Ask a creative person what’s going on in their mind at that moment, and it’s guaranteed the question will be too far, too broad, with a million possible outcomes to answer. Sometimes, however, the mind of a creative type ends up on a piece of paper, a canvas, or some other medium, and we get a glimpse into this rarely-seen world. In the case of Josh Byer, this could not be more true. A classically-trained visual artist, writer, and actor, it’s hard to keep track of what this multi-talented Vancouver-based creative is up to. His paintings are a kaleidoscope of whirling, energetic colour from which shapes emerge and focal points stop the eye in its tracks. On the other hand, Byer’s illustrations reveal a simpler side, often with monochrome line work swaddled in negative space. His extensive list of clients, in everything from screenwriting to journalism and art, includes the CBC, Telus, 20th Century Fox, Future Shop, NBC, Sony Entertainment, Staples, and many more. If this is even a small glimpse of what goes on in Byer’s mind, it’s obvious he has a lot to think about.
You are involved in a staggering amount of things; how did you become so diverse in your work?
If art proves I exist, I better make a lot of it.
When did art become such an integral part of this mosaic?
My mother died in 2009. I couldn’t sit with my grief, so I drew and painted all the time. All my artwork is dedicated to the memory of my mother.
Would you say art (and your love of it) is your connecting element to everything you do?
Art transmits a signal. My goal is to transmit as much as possible.
How would you describe your artistic style?
My technique is called Faux Fauvism. It is inspired by Matisse. It celebrates elements of Fauvism, of Cubism, of Pointillism, of Street Art.
How did you begin to develop this style?
I wish to find the edge of rational representation, to render the moment right before a composition disintegrates into pure abstraction. This is the idea that drives Faux Fauvism.
What is your favourite medium to work with and why?
Acrylic paint markers and gel pens allow me to forgo the process of mixing paint and loading brushes. I can think only about the image.
What draws you to the treatment of subjects and ideas as abstraction?
If a painting can pinpoint the moment in human cognition when pattern recognition occurs, art and science will meet.
You work in so many different areas of the creative world, but do you get inspiration from anywhere specific?
The desire to improve.
What are your favourite themes?
I was born in 1977. By the early 1980s, the world had changed – technology had entered the household. Neon advertisements carried names like Atari, Commodore, and Coleco. These are the grandparents of our modern era. Images and ideas from this transitory period are central in my work, as they are central to my identity. To deny them would result in dishonest art.
What message do you strive to communicate most with your work?
There is a point where a cloud stops looking like a cloud and starts looking like a frying pan, or a mouse, or a truck. How does that happen? Why do we do that? What does it mean?
How would you describe your creative process?
Begin. Continue. Get frustrated. Eat snacks. Continue. Finish. Repeat.
Art can have so many meanings for different people; how do you personally define “art”?
Art is a dangerous question.
What does your art work mean to you?
My art represents my very best efforts. There is no regret in trying your hardest.
Are you planning on staying and working in Vancouver?
It’d be hard to leave Vancouver. All my shoes are here.
What do you enjoy most about life and work on the west coast?
The light seems softer in this city. This is a special place.
If you could sit down to have coffee with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I’d fight Pablo Picasso, old or young. No gloves.
Do you have any advice to aspiring artists, or people who want to go out and explore as many fields as you have?
Learn contract law immediately.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I’m currently scripting a feature at Brightlight Pictures called “White Slaves of the Nootka” under the supervision of producers Shawn Williamson and Jak Osmond. Bruce Dowad will be directing. I’ve also begun talks about appearing in an upcoming thriller directed by friend & long-time collaborator Jason Bourque. In August, I signed an exclusivity agreement with Jack Appelman at Art Licensing International, and am now developing artwork for a variety of consumer and textile markets.