You've probably seen Aaron Burtch's work and not even known it. Be it on a concert poster, an album cover, a painting or a t-shirt...Aaron's work has no boundaries. And not only does he create amazing artwork, but he's also the drummer for one of my favorite bands - Grandaddy. To learn more about this up and coming artist...read on!
One thing I noticed in your artwork is the theme of nature (animals or landscape). Do you fashion yourself as an environmentalist?
Totally. What can i say? I love animals, dirt, trees, sunshine, deserts, mountains...I love the smells, the sounds, the feel of it all...Being out there is what really makes me feel content and happy. Nothing else strikes that chord with me. There's no movie or painting or music that even comes close.
The area where I live is heavily agricultural but is undergoing this unprecidented urban growth cycle. There's so much money being made by developers, contractors, real estate people and lenders that it's become really unpopular to be considered an environmentalist. Even on the agricultural side the farmers are pissed off about the regulations that are set up to protect local species and habitat. I feel some sympathy for those guys, since i know how hard it is to be a small farmer these days. Most of them are just getting by and it's really a crime for the government to not help subsidize safer, more environmentally conscious farming. The way the government helps these people is by constantly relaxing those protective laws to allow for more pollution and development which does help the small farmer's immediate financial situation, but obviously it does far more harm than good. We are going to be paying for this irresponsibility for a long, long time I think.
Are there any specific artists you believe have influenced your work?
Since I grew up here in the Central Valley, and art isn't much of a consideration to most folks. It wasn't emphasised in school and I didn't have much of a head start in art knowledge. Shit, I guess i never really caught up either. I didn't go to art school and whatever it is that i've learned has been by just doing stuff. But some people who have really moved me in one way or the other are Tom Freidman, Al Hanson, Souther Salazar, Saelee Oh, Alexander Cheves, Andy Goldsworthy and the Group of Seven. I really love the Royal Art Lodge too, but i think probably the biggest direct influences have been skateboard graphics and print ads. With deck graphics, there are so many good ones and I think it's really incredible how so much care is put into it. Yet, if they are used like they are supposed to be used, the graphic is gone within minutes. They are made to be destroyed and i really like that.
The turnaround time for skate graphics is so short. All those boards that you see in a skate shop have a shelf life of about 3 months and then a new version takes its place. The good companies just turn out rad image after rad image, year after year and month after month. I'm really impressed by that.
You also play drums in a band called Grandaddy. I love the new EP – Excerpts From the Diary of Todd Zilla. (Readers…go out and buy it!) What has that experience helped bring to your artwork?
I always liked to draw, and I started painting right when the band started, in about 1992 or so. I developed most of whatever style i have by doing flyers for local shows and other band stuff. I'm not a confident artist and I guess I'd be happy enough to just make stuff without considering what anybody else would think about it. But making art that I know lots of people will see has been a huge factor in how my stuff turns out as well. I don't know if that's for better or for worse though.
You do most of the artwork for Grandaddy. Do they sort of let you have
free reign over your art or is there usually a discussion as to how the
band wants each album cover or poster to look?
Well, Jason usually directs the album covers. My involvement with
those are usually searching for photo sources, making props and laying
things out. I do most of the singles, e.p.s, posters and merchandise
graphics. More of the incidental shit, I guess. Usually I make all
those things on my own with my own concepts, but sometimes i'll just
elaborate on a good idea that Jason will have. We don't have to get our
music or art approved by the label or anything like that. They just let
us do what we want, pretty much. We have a good track record.
While we’re on the subject of the band you’re in…since Todd Zilla was
apparently recorded while you guys were working on your upcoming
album…when can we expect a new full-length album?
The new album is just about completely mixed and goes in for mastering very soon. It'll be out in the first half of next year.
Are you currently showcasing your art at any galleries/exhibitions? Do you have any plans of doing so in the near future?
I do a little bit of that, but I'm not a good networker and I haven't entrenched myself in a scene of any kind. I'd like to do more, but I'm not really sure how to go about it. Modesto isn't exactly a hotbed of cutting edge art galleries and since I didn't go to art school, my connections are pretty limited. Or maybe I just suck.
I think Thomas Kincaid has a gallery or two here. Shit, I think he's actually from here. That's the kind of art that people like in Modesto. That and those airbrush murals on the back of pickup truck beds. Aliens, tigers and titties. Stuff like that. The best is when someone has a mural incorporating an image of their truck on their truck. It's so awesome here.
In addition to your drawings and painting, you have several t-shirt designs available. Is this something you are going to devote more work to in the future?
Yeah. Seems like a crowded market at the moment. There's so many good t-shirt designs out now, but I'm going to start doing more of those on my own and for other bands and companies. Susane from Built Like Alaska is going to set up a screen printing rig at her house and we're going to make lots of stuff just for fun that we can sell through my website.
Do you, by any chance, follow the art and designer toy scene? If so, do you have any favoriteartists or pieces?
I don't really follow any scenes very closely. I'm isolated from it by geography and I don't really have much time to spend looking at stuff on the computer. I am friends with a great artist who grew up here in the valley named Souther Salazar who is sort of in that Giant Robot scene, so I have taken a little time to check some of that stuff out. There's some really good, clever artists out there making loads and loads of quality artwork. It actually does my head in trying to process how much good shit is out there right now. Another reason to stay away, I guess. It brings out my inferiority complex. I also like the stuff Pete Fowler does with the Super Furry Animals. He's really good.
Would you ever consider bringing your work to the 3D realm – whether it would be launching an art toy line or doing customs for a gallery show?
I do like the 3-D stuff. i love to make sculptural things and If an opportunity presented itself, I suppose I'd like to give it a shot.
If readers are interested in purchasing your work, first off – is it for sale? And secondly, how would they go about purchasing it?
I think I'd like to sell more stuff. When I do a gallery show, of course the things there are for sale. I've sold a few things but not too many. I tried EBay a couple times when I was strapped for cash, and now I have this website that I've yet to use to its full potential. I'm a little hesitant because I don't want the commodification of my art stuff to break the spell for me. I like the act of just making things and if it all of a sudden became more of a business, I'd be afraid that I'd lose respect for the action of it and I wouldn't want to do it any more. I really don't want it to be forced. Honesty in art is very important to me.
I do think I'm going to try it out pretty soon through my website using that paypal thing. I'll try listing a few things and see if anything sells and then I'll see how I feel about it. Maybe It'll be a good thing.