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Exclusive Interview with Shag on Autumn’s Come Undone

Juxtapoz // Saturday, 21 Nov 2009

Your new work in Autumn’s Come Undone seems to utilize a darker color palate to express a darker time or place. Is this intentional?

Yes, the darker and more somber palette is a conscious break from my past work - it reflects where I am in my own life right now.

Throughout the past decade, you have both exalted and poked gentle fun at the excesses of socialite lifestyle. You consistently pictured men and women in positions of power and fun, in environments saturated in consumerism and ego. Is this new show a refection of the economic downturn and the new absence of glamour in elite society?

The show isn't meant to be a reflection of the current state of society, though it is a nice parallel.  It's more of a message and warning to myself, or an explanation of what's going on in my life right now.  The years I spent celebrating consequence-free hedonism and consumerism in my art are over, but that's because of personal reasons, not societal reasons.

In your show announcement, you state: “Something happened to me in the last year – call it an unexpected change-of-heart, if you like, but a lot of the unfettered hedonism my artwork espoused has begun to catch up with me.” Can you comment further on this?

Drinking, fooling around with drugs, buying expensive things, and pursuing pleasure was fun on it's own, but eventually I realized it was partly to hide from things in life.  Those things catch up with you eventually.  


Is your work, with the consistent depiction of modern furniture, cocktail parties, and ambivalent women a reflection of your real life at all? Why do you paint what you paint?

Most of that stuff is taken from my life. I started painting a life I aspired to, and eventually I was able to realize that lifestyle because my art became successful.  But in the past couple years, it's also seemed like a prison.  I have to work really hard to sustain this lifestyle, and I'm getting tired of it.

Describe your creative process. What do you do to enter a creative zone/space?

I have reverse insomnia - I never have trouble falling asleep, but wake up at 3:30 or 4:00 am and can't stop thinking.  That's when I usually get good ideas.  Sometimes I'll start painting then, because I don't have interruptions for a few hours.  I don't have to do anything special to get into a creative place - I paint every day unless I'm traveling.

Once I have an idea for a painting, I'll make a tiny thumbnail sketch.  From there, I'll refine the elements.  By the time I actually start the painting, I have a really good idea what the finished piece will look like.  I've already decided the color palette and composition, sometimes even the title.

On average, how long does it take you to complete one full painting?

On average, a painting takes 5 days to a week.

How do you feel about collaborative work? Do you feed off other artist’s energy, or does is distract you?

I don't like collaborative work at all. I've seldom done it, and when I have, I've always been disappointed.  I think it dilutes what makes an artist's work special. I've seen collaborations by two artists whose work I really admire individually, and the combined work was horrible.

Have you ever considered seriously working in other mediums? It seems as if a lot of your characters would look great as sculptures or toys.

I occasionally make forays into other mediums - I've done a couple sculptures and toys.  But I always go back to painting.  I think in two dimensions, and I'm generally disappointed with my three dimensional work.

What do you do when you’re not painting?

I surf a couple days a week, every week of the year.  I also like going out - to good restaurants and bars, and to see live bands.  I have two kids, and do a lot of things with them, too - "Dad" type things, like bike riding and playing disc golf.

What makes you excited about art?

Artists who have a high degree of proficiency in their craft, or a highly realized artistic voice really appeal to me.  Art is so subjective. It's hard for me to put into words the kind of art that excites me, but when I see it I know it. I have an entire wall in my studio with art from other artists leaning against it, which I've run out of wall space to hang.  If you looked at the art, you might not see any cohesive themes or attributes, but it's all stuff I've been exited by and bought in a gallery or from the artist himself.

Any advice you can lend to aspiring artists?

The most important thing I can say is to paint or create what appeals to yourself as an artist.  It wasn't until I sat down and decided to paint the kind of painting I'd like to own that I started seeing success as an artist. Also, if you paint to make yourself happy, and not what you think might sell or be accepted by a gallery, you'll be able to sustain your ability to create art.  It'll be easy to stay up 20 hours trying to finish that painting before your gallery show opens!


Shag's solo show Autumn’s Come Undone opens Saturday, November 21 at LA’s Corey Helford Gallery.
It will remain on view until December 9, 2009.
For more information about Josh “Shag” Agle, visit







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