The artwork of Nathan Spoor reads like a dreamscape conceived by MC Escher and Dr. Seuss in an Ashram on Venus. I could read any of Philip K. Dick’s short stories and hold up his paintings as a backdrop to my imagination. The profusely talented LA artist let me ask him some questions, and responded with a goldmine of information. He also dropped some never before seen works on me. It’s that new new; ain’t even come out yet. Since I couldn’t hope to capture the grandeur of Nathan’s work at a measly 400 pixel width, clicking on the images will take you to the larger version. Click that shit like crazy. Now sit back and enjoy the world of Nathan Spoor from LA to Texas and In Between.
1. Age/Location/Art Education?
I’m 32, live in LA, went to a few schools, spent all my time painting.
2. What brought you to (or keeps you in) So Cal?
Well, I’d had an inkling that Los Angeles was the place I wanted to pursue making some great art, or making a name doing so. I got to set up my first show with my friend and brother Bill Lucas, and mutual friends at Loja Designs on Abbot Kinney during the Venice Art Walk. From that exposure I was asked to do other exhibits and met people who introduced me to people, etc. The ability to do shows in alternative spaces always appealed to me, though. The opportunity for a buddy of mine and I to do our Senior show in college at a local museum’s expansion floor kick-started all of that I think. Well, we were doing art shows out of our apartment, which was hilarious.
But back to SoCal. I think basically the vibe and the weather drew me here. Plus there are so many opportunities to show work out here. And not just in galleries or museums. There’s just always a place to show work if you can imagine it. Plus, the challenge of standing out on a wall is a rush. Not only does your work have to resonate with the viewers, it needs to speak to them, to reach out and invite them in. Since my work takes form in a narrative way, it has that storyteller’s appeal. So I get some great input on what it means when people find a moment to tell me all about it. So I guess that gives it an extra dimension, being able to connect with other souls, reinvesting itself and carrying on beyond the moment.
But what keeps me here is a true love for what I’m doing and the people that support me and are on this journey as well.
Being in Los Angeles is a relationship. Sometimes it’s rocky and sometimes it’s amazing, and for a successful relationship you have to embrace your loved one for all their natural or accrued attributes.
3. How has living in Texas affected your work?
Well, living in TX was great as a kid. But I think it had more to do with having parents that were into having kids and being a family. I had access to tons of extra paper too, which helped a lot. Dad would bring boxes of trash paper home for me to draw on, which is basically paper that had printing on one side of it, and was blank on the other. Most of my childhood memories include drawing all the time, riding bikes to fields and places where imaginations could run wild, road trips with lots of stories about when the parents were kids and also made-up things that Dad would create.
Then in Jr. High the skateboarding bug bit hard. So then I was drawing on book covers and skate decks, and thinking of the next trick I was going to try to pull that day after school, and what songs I wanted to record off the radio to listen to on my walkman for the bus ride to school the next morning. Skating and art were so interconnected, because basically they both seem to gravitate on the reality that your only limitation is yourself.
I don’t know, I could go on and on about the things that I’ve been through and how that’s shaped me as a person. But I guess the art part of that was always consistent. The drive or connection to creating things has remained connected throughout the growing process, and the real interest in making great art has only gotten stronger.
I always feel like a Texan, even though I feel Los Angeles and I have a really interesting romance going on. Texas is the place I feel more rested and welcome. People there are very loving and nurturing. I’d love to have more of a cultural outlet there to really plug into. Maybe it’s in Austin, maybe even Dallas. That’s so subjective really, because culture exists differently for everyone, and on so many levels. But I think when there’s something Texans can appreciate, they will. Just like anybody else, say, on the East Coast, in the Uk, Tokyo or Australia or anywhere that there are people that want to bathe in creative thoughts and ideas.
4. How has living in LA affected your work?
Well, I’ll say this much. Either you have it in this city or you don’t. You can fake it, but people are going to tear you apart after a while. I think one of the reason’s I like LA is that it makes everything so much more intense. There’s an energy here that isn’t anywhere else in the world. NY attracts its own special brand of individuals, just as every city anywhere. But there’s something about LA that really makes what I’ve been working on since I moved here more vivid, more imminent in its delivery. It’s as if the portal to that great river of creativity is somehow strongest for me in this place at this time. Everything about this city affects everything about your life. It’s not that it intrudes or overwhelms you, because it certainly can, but it’s just such a bizarre and curious beast that will allow you to cohabitate in its atmosphere as long as you’re willing to roll with whatever happens. It’s schizophrenic and frantic, but also a very loving and giving host. If you’re awake enough to be sensitive to its moods, you can do quite well here.
5. Where do you get your inspiration?
Well, that’s a good question. Notice I said that instead of having an answer? If I could put inspiration into words I would be a very accomplished writer. If I could put it to music then I would be a great songwriter and musician, perhaps a great composer. As it is, I paint, and the images that I try to help bring about are the effects of being sensitive to manifestations that I’m not completely able to understand.
As it is, I can tell you that the process I use to glean images is called Suggestivism. It’s basically a way of relaxing the mind enough to accept the next level of conscious thought or awareness. Generally, this involves brief breathing meditation (mostly laying flat on the back, eyes closed, takes roughly 10-20 minutes, but can occur sitting or standing once it evolves) and then the ability to latch onto whatever scene appears from the In Between. I’ve gotten several glimpses of the In Between, and I have to admit that my works are a pretty simplistic attempt to capture any of its amazing nature.
But with that comes the knowledge that I’m actually searching for something. There’s always some specific item that I have to focus on, and it’s generally a feeling or thought that is required to finish a thought in a painting. I’ve noticed that there are some specific themes that recur and different progressions. This is mostly due to me growing in ways that affect the painting process as well.
