We had the good fortune of connecting with Brian Colley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brian, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
In the age of Instagram, everything seems to be…well, instant. And even behind the scenes, I think folks really only get a small glimpse into the work an artist puts into any one finished work. I wouldn’t say outsiders are completely unaware of all the steps needed to complete the artwork, but to fully appreciate it takes time and a bit more effort than swiping up/right/etc.
From having a place to make said work to having a place to show and sell it, and all the pieces in between, I’m often amazed so many people haven’t lost the drive to create, since the dedication to the craft is so much more than the final product. Sourcing raw materials, purchasing the basic supplies, knowing how to use tools that you may or may not own yourself, this is just the beginning. Then you actually have to know how to use those materials/supplies/tools (or be willing to learn and make mistakes along the way…also costly!). Speaking of mistakes, I can’t tell you how many artworks just never even get off the ground or find their way to any other life form than myself. Being good at what you do takes patience.
And we haven’t even talked about the amount of money is spent on all these supplies, studio rentals, additional workshops to learn the craft, plus paying out the nose for being self-employed every April 15. So it’s no wonder artists need to price their work as they see fit…it can be a long road to the sale!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
To me, art has been a kind of play, an opportunity to create another world that doesn’t quite exist fully in this universe. It’s also a chance for me to dive into a topic (I’m currently making work for a 2-person show about Godzilla, of all things!), and I always learn something interesting that finds its way into a painting.
The past 3-4 years has seen a slight shift into more contemplative works, compared to earlier works that were pure entertainment (at least for me). My favorite way to present art recently has been to cut out a big MDF panel and gesso/paint on that, then cover in resin so it’s shiny, and then hang that on the wall. I did a big series of self-portraits in 2020 as a culmination of some self-discoveries / self-examinations (literally looking into my brain), which were sort of scary to put out into the world, but getting to look back at myself (my big, shiny self), I got a new perspective on big life things. So my art has also been shifting into the existential / self-revealing realm, which is also very therapeutic! I’m still exploring ideas in watercolors, pen & pencil, and linocut prints as well.
I also have been making a weekly comic for our local non-profit newspaper The Sopris Sun, which has been a welcome new practice, keeping me on my toes for constant ideas. It’s become a great way to distill the world down into a 5″x7″ space week after week, and I believe I just topped 100+ comics (started just as Covid shut things down in March of 2020).
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
So many amazing things to do around here…you might want to stay longer than a week (I did…and that was 12+ years ago). Let’s see, can’t go wrong with breakfasts at The Village Smithy, Silo, Craft, or the new Plosky’s Deli. Then (if it’s summer), go on a float trip down the Roaring Fork River, or head up the Crystal River Valley for a hike, maybe end up in Marble. So obviously have lunch at Slow Groovin’…or head to the Redstone General Store for a delicious home cooked meal. If it’s winter we’d probably go for a midday Nordic ski up to Spring Gulch and grab food at Fat Belly afterwards (a reward for hard work!)
I don’t drink, but I really enjoy the mocktails at Batch Provisions (I made their logo!), but they have all kinds of other drinks/snacks, and amazing personal-sized pizzas! Be sure to check out the Bunnie Reiss mural on the side of the building of the deer! It looks across the street into the eyes of an elk I painted as part of a community mural in 2021.
Okay, then we’d tour the Carbondale Arts gallery where I work, go check out the SAW studios across town, and round it off with a short trip over to the Powers Art Center about a half mile outside of town. Maybe a little hike up Red Hill on the way back to get that postcard view of Carbondale beneath Mount Sopris. And heck, if it’s a Tuesday evening, we might luck out with meeting up with friends at the Roaring Fork Drawing Club I started with my friend Lindsay!
Also can’t go wrong with visiting other towns up and down the valley…plenty to do in Glenwood Springs, Basalt, Snowmass Village, and of course Aspen. But I do love the small town feel and family friendly community of Carbondale where I’m lucky enough to live and work!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Wow, where to start with this…I think just living in this creative and supportive community of Carbondale is a major part of how I can do what I do. Can’t say enough for the encouragement from my family, the resourcefulness of other artists at my studio co-op (SAW: Studio for Arts+Works), and having the flexibility to practice my art under a deadline (part time jobs, especially at non-profits, are not always just part time).
Overflowing gratitude for folks like my Carbondale Arts employer, Amy Kimberly, my Roaring Fork Drawing Club co-founder, Lindsay Jones, friend and past employer at The Art Base in Basalt, Deborah Jones…these friends/colleagues have helped boost my confidence and keep my sights on what inspires me (instead of just what might inspire others).
Thanks also to local spots like Anderson Ranch Arts Center / The Art Base / Red Brick Center for the Arts / Aspen Chapel Gallery / Carbondale Clay Center / Main Street Gallery & Framer and plenty of others where I’ve shown and sold my art or taken classes that propel me forward. Can’t say enough about the brick and mortar organizations that are willing to showcase local artists.
Other: Roaring Fork Drawing Club instagram: @rfdrawingclub SAW (Studio for Arts+Works) instagram: @sawstudio
the black and white portrait of me is by Sarah Overbeck. all others are mine