Man Makers Mondays is back with the artist behind the transcendent artwork, Collin Elder. I can still recall the flutter of feelings that arose after spying his work a few years back. Be it tattoo or street art, Collin's work is a visceral experience into the mystical realms. I've engaged with his paintings in a manner that allows me to spiritual encounter my own guides and guardians of the ethers. When I look at the precision of shading and shadow, bird of prey eyes and beaks, it's unbridles my own set of wings caged within this realm. His work speaks of an earlier time, when the ancestors were shapefiting and communing with our animal relatives, learning secrets and taking alternative forms. Whether by painting or mural, his work has a means of reminding everyday folk of the guardians that hover above us and guide us on this Earthly plain. I am still dreaming of sitting for a portrait with Collin to see which spirit guide comes through his vision. Below is his interview.
What is your brand/name:
What is your heritage:
English, Scottish and Russian. Mostly Scottish though, hence my last name.
What are 3 reference points of inspiration for your work: (philosophy/culture):
Most of my work is a reflection of living in the wilderness of Canada, having studied wildlife biology in university and having worked in conservation biology in western Canada, trying to encourage people to care about the creatures that surround us and the ecosystems that they inhabit. It has been mostly about trying to bring this message to the visual realm, hopefully inspiring a more visceral response. Also trying to square the dual mindsets of modernity and its heady, concrete, scientific worldview with the subtler, visceral reality of the unseen, enigmatic forces in nature that science has yet to describe. I guess inspiration reference points could include such things as phenomenology, deep ecology, conservation biology, and spirituality…
What are 3 skills you've learned in representing yourself as an artist:
I have always heard that it’s a good thing to diversify and I try to aim for that. I try and build relationships with galleries, festivals, markets, individuals, online galleries, shops, organizations etc. In the midst of all that, its good to maintain a solid online presence. It might be enticing, especially as an introverted artist, to go straight for the dopamine and dump all efforts into social media but, unfortunately, shareholders can encourage algorithms to run your reach into the ground to make you pay for ads.
I think being flexible is important. There is no one way to ‘success’. Do what you can with what you have and if you care about it enough, good things will come.
A tough thing for me, but an important one, is to be confident in how you talk about your art. I feel its important to show people that you believe in what you create and try and place yourself within the greater historical context of art culture.
What are 3 skills you believe are a necessity to be an independent artist/designer?
There is a large part of any work, it seems, that is not as much made, as it is received. So constantly wearing your business hat in the creative process turns into more of a hinderance when it comes to creating good art. So I often try and create away from the idea of it being a commodity, as much as I can, which is hard because of the pervasive influence of money, power and fame on our culture. It’s important to create what I believe in, telling stories that are important to me and that don’t sacrifice my fairly strong moral conscience. I feel that the more I dig deeper into the details of the story that inspires me, the more rewarding the outcome is.
I also feel it’s important to allow yourself to change as an artist. Recreating what worked in the past is remaining in the past and telling the same old stories. I really like the Ezra Pound idea of artists being the antennae of society. I believe that, as society changes at its current rapid pace, we need to develop the conceptual creativity as artist to quickly change with it, and be able to pick out the importance of what is happening today and will likely become important tomorrow.
And again, I would just toss in the importance of self-confidence and self-honesty. It can be difficult, sometimes, to place your deepest thoughts out in the world to be looked at and judged, so I find it good to remind myself to not let little setbacks be career-questioning ultimatums and to try and never take anything personally. And to also not let praise get to my head too much.
What moved you to make with your hands/how has working with your hands helped you understand a deeper sense of being?
I was initially drawn to painting in an effort to tell the stories that I felt i couldn’t get across with words in my work in ecological restoration and conservation biology. I think it was the embracing of this form of discourse that converted me fully to art, the desire to create a memory never experienced before. It felt like this process has lead to a greater understanding of my inner growth than just trying to discuss the importance of nature with people in words. It has given me a slight glimpse into the power an individual has, even with simple tools, to mine the chaos and create beauty, and, at the same time, how that power is shaped by the cultures, dogmas, traditions, power, and politics that surround us.
If you could travel anywhere today, where would you travel and why:
I just got back from New Zealand and didn’t get to see much of it so I would go back there. I would love to go back to India too. I always love to spend time in Europe but haven’t yet been to Scotland, England or Ireland, which are all high on my list. I guess they hold so much history that I am curious about, including the stories of my ancestors. Also, I have visited most countries in Central America on a bicycle trip but still haven’t gone further south, so South America still holds some intrigue for me, with its vast variety of cultures and landscapes. But, in the age of carbon, these seems like daydreams. I am just as happy to stay on this continent and connect with and support the first nations and indigenous cultures of Canada and explore the vast wilderness of turtle island.
3 Favorite songs at the moment:
Pretty much anything by Flying Lotus, Other Lives, and Ora Cogan …
What advice would you offer your fellow female makers? What business advice?
Don’t take advice from men because they are men, including this advice, ha ha. As a straight, white, cis man, i don’t know if i am qualified to give advice to women artists. I don’t really experience the same prejudices that women face in the art world. I definitely see how sexism is alive and well in the art world still, founded on centuries of women only making it into galleries as, largely, sexualized subjects of male artists. It is definitely better, lots of my favourite painters are women, but there is still some imbalance that I am eager to help balance, if I can, more by helping to raise the voices of women in the art world, than by giving advice.
What advice would your 65 year old self to you today?
I think it would pretty much just boil down to time. He would likely go on about spending it wisely and not dwelling on the past.
What change would you most like to see in the world?
I feel like just the simple act of re-inspiring a deep connection with nature would help with a lot of the worlds problems. Our senses used to be deeply nourished by our connection with the earth’s voice. It seems today that our relationships are becoming exclusively with humans and human technology. I feel like the more we distance ourselves from the natural world, the harder it will be to not lose ourselves within our technology. I hope we don’t lose sight of what keeps us human; the deep connection we have with the earth and our cousin species. I feel like we need to protect and connect with the non-human and all of its mystery. Not simply to preserve it as museum pieces and for practical things like clean air and water, but as something to come back to, something that is outside of us and all that we have created.
What a mystical inspiration Collin is for me! Thanks for sharing more about your work and thoughts.