All in all, the inspiration is not of my doing or will. It’s become my wish to be a better hand for whatever message can be knit into a visual moment. Everything inspires somehow, but the real direct influence for the paintings is an organic and mysterious journey indeed.
6. What’s the origin of your style? How would you classify your work?
I used to have a great answer for that. I actually spent time thinking about how to classify my work. But then I realized that there weren’t any real categories that I would fit into, not that exist already. Non that don’t seem to crowd or impair the fluid nature of the form.
But let me go into the origin thing first. I’ve felt my origin as a painter actually set itself apart when I realized that my days here were limited. I really needed to make good use of my time, and who knows how many days they have left to make a difference? I guess I saw myself differently when I first experienced and decided to pursue painting in college around ‘93. Or I saw the possibilities of the medium. I felt that in my hands, something meaningful was possible. Somehow I could do something that could inspire or invite others in to a safe place to have an intimate conversation about things that meant something to them. To make a long story short, that suggestive nature grew, into making pieces using a small part of that brain machine with a metaphysical tool, or process, to mine for provoking imagery.
If something of mine has to be qualified or packaged, I tend to lean toward the more romantic concepts of framing the themes and ideas. The use of Suggestivist theory has enhanced the narrative properties of the work to a new mythological level for me. So maybe it’s a New Mythology?
7. What occupies your mind aside from art?
Mostly writing. I guess I could limit it to artistic avenues, but I think about lots of things. Schedules, naps, food, exercise, finding balance. Mostly I’m thinking of painting though. Working on as many as a dozen works on canvas with ideas for several others doesn’t leave a lot of room sometimes. But it’s so interwoven into my life that there isn’t really any separation. When I’m not painting, I’m painting. When I’m working out or driving, I’m painting and even writing. I think most of the creative process, the majority of the work, isn’t even on the canvas.
Ok, but besides art? I don’t know, even if I’m having the best sushi ever I’ll play with the things on the plate and make a picture of something. I can’t seem to be apart from occupying my mind with art.
8. What are you working on now? Any shows coming up?
Yes, right now I’m curating a show in Rome with an incredible group of artists that opens in May.
After that, the amazing Dan May and I have a show together at Copro/Nason Gallery in June.
I have a couple sneak peeks of work for that. But keep in mind that I’m no photographer, so the pics are totally amateur.
The town where my parents live wants to do an exhibition this fall, so I’ll have some new works in Snyder, TX from Sept - Nov.
I’ll have a few pieces available with Corey Helford Gallery also, and am preparing for a solo there next August.
The first one is a partially finished piece that Dan and I are working on.
I’d sent Dan a rough beginning of a landscape with a hill in some water and he started doing his insane detailing skills. Then I got an ideas for a prophet guy on a cloud with a light that was being transferred to a couple of nurses posing as sphinxes. I don’t know what it totally means, but I saw it and called Dan and asked if he would send it back since I had an idea. He was totally cool about it, and we’re having a lot of fun working together to do this show. So these shots show where it was as of the last week of April, about 1/3 finished.
(not titled yet / 24 x 42 inches / acrylic on canvas)
1) Sushi (only the top couple in my neighborhood, not the whole city. there are hundreds of sushi spots and several of them are incredible):
- expensive/amazing: Katsu Ya (Ventura Blvd / Colfax)
- budget/delicious: Sushi Dan or Sushi Mac
2) Pizza slice: Abbot’s Pizza Company (Abbot Kinney / California)
3) Desserts: My Little Cupcake (Ventura / Radford) & Aroma Cafe (Tujunga / Moorpark)
4) Asian: Buddha’s Belly (Beverly / Gardner)
5) Burger: In ‘n Out (it’s there when you need it)
There’s also lots of great street vendors, farmer’s markets and stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods that have awesome food.
And you can’t beat fresh seafood from certain places by the ocean!
10. Top five things to eat and places to get them in Texas? I’m originally from Louisiana so there’d better be somewhere with some killer sweet tea.
1) Home cookin’: anything Mom makes
2) The Grill: anything Dad is doing
3) Burgers: Sweetwater’s - Denton, TX / Snuffer’s - Dallas, TX
4) Real smoked BBQ: Joe Allen’s - Abilene, TX
5) this slot is open for all the great places to eat in TX. part of the fun is the adventure and enjoying where you end up and talking to whoever is around you that’s old or local.
11. Sketch something for us really quickly, whatever comes to mind first, then scan it or take a photo, so we can see your raw style.
Below is a sketch of a new painting I started, Suddenly. Sketches are generally pretty small, this one’s business card size ( approx. 2 x 4 inches). Lola took a picture the day I started it. The painting is 34 x 61 inches. I started with blue undertones, since the majority of the painting hinges on the use of blue, white and crimson. Then there’s a picture of what it looks like a couple weeks into it. You can sort of see the progression of the idea within the tree on the left. The leafy section of the tree is now some sort of receiver or dimensional viewfinder. In the sketch version there’s not much going on, it’s pretty quiet in there. But in the painting, the image in the tree is much more complex. It hosts a glowing city made up of different elements from architecture, fun parks, rockets, stairs, etc. The ground is now filled with glass domes and holes in the grass with steeples coming up. It’s basically got all its elements already, but there will be a girl on the hill area where the tree roots are, and a rainbow of some sort leading the tree in the inlet there out to sea.
And here’s a much more direct sketch to painting progression. Most times I use a sketch to have some foundation or anchor so that I don’t forget what I just “saw”. There’s nothing more frustrating than only having access to a really good idea, or the next step in some progression, and not taking the time to at least get a rough sketch of it. This one was recently turned into an amazing canvas print by Gary at Copro/Nason. It’s so incredible how much like an original prints can look.