An Interview with & the Art of David Bollt

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David Bollt has been creating works of art the remind one to appreciate the beauty in all things since the age of 7 and working professionally since his teens. Considered a master of the trade in the field of tattooing his works are vast and varied.

To learn more about David Bollt and to see more of his art and projects check out:

Do you think being a quiet child gave you more time to nourish your imagination? What are some of the benefits you found in silence?

As a child it seemed as if I was in the audience, while people around me were caught up in an elaborate drama. I kind of sat back and took in the show. Actions and reactions sometimes seemed exaggerated and didn’t make much sense. So it was hard to engage and keep up. Drawing was a quiet space where creativity and imagination could flow in a world that was all mine. There was no dissonance from others. It felt safe. But not only safe, it was also empowering and fun. My inner world was full of characters and places. In some ways they were symbolic of the drama around me in my real life, but in my imagination I had control and could make sense of things. Through fantasy I somehow came to better understand what was going on in the real world.

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Do think in a world as hectic paced as this that quiet places are needed more than ever?

That’s an interesting question … I think silence, stillness and quiet – in many ways – are a reflection of how we relate to noise and chaos. It can be really helpful to shut out the world sometimes and make some space to just be with ourselves. But often people find that the loudest place in the world is in our minds. Several years ago I did a 10 day Vipassana Meditation retreat that required I spend 12 hours a day on a meditation cushion. I thought this would be a serene vacation from a chaotic world, but I was wrong. Without any distractions, I was assaulted by my own thoughts. Inside my head I was arguing with people and struggling to find solutions to everything. I suffered for several days until I discovered that silence is a skill, one that requires practice. A few days later I found a stillness and quiet that I had not known since I was that quiet child. When my thoughts finally stopped, the world became beautiful and clear again. Since then I’ve come to relate to silence as something we have access to on the inside. We can fill our heads with painful noise even when we are alone. We can experience serenity and silence when we are surrounded by chaos and noise.

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You have mentioned you were attracted to the idea of monsters early on. Why do you think that is? Did you have any favorite monsters growing up?

Horror really scared me when I was a kid. My dad took me to see the Amityville Horror and I had nightmares for months. Drawing was a way for me to manage my fear. The monsters I came to love were the ones I created in my imagination. They were a part of me. I could relate with them and make peace with them. They came into the world through me. Even when they seemed real, I was no longer afraid of them. They could not exist without me.

Later in life I’ve realized how much all my fears are my own creation. Everything I’ve ever been scared of was the result of the pictures I painted with my thoughts. It was so obvious when I was drawing, but it’s taken some time for me to see how fear in my life is the same as the fear I had of horror when I was a child.

Why do you think things often considered weird seem to have had such a timeless appeal?

When something is unique or strange it just seems to stand out. It’s so easy to miss that every day – and every experience – is unique. Our days can be a routine that seems monotonous, so we don’t realize how much variety there really is. When something is exceptionally strange or weird, it almost shocks our sensibilities and gives us a little reminder that the world can feel fresh and new again.

Watching the snow fall it’s easy to just see a bunch of white flakes that all the look the same. And it can be a life changing revelation to realize that no two snowflakes – that have ever fallen – have been exactly the same. Things that are weird invite us to see the world in new ways.

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What is it about the human figure that makes it so appealing in your line of work?

The human body is the vehicle for human consciousness. We open our eyes and behold the world with our bodies as the engine for this miraculous gift of being. I like to think I’m intelligent, but I can’t fathom the intelligence that beats my heart, breathes for me and divides my cells. The body is an elegant organic machine that gives rise to the human experience.

The natural urge for us as living things to procreate and bring new life into the world ensures that there is nothing that we would find more fascinating and beautiful than other people. When we look at a body we’re seeing far more than an object, we’re looking at the creative intelligence of the universe … and it’s looking right back at us through someone else’s eyes.

It’s a cliche to say the body’s a temple. But it’s also one of the most profound and beautiful things that we can possibly consider. To regard this body that we all inhabit as a temple, is to realize ourselves as an expression of the divine. To realize myself – and everyone else – as an expression of universal creative intelligence, is to embrace myself as beautiful. I was born this way.

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Have you always considered people to be beautiful or is that something you developed along the way? How do the unseen characteristics of a person play into that?

Growing up, my own insecurities had me judge myself as well as other people. Like everyone I was exposed to messages that said “some people are beautiful and others are not”. I was exposed to messages that taught me to see myself and others as flawed.

