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For the month of February, Blacktooth has reached out for an unusual "coffee table" discussion with fellow artist Ela Chmielowski. Now living in the region of British Columbia, Canada, Ela spends her time creating mystical and enchanting paintings. She was the first artist to pitch the idea of a joint discussion instead of straight QA. After several weeks corresponding via email, Ela and I have some interesting nuggets of wisdom to share with the creative world. As well, Ela has provided a nice crop of her lovely paintings to present with her interview. Initially this was a bit awkward for me. It is generally my goal to place the entire spotlight on each artist, but once the questions started flowing, I found myself having fun with the process. Clearly we could have continued until the crows roosted at dawn, but I believe we touched enough boundaries to satisfy the most curious of minds. Enjoy the article dear friends...
BLACKTOOTH: Ela, what are your earliest memories as an artist? When did the creative lightbulb illuminate in your mind?
One of my favorite memories would be as a child in the summertime... Country landscapes, golden wheat in the background, blue skies and white fluffy clouds overhead. My brother and I laying down and describing what we saw in them – pure child creativity. But I really became an "artist" in 1999, so this is when my creative sparks first illuminated. This one here is the first painting I created...
ELA: Aaron, pertaining to art and memories, what was your first love, words or pictures?
Interesting question Ela... When I was very young, I fell in love with monster movies – a particular affinity for Godzilla films from the 1960s and 70s. I'd say that was a trigger for everything that followed in life. The big green lizard was my first true love, a catalyst for creative inspiration. He's still quite special, a mascot for my inner child.
BLACKTOOTH: Ela, where is this lovely place you and your brother grew up? Do you still revisit this special place? How did it influence your art?
The lovely place doesn't exist anymore, but it was located on the outskirts of the town of Lublin, Poland. That's where my grandparents lived. With time it became part of the modern life of the city. All that is left, a memory. Did it influence my art? For sure, although I do not paint much of nature, but I do contemplate on life as if it were a landscape.
BLACKTOOTH: After leaving Poland, where did you end up? And what specifically turned you on to painting and art?
Mission, British Columbia, Canada. What specifically turned me on to painting? Life crisis, existential crisis. You know how after elementary school we choose a direction and set our course of studies? I wanted to go to art school. In Poland, it was available right after elementary school, but there were just a few of these schools in the country – not easy to get into, high amounts of applicants. After listening to all the advice around, I didn't even apply, did not try, did not take a chance. I went a different direction, but not without losing another piece of confidence and reason for being here on Earth. Anyway, that's a bit of history reminding me that I was always interested in expressing through visual medium.
One day in 1999 it just popped in my head to buy canvas and paints, and that's how my relationship with canvas and brush started. Instead of talking everything out, I was painting everything out. All is questionable – the history, religion, our beginning, the rules that are set for the masses to follow – yet the ones who establish them break them publicly. The world is full of hypocrisy and there are no definite answers. We arrived at the center of the chaos of lies and truth mingled together. On canvas, I express what's on my mind and in my heart. It is also a meditation. Especially painting circles, or hearts... a simple repetitive, mind-calming activity. Art is therapeutic, expressive, necessary.
ELA: The Blacktooth writings, from sweet light to dark and shadowy, its intensity captivates. What else influenced you to pursue this unusual kind of writing? What memory pops in your head? Will you share? And did you ever have a nickname?
I'd be delighted to share... I've always had a very dark imagination. I've read more than 300 novels throughout the years, spanning various genres and topics. At one time I dreamed of being a writer, but it just didn't happen. Part of my problem has always been finding time, making time, staying focused and seeing projects through. I simply didn't have the patience to put all my eggs in one basket. A novel is a daunting task, and I simply wasn't mature enough to put in the hard work and research. In recent years, I realized that I could cram every word, every dream and every bad idea into a tight stick of dynamite.
Instead of wasting away on 400+ pages of content, I could light that fuse in three to four explosive paragraphs… stick that dynamite directly in the reader's hand... blow a few fingers off. Most readers don't have time to invest in long drawn-out stories. This is the internet age, social media. People want bite-size chunks of information before their attention spans are divided. Click. Scroll. Click. Scroll… I try to make that short narrative unforgettable – a quick journey into the bowels of hell. That's right – I punch 'em right in the eye. Doesn't always work, but it's worth the effort. As for the nicknames, well I created Art Blacktooth for creative reasons, but that's a long, complicated story for a rainy day…
BLACKTOOTH: Seems we share a jaded world view. There is so much hypocrisy in our world… in government, media, religion. It permeates the consciousness of humanity. We all say one thing but do the opposite. How do you feel that art counterbalances this heavy burden we all carry? As a creative spirit, how is art therapeutic for you in a spiritual sense?
