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Home FEATURES Marc Bell Interview

Marc Bell Interview
Written by Trippe   
Wednesday, 30 September 2009 02:16
He almost killed a co-worker once, prefers a cheese burger over fish-n-chips... oh, and has a new book, HOT POTATOE, out through Drawn and Quarterly.
Hailing from Montreal, Canada, Marc Bell's work is constantly negotiating between disparate influences including comics, folk art, popular culture and Fine Art. Embedded in his drawings is complex and layered wordplay that allude to these influences while remaining deeply funny. Bell's works vary from pen and ink drawings colored with subtle watercolors, to comics, to elaborate mixed media cardboard constructions, and, put all together for the first time in HOT POTATOE, provide a comprehensive portrait of a multi-talented and influential contemporary artist. Marc Bell's book HOT POTATOE shall be released this October through Drawn and Quarterly.

Marc Bell is the author of several books including SHRIMPY AND PAUL (Highwater) and THE STACKS (Drawn & Quarterly), as well as the editor of NOG A DOD (Conundrum Press, PictureBox). Marc is represented by Adam Baumgold Gallery in Manhattan.

Marc is going to be in San Francisco for the Alternative Press Expo on October 17th and 18th.

Age? Location? Artistic education?

37 going on 38. Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I went to an arts high school in London, Ontario called Bealart which allowed me to enter 2nd year University Fine Arts. In University became more and more behind in my academic courses and didn't get my BFA. There is a more complicated version but I don't want to bore your readers.

Tell us a little bit about your new book that's due out soon?

I have an advance copy here, it is fairly mighty and it will be out around mid-October. It's called HOT POTATOE and there is ALOT of stuff in it.

Fish-n-chips or a cheese burger?

I suppose a cheese burger. The classic. Fish and Chips are never a good idea as they sound. As much as I like the idea of eating them they are always too greasy.

Describe your process of creating a new piece.

That depends what kind of piece I am working on. If I am working on a watercoloured drawing it is fairly straightforward. I could explain further if you like (the specifics) but they are essentially that (an ink drawing that is watercoloured). My mixed media pieces are a little different/more involved in that they can go through all sorts of changes. I have a couple boxes of "scrap" material that I go through to select things to get the image going. The scraps are usually old drawing scraps of mine or paper I find interesting. Sometimes they are actually half-finished works or pieces of pieces that didn't work out that I decided might be better composed into something new later on. Anyway, so I gather some things and begin and see how it goes. In some cases I will compose one of these works and work on it over a long period of time and then decide I am not happy with it and then cut it up and it ends up being used to create several new pieces. For example: recently I was working on a 20" x 15" piece and decided it just wasn't working and so that was cut down into three stand alone pieces and there were several other parts were leftover and these elements were integrated into (I think) three other works. So I like it to be changing and shifting in an attempt to keep myself engaged. Sometimes these things just become uninteresting to me and something must be done about it.

Ever almost die? If so, tell us about it.

I almost accidentally killed a co-worker way back when. I do not know if I could have lived with it. At least I do know that he is a Christian and I could have imagined him in heaven forgiving me. He escaped unharmed but it was close.

What materials do you normally work in?

For the watercoloured works I use: "Professional" Windsor Newton watercolours, good watercolour paper like Fabriano or Arches "blocks", watercolour brushes, technical pens and koh -i-noor ink and dip pens (HUNT 107).

For the mixed media pieces I use a combinations of things: all kinds of scraps of crappy paper that has a pattern or texture I like or a drawing or a "doodle" on them I like. FW acrylic inks, Board, Brushes and white glue.

New York or Paris?

I have never been to Paris but I might go soon as "Shrimpy and Paul and Friends" (my first book) is being translated into French by Cornelius in Paris. I may try to go to Angouleme.

If you had to explain your work to a stranger, how would you do it?

