JRP: What camera equipment and software do you make use of in your work production?
Terri Gold: Camera Equipment: I use a Canon 5D MarkII, Canon EOS 5D converted to infrared (IR); Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L USM, EF 24–105m f/4L IS USM, EF 70–200m L IS, and 16–35m USM lenses; Hasselblad XPan with 45mm lens; Mamiya 7 with 43mm lens; Zero Image pinhole camera; and Diana camera. Software: Adobe CS4 Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom 2 and Corel Painter and Photo-matrix Pro.
JRP: How do you classify your style of photography and what inspires you most about the type of work you do?
Terri Gold: I am always looking at the Still Points… inspired by a line of poetry by T.S.Elliot. We are still and still moving… I see my work as still points in a turning world.
My work is interpretive in nature. I am looking for the grace notes, for the sense of wonder in our world and in our connections to each other. I feel compelled to make these images. I believe images that share our stories can have a positive impact on our world. We need to experience our common humanity. We all celebrate the same joys, we all bleed the same too…
JRP: I really like your infrared images. Please take us through some of your thought processes as you set up a shot of this type.
Terri Gold: I have always been attracted to creating imagery using the invisible infrared light spectrum. It adds an element of mystery and surprise when creating the work and then to its presentation.
I shot infrared film for many years, traveling with changing bags and developing the film myself and then lith printing the images in the darkroom. Now I use a digital camera converted to infrared by http://www.lifepixel.com/. I am always looking for the dramatic skies that work so well with infrared but I actually use it in all light conditions.
Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe of the That-byin-nu temple in the Pagan (Bagan) region of Burma (Myanmar), from a portfolio of 120 prints. With this portfolio of architectural and topographical views, Tripe, an officer from the Madras Infantry, created an early photographic record of Burma. The 1855 British Mission to Burma was instructed to persuade the Burmese king Mindon Min to accept the annexation of Pegu (Lower Burma) following the Anglo-Burmese War of 1852. It was also the intention of the British to collect information about the country. They travelled in Burma from August to early November 1855, stopping at various places to allow Linnaeus Tripe, the official photographer, and the mission’s artist, Colesworthy Grant, to perform their duties. Capital of the first kingdom of Burma from the 11th to the 14th century, Pagan is one of the most important archaeological sites in South East Asia, with the remains of over 2000 stupas, temples and monasteries scattered over a 30 km radius. Tripe wrote of the That-byin-nu, “Or ‘the Omniscient’. It is about 230 feet square, and 200 feet high; divided into two stages, each stage into two stories. An arched corridor passes round each stage, with arched doorways opening outwards; opposite those on the ground story are sitting figures of Gautama. In the centre of each side of the lower stage, is a projecting wing with a lofty doorway, opening into a vestibule: this forms a centre porch to the corridor, a colossal seated figure of Gautama facing it. The centre of the building is a solid mass of masonry terminated by a bulging pyramidal spire crowned by a tee. Its date is about 1100 A.D.” The temple is the tallest construction in Pagan, towering to 61 ms. Built by King Alaungsitthu in the middle of the 12th century, its square plan is the most elaborate of the middle period of building in Pagan (ca.1120-70).
So, you were born in Hawaii and moved to Los Angeles, where you are currently based. When did you first “find” art?
I am based in Los Angeles and Maui, currently in LA. I found art as a child. My Mom taught me how to draw.
You’ve said that your childhood has influenced your artwork heavily. What are some memorable moments you have from your childhood with a connection to art?
Bike rides, walking over to visit friends early in the morning through a thin veil of fog, playing basketball, venturing through densely overgrown brush, making fictitious headquarters, and launching water balloons on the town below.
Water balloons? Did you ever get caught?
Never. We were just too good, or maybe no one really cared. I hope for the latter.
If you ever get tired of being an artist, professional water balloon launcher sounds like a viable alternative for a career.
(laughs) It would be a really cool job. Cold, or warm.
If you need a partner, I’ll be here. So, let’s talk about your process. You start out with an illustration, and then upload that to the computer?
