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Obsolete Interview

I did an interview about the ups and downs of my work process, as well as the images that have become obsolete as a result. This interview was conducted while getting ready for a wedding (which essentially means that I was dressed in 5 minutes, but then spent an hour and a half drinking Guinness). It was transcribed from an uncut 20-minute audio recording, so try to ignore as many of the “likes” and “ums” and “shits” as you can.

Here is a link to the interview. It has some older images, italicized questions and clickable secrets (as well as the drawing that started it all). Below is the full transcription of the interview.

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This summer I had the pleasure of interviewing artist Nik Dudukovic about the art he created right around the time he started to take his work seriously—when he was on the cusp of calling himself an artist. Nik was one of six people that I interviewed for an article I wrote for the as of yet unpublished new magazine, The Stacks. Nik, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed and so freely talking about and sharing a drawing that you do not show frequently.

Lee Sheppard: Describe an early piece of art that you made that you still like, but that is unique in your body of work. What do you like about this piece and how is it different from the other work you do?

Nik Dudukovic: It wasn’t different it was just sort of the start. Now it’s different. It was a drawing of an eagle with a snake’s body throwing something up onto the guy that it was growing out of. See it sounds like such stoner stuff when I actually describe it. But um, it was when I realized that if I spent more than half an hour on something it would look like I spent more than half an hour on it. It doesn’t look like the stuff I do now, but I still like it ’cause of that realization.

L: How does it look different?

ND: Well, different in the same way that the black and white stuff that I’m doing now looked two years ago, where right now if I did that drawing it wouldn’t make the grade you know?

L: Just ‘cause of the rendering quality?

ND: Yeah, but also the way you learn to invest time in it and the way you look at your own work. Or again, it wouldn’t pass the grade. It wouldn’t fit into any sort of theme at this point. It was just sort of I wanna draw this. Kinda like in Billy Madison when he’s like, “I drew a blue duck ’cause I’ve never seen a blue duck” and blah blah blah, that kinda thing.

L: You’d never seen a flying snake barfing —?

ND: A flying snake eagle—

L: Barfing on the body it was growing out of?

ND: Not often. I saw one in the pond when I was smoking {behind the house where we spoke}.

L: There’s one that frequents this neighbourhood.

ND: There are posters around the neighbourhood.

L: “Have you seen my pet? Runaway flying snake thing. Will puke.”*

ND: That’s good.

L: How does it look different than your current work?

ND: Physically it’s the line work. Right now if I drew a leaf, even if it was like an inch by an inch, it could take an hour to draw. Whereas these leaves were sort of what led to the way I draw now. Or scales in this case, ’cause it was a snake.

L: The textures were . . .

ND: They were just more loose. Not to sound like one of those people that’s like, “if you follow my work . . .”

L: But . . .

ND: But if you do, you know it started off as nothing ’cause I just did, like, homework art. I did art when I was asked to by school. Then eventually it started getting messy and drippy. Then I added colour to that and I realized colour didn’t work. But I also realized that you can only go so far with messy or drippy, where you’re just like relying on a technique as opposed to like the substance or why you’re using that technique. Then, that’s where the style began to evolve. That drawing {the vomiting serpent-raptor-man egg} was done sort of in between super messy and super tight. So it was kind of like half way in between. It was a bit of both.

L: Describe an early piece of art that you made that you are embarrassed by or that is no longer consistent with your work, but that anticipates a major work or series of pieces that you have completed or are currently working on. In other words, is there work that you don’t show people? Does this work relate to what you currently do, even though it doesn’t quite fit?

ND: Like I said before we started the interview my Mom decided to frame everything single thing from high school and put it up around the house. I don’t usually cringe when I look at the past, but I’m constantly reminded that I should cringe every day when I walk by them. But at the same time I think I approached those the same way I do now, but I just feel now this is kinda what I do so I know why I do it and why I approach it a certain way. As opposed to back then where I was like, “Wow, I spent three hours on this painting” and I’d do two paintings a year type thing. It was a different approach.

L: Like the way you approach making as opposed to the way you approach subject matter?

ND: But I think it hasn’t changed a lot, sort of why you like the idea of something before you do it and why you follow through with it.

L: Are you saying the content of those images is similar?

ND: Like in the first answer how I said there’s an evolution of style, there’s also an evolution of content. But, I mean, in five years I might look back on what I’m doing now and think the content isn’t as good as it is in 2014.

L: In a way you probably hope that’s true.

ND: You hope that you don’t look back and think that, “shit 2009 was the best, it’s all behind me.”

L: What one of the pieces your mom put up is the most difficult for you to look at?

ND: There’s one in my mom’s living room. I was at the ROM with a friend and we decided . . . there was a tour going around that we didn’t pay for, but we just kinda latched on and the guy led us around. We sorta just tried to make ourselves scarce, but we were trying to listen to what he was saying. And we went to the knights in armour pavilion or whatever and there was one . . . the way one of the window displays was set up it was just like one knight raining blows down upon another from above. It’s one of those things when you just see something for some reason it’s burned in your memory or just clicks. You know, you kind of take it and twist it your own way and make it a painting. In grade 12 you realize you can’t paint it this way so you’re gonna paint it this way and then justify why you painted it that way. It’s probably one of the first times that I realized what it takes to make something worth looking at and relatable as opposed to just taking a photo of something and just saying, “oh, this is a photo of a chair that my girlfriend called me on for the first time.” And it’s a bad photo and nobody cares. It takes a lot more than having it personal to you and expecting everybody else to relate to it the same way.

