink as possessing a ‘no way back’ edge that i love. A computer offers me the chance to back up so easily, to undo what was just done, and because of this, I can’t help but feel at ease.
Working in PS w/ my trusty Wacom
TIABA: What is an artistic outlook on life?
JH: I am usually more optimistic yet happily drawn to melancholic sounds and stories. Bon Iver, Into the Wild, Zorba the Greek, Egon Schiele… each of these creates a sensation within me that holds my attention far longer than just pure happiness. I certainly don’t venture into dark places on purpose. However, whether its in lyrics or feeling, that shaky fortress that melancholy exudes is so beautiful and emotive to me. I’d also say that I tend to find the beauty in what’s most often overlooked, empathize always to some degree with the other side, and would venture to guess that being a middle child had something to do with this.
TIABA: What is your dream project?
JH: My dream project is to travel the world, experience its varying cultures and locations while painting the stories and pleasures of it all. Along the way, I would like to leave remnants of my time in the form of large scale works, both in size and concept. Bigger may not always be better but its harder to ignore. My beautiful fiancée would be in tow and we’d meet up with our friends and family throughout our adventures and stay up late into the evenings with bottles of wine and maddening laughter filled discussions. Why not, right?
TIABA: Thank you for taking the time to work the Tree In A Box Family
JH: Thanks to you! – I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me.