That is always hard. I say "cartoony art" sometimes but in my minds eye, that makes me picture all sorts of work I may not really like and so I wince and embarrass myself and people wonder what's wrong. Recently, I explained my painted/collage stuff as "folk"-y. I don't pretend to be some kind of self-taught artist but my painting skills are sort of rudimentary the way I see it (compared to my drawing ability) and I like it that way. Sort of. I want the painted things to have a bit of a sophisticated but crude/hommade look to them. Like an interesting quilt (if you follow me). If you look at something like those quilts from Gee's Bend, those are more interesting to me than the "finest" NY abstract art. I'd rather my mixed media stuff look a bit like a homemade "contraption" or a well-worked object than look like what one might think of when they think of "cartoony art". When I look at HC Westermann's work I am pretty blown away by how he works in this way (high-low craft). My drawings and comics sometimes resemble Science Fiction or Fantasy Art I suppose which probably has something to do with growing as a boy in the 1970's.

What comics were you interested in as a kid and besides art what else interested you?

I wasn't really that interested in regular comics store kind of comics, I am not even sure how aware I was of them when I was a kid, but I was interested in all sorts of cartoony stuff like Mad magazine and Richard Scarry and lots of other stuff like Star Wars and Micronauts and legos. I didn't like sports but I liked running around in the woods and "pretending". I was pretty into Star Wars, I remember drawing a comic in a doodle pad of what I imagined the third installment to be like. I got into "weird" comics as a teenager after seeing Yummy Fur by Chester Brown and Neat Stuff by Peter Bagge.

How long have you lived in Montreal and what brought you there?

I've lived here for a little over a year. I lived here about 14 years ago so I have come full circle I suppose. I moved here from Toronto, where I was only about 6 months. I like Toronto but it is expensive there and I couldn't kid myself that I was a real "go-getter" any longer. Before that I lived in Vancouver for about 8 years in two different apartments in the same building. I made a lot of work in that time!

What do love most about living there?

It is inexpensive. I don't have a lot of real attachments to this city which is sometimes good and sometimes bad. I don't speak french and so I live in kind of a bubble. It's a beautiful city and also is (strangely) the cheapest one in Canada to live in (other than Winnipeg, but they have tons of musquitoes) so it gets my vote for now. Also, Drawn and Quarterly is here so it has been real handy to work with them on the book here.

If I came out for a visit what would we do/ where would you take me?

Well, if you like Gravy and Cheese Curds and French Fries we could go get Poutine. That's the obvious one but it should be done. There are all sorts of other things to do depending on your tastes and style. If you are Roman Catholic and it is New Years Day I could take you to this giant church where they walk up the stairs on their knees. Inside it is like a Catholic amusement park with a gift shop and the heart of a saint or something on display.

What are you really excited about right now?

I am excited about my book Hot Potatoe coming out and my Hot Potato show at Adam Baumgold Gallery and seeing what is around the corner from there. I think I am supposed to look at an "unbound" copy today so that is pretty exciting, yes. I am also excited about Shrimpy and Paul being translated into French by Cornelius in Paris. And I might even try to go to Angouleme.

Beavis or Butthead?

I actually don't know the difference. Can I answer "IDIOCRACY"?

When are you the most productive?

Right about now. Mid afternoon and early evening. This sometimes changes with the weather.

Favorite trip taken?

Japan for sure. Amazing. That was last year. I had never been off the continent!

What brought you out there? Work? Play? Hired assassin?

Japan is the only time I've traveled outside of North America. My friend Shayne Ehman was asked to show there at a place called Tokyo Wonder Site and so he then asked if Seth Scriver could join him (they have been working on this epic animation about a cross-Canada hitch-hiking trip together called "Asphalt Watches") and so that led to him asking me as well and the show was called "Shayne Ehman and Friends". My part in the show was relatively minor but that was ok, it was fun to just go to Japan and not have TOO much to do and walk around.

Music?

