Timothy L. Campbell and Alice DuBois are Evanston-based artists who made their solo Local Art @ EPL debuts back in 2010. Now the pair have joined their creative forces for a stunning return exhibit currently on display on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Branch. Mixing oils, acrylics, and collage, the show presents two dozen spirited and surreal works inspired by history, travel, alchemy, music, and even books from the shelves of EPL. You can catch their show through July 7th, and after that you can view more of their work by visiting the following: Mr. Campbell’s Flickr site and Ms. DuBois’ Flickr site. Recently, we spoke with Mr. Campbell and Ms. DuBois via email about drawing vs. painting, Egyptian imagery, Henryk Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony, the circus, and what they’re working on next.
Evanston Public Library: Back in 2010, you were two of the first artists to exhibit as part of our Local Art @ EPL series. What have you been up to artistically since then? Have you continued to show in other Evanston and Chicago-area venues? What inspired you to have a joint exhibit this time around?
Timothy Campbell: I play harmonica, and since 2010, I’ve returned to making music more often after a break in playing of several years. I used to play just straight blues, but in the past year I’ve been exploring a more jazz-influenced way of improvising.
Alice DuBois: We always have at least one show up each month in Chicago or Evanston. Doing art full time really requires constant exposure, so we make it a point to do that. We often do joint shows since we like how our art looks together: it’s different, but complimentary.
EPL: In December 2011 and February 2012, you both individually had your work featured on the cover of the Chicago Reader. What was that experience like, and how did the opportunity come about?
TC: It was rather surreal—I saw a stack of Readers with my drawing on the cover in a grocery store, and it felt like a scene in a dream.
AD: It was a great experience! It felt really validating to be chosen. We both just submitted our work to the art director and he happened to choose us.
EPL: Generally speaking, can you give us a window into your respective creative processes? When and where do you work? How long do you typically spend on a painting from conception to completion?
TC: I like to work on art in the morning/afternoon, right after having a cup of coffee. That’s when I feel most inspired. It helps to have music on while I work, although some days there are so many leaf blowers in the neighborhood that I can’t even hear the music. Shostakovich, Mahler, and Brian Eno inspire a lot of ideas and forms for me. I like to write at night. Strange ideas start to flow after 1 a.m.
AD: I work better at night. I’ve always been a night owl—I sometimes think I’m part raccoon. I usually do more of the business-end work during the day: contact people, build canvases and get supplies, etc. I do some art-making in the early afternoon, but then I usually work several more hours at night. When I have a deadline I just work whenever, I can’t be choosy then. It’s hard to say how long pieces take to make since the work takes place sporadically.
EPL: Tim, your paintings for this exhibit differ quite dramatically from your Colorido drawings. What inspired your new direction and medium? How did your approach to these abstract paintings compare to your process for creating the characters of Colorido? What was it like working on a collection of “stand-alone” pieces as opposed to a complex series of interconnected works?
TC: I only started drawing about three years ago, but I’ve been making abstract paintings since the late 90s. I’m a self-taught artist so I began the Colorido drawing project in order to practice proper drawing. My approach to painting is quite different than my approach to drawing. With a painting, you have a very tough surface that can take a lot of abuse like crudely scraping paint on and off, adding highly textured grounds of pumice or dirt, and mixing oil and acrylic paints for unexpected results. Wet and messy business! When I sit down to draw, the experience is much slower and controlled, and I am more conscious of what I am drawing, in a narrative sense. Dry and dusty business!
EPL: Birds and other elements of nature continue to be featured prominently in your work, Alice, but your paintings “Window to Another World,” “They Find the Warm River,” and “Birdman Family” all contain a strong Egyptian theme as well. Could you tell us about what draws you to this imagery? Along similar lines, what inspires you to include rainbows in many of your pieces?
AD: I really love all kinds of mythology, so I like to use things I see in books or wherever that attract me. Egyptian mythology is particularly weird, so I really like it! At some point I started using this bird-headed character in a lot of my art and I’m sure that came from my attraction to Egyptian myths. But my birdman started to become his own entity—he doesn’t really have any connection to the attributes of any established Egyptian god. To me, he’s more like a coupling of animal and human—maybe a representative of a future world where humans get along better in Nature. The rainbows I use are just some kind of primal attraction to the color perfection of prisms. They feel like they’re really perfect, color wise, and I like to use that to bring together the color in a piece.
EPL: As part of your exhibit, you’ve included a display of EPL books that have helped inspire your work. Could you both tell us about one of the books you chose? Which piece or pieces did it inspire and how so?
TC: I also chose some EPL music that inspired me. I made this little painting called “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs” after listening to Henryk Górecki’s third symphony three times in a row (Alice wasn’t home!). This piece of music put a spell on me. The shapes of the sounds I was hearing hypnotized me and I literally began to see patterns, which is how I came to make this curious little piece that’s almost like an exercise in op-art.
AC: I put out a circus book with old circus photos. I literally used one of the images in the painting “Cirque” of a woman acrobat. I drew her on paper then collaged my own drawing into the piece. I like to use books for their images, but also the text. A lot of the influence is subtle. I just read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for the first time and I’m sure the story will affect my art in some way at some point, but I’m not sure it will be obvious. The circus book put me in a mood and made me think about life in the circus and life 100 years ago, and all of that affects a given work.
EPL: Are you currently working on any new projects or preparing for any future shows? Where can we find more of your work after your EPL show closes?
TC: Recently, I illustrated a book that a friend self-published. It was such a wonderful experience that I hope to be a part of more projects like that in the future. With regard to paintings, Alice and I are going to show new art in September at Perfical Sense Gallery, 1123 Florence, Evanston.
AD: I have a couple commissions that I have to complete first and foremost, one is of a pair of pet cats and I’m also doing an oil painting of President Obama. We’re going to put our work up at the Handle Bar in Wicker Park (2311 W. North Ave, Chicago) in mid-July and we have an ongoing show at Charmers Café (1500 W. Jarvis, Chicago), which will be up through July. I’ll also have some work up at the Bleeding Heart Bakery (1351 West Belmont Ave. Chicago) in July. My work can always be seen at my Flickr site, and I usually list where our current exhibits are there.
Interview by Russell J.