Real American – Utilitarian Creations with Brian David Downs / Style No Chaser

Brian David Downs is an ‘artist’ in the true guttural sense of the word.  He sees and feels things in his own very unique way and his interpretation of these things are immensely honest and raw.  It is easy to see how much of a decent person Brian is because there is a deep sacrifice that is evident in his work and his words.  Brian lives life with ups and downs like the rest of us, but he is also selfless enough to share his emotions (through his work) with the world in a therapeutic and cathartic way.  Brian is fully invested in his art but is not self-righteous or self-absorbed about his creations – he is a regular guy who also happens to be talented, cool and a decent human being.  Brian David Downs is surely one of the good ones and we are thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview him.  

“I’m pretty utilitarian so I find something incredibly gratifying about using basic #2 pencils or Bic mechanical pencils on a piece of paper and have it end up deriving monetary value …”

Please tell us a little about yourself – your childhood, siblings, where you grew up, what you liked as a child, strange thoughts as a child/now, unique attributes, where you live now, etc.?

I have a little sister and an older brother, my roots are from the iron range in Minnesota, but my brother and I were made and raised for a bit in Florida and Arkansas before moving back up to the Midwest. I’ve always thought that left us with a little black sheep-ness. I think things like waking up early to watch Akira on the Sci-fi channel with a bowl of cereal with a brother before he was even ten, the Star Wars/Star Treks with my pops and siblings and drawing a bunch while my brother crushed through video games shaped my childhood as much as being on the road a ton for youth hockey which I feel is the root in my work ethic. I’d say some level of Midwest middle-class upbringing in small nowhere towns demanded or enabled a ton of imagination for entertainment. I could say maybe the nomadic traveling behavior could stem from the all year hockey with summers having to do even more travel to the “big” cities that could afford making ice. I’m in a limbo now floating around Minnesota after a weird 2016 of failed love life out east, strange women back in the Midwest, and a couple exhibitions and shows that kept me couch surfing to the end of the year. I imagine transplanting back into the twin cities soon to make a bit more of a stable life now that things have finally settled down a bit. Having rheumatoid arthritis coupled with the new presidential administration’s hit on healthcare has me kind of demoralized – checking out a new state’s health care system at the moment. For the time being, Minnesota has great accessible healthcare for “artist types” like myself.

How do you describe your form of art and what tools do you primarily use?

Describing my art is tough for me because so much of me in invested in it. Kind of jack of all trades it is a “I can do anything if I want to mentality” – maybe the best way to describe is “real American”. I’ve been pretty nomadic over the last decade and facilities sometimes dictate mediums as much as artistic vision. My brushes can be literal brushes, or ripping off pieces of cigarette packs – old credit cards work as brushes as well with a different textural effect and I don’t have to wash the “brush” out. I’m pretty utilitarian so I find something incredibly gratifying about using basic #2 pencils or Bic mechanical pencils on a piece of paper and have it end up deriving monetary value that covers a month or two’s life expenses. Micron pens have been a staple for poster work as a hat tip to anime and comic artists I’ve grown up loving. Tools change up by vision, whatever the potion demands to amplify my human vessel.

What does your art mean to you?

Since that’s pretty all-encompassing, I’ll say: communication even when you aren’t physically present, eating good food when the work sells, making amazing friends who are looking at life in the “art” lens as well, creating your own currency, all the accumulated thoughts of a meditative practice, and basically just opportunity to bring some light and extra synapses into peoples’ skull sponges if they see the work.

Which artists do you look up to the most?

I’d definitely say folks who constantly bring the A game like Steve Yzerman who exhumes the captain role in everything hockey, Randy Moss defying the odds and electrifying a boring game, cats like Andrew Broder of FOG(Minneapolis) who can approach any audio medium/genre and make gold, Angela Davis being uncompromising and demanding a voice and paving way for others in a world working against you. I could go on, but I guess I look up to who I’m inspired by, the similar righteous Midas touch in those special human’s abilities like anyone else.

