Anthony Hurd's surreal dreamscapes are a delicate study of the subconscious. It's impossible not to be drawn in, to question, like the precarious promise of a glimmering light in the heart of a mountainside cavern. Discovery is not guaranteed to reveal treasure or joy, but the promise still stands, the tantalizing promise of knowing the unknowable. Tim WOWXWOW sat down with Anthony to discuss the mystery of his work and inspiration. Read more below:
For artist Anthony Hurd, the journey through life and what ends up populating the dreamlike occurrences within the psychedelic landscapes that make up his imagery, are utterly inseparable. Navigating life's trials and tribulations, while maintaining a deep appreciation for the gifts of happiness and well-being, Anthony feeds the meditative explorations he extracts from the color flow of each new paintings surface. Built on emotional and contemplative states of mind and spirit, Anthony's painted universe provides us with lands we are all free to roam, in order to allow the wealth of emotional content to connect us with each other, through our own thoughts and memories.
Hey Anthony! Thanks for taking the time to join us for a chat. First of all, could you give us some background on what lead you to a career in the arts and talk about any training that you found particularly beneficial?
Thanks for having me. I'm self-taught, both in design and art. I bought books and figured it out along the way. It's always an ongoing process I guess, but a pleasurable one at that. I started painting in high school and wanted to be a full time artist, but my design career took off in my early 20's and painting sort of fell to the side for a good solid ten years or so. In 2007 I started painting again, but didn't take it very seriously until around 2011 when I received a critique from a consultant, who told me I had the skill set but I didn't have the drive or motivation. He said I should be painting daily, not just waiting until before shows. He was right. So I focused and moved forward in a big way and I've maintained a pretty heavy regimen ever since in order to make it a big part of what my life and career revolve around these days. 20 years later I am still a freelance designer, but painting is my real passion.
Being based in Austin, Texas, is there anything about your current location which ends up influencing your visual aesthetic or artistic concepts?
Not really. I've only been in Austin for 2.5 years now, but most of what inspires me comes from a more otherworldly, dreamland, meditative state. The big locational inspiration for me was during the three years I lived in Sedona, Arizona before moving to TX. Leaving such a beautiful spot left a hole of-sorts in my heart. The colors, the sky, the mountains. Mountains never played a big role in my work until I had an absence of them outside my window.
I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and moved to Los Angeles when I was 21. Between LA, Palm Springs and Sedona, Arizona that's an accumulative 16 years of always having mountainous views when I step out the door. There is beauty in Texas for sure, but I do very much miss living in the shadow of a mountain. There is a lot of symbolism in their structure that makes its way into most every piece of mine these days.
Do you ever start a painting with a plan of where you are going to take it, or is the whole venture more organic and you feel the way as you go? Talk us through your creative process.
There are pieces that come up occasionally where I have an idea going in, but it's rare. When there is an idea prior, it's loose and more of a compositional thought, which leaves a lot of room for exploration within and around it. Mostly I just see where each piece takes me. It's a process of laying down paint and seeing what reveals itself. It's a beautiful exercise for my mind and spirit to sort through some abstracted strokes, find reason within it, and expand upon that. I get to explore color in a very similar fashion this way; just mix and go, see where it bleeds and runs and moves together. There is always a balance though! Without any real plan, there just seems to be a lot of risk involved. But these risks seem to generally pay off.
Mostly, I just want to feel something when I paint. I want to be curious, or angry, or sentimental. Sometimes it brings me wonder, sometimes it brings back painful memories, but for me, it's always a matter of trying to find feeling. The hope is that if I feel something, maybe it'll spark something within someone else too.
Your imagery contains elements of familiarity from the natural world; jagged mountain ranges; crashing waves; swirling cloudscapes. However, what makes your work truly unique, are the unfamiliar and often surreal abstractions, patterns and forms, which when intertwined with the more familiar elements give the unfolding dramas somewhat different contextual directions. Please give us some insight into your inspirations and what you hope for the viewers of your art to take away with them.
