Photorealistic Portraiture and Art
Today’s interview is with the artist Allen Hollingshead. I had the pleasure of working alongside Allen in several advanced classes back in the old days of college. Now years later, Allen has moved on and made advancements in his life and works. Allen is what you would call a photo realist. As with any traditional artwork, if you were to see these pieces in person, the effect it has on you would be different, more dramatic. However, I do believe these digital versions do great justice to his work. I hope you enjoy the interview.
Christopher Gunn: Hi, Allen. Thanks for spending time with us to share your thoughts and work. I couldn’t help but notice a lot of your work is black and white portraiture in graphite. Is there a reason you keep to a limited color palette?
Allen Hollingshead: I have found that for me personally I feel I can present beauty without the use of color. Not that I feel it to be inferior, it just wasn’t for me. For me, making up for the lack of color is instead worked and reworked texture for a recreation of what it is to be realism in hues between black and white.
CG: What type of materials do you prefer to work with? Do you favor hotpress paper because of smoothness or coldpress for a rougher surface? What seems to work best for you as far as paper and other materials such as graphite, etc?
AH: As for my usual polished work nothing beats Arches Hotpress. Absolutely the smoothest, top of the line feel and texture. For intensive studies of textures and blending it is perfect. For me I want to have full control over my design and texture and I need a paper that is conducive to what I want without the overbearing addition of an unwanted effect such as cold press texture. Obviously if I desire to go outside of my norm and do a watercolour, for example, I would venture outside of my usual affinity for hotpress.
CG: What are your favorite pieces that you have done? What is it that sets them apart for you?
AH: My favorite so far is Mocha. Even when I was feverishly working to finish it because of the heavy design plan I set for myself and in such a short time frame, it was by far the most technical piece as well. The dimensions were bigger than most anything else I had done up to that point. Adding to that it was also the most personal image I have made for myself even to date. Though Prayer is a definite second for obvious reasons. All in all “Mocha” kind of was a huge leap into unfamiliar territory for me.
AH: In summary; I rendered an animal, rendered something VERY close to me, technically grew from learning how to achieve certain visuals with techniques I did not know prior, and that I can make something wonderful happen even if it seemed impossible.
CG: Describe your vision as an artist. Why do you do this? What gives you the satisfaction and feeling of completeness for a piece?
AH: My personal satisfaction comes from a feeling that not many people can or expect my type of work. I will not go as far as to say I’m among the elite of realism but I strive to be. Kent Bellows, Armin Mersmann, Isabel Chiang, just to name a few, are examples of what I want to become. To dig so deep into texture and realism that I exceed every expectation about what a human can do with a pencil. Also its a bit of self discovery. My art has taken several evolutions in the goal of finding my style. The current style is one of combining engineered precision design mixed with archaic and decrepit motifs. Exhibiting beauty in everything, regardless if the norm is to classify it as ugly.
I focus on portraiture due to my ability to connect on a much deeper level with the subject. Spending hours on end on freckles, age spots, wrinkles, eyes, all in the hopes that it represents this person in all that they are perfectly without missing any detail, no matter how small. This is what pushes me to be better.
CG: Dare I ask – On a piece such as Skull tacular or The Scout, about how long does it take you to finish?
AH: For the skull piece it was a college related assignment so we were on a schedule, about 2 week limit. I believe I was able to accomplish this with 5 hours a day for that entire span.. 70 hours roughly. The Scout, which is still very unfinished was a project when I first got in Utah back in July 09. After my first animal portrait I love the challenge that is presented when rendering them instead of humans. Also given the hectic military work schedule it has been really tough devoting time towards completion. I was able to put in about 100 hours over 3 months on it so far since it is far bigger than my usual work dimensions. But until I get it sent to Korea, my current location, I cannot work on it. Every inch of the page will be filled when I am able to call it “finished.”
CG: Is there anything you would like to add? Did I miss something important that you feel is defining of your character as an artist? Please, don’t be shy, indulge.
AH: I have always felt that I have something to prove being a graphite artist. Sticking solely with the pencil which is largely considered a stepping stone or a learning tool to bigger and better things (paint, watercolours, etc.), I feel the need to create works of art that push what it is to design hyper realistic images. It is what gives me satisfaction. The look on someones face when they see my work in person and can SEE the amount the effort and the attention to the smallest detail and honor it just as you would any early cubist piece or genuine 17th century French architecture. I feel like I am a spokesman for the conservation of traditional graphite art not only as a tool to facilitate a better understanding of art but also a mechanic to create fine art as well. I do not claim to be the best at what I do, as a matter of fact I’m still very much a novice, but I push and pride myself on knowing not many people love and can do what makes me happiest. And for the record I do very much enjoy various types of art…In Color!
I hope you enjoyed this interview. It was certainly a pleasure to get to know Allen a little better and delve into his thoughts. If you would like to see more of Allen’s work, you can visit him on DeviantArt as Gangres. Now I open the floor to you. What are your thoughts and impressions? Is there something else you want to know about Allen that was left out? Let me know in the comments.