Your images have a dark and philosophical essence to them which we think is quite captivating – why are you pulled to create images of this manner?

I guess I blame being a Scorpio on the “dark” nature (tongue in cheek) – I’d say I’m maybe aiming at being immediate or striking. The images or implied narratives in the work usually stem from what’s rolling around in my noggin, what’s concerning or affecting me –  similar to how science fiction talks about the future to address current concerns. Making images has just been that thing I’ve done since as far as I can remember. It’s been the most effective way for me to communicate ideas to/engage with the world. Images seem to work better than words and have less constraints.

What is the worst critique you have ever received about your work? What is the best compliment that you have received about your work?

I can’t really recall bad critique stuff, maybe just drunk people telling me “what they think I should do” can be tiring, but I’m as guilty as the next person. Off the top of my head for best, probably Eric Paul (writer and singer for Doomsday Student) and his wife Allison Cole (radical designer & artist) showing up at a solo exhibit in Providence, Rhode Island and exclaiming how they just got my drawing of “good Americans” framed for their home. Being a fan of Eric’s bands as a teenager and the ridiculousness of that drawing being framed in someone’s’ “home” had a ridiculous twilight zone charm.

Since Style.No.Chaser is a men’s lifestyle magazine, what attributes/items/clothing /etc. do you think define a man?

I think that’s a pretty broad question as “men” friends of mine I see in dresses, makeup and or straight drag queening as much as the slacks, wallet, and watch. I guess the man element doesn’t really change for me except offering visual insight into possibly how much fun is going to be had if we hang out. Not to sound too self-righteous, but I don’t really see items etc. defining anything as “manly”.  On attributes I’d say about the same as what defines a woman: be standup, loyalty is true virtue, try to be a solid person, try not to be boring.

What is your personal life philosophy?

I’d say a mix of weird one liners so far that resonate through me Red Green’s “keep your head up, and stick on the ice” & “if a woman can’t find you handsome, she should at least find you handy”, Socrates “we’re all dust in the wind”, and from an old hockey coach and a favorite patron “perfect practice makes perfect” and “work hard, party harder”. In all seriousness, ‘lead with your heart, raise your voice when the heart tells you to and smoke’m while you got’em’.

What is your favorite color and why?

Tie between Surf Green, Detroit Redwings Red, Minnesota Vikings Purple, and every shade of blue.

Who dead or alive, celebrity or not, artist or not, would you like to go on a two-week road trip with and why?

For dead, I’d say hands down Jimi Hendrix or Genghis Khan, both seem like an incredible hazy road trip conquest of opposite fashion. Alive, I’d say Winona Ryder because “is that even a question”, is there really anyone else?

What type of music do you listen to (if at all) when working?

Music is absolutely necessary in creating, I’d compare it to gasoline for a car engine to my ability to focus on work. I’m pretty eclectic and like to find the gems in just about any “type” of music. To give an impression of what resonates year in year out, a solid amount of Motown, just about everything from three one g records (www.threeoneg.com), Thin LIzzy, Jimi Hendrix, Odd Future, Tom Waits, Public Enemy, Child Bite, Obnox, Julie London, M.I.A., Astrud Gilberto, Thelonious Monk, cheesey old country in the Hank Williams to Lorretta Lynn vein, lots of Brahms and Mozart, King Tubby, Bob Marley, and tons of Bing Crosby Christmas music, especially during summer months.

How can people learn more about (or buy) your current and upcoming works? 

Visit www.flickr.com/photos/brianddowns or find me on Instagram: briandaviddowns, listen to my sounds at www.slothclause.bandcamp.com , email briandaviddowns@hotmail.com with any inquiries on buying/commissioning/proposing ideas or general life questions. Otherwise, I guess cut yourself and say my name backwards in a mirror six times or google my full name. I’m surprised to find out what comes up from that here and there over the years. 

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