Troy Brooks is a contemporary surrealist painter. His work presents an elaborate pageantry of dark elongated female characters observed in allegorical settings. These woman play out intimate scenes, usually caught in moments where something transformative has, or is about to happen. The distinctive style of Troy Brooks has been widely recognized in the pop surrealism movement, with exhibitions in Canada, the US and Europe.
Hello dear Troy, please, tell us how did you find the artist inside you? How long have you been doing art? Is art something that you always wanted to do?
I’ve been drawing and painting since I was two. I never wanted to play with other kids. I just wanted to make pictures of women.
What was / is your major influences? Other artists, books, movies, music or any other media....What inspires you to create your artworks?
A lot of my work is influenced by old films. I grew up spending all day at the library pouring over enormous books of classic Hollywood stills of the 20’s 30’s and 40’s. The lighting and the tension in those images was incredibly seductive. All the women had a hard-boiled glamour that really appealed to me. My filmic narrative and dramatic lighting is a direct result from my drawing all those George Hurrell photographs ad nauseum for all those years.
How does "a normal day of artist" in your life look like?
I get up at 6 am, work out and meditate. Then I usually start painting at around 8 or 9am until around 10 or 11pm. It’s a long day and I usually have to stop for a nap when the coffee stops working. I’m very fortunate to be able to devote all my time to painting, but I don’t think a lot of people realize how exhausting it can be. Some think just because you love to do something that it must be a breeze, but it’s about as mentally draining as cleaning a large tile floor with a tooth brush 11 hours a day. I have to listen to audiobooks while I paint so I don’t go crazy.
What’s your background? Are you self-taught artist or did you study art? Do you think an art education is important or imperitive for anybody wishing to be an artist? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that you have encountered throughout your career with/without the formal training of the Art Academy?
I’m completely self-taught and I’ve never had any formal training. I wish I’d had some basic training. Because there is a science to oil paint that, if you don’t understand, could ruin your work in the long term. I learned that the hard way. Another advantage of training that I did not have was the opportunity to connect with other artists. I avoided a career in art for many years because when I was very young I got into the business of doing commissioned portraits and I hated it. That made me want to steer clear of art. I’m fortunate enough to paint only what I want now but it took a lot of luck to get my first exhibition with no CV or formal art training. On the other hand, any style or unique approach I’ve developed is a result of not having been properly instructed. The only advice I feel qualified to give a younger artist is to paint all the time. Paint as much as you can. Be in love with the process.
What fascinates you the most about surrealism and pop surrealism? How would you describe your style? What themes do you pursue, what surrealism mean to you and what do you hope the viewer will take away from your art?
I think pop surrealism is the most vibrant art movement to happen in a long time. My particular brand of surrealism is very subtle. It’s not overly dreamlike or unreal. It’s more to do with the narrative. I originally developed my work in private as a visual vocabulary to express the abuse that I was dealing with as a child. As a little gay kid, I couldn’t act out because I would be punished from all directions. When I was very little, I was convinced I was born the wrong sex. So I made pictures of women that told my story in hidden metaphors. For example, when I felt particularly overwhelmed with swarms of fearful or angry thoughts banging and buzzing around my head, I painted bumble bees around my women. Or when I was humiliated by other boys at school for my being too much like a girl, I painted a series of confrontational widows who had killed their husbands. That was my only safe form of expression.
What do you love most about creating and being an artist? What does “being creative” mean to you?
Being creative means that I keep my imagination adrenalized. It’s a muscle like anything else. It helps me to meditate to be creative. When I have a solid meditation practice, I have a clear passage to my best instincts. And since my work is mostly instinctive, that’s crucial.
Can you describe your typical workflow when you’re working on your art? What are your tools of trade? What medium do you most often use and why?
I use M. Graham oil paints because they have incredible pigment and a walnut oil binder which allows a slower drying time without extra medium, so I can blend to get that soft hazy effect. I don’t work on very large canvases and so I end up using very fine brushes, sometimes short watercolour brushes. I have a bunch of big fat blending brushes that might make you think I’m a makeup artist.
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
Something to do with film.
Tell us more about your workspace. What was the most funny or weird thing that happened to you in your studio? What is / was the most strange thing hidding in your studio?
Nothing really strange has happened to me here. I live like a monk.
What toughest challenges have you faced as an artist during your art career? What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?
I’ve been incredibly lucky to have sold work steadily since I started showing but you always feel a sense of panic leading up to an exhibition because you never know if anything will sell. It’s a precarious business because you have to follow your muses and inspiration into areas that might not be the most commercially viable, but on the other hand, your ability to keep doing that full-time depends on making work that people want to buy. My prices have gotten high enough to make me nervous, but ultimately you just have to go down the worm hole that a vision pulls you toward.
What’s the best and worst advice you ever received in your art career?
Honestly, I’ve never gotten good advice because my route to success never really matched anyone I knew. I would encourage anyone who wants to be successful at a creative career to not seek advice. Just accomplish as much and make as many messes as you can, so you can fine-tune your own particular road. You don’t have to know exactly what you want. You can always just start with avoiding what you don’t want.
What do you dislike about the art world? What is the hardest thing on being an artist? Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
Sometimes the solitude of being an artist can be challenging but I try to remember the 12 years I waited tables and I had to smile at assholes all night. This always makes me feel better.
Where do you see yourself in the future? Professionally, what’s your goal?
My goal is to sustain my work. I said earlier that I basically live like a monk. Everything I do is in service to my work. I want to be painting into my old age like Monet. I’m working on a novel that features my paintings in the story, but that is a big project that is going to take time. Difficult to have energy to write and paint.
Your favorite art or life quote is ...
“The pain passes, but the beauty remains.” -Renoir
What are you doing when you’re not creating? What (other) hobbies do you have?
I weightlift and exercise 5 days a week because being immobile all day is an occupational hazard. I love old films, true crime books and I’m a huge coffee lover.
Do you have an online portfolio, blog or social medias where we can view your work?
Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there any project you are working on right now or any ongoing event or exhibition you would like to share with our readers?
I just shipped three new pieces to Arcadia Contemporary in New York and three new pieces to Pink Zeppelin Gallery in Berlin. I also just started a new series. To early to tell too much.
Thank you dear Troy, it was a honor to interview you, I wish you only the best for you and your art and already looking forward to see your new art works :)