I have always explored spiritual endeavors in my life. They grow and change, their level of importance comes and goes, different things have different meanings at different times in my life. Usually everything is a reflection of the experience I'm having in the moment. I look back at some of my old work and I see the stylistic correlations, but I also see a progression in maturity within myself and my own experiences.
Between spirit and science I generally explore the idea that everything we see, are, or experience is all energy. Ever changing, malleable, expanding and contracting. Physically, mentally, and emotionally we are always under the constant force of change. Crashing waves came in recent years when my 18 year long relationship began to falter and ultimately fail. When everything I thought I knew as security and love was no longer an option. Suddenly, I was on my own, and it very much felt like the walls were caving in, and the very fabric of my reality was forever changing. So it's a process of exploring the visual representation of my literal reality being dismantled and destroyed.
Sometimes it's a dark process that is very much a "dark night of the soul", and other moments I find beauty in micro and macro views of what is happening around me. I have been humbled by my inability to see the bigger picture on many occasions. I hope that my work shows what that journey feels like at times. Whatever people want to make of it is fine though, it's a release for me regardless.
What new turns have the themes you've been exploring with your work taken in recent times? Have there been any specific catalysts for these developments?
Well, all the things I've talked about in previous questions were catalysts, and there are always new ones both good and bad. It's just a reflection on an experience always.
The main theme at this point is just exploring change. It's a constant, and most of us struggle against it even in the face of it's absolutely obvious brute force. It's a little way for me to move with it rather than fight it. I'm also trying to allow a bit more chaos into my work as I move forward.
What has been the most notable highlight or memorable learning experience on your creative journey thus far?
Ugh, that's a tough one. There is no separation from the creative journey and the personal story. So I've learned that I have to be patient with myself, and then in return with my work. That I need to love more, in which it's reflected in my colors and exuberance. I've learned to always leave doors open for exploration. I don't know what is coming, and I don't have all the answers; I can dream but I can't dictate. Sometimes I just have to let go of the rules I have for my work and get messy. I recently started finger painting with my left hand and using a palette knife with my left hand too. Letting go of some control, letting chance be the guide.
Can you discuss what you consider to be your favorite parts of being both a concept designer and a fine artist? What kind of influence does each discipline have on the other?
As a concept designer I am just happy to have had a career where I can make a living off of being creative. I've had the opportunity to travel and work with amazing people all over the world and it's opened a lot of doors for me that I never would have expected. It also has helped me to think about my art in a different manner on many occasions. What I like about my art is that it's completely different in terms of process from my design work. It's tactile, my hands are involved, I get to experiment and explore in ways I haven't been allowed to in design.
What is the most dominant source of motivation for you to make art?
It's just the biggest childhood dream I can hold onto. To hold it, is to remain a kid. To connect with the brightest moments of my life at any time. It challenges me and frustrates me and makes me a better person. It helps me keep a light on in even the darkest of times.
I never want to lose the fascination I felt the first time I picked up a crayon and colored with my mom, or won a blue ribbon at the American Royal Rodeo in the 3rd grade for painting of a cow, haha! Between art and skateboarding, I learned that practice makes perfect. Now, I'm pretty patient with myself when trying new things and partly because of art, I'm confident that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to. I don't know if I was meant to be an artist, but I know I was meant to explore life through these various creative outlets and I never tire of finding new ways to do so.
What do you feel is the most challenging part of being an artist?
Balance. Balance between personal/private life and public. Balance between working hard but not overdoing it. Staying motivated at times. It really all comes down to balance. It's an ongoing act, not a singular place one can passively stay.
Where do you see yourself in ten years' time?
I have no idea. I hope it's beyond my wildest dreams. There better be flying cars by then, or it would be great if they could figure the whole teleportation thing out! There is no reason I shouldn't be able to eat lunch with my favorite friends LA, go for a hike on my favorite trails in Sedona, do dinner and drinks with my family in Missouri, and come home to Austin to paint in the evening to my dog and boyfriend. All in a single day. Is that so much to ask? Otherwise my hopes and aspirations are just for happiness, balance, patience, and good quality of life. Fewer body pains from painting and from the years of skateboarding in my youth would be nice too.
Photos by Ben Aqua.
Shop Anthony's work here: