“I like our lives!”
Every day isn’t filled with tranquil creek explorations, peeling logging waves, good friends and acrobatic canines but a lot of them are. For that and so much more, I am thankful.
from St. Augustine with love,
Music, when combined with moving images in video and film, can bring out a greater emotion that isn’t as easily achieved with natural sound or silence. Alone, it can evoke and affect human emotion so powerfully that I am pretty sure certain wavelengths and combinations of sounds are shortcuts to our hearts. But music in film can also force or cheat emotion. And sometimes, it just gives the image a totally different atmosphere. To illustrate two totally different feels, here are two versions of the same video. One with music, one without…there is no difference in cuts, only the sound tracks.
Funky music track
words + photos by Rachel Bardin
There are chickens in the yard and an old record player on the porch. I lock my bicycle to the chainlink fence and Batty comes out to greet me. We go upstairs to a room that has tall ceilings and enough space for it to comfortably serve as both his studio and bedroom. The animal influence is immediately apparent: the collection of feathers in a jar, a beaver pelt, some unidentified horns. I snap a few photos of the art and we go out to the little chicken wire-covered porch for the interview. He smokes a hand-rolled cigarette and I marvel at how perfect this perch is to view the Lincolnville neighborhood’s activities.
Drift: Where are you from?
Matthew Batty: Originally, New Orleans, but I lived in St. Pete after that. That’s where I guess I was raised.
D: How did you come to be in St. Augustine?
MB: College … Flagler.
D: What did you study?
MB: Graphic design and fine art.
D: When did you graduate?
MB: December 2007.
D: What did you do after you graduated?
MB: I had an internship in Knoxville, Tennessee, at Yeehaw Industries, which is an antique letterpress.
D: What did you do there?
MB: Everything from setting up type and printing posters to printing their business cards and their stationery projects that they do. I’d help design some things for local businesses.
D: Have you applied what you learned there into your design?
MB: Oh, yeah, it’s influenced my artwork and design immensely.
D: What do you appreciate about the manual design?
MB: The hands-on … just not staring at a screen. Most of my stuff that I do on computer in the beginning stages is always done by hand, whether it’s just using ink and then making some kind of texture, but I always start out by hand.
D: Do you work in design right now?
MB: Trying, trying. Other than that I don’t do anything right now, so, yes, I’m trying really hard.
D: So you’re unemployed?
MB: Yes. Unemployed.
D: I notice you work in a variety of forms: photography, painting, printing and graphic design. Do you go through phases where you are drawn to one, or are you all over the place?
MB: I’m kind of all over the place. It’s whatever I’m in the mood for. Because I know how to do it all, it’s not like I should be limiting myself to one medium. Today’s society is so scattered — why do I have to be just a painter or sculptor?
D: How did you get into the ojos de dios [god’s eyes] pieces?
MB: My girlfriend at the time taught me how to make them. We were making them really small, and I wanted to make them really big.
A lot of people are like, “That could be really boring,” and I’m like, “Not really, not if you follow a pattern.” If you keep a pattern it could be very interesting in choosing your colors. It’s very essential.
I like the symbolism behind them. The god’s eye is symbolic of the power of seeing and understanding what is unknown and unknowable — “The Mystery.”
It’s a native technique. From what I remember, you start them when you’re a child and you wrap them every year.
D: So you end up making one over a lifetime?
MB: Yeah, except mine are over probably eight hours.
D: The stuff you had up last month in the Anchor Boutique seemed very Florida-ish…how did you get on that theme?
MB: I’ve always drawn animals, and I’ve just been going with that right now because I enjoy it. The first thing I wanted to do when i was a kid was to be a veterinarian. … I think there’s an interesting mythology behind animals. And their patterns — there’re patterns in my work, and they’re rough because, ya know, I’m not perfect.
D: What’s your spirit animal?
MB: I went to Cassadaga with [friends] Matt Armstrong and Jessie and we all got our fortunes told, and I picked this guy who … I feel like I was being scammed because I was wearing things that could clue him into things. I was wearing my compass necklace, and he’s like, “You’re a traveler,” and I’m like, “I’m wearing a compass, dude.”
And then he said my spirit animal is a wolf, and I don’t think I am a wolf. I think I’m more like a beaver.
D: How do you relate to beavers?
MB: They’re diligent and hardworking. Some people say, “You need to work faster, you need to paint faster.” I’m too diligent to rush through anything. It’s not that I’m slowly working to make it perfect, I’m just slowly working because that’s my process, so I take my time with things.
Artist interview with Sean (published in Drift October 2010)
Sean Mahan is an early riser. He begins his days with yoga and then skates the bowl at the Atlantic Beach skate park before anyone else arrives. After that, he spends about 8 hours working on paintings. Mahan graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 1998 and has since made art his full time job. His renderings seem incredibly realistic at first, capturing perfectly the figures from the photographs he works from but his versions are bolder, more illustrative, with outlines that remove them slightly from their environment.
What is your main occupation?
I’ve been making art full time for the past 8 years or so. I have a studio space in my house where I work on paintings for gallery shows and for commissioned projects. Every so often I’ll work on paintings for record covers for punk/independent bands, which are my favorite paintings to work on.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Jacksonville Florida because my parents lived on a boat and they stopped in Jacksonville to visit a friend there. That friend was interviewing for an architecture job and talked my dad into interviewing for it too. My dad got the job and he didn’t.
What attracts you to painting on wood?
I love the natural beauty of wood and I’m always looking for interesting and expressive grain patterns. On one level, I think the wood grains help to place the subjects of the painting into a natural context and I think finding natural context within the whole is what defines beauty.
Who are the people in your paintings?
They are no one in particular. I really like to paint children because they reflect a peaceful quality more fully. I like to find old photographs to work from that catch a quiet and inward pause in the mind of the subject.
A little block of foam sat around my house for 2 months. It had a bit of a history. It was once a part of a surfboard that at the end of its life, it was stripped of its glass and dissected into small chunks. One piece was given to my friend Alex Davis, who then gave it to me. I had asked him to make me a hand plane just before he moved away but running low on time, he gave me the blank instead.
An interest in hand planes has spiked recently along with all other obscure surf craft. To me, they seemed pretty silly at first — a strange link between body boards and body surfing. After trying a few out on different occasions, my appreciation for their characteristics grew. It’s amazing how a little piece of wood, foam or even a frisbee can add just a little more speed and change the feeling of a ride.
Not having the all of the supplies or tools myself to complete this project, I waited until I took a trip to my hometown to shape the little plane. My old boss and mentor Dennis Litchfield let me take over his shaping bay, gave me a few pointers and let me go at it with the foam. It’s amazing how quickly vision and touch attune themselves to symmetry and subtle cures. Even on such a small scale, shaping the hand plane taught me a lot about standard surfboard construction. I certainly gained more respect for the artists in that field. The next day, Dennis helped me with the glassing, making sure I didn’t start any fires or weld my fingers to popsicle sticks.