I draw and paint everything by hand. This is important because the computer can, at times, make your artwork feel cold, speaking of temperature. It also enables me to free myself up. The next part is scanning hi-res and sometimes tiling together to complete larger works. The characters and backgrounds are scanned in separately so I have more flexibility to change an arrangement if I feel it is necessary.
So, the characters and backgrounds are drawn separately?
Yes. The only time I get to see them together is once I have combined all the elements in PS. I also never make sketches so it literally is the first time I have seen the image I am creating outside of my head.
Do you visualize a final product before hand, or do you see a character, and then envision other pieces after?
I see the entire image. They move, so I have to do my best and capture the painting using a still from that image to best describe what I am trying to express. It’s exactly like watching a movie and freeze framing it.
Speaking of movies, you currently work in the film industry, yes?
Currently in television and commercials. I also co-produced a documentary entitled ‘Art Recession’. It’s now on Hulu.
You have always been interested in art and for the most part have been self taught; how did you learn the skills you use in your drawings?
Yes I’ve been an art nerd as long as I can remember. Any skills I’ve acquired has been through good old fashioned practice.
Both of your parents are artists, what style of artwork did they do?
Both my parents were artists, my mother was more abstract, and surrealistic. While my father was into illustrative fantasy.
How did your parent’s style of art influence your own artwork?
I would look at their portfolio’s and remember just being in awe. I wanted to be able to do what they did. My father did most of his work in ink/marker. So naturally that’s where I started as he was my biggest influence as a kid. I tried to replicate his style and approach, but like any artist I evolved and found my own artistic voice the more I created. I’ve always had this desire to learn. I wanted to pack as much arty knowledge in my head as I could. For me the best way to do that way just experiment- to try it all. The more I dabbled in other mediums, the more knowledge I gained that I could then carry into the next medium. My parents styles were just that first stepping stone to helping me find out my own direction.
Before going in the direction of full time artist you were a tattoo artist; how did the skills you learned in your tattoo apprenticeship help you in your artwork?
Tattooing helped me take art seriously. Before that I didn’t see art as a viable career path. It also taught me patience and planning. I used to just doodle with no direction before tattooing. It helped me assess tones and values; as well as overall flow and composition. Also like any medium you put work into the more it will improve your over all art skills. I found I wasn’t struggling as much with basics like proportions or lighting.
I was born in St. Petersburg, Florida in October 1982. Sunshine, bikinis and retirees, yup.
How long were you in St. Petersburg?
I was in St. Petersburg for about 21 years, give or take. Then moved to Sarasota Florida where I studied illustration at Ringling College of Art and Design. I Graduated from Ringling in ‘07 and moved to New York shortly after.
My earlier work was heavily influenced by pinup painters such as George Petty, Alberto Vargas, Gil Elvgren and other 1960’s illustrators who focused more on the female form such as Coby Whitmore and Robert McGinnis.
Why the move to New York City?
It was a spur of the moment kind of thing. I moved with $81 in my pocket, a garbage bag full of clothes and a computer. I’ve never looked back. It was one of those things where I felt like I just had to do it. I wasn’t getting any younger and all my dreams and aspirations were based out of New York, primarily gallery work.
I was able to move because of the jobs I was getting in comics. Comics have never been a passion of mine, actually not even a hobby. However, the bright colors and strong line quality in my older work lent itself to comics and they took me in with open arms. I made a living by doing cover work and showing at comic conventions all around the United States. Fun for a while but it was tiresome doing something I didn’t have my heart into completely.
When was the first time you really knew you were an artist?
Well, the first time I knew I could draw was around the age of 6 or 7. I vividly remember eating a bag of Cheetos, looking at the cheetah on the package and thinking, “I can draw that.” I sat down with a #2 pencil, some loose leaf newsprint paper and 4 hours later, after meticulous shading and erasing, emerged a well defined Chester Cheeto. My mom found the drawing and proclaimed me as the next Pablo Picasso. It was her enthusiasms which made me realize I had some sort of talent.
