Journal: Blake Aaseby: Thumbnail

Where are you from and where do you reside?

I recently moved back to Novato, CA after finishing up my MFA at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Before that, I was back and forth between Northern & Southern California with what I refer to as a floating root system. I think it’s been about 50/50 NorCal / SoCal at this point.

How has your work developed in the past few years, and how do you see it evolving in the future?

There’s been a lot of layering and refining. I’ve had to go through a lot of terrible ideas, that’s for sure!

My early work was all an attempt at capturing singular moments or objects. I was taking imagery out of its context and tuning out the rest (think the painted version of highly detailed clip art) but found it missing the mark. It sounds simple, but once I realized there was more information in each moment than I could possibly take in, that really blew open the door. Even the things I thought I knew long term were shifting and changing constantly. I needed to expand my focus and embrace the inevitable change and obscurity that comes with time.

Going forward, I’m just excited to explore what I’ve been working on. I feel as though I’ve found some fertile ground and can now start cultivating. With my new work, it’s been a constant push and pull of the different layers and information so finding the right balance is the fun part.

How did you know this process was the right one to pursue?

Honestly, I didn’t know it was the right path for while. I think what led me was a mix of curiosity, patience, and a longing for consistency. What kept me going was an incredibly stubborn and competitive nature.

The shift to my current work pretty much began once I got to SAIC. The first year was like a pressure cooker. I wasn’t making much and it didn’t seem like anything was happening but then things clicked going into my second year. Materials, concept, and technique finally lined up with what I was after. A big part of that was working with Candida Alvarez, Susanne Doremus, and Lynn Tomaszewski.

Are you influenced by any artist that does something completely different than you?

I find a lot of inspiration from drummers actually (I’ve been playing for about 16 years). Recently, I’m nerding out over Benny Greb’s work. There’s something about laying in and over time, rhythm, pattern, and tempo that I find enthralling and seems to parallel my work quite well.

I think what led me was a mix of curiosity, patience, and a longing for consistency. What kept me going was an incredibly stubborn and competitive nature.

Blake Aaseby

What tangible objects or intangible moments are you most interested in representing through your works?

I’m fascinated by how much of the day we miss, how much of what’s around us just becomes white noise, and all the lives that pass by throughout.

Where do you find your day-to-day inspiration?

In just that, the day-to-day moments. From a walk in the park, to a ride on the bus, to quiet moments just sitting and observing. Pick any old moment and give it a slow simmer. That’s my jam.

How do your surroundings direct your approach to your work?

Because I’m capturing and mapping moments from the day, my surroundings are incredibly influential and important. Different places bring different shapes, different memories. I’ll try to switch things up if I find myself caught up in one location or revisiting similar memories.

What’s a tactic you’ll use to switch things up? Is it as simple as stopping and resetting the agenda, or do you have other strategies?

I look at it like taking a different path to where I’m going. If I realize I’ve made a certain route routine, I’ll start wandering around. Empathy and patience usually kick in and I’ll give time to new moments and places.

Do you see your works as unique or as part of a series?

I see each piece as the retelling of an individual story, but they all seem to influence each other.

What are some themes you find recurring in your pieces, intentional or not?

Location and place (whether it be mental or corporeal).

If I realize I’ve made a certain route routine, I’ll start wandering around.

Blake Aaseby

What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?

Separating my studio practice from the other aspects of my life. Because my work over analyzes daily events, I find myself overthinking everything. When I forget to take breaks or don’t give myself room to breathe, I get caught up in a weird-overly critical headspace which can get pretty rough.

How do you incorporate chance in your creative process?

I go into each piece with a plan, as far as which story I want to tell and execution, but the outcome always seems to be a surprise. Different parts of the underpainting will show more or less than expected, different areas will be more built up with oil paint than others, and carving in the shapes to the oil always brings unique moments.

Why do you choose to work with paint?

Paint makes me more aware of time compared to other mediums. I get to play with urgency or draw things out. Oil paint is such a lively medium, it breathes and infects. There’s a constant awareness and care that needs to happen when working with paint.

What necessities do you require when making your art?

Music and my journals/sketchbooks. I always have my books with me and music playing constantly throughout the day.

Do you journal or sketch to remember things you see day to day in order to incorporate it into your work?

All of the above. I carry a journal/sketchbook with me wherever I go. I try to document with photos, drawings, and written cues but also like to leave things to memory. In my paintings, the known is just as important as the obscure.

What’s one of your favorite objects you own? What’s the story?

My journals/sketchbooks. I started collecting and investing in them around 2008. Those things are so detailed, you could easily relive my past 9 years. They’re invaluable to me.