Pretty stoked to introduce our next artist that we met through our homie Tom that runs @ArtForTheSick. Before getting too deep into all the details let’s let this amazing artist John Vochatzer have his say in the following interview - Enjoy!
So John, where are you from, and where do you reside now? I was born in Coos Bay, Oregon but spent most of my growing up in Stockton, California and the surrounding central Valley. Now I've been living in San Francisco for almost 15 years. Surfing the inter-webs we were able to check out some of your illustrations, murals, and of course your amazing collage work. Are there any other mediums that you experiment with as well? Thank you! Yeah those are pretty much my main gigs lately but I've dabbled in a little bit of everything. I did a lot of oil painting when I was younger but gradually fell out of that. Then I had a brief stint in film school, and although I quite quickly realized it wasn't an industry for me, film was and still is a big inspiration. Throughout my twenties I played in a few goofy punk bands and made a lot nonsense zines and unsigned practical-joke style street art. I didn't really take myself or anything seriously for that matter and creativity during this period was really just a vehicle for my own self amusement and making my friends and myself laugh. I've definitely grown out of that mentality since. I also write poems and like to cook.
So John, we learned about your work via @artforthesick by first seeing your collage art.
Can you explain your process in which you create your collages? Are there particular types of magazines, books, or other mediums that you typically source materials and inspiration from?
Yeah @artforthesick! My friend and next door neighbor Tom runs that page. He's a weirdo, I think he's from Guam or something.
Yeah, about 98.5% of my material comes from used books and magazines I find at thrift stores, book sales, ebay, and this really cool store in the SF Tenderloin called "The Magazine" that has a bunch old photos and used magazines for like 35 cents a pop. Recently, as in the past six months or so, I've started scanning images and resizing and reproducing them. I found that sometimes I would be buying the same book over and over because it had so many usable images in it that eventually I decided I needed to find a more economic route. Now I'm hooked on reprinting and all the possibilities that come with being able to mass produce and layer the same image repeatedly. I also have a very meticulous way of organizing and categorizing the things I cut out. Everything gets put into boxes and albums each designated for it's specific type: limbs, tails, fish, eyes, teeth, snakes, wings, etc.
So John, can you talk a bit about your childhood and how any of the elements from where you grew up may have influenced the work you do today?
During the nineties when I was a kid, #Stockton was your pretty standard Californian city and as I remember it it wasn't at all a bad city to spend a childhood, during that time at least. That being said I did have periods of what I could only describe as a frenetic growing up that I think really led me to developing my imaginative side. I remember heavily obsessing over comics, trading cards, action figures, cartoons and maybe never even really understanding or paying attention to the stories and narratives that came attached with them, instead always fabricating and making up my own. I think my art as an adult still does this in a way, but now instead with things like #religiousiconography, #naturalhistory, #anthropology, #anatomy, #classicalart... the world via printed media has provided me with these #archetypes and with a foundation to disassemble and rearrange into my own #alternativeworld.
That’s fascinating and magnificent how the these elements of your childhood can somehow show up in your work now.
So who were some influential artists for you growing up?
From the time I was a teenager all the way into my early twenties the surrealists were my idols. #MaxErnst, #YvesTanguy, #Magritte, and especially #Dalí. When I was a broke 17 year old I would go steal every book I could about them from the corporate book chains in Stockton and needed to gather every existing image and piece of printed information I could about these wondrous and mysterious people. I spent a good year obsessing over Antonin Artaud alone. I soon later went on to discover the lesser publicized women #surrealists like #RemediosVaro and #LeonoraCarrington who I found out were just as if not even more incredible #painters and also bad-ass #anarchists.
John, where do you typically create your work?
Everywhere I go haha. I manage an apartment building and have a small office that I've used on-and-off as a workspace and my friend and fellow artist #MaxEhrman also has a studio in the building which he lets me use at night if I need to do anything with #spraypaint or #resin or other noxious chemicals but in all honesty the majority of my creative work gets done on my apartment floor. The type of work I do requires having a wide range of materials and supplies at my fingertips and until they day I can afford a large, spacious studio space to myself I've realized it's most practical just to keep everything together in a single place and that so happens to be the same place I sleep. I overall don't mind it except for I'm always having to step around piles of #razorblades and mounds of #paper and what have you.