From the stories your book, it seems like successful forgers are closer to these fantastic stereotypes than other kinds of art criminals.
That’s absolutely right, and I teach forgery differently than other categories of art crime. Forgergery is distinct because in almost every case it does not involve organized crime; it is almost always an individual or a pair. The criminological definition of organized crime is a group of three or more individuals involved in collaborative long-term criminal enterprise. This definition excludes almost everyone in the pantheon of famous forgers. The people involved are really Dickensian, larger-than-life characters who seem like they’ve fallen out of 19th-century novels, and they adhere much more closely to the cliches about art crime in general than anyone else.
A lot of them happen into forgery. Many of them are artists to start with instead of criminals
I think very few would self-identify as criminals. The cast majority have a specific psychological profile for at least what originally led them to try their hand at forgery. The continuation is usually financially motivated, but the the initial profile is: They want to be original artists, they tried and failed, they felt rejected by some member of the art world, and they projected that the art world collectively had wronged them and they wanted to get revenge. And that revenge is the primary initial motivation for most of the people who try out forgery.
And if they succeed, they get this multifaceted revenge. They can rationalize that they must be as good as the artist they imitate if an experts can’t tell the difference. And they show the experts to be foolish. Therefore the experts must have been foolish to reject their original work. The only caveat to that is both of those are private successes as long as the forger isn’t caught or outed. They’re the only ones in the world who know about their successes.
Once they were caught, a good number of forgers were very happy to tout their activities. Some of them even outed themselves because they wanted to make public the recognition and kudos they had received privately for having fooled so many people for so long.
As someone in the industry, do you get the sense that the forgers who have gone public and end up in books like yours are just the tip of the iceberg? Do a lot of people get away with it?
When you study any field where the people you’re studying are trying not to be recognized or identified, you’re always dealing with a funny tip of the iceberg. When I was at Cambridge, there was a professor who taught history of espionage, and he started the class by saying “If people were doing their job correctly, I shouldn’t be able to find anything about them.” This is the case with criminals too. We know about people who were caught, and we know the most about people who were tried because their story goes on the record. A number of forgers also write their own stories, which you have to take with a grain of salt because they write memoirs as part of enjoying their notoriety.
I think the names in the book are the big guns out there, but there are almost certainly some skillful and prolific forgers who never got caught. It was recently pointed out to me that there are no female forgers in this books of 60-plus names. That made me think that maybe the women were too moral to get involved, but perhaps they were too clever and none of them have been caught or felt the need to out themselves.
To be a successful forger it almost requires a larger skill set and more luck than it takes to become a successful artist in the first place. For a short cut, forgery sounds really hard.
You have to be good at different things. A number of the forgers — more than half — if you just look at their forgeries in a vacuum, it’s surprising that they fooled anyone. Han van Meegeren’s Vermeers don’t look anything like Vermeers, but they managed to fool people. It is always the accompanying story, the invented provenance — which is essentially a confidence trick that manages to pass off the object — that really tricks the buyer. On further inspection, it’s always a surprise that the work itself could fool people. The way they do it is with a very compelling provenance.
It isn’t always the forgers who come up with that clever mechanism. There are a lot of pairs involved, like John Myatt and John Drewe, where Drewe was the real dark criminal of the two and was using Myatt’s decent but not extraordinary abilities as an imitator to commit the crimes.
It’s a different sort of skillset. I would also emphasize that most forgers are not great artists. There’s a reason why their original art never made it. Forged works tend not to look particularly compelling. They’re capable of imitating the style, but that’s very different from being a great artist. Some people say “They must be as great as the artist they’re mimicking,” but it’s very difficult to come up with the concept and the execution. Making your own style is very hard.
The storytelling then is at least half the forgery job.
I would say it’s more than half. There are people passing off things that really don’t look good at all. John Myatt is a very nice painter, but he was painting in acrylic works that would have been in oil and people just weren’t noticing. The story was so good that they looked at it aesthetically from a distance. But any expert should be able to tell the difference between acrylic and oil. They should be able to smell the difference. You have to say “Shame on the experts” in a lot of these cases.