There are many of us that are simply not equipped to share the experiences we encounter throughout the years, but we need an outlet to not go crazy and spill our emotions out on our surrounding family and friends. In a way, by being artistic we walk ourselves through the topics that arise in our minds, break them apart into atoms to understand them better. One may talk about dimensions, spirit, soul, higher power, or no power – yet it only matters if it balances our being in this 3-dimensional world... so diverse it is almost impossible to comprehend.
I feel like my spiritual self is not completely recognized by my human part. Apparently I have a thick skull, LOL. In a spiritual sense, creativity turns me inward to get to know the mysteries unseen by the naked eye. Lately I choose to paint cosmic vistas, chickenoids – the chicks with human traits – and hearts that spread love and hope. The realization, as much as it is difficult to imagine and hold onto all the time, there is no point in judging ourselves or others. I digest and come to the conclusion that holding the vision of a better tomorrow and painting uplifting images may be the gift for me, and maybe one day, from me.
ELA: I imagine this rainy day gathered around the fireplace. Tell us more about Art Blacktooth...
You just had to go twist my arm… I'll try to keep this oil spill contained. For several years I had a typical LinkedIn account. I rarely used it and only had connections from previous jobs. I never used it to search for employment, nor did I ever receive any offers. There isn't really a niche market for creative beings in the industry I work in, so I decided to create a separate page under the pseudonym Art Blacktooth – my pen name. He could do things, say things, express things that I couldn't. I was afraid the wrong stuffy colleagues in my industry would see my outrageous content. Last thing I needed was to risk another layoff for being a weird, outspoken creative. Unfortunately, I discovered the hard way that LinkedIn doesn't allow pseudonyms. The bastards shut me down.
They torpedoed several months of hard work and personal expression and I was forced to use my own name. I never wanted to operate RepDigest under my real name, so they basically screwed me over. I tried Instagram for a while – didn't care for it. I don't like Facebook either. I'm only here because of the other incredible artists that I met, yourself included. For those of us who invest in websites, social media platforms are just a rude distraction to rob us of traffic. What's the point of having real estate when everyone spends their time at the LinkedIn mall? It's so hard to divert that traffic away, to bring their attention elsewhere, but evidently it's the only way we can discover our tribe. As artists, the tech giants really benefit from our presence, but we're only lucky if we get one or two clients along the way. A whole lot of time, energy and effort for a few measly crumbs. Anyway, one day I'll put a nail in Blacktooth's coffin – I've honestly grown tired of the gimmick... It was special for a while, but just wasn't meant to be.
BLACKTOOTH: Based on your peculiar style and surrealist perspective, what would you say is the most important thing that emerges from your brush? What exactly is the story you are trying to express through your canvas? Or is it simply all happenstance?
I don't know what emerges to the viewer. Everyone discovers something different depending on their own individual perception. What do I express? Maybe I am not ready to dive deep into what emerges really, but with paintings of hearts it's easy. I hope love envelopes the whole Earth and we are all friendly and occupied by ideas that make life easier for all. Dreaming of the Golden Age, longing for it.
ELA: I imagine one day RepDigest could become an avant-garde paper magazine – one you can take in hand and read. Even if it only exists as an e-magazine, it's cool. Your artworks are precise, the color schemes are skillful. I spend time looking at the vivid faces and morphing bodies. Strangely interesting. There is not much to ask, just admire, so I'll ask some questions of more personal preference. Name three movies you could enjoy watching over and over?
