About the artist

A portrait of our featured artist, Joseph Westrupp

Our interview this week is with Joseph Westrupp. Joseph was born in New Zealand, where he spent most of his life, until 2010, when he moved to the United Kingdom. Joseph’s art is a form of digital collage, using abstract photographs of bones and shells, combined with geometric elements. The result is an intriguing portfolio of minimalist images.

Being able to combine art and tech is just damned fun – Joseph Westrupp

How did you first get into digital art?

Through photography; digital post-processing was the gateway.

Why did you choose digital art as your medium?

I used to paint; setting up oil paints when you don’t have a dedicated studio is a headache. The use of solvents, newspaper to (try to) catch any mess, paint-spattered clothes, storing the canvases, and so on, meant I rarely painted once I left school. Digital art is different; I basically just need my laptop. I love the convenience of making art wherever I am, whether that’s at home, in a coffee shop, or out travelling the world.

Another major factor is the undo function. You have to be careful not to lose yourself in a pit of perfectionism, but the experimentation it enables is invaluable. Digital art provides a degree of flexibility that’s impossible in many other art forms. I’m a technophile; being able to combine art and tech is just damned fun.

Which artistic styles particularly attract you?

A few that come to mind are Surrealism, International Gothic, and Art Deco. Though there aren’t many styles I can’t find something to like in.

Tell us about the process you use to make your art.

I start with a photo; these days it’s typically either of bones, skulls, or shells. The photo will normally look pretty rough as it is, but there’ll be something in it that catches my eye — a particular shape or the overall form, which I’ll isolate digitally.

The next step is to put it on a grey background and start experimenting with crop, size and rotation before adding geometric shapes, and/or somehow splitting it up. That’s the composition part.

The final stage is tone and colour; I’ll play with high and low key schemes, light on a dark background, and vice versa. Often I’ll end up with a few variations, at least one of which will be black and white.

What inspires you?

Not to be glib, but everything. The world is an incredible place burgeoning with inspiration. For instance, walking back from town one day I took a photo with my smartphone of some moss growing on the footpath. I liked how the vibrant green looked against the muted colour of the concrete and wanted to replicate it in an artwork.

What is your artistic motivation?

Creation itself probably. It’s a fraught process for me, but when it all comes together and you’re left with something that pleases your eye, there’s no better feeling.

Of all your images to date, which is your favourite and why?

I don’t have a favourite, I wouldn’t know how to compare them. Plus, they’re inextricably linked to the time and place they were made, which affects my fondness for them. For example, I will look at one image, which reminds me of sitting in a hotel in Croatia at 6 am working on it. Another reminds me of an important creative change of direction, without which I’d still be doing landscape photography. It all adds up to simply not having a metric to determine a favourite.

Which three words or phrases would you use to describe your work?

Surreal, abstract, geometric.

What interesting responses to your artwork have you had?

Oh, too many to say. The nature of abstract work invites pareidolia, so people see all sorts of different unintended things in my art. It’s normally an angle that hasn’t occurred to me, and always makes me smile. To name a few, I’ve had people see monsters, pole dancers, and star signs. Funny given that it’s pretty much all made from bones.

How do you think you’ve improved as an artist compared to when you first started?

I started out with landscape photography and, although it’s possible to make beautiful work in that genre, it’s just not interesting to me. The especially with the sheer volume of landscape imagery being made now, due to the ubiquity of cameras. Therefore, my main improvement over the years has been to find a unique direction to express my creativity.

What devices/equipment do you use to create your art?

I use a DSLR and smartphone to take photos, and a laptop with a mouse to work on the art.

Do you use images from stock sites as well as your own photos and if so, which are your favourites and why?

I did that in the past when I was making skull art. Photos of real skulls yielded the best results, but finding real skulls to photograph wasn’t easy, which is why I resorted to hunting down Creative Commons stuff to incorporate into my pictures. Even then it was difficult, and there wasn’t much to choose from. I haven’t done that for any of my abstract work, though. Using other people’s imagery in my work never felt right.

Do you find that people dismiss digital art as a valid art form?

No. I’ve heard digital artists complaining that people say that, but I’ve never encountered it myself.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and processes with us, Joseph!

Find links to more of Joseph’s art in his entry in the Artists’ Directory.

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