Having relocated a year ago to the West Coast, Allen Wittert finds the light and easy going attitudes in San Francisco and the Bay area have influenced his art greatly. We sat down with Allen to hear the latest on his journey as an artist.
So, you’re a full-time artist. How did you get here?
It’s certainly been a winding road. I started out as an illustrator and cartoonist, making storyboards for the advertising industry. Until my 30s, I was happy, and pretty successful with it. But at some point I noticed my doodles and other fun side project trying to say something. I felt they might be appreciated by others, so I started exploring a side to my work I had never considered I could or would ever do.
Slowly but surely, my interest in painting began edging out the commercial work. Today I put a lot more time into painting than illustration, though I won’t turn down a decent paying job. I realized how blessed and grateful I am to be able to do both. There is absolutely no shame in doing commercial work. And there is definitely art involved in being a fast storyboard artist. After all, many artists I admire, such as De Kooning started out as illustrators. Richard Diebenkorn taught for many years to supplement his artist journey. A lot of us have done some very strange things to earn a buck.
How has your art evolved since coming to the West Coast?
My work has become more free and enjoyable to create since the last few years of my time in Connecticut. At the same time, I feel more confident about taking a piece from point A to Z in a controlled fashion. The West Coast has a more open feel of course, you can live outdoors a lot more. So I’m giving my work more breathing space, and using more grays and neutral colors, well for me anyway, so that all the colors don’t rush at you at once. More relaxed, if you will. It’s really pretty exciting when I look at work done just six months ago, and where I feel my work is heading now.
What’s going through your head as you begin a piece?
Like a lot of artists, I’m always thinking of paintings I want to do, dreaming of ideas. That’s why my work has such an eclectic scope to it. Plus, I always want to surprise myself. As I sketch or start painting, my head is full of fragments of all the art I’ve seen, all the places I’ve visited. So it helps to have a few sketches to make sense of where my head is that day before I touch canvas. This doesn’t always happen though and the results are sometimes good, sometimes not, but those failures are fine with me, I use them as undercoats and they spark other things. Gradually, something starts to crystallize and becomes obvious to me.
What should people know about your art that they might not be able to tell from looking at it?
A lot of my work might look bright, colorful and simple, but really it comes from a place of a lot of anxiety and worrying. I’m trying to scratch away at something. Whether it’s Woody Allen-esque existential worries or wondering about our preconceived ideas of beauty, social norms, or how buildings should look, I’m trying to deconstruct the real world and then try to reorganize it in a way thats suits my chaotic mind.
What are your passions outside of the studio?
Over the years I have been an avid or occasional snowboarder, windsurfer, scuba diver and mountain biker, tennis and squash player, but lately I would say hiking, meditation and just living in the moment is enough of a reward. Oh, and I’m a foodie.