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Beth Hoeckel: Found images and cosmic landscapes

Beth Hoeckel is a collage artist based in Baltimore, US. We’ve had our eye on her for a while, so it’s great to finally feature her abstract, cosmic and absurd constructions, lifted from the pages of old books and magazines. I spoke to Beth about her inspirations and approach to collage. Why did you start creating art and what brought you to where you are today? I don’t remember why because it was so long ago. I had a sketch book at age 3 or 4. I went to an art school for high school and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for college, so back then I knew it was something I wanted to do. However, I then spent several years in professional limbo because I didn’t think it was possible to ‘be an artist’ for a living. Then one day I realised that it is actually possible so I went for it. What is your working process when starting a new piece? Generally I look through piles of materials and get in a mode of searching, then placing and rearranging, and a lot of cutting obviously. I put things together that speak to me visually but they also have to work conceptually, so it can sometimes take a long time. What inspires you to create and where do you source your materials? So many things inspire me in day to day life that it is hard to pinpoint anything in particular. Mostly looking through old books. I go through them for the pictures, but often end up reading a lot of it, especially in history or educational books, so that is inspirational I guess. Also, cutting with scissors, which I find meditative. All my materials are from old books, magazines and other publications. The main criteria is that they have to be vintage. I get those mostly from thrift stores and used book shops. I’ve gotten a lot for free from people who are getting rid of stuff. Do you have a lot of unused materials that you hold onto until you can find a use for them? Yes, way too many to keep track of. I wish I had a whole warehouse full of tables so I could lay them all out and be able to look at them all together. How has your approach changed over the years? I think now I am just more sure of what I want and more confident in my decisions. Those are qualities that only came from a lot of years of experience and trial and error. I find myself returning to a lot of old styles and melding them with new ones. It all goes in a cycle, so though some things change I am also often revisiting and refining a previous approach. What themes do you always return to in your work? Family, nature and the cosmos seem to be quite important. Yeah, those are definitely recurring themes. As opposed to family, singular figures are often in there and are sometimes just body parts instead of a full person. I’m also drawn to mountains, plants, gems and turbulent skies. I rarely use themes like technology or machinery. It’s usually nature. Do you do much commissioned work, and is it difficult to stick to a brief when you're working mostly with found images? Yes I do and yes it is. Some are more open to letting me interpret things myself and some are alarmingly specific with what they want. Luckily I have such a large variety of imagery at hand after years of collecting. I rarely have to try to find something online, but once or twice I have had to. What are you working on at the moment? I am working on several illustrations for a book (not my book), and on getting my studio more organised and streamlined, which is dull and stressful but necessary. Good advice you wish you’d been told earlier? I wouldn’t say it’s that I wish I’d been told, more that I wish I had listened. Mostly simple things like ‘save your money’. I wish someone would have forced me to do that a long time ago. And things everyone hears like ‘be yourself’ and ‘follow your dreams’- as cliched as those sound, they are true. But most people learn on their own terms, no matter how much advice they are given. [imagebrowser id=42] )

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