LESS IS MORE.
It is possible that our word never recovers from what Charlie Coatney has done to it. A passionate lover of language, of how to use it. He enjoys to challenge the conventional that disturbs the authentic reality. Observer and observed at the same time, deeply of his time. The artist is always attentive to his era, the swing, the metaphorical rhythm that sprouts, deliciously wild. This is a time of miracles, I remember the years of Charlie Parker that tell crazy journeys aboard Cadillacs. We were already going down the mountain and dominating the great plain, the underlying heat of an oven, we began to discover an artist of our time, with unmistakable bop style, the portrait of an underground America, authentic and uninhibited.
Charlie Coatney exclusive with Subterráneo.
First of all I wanted to know how jazz influences your art... in what way?
Jazz music in general has influenced my art in quite a few ways. Each label at that time had an individual style of design that set each other apart, though some very similar. At first I was immediately drawn to Blue Note Records, very minimal, great black and white photography, nice color schemes, and really good typography. Over time I had begun to take notice of different artist’s designing artwork for other labels such as Columbia Records (considered the pioneers of album cover art), Bethlehem Records (mainly the work of Burt Goldblatt), the great illustrative work of David Stone Martin on Clef Records, The great silk screened covers on ESP Disc Label, and the color schemes used on Atlantic Records. It all just clicked for me, and I liked it. The music itself has shaped many of my pieces. If I have no concept or plan at the time, I may just put on a record and paint or cut as I hear the tones in the songs.
How skateboarding influences your art also... and
What's the connection between jazz and skateboarding for you?
I have always drawn pictures as a kid, emulating skateboard graphics in the confines of my room. Ed Templeton was my earliest real influence in art. If he did not introduce me to his world, I would most likely not do art, design, or photography at all. He would give me drawing pads and markers at his kitchen table and tell me to draw something. I was super intimidated and embarrassed, so I would always go home and try harder to draw or pick up paint and mess around. As for design and photography he would design skateboard graphics, magazine advertisements, which he would put in a binder type folder and show me. Each time I would see these I would think in my head, how he got the artwork to come out in this format. That’s when I picked up my first point and shoot camera, as well as trying to make art on the computer.
The connection between jazz music and skateboarding came at a very indecisive period for me, skateboarding was in a very strange state. When Jason Lee and Chris Pastras started stereo skateboards it really changed the way I looked at skateboarding, skateboard graphics, art, photography and music as a whole. The Video “A Visual Sound” is really what introduced me to jazz music. Next thing you know I was buying jazz records, not only for the music, but for the design aesthetic as well. Soon after I began to minimize everything I was doing at the time, and decided to take a more modern, minimalist, cleaner approach to just about everything I was doing in life. And the rest is history.
How is your creative process? How do you come up with this figures?
My creative process is fairly simple and usually much improvised. It usually starts out while I’m at work during the day, working on design projects. I may be working on something and think this is nice, I’ll put that idea on paper. All day long I’m looking at type, color, shape, and content, so I absorb the information and bring it home with me. Hopefully i can make something using the ideas I’ve come up with, if not ill just put on some music and start. It usually works out better, and is my favorite process.
Who is your favorite jazz musician?
That’s a hard one, I can’t really say that I have one favorite. There are so many great jazz musicians that have played different instruments at different time periods for different labels. Jazz artists are so interesting to me, not just the music, but the lifestyle each one of them lives. Lately I have been listening to a lot of Mal Waldron, a great pianist from New York. His style is most known as Hard Bop, and has played with many of the greats as a sideman and band leader. His life story is amazing, and makes me have a great appreciation for his music. Other than him some of my favorites include double bassist Ron Carter, the great Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Bill Evans, Pharaoh Sanders, Elvin Jones, and of course John Coltrane. That’s just a few, but i could go on for days about jazz musicians and which ones are my favorites.
What are your influences, your inspiration?
These days my major inspiration comes from the past. I may pick up a children’s book, photography or design/art book, or record cover and be inspired. Some of my constant inspiration is from Paul Rand, Reid Miles, David Stone Martin, Robert Motherwell, Paul Fujita, Robert Frank, Stephen Shore, William Eggleston, Ellsworth Kelly, Frederick Hammersley, etc…
How did you end up collaborating with Stereo Skateboards?
Ron Rauto (designer at Stereo skateboards) and Jason Lee, reached out to me and asked if I was interested in doing something with them. Stereo being one of my all-time favorite skateboard companies, I was definitely into it. When it came down to the artwork being used on a team deck, Carl Shipman, and Matt Rodriguez decks, it really made sense. I couldn’t be any happier with the results.
How living in Long Beach affects your art? In what way?
I’ve found that living in long beach has given me a relaxed atmosphere to work and create in, great balance of city life and suburb areas to draw inspiration from. I have never lived in one place to long, so I end up living in more fast paced crazy situations with less space to work. Most of my work would be made on the fly with very little preparation, and whatever supplies are laying around at the time. With photography, i don’t really ever need to go too far away from Long Beach to get the types of subjects I’m going for. All though I do travel and bring camera with me everywhere, LBC has many sides to this city that I can explore.
Why do you shoot analog instead of digital?
When I was in my teens we were using film, for me it was mainly disposable cameras at first. Seeing Ed Templeton use a film camera caught my interest. So I picked one up and would bring it with me everywhere, mainly taking pictures of graffiti. So for me, I feel much more comfortable using film. I like compiling film not knowing what the outcome will be. If I get some good shots, I am very pleased. At work I am always around digital photography, to me it doesn’t have the same feeling. I don’t want to know what each picture is going to look like right after i take it, i don’t want to go into the programs Lightroom, or Photoshop and ad a bunch of tricks to the image. With film i feel like shooting film forces me to work harder, and spend more time composing an image. I guess it’s just preference, and a bit of nostalgia also. However, I am not super picky about camera gear. I use whatever is available, whether it be a point and shoot, range finder, SLR, disposable, medium format, or Polaroid camera.
Which subjects, themes or emotions are you looking forward to photograph, design, paint and draw?
With photography I am just out trying to photograph real life events, as they are happening. Wherever I may be at the time, I just want to capture a real feeling of the place. Other than for work, I rarely ever ask a person if I could take their photo. I prefer to shoot people in their natural state of being. With design and painting, I just want to put out clean, minimal, and relatable pieces. Good color, Type, Shape, space, and follow through is what I’m trying to achieve. I don’t want to over think anything and try to do too much. I have found that most of the time less is more.
Charlie Coatney was born and raised in Huntington Beach, California. Formally trained as a painter and graphic designer, Charlie chose to pursue photography in order to expand his knowledge of the arts. All of his experiences in skateboarding, travel, and graffiti have contributed to his style in art, design, and photography.
Introduction by Marcio Parks.
Interview by Juan Cruz Molas y Molas.
Photography and art-work courtesy of Charlie Coatney.
Una mirada auténtica sobre la subcultura.
(an authentic look about subculture).
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