Josh Audiss is a visual artist rooted in Omaha Nebraska. His drawings and paintings are largely inspired by the myriad of manifestations in the natural world. He also derives influence from Art Nouveau, Late1800’s/early 1900’s storybook illustration, traditional religious art of the east and west, nature illustration, and medieval alchemical and mystical motifs.
Though creating primarily for the simple sake of beauty and enjoyment, Josh at times wields his skill to convey depths of meaning through visual allegorical story telling. His biomorphic stylings lovingly honor the overall grace of the organic realm while paying homage to the ornamental relics of a bygone era.
We recently hung out with Josh and asked him about his art and creative process. Read his Q&A below:
Curbside: How did you first become interested in art?
Josh Audiss: Good question, but my answer is lame but true. It’s just something I have always done and had an attraction to ever since I was a wee lad.
C: Where do you find inspiration and who are some of your influences?
JA: Daily observation and experience, the vistas and details of nature, imagery from tarot and alchemical motifs, and decorative art from Islamic tile design to motifs of Art Nouveau and Art Deco. I am frequently inspired by the father of Art Nouveau, Alphonse Mucha; golden age of illustration masters, Arthur Rackham and Edmond Dulac; and fantasy artist Frank Frazetta. There are three artists that have “Ernst” in their name, all of which I really love: Ernst Fuchs, Max Ernst, and Ernst Haeckel. There’s a ton of amazing art out there, but the painting I look at more than any other is Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights”. It is endlessly strange, fascinating, and inspiring.
C: What is your preferred method for making art and why?
JA: I start with sketching and ideas will form from the scribbles or an idea or image forms in my mind and I work to develop it from there. I will refine a piece repeatedly until it is as good as I can make it or until I abandon it. I work with lots of different mediums such as pencil, pastels, gouache, gold leaf, acrylics, oils, and digital. I have been enjoying digital quite a bit recently for the reason that I can refine, edit, and experiment as much as I want without some of the limitations of traditional mediums. There is no replacement for the tactile nature of artwork made by traditional means, though. With each medium and method, there are unique benefits as well as limitations. I enjoy jumping around and exploring lots of techniques. I get very bored doing too much of the same.
C: How has your process changed since you first began making art?
JA: I can’t really specify. It has just been a slow evolution over the course of my whole life. Every little thing you learn and develop through practice changes the process. It’s just so gradual that I can’t put my finger on it.
C: What are some common themes you try to use or depict in your artwork?
JA: Stylized organic forms. Cycles, opposing forces in a transcendent balance, night and day, life and death, exploration, gain and loss, beauty in difficulty, trees, gnarly old bearded dudes, pretty maidens, animals as archetypes and allegories, objects of antiquity, relationship, eroticism, ornamental design, organic flow..
C: What do you do in your downtime when not creating?
JA: Leisurely strolls in the park, the zoo, or the woods. I enjoy live music, watching movies, hanging out with those I love, writing and playing music. I frequently worry about stuff I shouldn’t and I always make time to keep up on my bad habits.
C: What is some advice you wish you had when you were first starting out?
JA: Take time to learn the boring stuff like super basic fundamentals of your craft. It’s frustrating to have your vision limited by your technical shortcomings. Work hard and have dedication without being a tyrant to yourself. And most importantly, don’t let your work get in the way of sustaining connection with those you love. Artists can get super absorbed in their creations while all around them things in real life are decaying. Pull your head out of the paint once in a while and live life more artful and aware. And then pretty much everything that author Neil Gaiman says in a commencement speech he gave to the University of the Arts Class of 2012. Look it up.
C: In your vast catalog of art, is there any one piece that stands out to you from the rest? If so, why does it stand out?
JA: Yep, an oil painting titled “Goddess of a Plumed Heart” that I finished in 2012. Still to this date, it’s the piece that I have put the most time, love, and thought into. It has a lot of personal meaning to me, but also has a larger, universal message. It’s basically about stepping into the unknown to find greater purpose despite fear and potential dangers, yet not having too many expectations for the future because reality almost never rolls out as we plan. It’s also a reminder to slow down and pay attention to the present and transcend the flames of the world. Oh, and it’s got a levitating majestic gypsy babe. What’s not to like?
C: Are there any ways that the current social climate has changed the way that you approach art, whether it be your own or someone else’s?
JA: Well, I just continue like I always have to make as much beauty as I can, the best I can, and try not to ride the carousel of propaganda that a lot of people seem to transfixed with. So many are playing the division game. I aim to make art that has a certain universality to it and has themes that link us together instead of tear us apart. The art I make is more inspired by the subtle things and the space between the lines than it is by the noise and hype of our media-driven world. I am drawn to art that reflects something timeless more so than that which focuses on trends or the fickle fluctuations of current culture. It all has its place, though.