Interview with Russ Spitkovsky

By September 12, 2016Interview

MM&S:   Tell us a bit about who you are and your career as a print maker and illustrator.

Russ:   I love to draw and I’m not great with people. The most amazing feeling is when the image is working and your thoughts unravel into dialogue and story arcs and the world that you’re creating is the only one there is.  It’s been impossible for me to replicate in the conscious state and I’m constantly drawn to that moment.

I was born in Kiev Ukraine and immigrated to the US  with my family in 1992. I learned printmaking from the mighty Bruce Waldman at the school of visual arts and later picked up some more techniques at the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop.

RBPMW had an enormous impact on me as far as seeing how different people approach image making and deal with an incredibly intimidating art world outside of the studio. I was also fortunate to meet some amazing likeminded artists both at the printshop and at SVA that cared more about the sincerity of their artwork than it’s commercial appeal.

Together we founded Carrier Pigeon, a magazine of illustrated writing and fine art so we could have an outlet for that work. A few years later we founded Guttenberg Arts, a multidisciplinary artist residency so more artists could have the chance to create what they feel is important without any guiding hands.

Both haven’t been commercial successes but I like them, I think everyone involved does too, but I’m not really sure since I’m not great with people.

MM&S:   I love the idea of putting “creative control into the hands of the contributing writers, illustrators, fine artists and designers in order to promote respectful interdisciplinary collaboration”.  How did this come into your head? How was this born?

Russ:   Carrier Pigeon is an attempt to start clean without a hierarchy of opinions.  Kind of like creating a pocket universe where people are treated the way you’d like to be. The idea of giving full control to the artists involved in the publication was always in our heads and just seemed obvious when we began talking about the format. We wanted a place where we could not just publish our work but try out any ideas we wanted without the fear of having them stomped out by a comity.

MM&S:   While the magazine was created with the ideal of challenging the concept of a hierarchy among artistic disciplines, how have those goals grown or changed over time?

Russ:   I don’t think we ever wanted to challenge, we’re not a competitive bunch. That concept will always exists and I like to think of it and us as two ships passing in the ocean having nothing to do with each other. I think we wanted to see if it could be done and how far it could go and I’m always amazed by the results.

MM&S:   What sacrifices and trade-offs do you make in order to produce the publication and how do you balance your time with its creation with your continued fine art career?

Russ:   I see it all as my work. I think if you approach anything that you do with an artistic intent it’s easy to lose yourself in the moment and become part of the picture. I think it’s all art.

MM&S:   Have you seen a growth in your own art from the association with such a wide variety of artists or do you feel that you have a clear creative road that you follow?

Russ:   The more artists that I work with the more unclear the road becomes, but it’s in a good way. It’s nice to be reminded that there is an infinite amount possibilities for a person to develop their creative voice and that I have absolutely no idea about what is good or worthwhile.

MM&S:   What do you think is the major shifting trend in commercial publication and how will it affect artist such as yourself?

Russ:   I’m hopping that it will be original and sincere content.
It will be interesting to see what ends up on paper in the future. Offset and laser printing will never beat out the bottom line of a strictly online publication and it seems like the printed word and image is slowly reverting back to a rare or handmade object.

Over the last five years I’ve seen an incredible amount of creative approaches to the printed book. The book arts discipline seemed to have been rejuvenated by the death of commercial print. The book is once again becoming thought of as a fine art and I think that idea will drive commercial print as well. We’re already seeing limited edition prints come with albums and special edition product labels much more often.

Until recently every generation has thought of the book as a timeless object that’s always imbedded in our expectations from our surroundings. Kind of like a chair, or a cooking pot.
For those of us that grew up around dusty volumes stacked in makeshift closet libraries, the memory of the tactile experience of the book will always be special. As books become less standard objects the future generations might never know the feeling and the book itself is going to have to become more tactile and original inside and out in order to survive.

It’s both exciting and frightening, but most of all it’s a fun problem to solve. I don’t think anyone will miss the tabloids (weekly world news excluded) and it will be nice to see content that is thought and worked out, that’s meant for an experience and a reaction, rather than pumped out to fill shelves.

Additional work and contact at :

Selected Monoprints and Monotypes

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