We gained a little insight into Flip Solomon’s process and influences for these amazingly detailed drawings that make for fantastic reproductions. Read on to find out more about this intriguing woman, and what makes her view the world as she does.
Tell us a little about your background and how you developed into the artist you are today.
I was able to attend Paier College of Art while I was still in high school. This college teaches traditional methods and it was here that I was trained in classical graphite drawing. This method layers graphite utilizing a range of 20 pencils starting with the hardest pencil and going through each hardness until you get to the softest. All are sharpened to a very sharp point with sandpaper and through careful crosshatching, you get an end result that has a very 3-D effect. An 8x10" piece could easily take upwards of 40 hours with this technique. After high school, I went to art school but I didn't feel like I was learning very much so I dropped out after two years and finished up with an academic major. I had about a 15 year hiatus before I went back to my art in 2014 and I was happy to find there was no back-pedaling, I just jumped in from where I left off! I'm a self-taught pen & ink artist but my early training in graphite taught me the patience to work in this medium. It informs my technique now but pen & ink feels like a huge short cut in comparison.
What combination of techniques do you use to create your artwork?
I'm still most comfortable with graphite so I sketch everything out in pencil first until I've created a good groundwork. Then I use a range of Micron pens with different-sized nibs for my line work and brushes for the ink wash. I'm slowly learning different pen & ink techniques but so far it's just been my own experimentation. It's a little nerve-wracking working in pen & ink because you can't mess up! I have to retain a pretty strong focus to be able to work in this medium.
What ideas/people/events influence your work?
I'm heavily influenced from my childhood! My parents were art appreciators and world travelers so I grew up with art and travel being priorities. We had old cars and inexpensive clothes but we always had money to travel. Our trips mainly consisted of visiting museums, galleries, marketplaces and cultural sites. My folks were also avid collectors and had very eclectic taste in what they collected so they really scouted it out! I grew up in a home filled with art, antiques and unique handicrafts from around the world. My mom was also an artist (a painter and a textile artist) in addition to repairing oriental rugs for a living so there was a real background of beauty and intricate design to my childhood. Our house was always filled with Persian rugs, Kilim pillows, mud cloth... I find those patterns trickling out in my artwork now.
Why do the majority of your images not include color?
I enjoy black and white a lot in my life in general although I LOVE color, especially a bright splash of it like a pink sofa or orange fingernail polish. I like the challenge of creating a piece that evokes emotion and is nuanced and complex without relying on the use of color. I'm also a little bit color blind so that might be part of it too!
|"The Floating City of China"||"Leo Rising"||"Simple Majestic"|
Many of your original pieces are large scale drawings. Is that to incorporate more detail in your images?
I started working large for wakefulness! I have narcolepsy so I'm always on the verge of sleep. If I'm working on a small piece and sitting on a bed or even in a comfy chair, I am out! In my studio, I have high ceilings and a very long sturdy desk that I stand on it while I draw against the wall. If I'm doing ink wash, I'll work on the floor which is cement and uncomfortable enough that I don't fall asleep! The happy advantage to working large is that I can incorporate a ton of detail into my work. If I'm working on something detailed like fur or an intricate design, it can easily take an hour just to do a few square inches but I can get a ton of detail in there.
How long does an average piece take to complete?
I give myself at least five weeks for any piece, good health withstanding. The larger ones can easily take 3 or 4 months to complete (it depends entirely on the amount of detail) more pen work vs. brush work for example. If I'm being very challenged by a piece, I'll find myself in a distracted state and it can really take a long time to finish. I also have Klein-Levin episodes which means I can't work for weeks at a time so things come along very slowly sometimes, I've had to learn to have a lot of patience.
What do you hope the viewer takes from your images?
I imbue each piece of artwork that I create with a lot of intention. By virtue of having narcolepsy (a disorder of REM), I get a lot of messages through dreamtime and I try to convey these concepts of higher consciousness into my art. Occasionally I'll have a very clear dream and be called to draw directly from that dream but more often then not it's the concept of the dream that I want to carry through the piece. So my process will be to start looking for visual representations that carry that frequency. It can take me months to find just the right reference materials for a piece and I'm often chewing on ideas for several pieces simultaneously. On the flip side, sometimes I'll fall in love with something or a photo of something and because I dream so easily, I can just stare at it before I fall asleep and have a dream relating to it that is full of insight. So it works both ways. I work a lot through symbols and I think because my process is based so deeply in the world of the subconscious, my work hits on an emotional level. Sometimes people will try to deconstruct my work in this very mental way which I find quite amusing! Others just know they resonate with it and maybe have an easier time understanding that so much is happening on other levels, through the emotional body and energetically. I like to think about my images hanging in people's homes and their energy entraining with the high frequency of the intention of each piece.
How does your art affect the way you see the world?
Since getting back to my art, I've noticed that I can be in the present more easily now. I've always been such a future thinker, but now I notice special moments more as they're happening. Almost as if I'm recognizing them as a composition I'd like to draw--a snapshot in time, like a visual or energetic composition. Each piece of art that I create, I am creating for the viewer to entrain their energy with--this happens after about 7 seconds of gazing at a piece of art. Applying that knowledge to life, if I notice I'm really enjoying something, I will pause and totally soak it in for 7 seconds or about two or three slow breaths. I take in everything--the visuals, the sounds, the smells, the feelings, anything my skin is touching and after a few breaths, I can feel my cells tingling as if I've somatically integrated the moment. It's really an excellent practice to do--the human brain has a tendency to over-remember the bad stuff and this is a way to create good memories. The more you get in the practice of it, the more you find yourself recognizing these moments and having more of them. Then you find that you can string together all these moments of pure presentness which basically leads to having a happy and fulfilling life... Life hacks 2.0! I'm constantly taking photos of things now too--I have an album on my phone with thousands of potential reference photos--sometimes it's just a cool crack in the sidewalk or an interesting fabric but you never know when you can pull on that for a piece!
Who would you consider one of your favorite artists?
Kehinde Wiley is one of my favorite contemporary artists. I like the grandiosity of his work and I share his love for the decorative arts, he is a master of incorporating that aspect into his work. I also like how he creates a new reality in his body of work. He saw the absence of black people in the history books and recreated those majestic compositions featuring African American men and women in modern day garb. Even though his work is a response to injustice, the beauty is that his work doesn't have the feel of resistance to it. It has the energy of pure creation, which is how you really shift consciousness on a mass scale. Terri Thomas (an Austin artist) is another of my contemporary favorites. Her context is multi-layered and profound and her presentation is like nothing I've ever seen, it's next level! If I ever start painting in earnest, my goal would be to someday get to their level of technical mastery.
Do you have any shows on the horizon? Where can we see more work?
The Motherland series is currently up at Magnolia Cafe South (until mid-July) then rotates to BookPeople Cafe for August and September. In November, my new series will debut for EAST at my studio--Canopy, Studio 201 and I will have a booth at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar over the holidays. Large canvases are also currently on display at City Hall, Friends and Allies Brewery, Moloko, and Gina Cave's Salon. I participate monthly in the Art Will Save Us shows at Cherry Cola Dog which is such a fun party and great place to meet artists and collectors. I also have framed originals and prints at Austin Art Garage, year-round.
Follow Flip on Instagram to stay up to date @flipsolomon.