The Evolution of Man
An Insight into the Artistic Journey of Nat Meade
In this exclusive interview, Nat Meade takes us on a captivating journey through his artistic process and the evolution of his work. With a dedicated approach, Meade crafts intimate portraits that offer a nuanced exploration of the masculine archetype. Each painting on his small-scale canvases captures the essence of humanity, adorned with everyday accessories that ground them in relatability. Meade’s mastery of facial lines, beards, and Roman noses is enhanced by the interplay of light and shadow, deconstructing societal perceptions of manhood one canvas at a time.
A Background Rooted in Creativity and Exploration
As we delve into the thought-provoking world of Nat Meade’s art, it’s important to understand the influences that shaped his artistic journey. Born in Massachusetts and raised in the eccentric city of Portland, Oregon, Meade’s early exposure to creativity was deeply ingrained. Encouraged by his artistically inclined nature, teachers recognized his talent for drawing and steered him towards exploring his artistic potential. He expanded his knowledge at the Museum School and even embarked on a transformative trip to Japan with fellow young artists and musicians.
Meade’s journey continued at Boise State University on a football scholarship, where he excelled both in sports and painting. However, it was during his time at the University of Oregon that he truly honed his craft under the guidance of his mentor, Ron Graff. Drawing inspiration from his mentors and the vibrant art scene in Brooklyn, Meade made the decision to pursue graduate studies at Pratt Institute, which further fueled his artistic exploration.
Unveiling the Influence of Brooklyn and the Power of Exposure
Moving to Brooklyn proved to be a transformative experience for Meade. Immersed in the city’s rich artistic environment, he found himself constantly attending shows, seeking out fellow artists, and exploring the vast array of contemporary painting styles. Brooklyn opened his eyes to the profound diversity and uniqueness of artistic expressions, which prompted him to experiment with different styles and approaches. Over time, he discovered his own artistic voice and began to prioritize the elements that resonated most with his personal vision.
Throughout his artistic journey, Meade has paid close attention to evolving notions of masculinity. His paintings strive to capture the ever-shifting landscape of what it means to be a man. Rejecting the notion of a singular definition and embracing the fluidity of identity, his paintings portray figures caught in a state of transition. Utilizing built-up paint and nuanced lighting, Meade imbues his paintings with a sense of reverence and history, often blurring the line between gods and buffoons, adding depth and complexity to his work.
Exploring the Human Experience: Gods and Buffoons
The figures portrayed in Meade’s paintings represent the various facets of masculinity, capturing the essence of different archetypes. His intention is to create characters that are difficult to categorize or define, invoking a sense of mystery and fascination. Through the paintings, Meade delves into the evolving roles of men in society, transcending specific narratives or current trends. The vulnerability and stoic expressions captured on canvas reflect the ongoing search for authenticity amidst a rapidly changing world.
Meade draws inspiration from a wide range of sources, including movies, historical paintings, and archival footage. He finds himself captivated by the characters depicted in movies from the 1970s, which greatly influenced his art. These characters, with their enigmatic clothing and grainy technicolor, struck a chord with him, evoking a sense of visceral curiosity and intrigue.
Symbolism and Props: The Power of Glasses, Beards, and Cigarettes
Meade’s paintings often feature recurring symbols and props, such as glasses, beards, cigarettes, and collars. These elements humanize the figures, grounding them in our reality while leaving room for personal interpretation and association. These symbols imply aspects of the figures’ identity without being tied to a specific individual or time period. Meade intentionally incorporates these props to provide opportunities for intricate explorations of composition, color, and texture. The play of light on glasses, the patterns of a beard, or the transparency of smoke all contribute to the multi-layered narratives present in his art.
One notable connection in Meade’s work is his affiliation with Walt Whitman. Growing up, Meade was deeply influenced by an Antonio Frasconi woodcut of Walt Whitman, which he regarded as his personal representation of a god-like figure. This image served as Meade’s moral compass, embedded in his psyche and connecting fatherhood and spirituality. The intricate relationship between fathers, heroes, and flawed individuals informs his exploration of important male figures in our lives.
The Iterative Nature of Meade’s Art: Chasing Meaningful Images
Meade’s artistic process often involves multiple iterations of the same composition or image. He finds it challenging to let go of ideas that resonate with him and therefore continues to explore and experiment. Each iteration brings him closer to his desired outcome. Typically, Meade works on around a dozen paintings simultaneously, allowing himself the freedom to jump between them as needed. This approach grants him the opportunity to constantly refine his vision and make meaningful progress on each piece.
Prior to translating his ideas onto canvas, Meade begins by creating loose sketches and studies on paper. This initial stage enables rapid iterations and facilitates adjustments. By using casein, a quick-drying medium, he can make swift changes to composition and form. Through a process of sanding and wiping, the composition gradually clarifies, serving as the foundation for his paintings.
While Meade’s artistic process shares some similarities with computer-based design, he emphasizes the importance of the physicality of painting. The ability to physically manipulate the image, cover and reveal layers, and ultimately create a tangible history within a painting is integral to Meade’s creative approach. This process yields surfaces that possess a unique sense of depth and complexity, reflecting the artist’s exploration.
An Ever-Evolving Artistic Journey
Meade embraces the idea that each painting has the potential to improve as he dives deeper into the process. Rather than becoming stagnant, his work remains open, fresh, and compelling. However, this perpetual pursuit of perfection also means that Meade spends significant time with each painting, even those that may sit unfinished for months or years. In these instances, waiting for paint to dry and allowing for reflection is an essential part of his artistic practice.
As we explore Nat Meade’s artistic evolution and his distinctive approach to painting, it becomes evident that his work is not bound by conventional restrictions. His ability to continuously challenge himself and embrace self-imposed limitations for the sake of progression is what sets him apart. With every stroke, Meade delves deeper into the complexities of masculinity, capturing the essence of humanity and inviting viewers to contemplate their own personal journeys.
In conclusion, Nat Meade’s art takes us on a profound exploration of masculinity, identity, and the ever-evolving nature of the human experience. Through his skillful portrayal of figures caught between vulnerability and stoicism, Meade captivates viewers and prompts introspection. The recurring symbols and props, such as glasses, beards, and cigarettes, create a sense of familiarity while leaving room for personal interpretation. His meticulous process, involving multiple iterations and continuous refinement, results in paintings that reflect his unwavering dedication to his craft.
Q: How does Nat Meade choose the figures he portrays in his paintings?
A: Nat Meade’s figures represent different notions of men, capturing the ever-changing landscape of masculinity. He strives to create characters that are difficult to categorize, inviting viewers to contemplate the varying facets of identity.
Q: What inspires Nat Meade’s artistic process?
A: Nat Meade draws inspiration from various sources, including movies, historical paintings, and personal experiences. The enigmatic characters from 1970s films and the influence of Walt Whitman play significant roles in shaping the themes and imagery present in his art.
Q: How does Nat Meade achieve the distinctive textures and compositions seen in his paintings?
A: Nat Meade’s process involves building up layers of paint, scraping, and selectively revealing underlying imagery. This technique creates a unique surface texture and allows for the exploration of composition, light, and shadow.
Q: Does Nat Meade work on paintings one at a time?
A: Nat Meade typically works on multiple paintings simultaneously, allowing him to explore different ideas and themes. This approach enables him to maintain a sense of creative flow and progress while waiting for paint to dry on specific pieces.
Q: How does color play a role in Nat Meade’s paintings?
A: At the start of his process, Meade incorporates a wide range of colors onto his palette. However, as he continues to refine the composition and image, he strategically reduces the color palette to create a sense of distance or faded quality, with occasional pops of vibrant hues to add visual interest.