WILDCAT WILL BLANCHARD: Nonconformist
WILDCAT WILL BLANCHARD is a multidisciplinary artist and creative voice who has been practicing for over 20 years. His art explores contemporary urban life by considering his personal reaction to what is going on around him. He has been exhibited at the Stephen Webster Gallery in Los Angeles, the Royal Academy in London, and the Lebenson Gallery in Paris. Here he talks to Will Kitson about originality, staying true to his voice, and counter-culture.
Interview by Will Kitson
Let’s start at the beginning. With a nickname like Wildcat is it safe to assume that you have always been creative? As a child were you encouraged by your parents to express yourself freely?
Yes my parents were always very encouraging with drawing, painting and music. I grew up in a household with 3 brothers, 6 dogs, 8 cats and a whole menagerie of all kinds of exotic animals and birds with a big garden, pretty idyllic, where our imaginations were allowed to run free. My mother was artistic and quite good at drawing and encouraged us all to paint a whole wall of our living room with trees and animals!!! This was in the 70’s and she also loved music and dancing and bought me my first drumkit! I think she secretly wanted to play drums and be an artist herself but was a full time mother and housewife. My father’s interests were botany and plants so growing things were his creative passion and also building things such as birdcages so I loved carpentry and using tools to make things in a primitive fashion.
You’ve said that your art is very subjective, a sort of personal reaction to what is going on around you. Do you remember the first time you felt you’d found your unique creative voice?
I remember writing a poem that was published in a school magazine at the age of 8 and felt very proud to be a published poet!! Also I won a painting competition around that time at a village fete so obviously competition was compelling to me. I used to draw animals a lot and did a picture of a vole and got the shiny reflection of its eyes right and that was very satisfying!! Also my first sculpture was using all of my dad’s nails to hammer into a piece of wood, quite like an African fetish, though I don’t think he was too happy about using all his nails. I liked banging them with a hammer which is maybe why my mum bought me the drumkit!!! My whole family has inherited a hoarding/collecting gene and so my bedroom was filled with a museum of objects that I collected, which was in fact how I started collaging objects and images together. It’s something I’ve always done and still do in my recent work.
You are a multidisciplinary artist. How does your creative process differ between your music and your visual art?
I see it as a very similar process creatively, making assemblage or collage and making musical tracks. Choosing materials and images are like musical sounds or instruments and layering and juxtaposing them together, sometimes limiting myself deliberately to make more with less. Putting together a show can be assimilated to writing and recording an album of tracks, each piece is individual but has a flow and consistency that complements the others to make some kind of continuity(hopefully!). The same applies to djing and how I play records back to back. A story unfolds, whether in the lyrics of a song or a riff. It’s all energy flow in the end that has a harmony to it. So a piece of work may affect someone in the same way that a song does, if that makes sense?!!! Music and art are languages really, I suppose. Also music is a very important part of my creative process and I have to have music on in the background while I work. Apparently Andy Warhol used to play the same 45 record over and over whilst he painted which I find fascinating in the repetition of familiarity and how that affected his work i.e. repeating the same image over and over. Music affects my art and vice versa!
Many of our readers struggle with overcoming blocks with regards to their creative projects. Tell us about a time or a project in which you overcame a fear or doubt. How did you push through?
Haha! Nearly every time I go into my studio can be a challenge!!!
A year ago I felt like giving up and frustrated that I wasn’t getting anywhere, but creativity is hard and takes time, maybe often a lifetime with or without success. What drives us is new ideas and seeking to perfect our craft, practicing an instrument until you master it takes years and then to become a virtuoso takes many more years. I didn’t make any art for 10 years. I was bored with my paintings and also busy drumming and DJing. I needed to find a way back in (the fear of the blank canvas was too great! Pacing like a hunter trying to make the first mark!!). So I tried things I had never done before, like making stencils and using spray paints. I returned to collage and assemblage and booked a show so that I had a deadline and just enjoyed myself experimenting freely with no worry if it was any good or not. I found some of my earliest works from 20 years ago in the attic of my parents’ house and submitted them along with my new work as there was the same feeling and process with them.
The show was well received and reignited my love of art and gave me the confidence to carry on and try and make it as a full time artist, basically the same as when recording in the studio. Some days the creativity flows fast and pure and I can hardly keep up with myself, working on several pieces at a time! Other days are dogged with technical problems or just not feeling where it is going. The best thing is to either down tools and leave it for the rest of the day, don’t force it, or start a new piece or musical track to divert attention when things are stuck. Sometimes it takes me months to find the missing idea or component, or another process to finish a piece. Or if I really don’t have any ideas I will make a piece that doesn’t have an idea, making a piece of nonsense, to try and get the creative energy flowing, it may become something great and it may be nothing but it helps to not get too serious or hung up on a particular piece of work. I called my show in Los Angeles earlier “NEVER GIVE UP!” to make a point to always keep believing and dreaming, nothing is impossible and keep trying! Creating art and music are not for the faint hearted!!! So keep going at all costs and one day you will get there even if it takes a lifetime!
You’ve always been counter-culture and stayed true to your passions. What advice would you give to those who are embarking upon their creative journeys? How can they maintain their individuality?
Think for yourself. Know what you know. Take inspiration from the things in life that you love! Everybody is influenced by others before them. My art is full of my influences, it’s a language so use cultural reference from your heroes, artistically or musically, whichever or from nature, it’s all around us. Be true to your self and believe in what you are doing. Like Louise Borgeoise once said, ”stand by your art and defend it!” I have fought all my life to be an individual, perhaps an outsider more interested in the underground rather than the mainstream, to make my own identity and be original, I am a gestalt (A physical, biological, psychological, or symbolic configuration or pattern of elements so unified as a whole that its properties cannot be derived from a simple summation of its parts) of all my heroes and influences from cinema, literature, midcentury modern art and music.
One word to describe Wild Cat Will today:
Published: December 11th, 2014