Interesting question. The monsters I create are something inherited from childhood. Creating monsters is an endless universe of fun. At a young age, I was inspired by the original Star Wars trilogy, by vintage Godzilla films, and of course… various horror films. From a horror standpoint, the Hellraiser films were hooked in my brain as a teen. Very gory, very disturbing on many levels. Clive Barker had something special there. What made those films so authentic was the brooding film score by composer Christopher Young. Another special film for me was Sorcerer. It was a William Friedkin film released in 1977. Sadly it fell into obscurity due to the global success of Star Wars… Both films were released the very same week. Once again, the film score really anchored me to the intensity of Sorcerer. Tangerine Dream's brilliant compositions for that film still resonate in my soul – simply amazing. The most special place is reserved for those campy Godzilla films from the 60s and 70s. They represent my inner child. Those films were the catalyst for the creative being I am today. This is something I've always wanted to share with the world – thank you so much for asking that delightful question.
BLACKTOOTH: Ela, now that I've shared a few special films, let's hear a few of your favorites. What three movies have been an influence for you? What inspires your inner chickenoid?
What Dreams May Come 1998 with Robin Williams. I've seen it many times, mainly because of the wonderful creativity of afterlife that included previous life, deep love and connection, and my interest in reincarnation. The second movie is Cloud Atlas 2012. I had to watch this movie for a second time just to get it. Then it became my "go to" movie when I needed some doses of deeper skin. Again, it touches upon reincarnation, people we meet in life that instantly feel like a connection, our limited beliefs until some crossroad reveals more and more. I don't really have a third movie, but I liked Bicentennial Man 1999 with Robin Williams again, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 1975 – I'll actually watch any movie that includes psychiatric hospital... The Chickenoids came after I painted my first colorful rooster that happened to have a human mouth. He was sassy and I liked it. The birds portray human personality traces. I've included my painting The Egg That Could. He is dreaming big dreams.
ELA: What do you listen to, watch or read lately to ease your mind – to learn something new or deepen something old? What interests you at this moment in time.
That's a tough question. My chosen career path has been full of many agonizing twists and turns. I work in a demanding industry, so I'd rather not give away too much on that matter as it would only constitute complaining. That's not to say it isn't rewarding in many professional ways, but it serves as the ultimate counterweight to everything I do as a creative being. Let's just say that personal expression is my drug of choice. The imagination is where I spend the majority of my free time. It is the place I go to take the edge off. Whether it's painting, photography, or spilling dangerous literature out of my bubbling cauldron – this is where I remove my face and set it on fire. With that passion comes a love for music and books. I've collected thousands of albums and read hundreds of novels over the past 25 years.
It's hard to pinpoint a specific answer. I prefer classic rock and metal, but have a fondness for 70s jazz and electronic music. There were some sonic drugs during that decade and the musical landscape was never as diverse or talented as it was between 1970 and 1980. Black Sabbath, Herbie Hancock, Tangerine Dream… Among many other incredible musicians. That decade also presented some of the greatest publishing artists of the 20th Century – Karel Thole, George Ziel, Gene Szafran, Charles Moll – painters most people have never heard of, but incredible talents in their time. Not to mention my favorite authors Richard Matheson and James Herbert. I could go on and on. I've spent a lifetime alone in my imagination, with no one willing to embrace or understand it, and now I prefer it that way. I'm perfectly happy in my own skin. I've learned to let many things go over the years, and for that I am much wiser...
BLACKTOOTH: Explain more on your theories of reincarnation. How did this philosophy first appeal to you and how does this manifest in your art? Do you have a sense of who you were in a previous existence, or an inkling of what you may become on your next turn around?
I'm not overly interested in the idea of reincarnation. I'll watch and listen when something comes my way, but I don't dig for it. So, no names and hidden treasures are discovered. But interest in the subject found me some people to paint in collaboration with, on one canvas. We gave ourselves a name, known as the Collage Art Group. I was grateful for the opportunity to paint together. It was an eye opening experience, since we were allowed to paint and repaint. It brought some some stirred emotions and battles of the egos, but it was worth it. We painted some visions that would not come to light otherwise. Interesting times...
*With that our discussion ended. Ela and I covered some interesting ground, but like most interesting topics, time had passed and it was time to move on with other activities. I have no doubt we could have explored many more interesting subjects, but that's where the mystery remains... in the imagination. Please be sure to reach out to Ela and support her works on social media. You can see many of her samples right here, but she is a steady hand – you will not want to miss out on her latest works of art. Once again, I thank you all for visiting. My next guest will be the amazing French painter and musician Gregory Proch, an interview I am certain you will enjoy wholeheartedly. Look forward to seeing you all next time, stay blessed..