Meet Chicago Artist Cam Collins
I stumbled across the Chicago-based artist on Twitter. A friend-of-a-friend had retweeted some of his artwork and it wasn’t long before I found myself scrolling way too far on his Instagram page. He only displays snippets of his work on there, but it’s enough to indulge in. It was hard to decipher whether I was captivated by the depth within every sketched face or the fact he was just bordering 18-years-old. An artist beyond his years, Cam allows us to connect with strangers in his artwork; minimal in explanation, but the sentiment is evident. I got the chance to ask him all the questions that popped into my mind and you can find them below along with a few samples of his work.
What are your largest influences?
Big influences for me are movies for the most part, even though I didn’t want to admit it for the longest time. Movies have a whole singular story to them, along with music, scenery, and writing that all kind of has to work well with each other, despite contrasting genres at times. Photography is really big for me too, even though it is not something I intentionally go searching for, photography is best for me when someone takes me to a photography show and I end up liking specific photographs.
At what age or stage in your life did you really begin drawing?
I knew I wanted to be an artist since I was 4, but I had started doing things I saw older people that I thought was cool when I was about 7. I made a lot of books, and when I was 8 or 9 I wrote an entire 256-page book just so I could draw a cover for it, because I always liked the cover of books and that’s how I chose them usually. I knew I wanted my art to be on things people saw every day, and being part of the world seemed really cool to me. I guess I just didn’t have any other job in my mind because I had a lot of support for the whole “artist thing” because of my grandfather (Fred Anderson, also an artist), and the only time I heard people giving me the idea that art was “risky” was when I started going to an arts high school. That fact is a bit funny, but not in a laughing way, but just in the way that you would look to the side and wonder why that would be the case in the first place (I laughed a bit actually, so I guess it is a laughing kind of funny).
A lot of artists were inspired to start creating because of artists they learned about growing up; Do you have an artist that inspires you?
I could probably make a timeline off of the artists that have inspired me throughout the years (I have a whole documented list). I think they all have their similarities and I actually find myself not regretting that I liked any of them. From when I was 8 (the time I made my book), I loved the artist behind Final Fantasy VI artwork, Yoshitaka Amano. I got the game and the guidebook for the cover (it’s always covers) and the amount of elements in his pictures excited me, but also made me envious at the same time, so I wanted to do as much as I could to do the kind of stuff he was doing, but made sure I was doing my own characters and whatnot. Then once I was 13, I had an entire phase of Junji Ito (Uzumaki) and Hergé (Tintin), which was really a library accident, but I was happy I found those two. At 15, I had a huge thing for James Jean’s paintings and Edgar Degas. I liked Degas’ pastels and he’s actually the one that made me start using a lot more color and feeling okay with being kind of soft and expressive with my work. He also had tons of people in his work and I have always been interested in the figure. I also like Henri Toulouse-Lautrec for the same reasons as Degas (a lot of people actually confuse the two), but Lautrec has good humor and fit my playful style a lot more. Right now, I’m interested in James Jean, Lautrec, Takato Yamamoto, Charlie Brooker (the creator of Black Mirror), and Hirohiko Araki (creator of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure).
Does your childhood at all have an influence?
I watched Blues Clues and it had a lot of shapes, along with me organizing my cars in colors.
Have your influences changed over the years?
My direct influences usually change every month or two, it always depends on what kind of music or movie I’ve been watching. I’ve noticed a pattern to always lean toward asymmetric compositions and narrative, though. I don’t like the center all that much, too much pressure.
Is your work inspired by your own experiences or sometimes, what’s going on in our current society?
My own work is usually experiences that I don’t think I, or anyone, would possibly ever have to deal with, but in the end the essence and lasting thought of the experience I have created in my piece would be the same as a mundane experience that one could have in real life. That’s why it’s a bit challenging to say that it’s my own experience. Even if it is my own experience, it’s something very simple, like someone going up 2 stairs instead of one stair. While that is a very small thing to really consider, there must be some reason that a lot of people don’t go up the same amount of stairs. The answers to those questions come out simple: “I go up 2 stairs because I’m healthy”, “I only go up 1 stair because I’m tired”. Those are all valid answers, but there is a lot of context behind the choices people make, so the process of myself making a piece about the context and expanding on the concept of some people doing something more than the other person would act on is fun. The lasting effect of a situation could be an emotion, but that’s the case for a lot of artwork, so I generally put a lot of other elements that are symbols for the concept of the narrative in the piece as well. When I am making my work, I never have a real social case in my mind, but a lot of people just happen to see similarities between the fictional experiences in my pieces and the real life experience they have. It’s like learning another language, but with pictures instead of words.
What is your creative process like? Do you need to be in a certain setting or mood?
As far as I know, my creative process so far has always started with a color I see everything as for about a week. There is a certain time period where everything I do kind of just goes under one sort of soundtrack and everything is a certain shade of something (it doesn’t even have to be a colored shade). So, I do need to be in a certain mood, but I think I have good control over how I use that mood. I also start moving with excitement and have a lot of energy, so I know it’s time to start when I feel yellow stars with my walking. The act of drawing for me is a very active experience, not in the sense that I move around a lot, but I’m thinking of different movements as if I am making a movie in my head with millions of frames, even though my picture can only be one. With that said, my piece usually just starts out with a reference (no sketching, I get too caught up and restricted in sketches), and then I go from there and the narrative ends up finding itself.
What is your preference, portraits or scenes/situations and why?
After doing a project I made for myself, Portrait-A-Day, for 1300 days, I’m a little tired of sticking with one face. I just got headaches and I wanted to add stuff behind the portraits that gave them context. I love doing scenes, and always have, solely for the purpose of having more things to do, and I like working a lot. There is also more thinking in it for me as well, mainly because I must figure out how things will be layered and how many people I can add in contrast to objects. Even though once the final piece is done, there are so many people that the figures only look as important as the other objects. Even though in my head, I notice that the people are usually controlled by the objects that I, myself, have put into the piece.
Do you have an artistic era you favor?
I definitely favor the Impressionist Figure drawings and 60’s and early 2000’s graphic design/photography choices.
Are there any reoccurring characters or themes in your drawings?
I don’t intend it, but a re-occurring theme that most people notice is greed and abundance. It’s a bit odd, but some people say that the idea of a person in my piece having so much is very pleasing for them. The ending result for a lot of my pieces is that there is a lasting blame to the choices that the people have made, and that the little society they live in is only made up of how they always saw things. There is a system, and it is pleasing to see in an art piece, even though in real life, a lot of people are against a strict system. That’s not the objective, but it’s good to notice things like that.
Have you considered illustrating for short films or cartoons?
Yeah, I honestly think I kept on drawing because I kept reading comics, so if I did end up illustrating for books at some point, I wouldn’t be surprised by my decision. I just like drawing lots of people in rectangles, so it comes down to that.
Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
In 10 years, I will do covers and illustrations for books and albums (I already do work for the Chicago band Manwolves), along with having lots of art shows. My art could be on clothes and stickers, and on a box of candy — I’ve always wanted my art to be on a box of mints. Doing art for those things would be the ideal situation, but the fun of it would be doing artwork for things I couldn’t even imagine I would get into. Those are the moments where I feel like I’m part of the world.
You can find more of Cam Collins artwork here: camcollins.us