L: So what’s the image actually look like?

ND: It’s so stupid. Oh my God. It’s just brutal. It’s just this thing laying on the ground. It’s aweful.

L: Like a knight in armour?

ND: Kinda just a thing made of bone on it’s back and this other thing floating above it, not in an action pose, but maybe pre action pose. Something’s about to happen, like you caught the snapshot before something happened or maybe after something happened. It’s just black and red and green and everything’s straight out of the tube. Just really shitty. And I got into OCAD with that painting.

L: Is the thing above it bone too?

ND: No. It’s like misty and like foggy and smoky.

L: But it’s like a form?

ND: Yeah. The same way a genie coming out of a lamp is a form. It’s kinda like a half a form.

L: Is it acrylic paint?

ND: It’s acrylic, but I didn’t even have enough acrylic so—when acrylic starts drying, which is really quickly, and you keep trying to smear it, it looks like it’s been like burnt and just burnished. So there’s a lot of hot spots and really thick areas of paint and then like, super thin—just like trying to stretch it out.

L: Where you can really see the canvas underneath?

ND: Yep. Sounds awesome, I’m sure.

L: And it was part of your portfolio to get into OCAD?

ND: Yep. And it also taught me that if you just say something with enough conviction to somebody that’s in a position of power over you, they’ll believe you.

If your work’s amazing and somebody says, “Oh I like your stuff. What’d you think of it? Why’d you do it?” And you say, “Oh, I don’t know, I don’t think much. I just do it.” They’re gonna think, “Oh, this guy’s kinda dumb and his work is dumb” all of a sudden. If you just blather on and on and just quote stuff eventually—this just circular, like, Marshall McLuhan logic—and just quote enough stuff that has nothing to do with what you’re actually talking about, but in the end, just one word ties it all together, doesn’t actually, but it sounds like it does, then it’s as good as sold.

L: Is there a method or approach to art making that has become obsolete in your practice?

ND: I think the messy stuff, which I really like doing. I did a whole series, that one that was in the second Pilot book—like that was little on the pages, the messy people—you know, I did like a hundred of them in less than an hour and it was just sitting staring out the window and watching people walk by and just capturing a three second pose in really messy ink. Now that it’s evolved to so much detail and just like—at this point if I accidentally smudge a line that could undo three hours of work—that the messy stuff? I can’t bring myself to fill an eyedropper with ink and just spray it around once everything’s been done. I still like how it looks and I still like to do it. But the reason it’s obsolete is that it could just cancel out all the other work that’s been done. It’s just too nerve wracking to actually do it. To start with it? Then you rush everything else.

L: Do you feel like you’ve lost anything by getting away from that process?

ND: I didn’t, but one of my thesis professors seemed really disappointed. He said he saw it going somewhere and there was so much life in them. It’s sort of like when somebody tells you in past tense what your work looked like and it’s all really positive, it’s like an underhanded way of saying this is what I think of it now. Like, “You used to be so much fun, you used to be awesome.” But it’s one of those things where, if you’re happy with it now, then there’s no regret.

L: Do you think the current work has the same vitality as those?

ND: I think so, because the old work was, it’s kind of easy to win people over with a ton of dots and spray and just like mess, but like controlled chaos type thing. But it’s the kind of work you look at and say, “Oh, that shit is cool.” But nobody really likes it enough to want to buy it and look at it for any longer than the ten minutes of looking at it and the twenty minutes that it took to draw it. I think now it’s more about somebody seeing a piece from ten feet away and liking its shape and then seeing it from ten inches away, liking all the detail and throughout the night they just keep coming back to it. And it’s sort of like that long vitality where they’ll always find something new they wanna look at every other day or every week or every time they look at it. It’s reflective of the way I work. The same way you look at messy stuff is the same way that it was drawn and the same way you look at detailed stuff is the same way that it’s created. Just listening to an audio book of somebody talking and all you’re doing is sitting there in silence listening to somebody talk and drawing dots as opposed to listening to Metallica and spraying stuff around. Nothing wrong with Metallica, but I’m just saying it’s two sides of the coin type thing.

I like where my work is going and I still keep discovering new stuff, but the discoveries don’t jump out at you as much. It’s just little things that sort of help the process along or make the final product look a little bit better. Whereas when I was doing the messy stuff I bought a really big eyedropper to spray big crap with and now it’s like I do detailed stuff and I bought this spray and once I spray the drawing it changes the opacity by five percent and only I notice it, but it’s like the little things now. I’m not that much of a creature of that kind of habit. So I’m not really that attached to the style. I can see it changing a bunch and why not? I don’t wanna draw the same way for sixty more years.

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BarfSnake, for those who didn't click the link


About Nik Dudukovic

Artist & Illustrator - Toronto, Canada

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