Right now I am listening to Gene Clark. Lately I have been listening to some less "crazy" music like this and Tommy James to calm my aging nerves. But in the "crazy" dept I have been checking out these Eugene Chadbourne records where he worked with The Sun City Girls and Camper Van Bethoven. Also, I had never listened to Tubeway Army before, it's pretty good. Stand-by's: The Feelies, New Zealand pop, first Men Without Hats record, The Stranglers, old mix tapes made by my friends Trish and Kip, Can and The Fall (Mark E. Smith is one of my favourite lyricists/writers),

What were you like in high school?

I had long hair with funny bangs because my mom didn't think I should have hair in my eyes. There is a picture in Hot Potatoe of this era and people love it (thanks Mom!). I was very short till grade 11. High School is not what I want to remember but I suppose I was alright depending on your perspective. It's hard for me to say. I was naively opinionated. Kind of like now but with less perspective. I certainly was not a hit with the young ladies of Saunders Secondary School. That all sounds so negative but it could have been worse in all sorts of ways.

Last good film you saw.

A few, can't decide. "The Wrong Guy" starring Dave Foley. "Welfare" by Frederick Wiseman. "Angelo, My Love" by Robert Duval. This great movie Paul Newman made with a really long name, something to do with the "Effect of Radiation" and "the Man on the Moon".

Charles Glaubitz wanted to ask you: Hey, whatever happenned to tough worn elbow #2 from Fantagraphics? Did it ever come out?

Hi Charles. Worn Tuff Elbow is on hiatus. I gave up my weekly and have been ignoring comics for the past while. I may return to the comics if I get a graphics novel grant! "Comics Ain't Buttah!"

A few artists you're excited about right now.

Many of my hoser peers that appeared in Nog A Dod, I always like to see what they are doing. I'm excited about Owen Plummers new high-fashion angle (in conjunction with "Luella"). I also enjoy the work of many Yankee Doodle Dandies too numerous to mention here but I should mention Chicago was a real hot bed for a while, beginning with the work of HC Westermann.

Upcoming projects and/ or upcoming shows, etc...?

-Hot Potatoe solo exhibition and launch at Adam Baumgold Gallery, October 15th, 2009
-Hot Potatoe Book Tour is listed at marcbelldept.blospot.com
-There is an interview in "Hot Potatoe" if you wish to see it. There is also one linked to on my blog. I can dig it up if you want it.
-Solo show at Owens Art Gallery in January 2010. Owens Art Gallery is part of Mount Allison University in Sackville, NB. This is where I went to Art School
-Shrimpy and Paul being published by Corneius in time for Angouleme Comics Festival (in France)

SOME STUDIO SHOTS

Links:
adambaumgoldgallery.com
marcbelldept.blogspot.com
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Serge Gay Jr. @Spoke Art

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Sun Milk in Vienna

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While walking our way across San Francisco on Saturday we swung through the opening receptions for Kirk Maxson and Alexis Mackenzie at Eleanor Harwood Gallery in the Mission.


Jeremy Fish Solo Show in Los Angeles

Jeremy Fish opens Hunting Trophies tonight, Saturday April 5th, at the Los Angeles based Mark Moore Gallery. The show features new work from Fish inside the "hunting lodge" where viewers climb inside the head of the hunter and explore the history of all the animals he's killed.


The Albatross and the Shipping Container

Beautiful piece entitled "The Albatross and the Shipping Container", Ink on Paper, Mounted to Panel, 47" Diameter, by San Francisco based Martin Machado now on display at FFDG. Stop in Saturday (1-6pm) to view the group show "Salt the Skies" now running through April 19th. 2277 Mission St. at 19th.


The Marsh Barge - Traveling the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to quit my job, move out of my house, leave everything and travel again. So on August 21, 2013 I pushed a canoe packed full of gear into the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, along with four of my best friends. Exactly 100 days later, I arrived at a marina near the Gulf of Mexico in a sailboat.


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