A profound shift happened for me in art school when I was drawing the human figure from life. I would draw figure models of all shapes and sizes. I might regard a particular model as odd or unattractive. But no matter what a model looked like, drawing the figure was hard for me. I’d try to make a beautiful drawing and so I started to see the figure in all new ways. I was forced to look at the body without judgment and simply commit to truly seeing it. Every gesture and subtlety of a pose became something that I was chasing and trying to capture. To make a beautiful drawing I had to go deeper and deeper into my experience of the body before me. In the quest to create something beautiful I realized the beauty that was already there. In trying to accurately portray anatomy, personality and expression. I discovered the miracle of anatomy, personality and expression before me.

Soon there was no trace of judgment. Every model was a new opportunity to discover and explore. Every unique human body offered itself as an opportunity. After all … the muscles and structures that I was working so hard to render on paper, were already there in front of me perfectly formed and alive. No drawing has since ever come close to capturing the depth of that realization, but the quest is endlessly rewarding.

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Do you still work on the Model Society project?

Yes. Model Society is a great source of inspiration for me. In a world that often regards the nude human form to be obscene, it’s an honor to support a community of models, photographers and artists who put humanity on a pedestal as a true work of art. The fear of naked humanity that runs rampant in culture is a sickness. I see Model Society as part of the cure. We can’t hate, judge or be cruel to that we hold as beautiful. I created Model Society as an opportunity for the world to see humanity through the eyes of artists.

Do you think a respect for nature has helped you learn to find beauty in all places?

For sure. Nature (life itself) is the ultimate creative artist. Plants, insects, animals, and natural forms (like landscapes and clouds) are evolving and changing all around us. The variety and beauty of living things is truly staggering. Look closely at the most humble insect and you’ll see an incredible elegance and balance of design. Cloud forms shape shift all day long and interact with the setting sun to paint a spectrum of color across the sky.

All of life and all the world is an endless exploration of form and color. As an artist I always wanted to test the limits of what I’m capable of. In that same way life itself seems to be on a quest to explore and realize the depths of its own creative capacity.

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As someone who creates art in the traditional form as well as digitally and in tattoo form do you enjoy one form more than others? How do the various forms differ most? Which do you find the most challenging?

Some tools have certain advantages and are better suited to professional projects or certain goals. Sometimes the final product needs to have particular characteristics that will determine what tool is needed. But on a deeper level, for me it’s all one thing. A crayon on a paper table cloth at iHop is just as potent a creative tool as an iPad or a brush loaded with oil paint. The art is in the intention. The tool – no matter what it is – is simply the vehicle through which this intention is expressed. Vision can flow with equal potency through any tool.

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How do you think your work has evolved most over the years?

When I was a kid, making art was innocent. It was fun and I was simply fascinated by it. As I got older and graduated art school I had to enter the world as an adult. I needed to make a living. Somehow, in my mind, my art became a measure of my value. Without realizing it my career was like a referendum on my worth. Success and failure in my career meant success and failure as a person. My identity and self esteem got all tied up in it.

I was very successful and in some ways I thought that validated me. But the more successful I became, the more lost I felt. I was chasing a sense of value and meaning as a person through my work, but no matter how far that seemed to take me, it wasn’t real. Eventually I felt like all the success became a “good valuable person” costume that I was wearing.

At some point I quit and left my career as an artist behind and went on a kind of quest to realize who I really was and to – hopefully – come into contact with a deeper and more permanent sense of value. Thankfully, I found it. I found a sense of self that transcends success or failure. The most important evolution in my art is that I’ve come back home to where I started as a child. My art is once again innocent. It’s fun and I’m simply fascinated by it.

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What do you hope your fans take away from your work?

I’m always gratified when people are inspired. Although I may have all kinds of philosophical ideas and symbols woven into the art, the one thing I really want is for people to simply pause and have an experience of awe. Like “wow … that’s really cool”. All I really want is for people to have an experience of wonder.

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What advice would you give other artists in regards to creation?

The thing I want most for artists, is for them to enjoy the process of making art. So many artists suffer and judge themselves and their work. I want artists to emulate nature and express themselves without judgment.

Often the term “follow your bliss” is associated with our careers and life goals. But I’d say that you can follow your bliss in each and every moment. When there’s a pencil or paintbrush in your hand … follow your bliss. Tap into that subtle feeling of satisfaction and follow it without judgment wherever it may take you. Take pleasure in the process and let the final product be the result of an adventure into the unknown.

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Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Simply … thank you! I really appreciate the interest in my work. It’s a pleasure to take the conversation a little deeper and share some of my personal experience. You’ve asked some wonderful questions. I learned a little more about myself in the process.

 

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