Stephen Ibbott/Gallery House Stephen Ibbott/Gallery House Stephen Ibbott/Gallery House Interview with STEPHEN IBBOTT: How has your arts education, in particular at the university level, impacted your art-creation? What do you think is the value for artists, if any, of studying art in higher education institutions? Everyone is different but for me Art School was a mixed bag. College programs often unintentionally encourage conformity, which is hard on the imaginative. On the good side, you can meet some amazing peers and lifelong friends—as I did. Knowing people who can discuss and critique your work (and you theirs) is so good. Do all your paintings begin as digitally-composed collages? What limitations does computer technology impose on your process or product? Yes—the starting point for all my paintings since 1999 has been digitally-composed collages. Its technical limitations actually inspire me—I simply love the process. It allows me to enter this excited and creative place in my mind as I pursue a composition with driven compulsion. It is like no other experience I know. What’s your relationship to precedents? Do you feel you have to fight to give yourself permission (by way of others having done it in the past) to make certain creative choices, or is it something that never enters the process of creating? I am first and foremost a fan of art. I love looking at contemporary paintings and the great works of art from the past. It is inspiring, not limiting. However, I never feel that I have to give myself permission to do anything. Everything is allowed. I simply don’t worry about it at all—and definitely not while I am composing. Are there any political or social issues that you feel a responsibility to address in your work, and do you ever succumb to this sense of responsibility? I have zero interest in making political statements but they will sneak in once in a while. That said, one overarching theme I do have is: everything is going to be OK no matter how bad things look. It is more of a re-assurance than a political statement. For example, I had a long running series called “Love in Digital Times”, the imagery of which addressed the amazing resilience of love in the face of the digital revolution. But really, my compositions develop through a mysterious, unconscious process in which I have no sense of ulterior responsibility other than trying to make it feel right. I tend to understand the paintings myself after the fact. Early in my career, I decided I wanted my art to be positive and uplifting and I have stuck to this as best I can. If I feel a composition is getting sarcastic or demeaning I ditch it. What was your first job? I did the usual things as a kid—paper route, grass cutting, leaves raking, snow shoveling—but my first job with a paycheck was as a busboy at a restaurant. I wound up getting fired. What was the most recent thing you turned to for inspiration? Most recently, I have found the layout of comic book pages really inspiring. It is strange because I was never a diehard comic book fan, but I love the graphic punch and the narrative structure. It is strange too because I have never wanted to make an actual comic book. Who is an artist, of any medium, whose work you highly recommend? Matisse is simply awesome: brilliant color, bold brushwork and always uplifting. He is one of the main reasons I wanted to become an artist. Another great in my book is Degas—especially his pastels. Like Matisse his colors are amazing but so too are his lines. The show of his work at the opening of the National Gallery in Ottawa remains one of my peak art moments. Unforgettable. View Stephen Ibbott’s artwork here.