Interview with Paul Campbell

Artist Paul Campbell is an abstract painter based in Brooklyn, New York. Campbell favors non-conventional painting tools such spikey balls and remote-control cars over paintbrushes, to create surreal and emotionally rich scenes, where viewers have seen anything from fireworks to flowers. Le Journal spoke to Paul Campbell in his studio, located inside the historical Brooklyn Navy Yard.

When did you decide to become an artist?
I don’t remember making a conscious decision to become an artist, it just happened somehow. At a very young age I remember other kids asking me to help them with their art assignments. Strangely no one in my family had any interest in art, music, or theater but they were always very supportive of my passion for art. I’m very thankful to them for that.

What turns you away from traditional painting methods? What methods do you prefer?
I like to use very quirky methods of painting particularly at the outset of the work. Finding experimental ways to remove my hand from the process produces interesting results. For several years I’ve used kids toys, GPS tracking, balls, and common household items like string etc. to paint with. Once a painting is underway I tend to work back into it using more traditional techniques. Combining these methods works for me.

Paul Campbell
Paul Campbell

Do you feel that your New York base influences your work?
Sure. I think everyone is influenced by their environment and New York is an intense place. I’ve traveled quite a bit for art shows and projects but Brooklyn has been my home for many years. I can’t really imagine living anyplace else but who knows. The internet has made it less imperative to live in an art hub but for me it’s still vital.

How do you feel the online art world has affected the market?
I’m not the best one to ask about art market trends but clearly the internet has influenced everything and art is not immune. I like the idea of the internet creating a more democratic art environment. It’s great that anyone can post work online and get immediate responses from an international audience. This expansion of the audience is very interesting. The brilliant curator Bill Arning did a show many years ago about the projected audience. The show raised the questions about who artists were really making work for. Was it for you friends, art critics, your lover, the art market, etc. It was a fascinating idea then and I still find it interesting now but one almost has to consider the internet audience now.

What do you think are the challenges for fine artists in this world of digital innovation?
There are many challenges. One is to be able to stick to your guns and not be too influenced by “likes”. Another is to make work that holds up in person not just digitally.

What do you think the future holds for art galleries?
I’m not sure but it’s clear that high rents are stretching the limits of brick and mortar galleries and the art fairs are especially tough for mid level galleries to sustain financially. The internet offers some very interesting alternatives but in the end art is best seen in person so I think some combination of the two might be ideal.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
The first important curator that visited my studio when I was fresh in New York said make lots of smaller works so you can get them out there. After he left I continued making huge paintings. I love working large but of course from a practical perspective he was right. Now I make large and small works.