Can you talk about some of the wheat-paste work you put out in the street?
Yeah wheatpasting is something I've always on-and-off done throughout my life. For the most part though it's usually been more lowkey like plastering up show flyers for my band or doing ballpoint drawings while bored at my job and then going and blowing them up at Kinkos afterwards and gluing them around my neighborhood. Only recently have I started to integrate the street art with my actual collage work. Not only did I just feel like my collages were at a good stage that they'd apply well to outdoor street art, but I've felt like San Francisco now more than ever, as I watch it increasingly become more corporate and mundane, needs more weird, outlandish shit out-and-about to keep things interesting and alive. In the past year I've also spent time in Buenos Aires and Barcelona doing paste-ups and am hoping to get out to a lot more cities in the near future.
So John are you involved with your art full-time? If not, how are you currently able to balance the work you do creatively?
I'm definitely not unacquainted with the side gigs and occasional odd jobs haha! Creative liberty is something that is very important to me and consequently I turn down the majority of commission and design work I get asked to do. I almost always regret accepting it and it distracts me from the projects I'd rather be working on. On the other side of that I end up missing out on lot of money because although the fine art sales can be great at times, I'm sure as a lot of artists know, they aren't consistent. Fortunately when I need to I manage to find work that gives me space to breath and be creative and a lot of downtime to do what I want to do.
What are some of your goals creatively with the work you are creating?
My biggest goals are just to keep my imagination stimulated and to keep bringing my inner world into the outer world just with more and more precision, abundance, and detail. I also work in so many different styles and mediums that one of my current goals is focusing on bridging a lot of the gaps therein. Sometimes I look back on my work over the past few years and think to myself "holy shit, this looks like it could be the work of five different people." And while I think that definitely has it's merits, I'm really trying to develop all of my facets to a point in which they more fluidly work together.
John, what advice would you give other aspiring artists interested in pursing their dreams of being an artist that you have learned in your own experience?
Everybody's path to doing what they want to do is different. If there's one piece of advice I'd give though its don't worry about what other people are going to think or say of you. I think a lot of people hold back from their dreams because of lack of confidence and fear of judgement. I myself was really apprehensive about creating for a good period because I kept thinking in my mind that what I was doing was too weird and people would misunderstand it or think that it was just some kind of freak druggy art. I let that go and I let my imagination run wild, feral, and free now and I've grown a lot more and come a lot further because of it.
If there were any creator that you could collaborate with living or dead who would it be and why?
This is a bit of a tough question. What I like most about collaborative art is the element of play and surprise so I suppose I'd want to collaborate with someone who'd cater to that. Alejandro Jodorowsky comes to mind but he's such a one-man visionary dynamo I don't even know how that'd work. Maybe Marcel Duchamp? I don't know.
Can you talk about the current print project that you are working on currently?
Absolutely. I'm doing a pre-order limited edition print release of three of my more recent mixed media collages starting on May 14th this month. The release will be in collaboration with my friend Mike @strange_cessation who does all of my fine art and street art printing and the goal is basically just to help fund my street art and afford to do bigger and better things and in more cities. I'm hooked on full color imagery and as you can imagine the tab on that runs up pretty quickly. Hopefully it goes well and I can keep doing what I like to do and bring big colorful creatures to life out on the streets!
John, how did you get the IG handle @CalamityFair?
Calamity Fair was actually the name of a zine I was working on in like 2011 or 2012 that I never quite finished. Somehow I had come up on this gigantic stack of Vanity Fair magazines and my idea was to remix them into this surrealist, dissociative zine called Calamity Fair. I opened my instagram account shortly after with the idea of it being a good platform for posting pictures of the zine as I made it, which I kinda did/kinda didn't do and eventually as that idea faded out the name stuck and it's inadvertently become my artist alias. Now I find myself constantly being referred to as Calamity Fair or just Calamity, and although it was never my initial intent I don't really mind it. It fits.
Ok now the fun stuff; tell us a joke.
No thanks, I've just already spent enough time talking about my life.
Ask us any question.
Whats your social security number?
222-22-2222 - we got an answering machine that can talk to you. Btw that was the best question any artist has ever asked us!
Be sure to follow John Vochatzer on IG: @CalamityFair