Interview with Mick Theebs

MickTheebsPhoto1. First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a New Englander born and bred. I am a writer and an artist, though I was only formally schooled in writing. I have been writing for most of my life. I have achieved some small success with my work, having had a few poems and short pieces published, but none of my longer works have been picked up yet. Visual art is a more recent passion. One day, I decided I would like to be a painter and bought some art supplies. Things snowballed from there.

2. What’s different about painting?

Everything about painting is more immediate, from creating the work to engaging the audience. The thing about writing is that the act of writing and reviewing are distinct parts of the process. With painting, drawing, and visual art as a whole, the act of reviewing your work is instantaneous. The thing I find particularly rewarding about painting is that tipping point where lines and colors start to resemble real-world objects, when your vision becomes reality. Writing is more of a marathon, writing and reading and re-writing and re-reading. There’s something masochistic about the process as you build something and tear it down, something that, in my experience, doesn’t carry over to visual art.

3. What was the inspiration behind your website?

Before ALSO THAT, I ran a WordPress blog where I rambled and shared work and expected people to be interested in it. Then I decided it was time for my own domain. ALSO THAT started as a place where I can share my work. My little corner of the internet. It’s in a state of constant improvement. Currently, I am working to turn it into a mouthpiece not only for myself, but other artists I like, many of whom I know quite well. As it stands today, ALSO THAT is a place for art of any kind.

4. What kind of artists who you like to promote? Is there a submission process?

I like to promote artists whose work resonates with me. There’s no real criteria beyond that. I don’t have a submission process (although I probably should) because I’ve managed to track down my guests on my own. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many talented artists so far, many of them unknown and emerging. I want to help put them out there and get them noticed. It will be especially rewarding as time goes on and I watch them become more successful.

5. Art. Some might say it has no survival value, therefore is useless. What is your opinion?

There is little utility in art. You look at it and think and feel things. Maybe it makes you think of someone or reminds you of something that happened to you. However, to say there is no survival value in art is incorrect. Art is a key to immortality. How many names do we recall because of the art attached to it? One might argue that any great achievement is a key to immortality. However, out of every method to etch your name in history art stands alone in its inexhaustibility. There are a finite number of things to discover and name. There is an infinite number of things to paint and write and sculpt and sing.

6. Why do you create art? Is there a secret hope or ambition?

I don’t have a singular reason as to why I create art. It’s a compulsion. If you want to get poetic about it, you could say it’s a siren song. I just feel called to create. Maybe it’s a fear of death and the desire to leave something behind. Or it could be a drive to hold a mirror to the face of humanity. I can’t readily explain it. Sometimes I get burnt out and need to take some time off, but I always come crawling back because I’ll start feeling bad when I don’t work on anything for long stretches of time. Of course there are hopes and ambitions. I would love to be able to exclusively write and paint every day and not have to think about anything else. Is that possible? Yes. Is it probable? I don’t know. The cynic in me says no, but attitude is everything. I try to avoid self-fulfilling prophecies like that. Success or no, I know I’m going to keep making art because that’s what makes me happy.

7. What are artists made of?

Artists are made of blood and bone and flesh and guts.

8. What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

I don’t know about the best but a piece of advice that stands out to me comes from artist Yoram Gal. To paraphrase: be honest with yourself in the art you create. Don’t try to make something you think people will buy. Make something you want to make. Stay hungry and passionate and try not to think about whether or not you’re successful.

9. Most people let fear of failure overrun their desire to succeed. How do you stay focused on what truly matters?

I just keep making art. I try not to dwell on past failures or successes. A lot of the time I’ll make something and forget about it. Then I’ll look through old work and surprise myself. I am absolutely my harshest critic when it comes to both writing and painting- especially with writing. I am very particular about what works I put out into the world because I want it to be the best I can offer. I’ve got a massive back-catalog of stuff, but 90% of it will never see the light of day. I’ve got a few manuscripts kicking around, but have kept them hidden away because I don’t think they’re good enough to shop around. Maybe that’s a fear of failure talking.

10. What inspires you?

The smallest things inspire me. It’s hard to pinpoint and harder to verbalize. It could be a photo or a word out of context. I don’t know where it comes from or why it resonates. Call it a gift from the muses. Usually it’s a whim that I happen to follow through on, though many times I don’t.

11. Do you have a certain routine when it comes to writing?

I do fall into certain patterns with my writing. I’ll get an idea for a story or a character and scribble it down somewhere. Eighty percent of the time nothing comes of it. If I start writing, I might put in maybe 10 or 20 pages before I get bored and it lives in purgatory on my hard drive. That probably happens about half the time. The other half I’ll see through to the end. Then I’ll let it sit for a while and start working on other projects. I’ll revisit it and reread it and if I decide I still like it I’ll begin trimming the deadwood from it. I’ll go through at least 2 or 3 rounds of editing before I start showing it to other people. Then I’ll consider their notes and continue editing. Then I’ll start sending it out to publications. I’m not usually working on one thing at a time. I’m usually writing one thing and editing another, while also coming up with new ideas to explore further down the road. It’s a balancing act.

12. Hard work or talent?

Hard work will trump raw talent every time. However, raw talent and hard work together is unstoppable.


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