We talked to Aden Forshey, a 20 year old artist from Lock Haven, PA, about the struggles of standing out among a vast selection of artists in the world. He discussed with us the importance of understanding the difference between satisfying an audience and satisfying yourself. Read our interview below as we unravel the “controlled chaos” that Forshey depicts.
What would you say is something that stands out about your work or that makes it unique?
That’s hard because I don’t even really know what makes me “stand out” so to speak. I feel like there’s so much great art that overshadows by own, but if I had to pick one thing I’d say maybe my use of texture. I try to really build up rich textures – which sometimes get lost through Instagram and Twitter image compression – and people seem to notice that a lot.
I feel like you do have a style that stands out, though. Is there a certain piece you’ve made that you could say really shows off your style best? Or one that you’d call your “favorite?”
“Background Noise” (above) is probably my favorite I’ve done overall, but I have definitely been putting more thought into creating a collection of works that share a style. Part of me doesn’t want to get locked into doing the same thing forever though, so I’m hoping to move away from this style a bit in the future. I guess part of what makes these ones unique would be the color choices, texture, and an attempt to create a sort of “controlled chaos” in them. These are one hundred percent a reflection of me and what I was going through at the time I started painting and taking art more seriously.
I feel like you portrayed that “controlled chaos” perfectly – great description. If you do move away from this style, would you go for a more chaotic look or a more controlled one? I guess it might depend on how you’re feeling at the time.
I’m definitely trying to get more control over my work. I haven’t ever been formally trained, so I am going to revert back to the basics at some point to build my skills in anatomy, color theory, depth, perspective, etc. So for a time I think my art will become pretty bland, but it’ll be a necessary step. It makes me extremely happy [knowing] that people enjoy my current work, but I’m barely even scratching the surface of the art I actually WANT to be making, you know what I mean? I guess we will have to see, like you said it’ll also depend heavily on how I’m doing in life at that time.
I think it’s great that you’re not setting boundaries for yourself and that you know where you can get in terms of skill. Is there something about the art you’re making now that you don’t like? Or is it just not reaching the potential that you see for yourself?
Thank you! And I think it’s mostly just me not reaching the potential I see for myself. I have been drawing my whole life, just never took it seriously because I was fed a lot of lines about art not being a valid career path. So because of that I never really tried to get better, it was just passive doodling and messing around for my own pleasure. Now things are different because I still ultimately create for my own pleasure, but I’m putting a lot more focus onto improving the art and growing as an artist instead. It’s hard finding the balance sometimes. I think my biggest flaw right now is that I emulate those who inspire me too much. I take inspiration from everything, including other artists – living and dead – and sometimes I feel too much of their presence in my own work. I’ve been compared to [George] Condo a million times, which gets to me because I love Condo, but I’m not trying to make the same stuff he does [laughs]. It just comes out that way sometimes.
I understand what you mean. I can see the Condo influence, but I feel like – especially in your newer work – you’re moving more into a style of your own. So would you say that extracting just the right amount of influence is the biggest struggle for you personally as an artist?
I appreciate you saying so. I totally think that extracting the right amount of influence is a big struggle – I wouldn’t say it’s the biggest for me, though. I want to say that my biggest obstacle is usually just figuring out how to translate my thoughts. Most of my art is a collage of my thoughts, dreams, and recent experiences, so sometimes it can be hard to make sense of it, even for me. I try not to go into a piece with any plans. I just let myself go, at least for the bulk of it. Towards the end of a piece I’ll usually have decided where I want the piece to end up at so I’ll do some final touch-ups and stuff. I try not to get too committed to anything, though, because I change stuff a lot throughout my process.
So going back to what you said before, about how people fed you lines about how art wasn’t a valid career path – are you pursuing art as a career now? Or is it more of a hobby that you hope can turn into something more?
At this point in my life I’d say it’s more of a hobby. I’m hoping to reach a point where I can see enough income from my art to quit my job and focus on painting full time. But until then, I can’t afford to not have a 9-5. Living where I do also makes pursuing a career in art much harder. I live in a rural-ish area of Pennsylvania that doesn’t have much of an art community.
Luckily you can share your art online to a community of people who might appreciate it more than those around you. How would you say the internet has affected your artistic output?
My art career may not exist without the internet! Social media can be toxic if used improperly, and I try to limit the amount of time I spend online because it leads me to compare myself to others a lot. But the positives far outweigh those negatives. I’ve made lot of friends through my art, some better than people I’ve known for years. The support that you get online can be extremely validating when you don’t have anything else. I try not to seek validation, but I can’t lie and say that getting support from people all over the world doesn’t make you feel more confident with what you’re doing, I owe a lot to the people that support me on here.