Austin Given, 24, will graduate in May with his Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio arts. He makes an eclectic mix of paintings that feature subjects like rivers, dentists and stoves. And, oh yeah, he's tasted lighter fluid.
Wildcat: Have you ever been in any exhibits? How can people see your work?
Given: My first exhibit was self-promoted. It was in 1994 at a venue called 7 Black Cats, and basically I got the venue together with the bands that played that evening and all the newspapers and publicities in town and just kind of arranged it and got press and had people come. That was really my first experience of showing.
Right now I'm currently represented online at ugallery.com. I just finished a public mural done on private property in Tubac. It was a large Mediterranean seascape at the request of the patron.
W: What type of art do you make?
G: I make a really wide range. It's never one thing. It's always bold with a central theme. And that theme can vary, but a lot of either color or texture is used.
W: How did you get started making art?
G: I didn't realize it, but I guess even when I was very young I recall spending most of my free time in class. I would draw on the paper in the classroom. I remember being in grade school, and every day I'd have an entire half an hour of free time, and every day I would draw a new drawing of this scene. Each day I would add a new drawing to this line that just wrapped around the entire room, and by the end of the year it wrapped around the room two times. I didn't try to make art, but it was. I got a big stack of computer paper and every day draw on one sheet and I'd line them up.
W: Your teacher let you line up your pictures on the walls?
G: Yeah, I was probably, like, 6. And other students ended up helping, but mostly my drawings were the bulk. I totally forgot about that until, like, two days ago.
W: What have been some of the harshest and nicest criticisms your work has received?
G: As far as harshest, I've never had anybody flat out just say that my art is horrible, but the harshest thing anybody can really say is, ""That's not very developed,"" or, ""That looks very young."" Just insinuating that you have a long way to go to achieve what you need to achieve. Some galleries can say this, or teachers or professors, but no one's ever flat out said anything overtly negative. It's usually just like, ""Oh, maybe you should think about trying this,"" or maybe directional moves as opposed to ""Oh, that's bad, do it different."" But I get compliments as well. People love my colors. I've had people tell me that one of my small paintings on a blank wall can really light up the room.
W: What is special about your work?
G: It's mine. There's no real way to say it other than that. Nothing I ever do is really influenced by anything in particular. That's why a lot of my work can look pretty eclectic because whenever I want to paint about a subject or draw, I don't draw a certain way and then make the subject fit. I draw the subject and then make the way I draw fit the subject.
W: What is one art medium that you do not like and have no respect for?
G: It's not that I don't have respect for it, I just prefer not to use it, and that is clay. I have a lot of respect for people who can mold with clay. I just personally never enjoyed using it.
W: If you were stranded on a desert island and had the option of either painting endlessly, but being forced to throw the paintings into the ocean when you were done, or never to paint at all and be able to eat whatever food you want, which would you choose?
G: Neither. I'd probably ... that's tricky. I'd probably pick food. I know that's terrible. I'd rather eat. I don't feel like I'd be able to paint about anything special if I was eating sand.
W: What are some of your hobbies that don't involve making art?
G: This involves a different venue of art, but I'm also a musician. I just performed at Club Crawl this past weekend. I layed at Epic CafǸ with David D'Alessio. I've been playing guitar my entire life. I love to paint just as much as I love my guitar. I also like to go for walks and just kind of enjoy everything out there.
W: What is the grossest food you have ever eaten?
G: My dad made steaks and accidentally got lighter fluid on the steaks so the steaks tasted like lighter fluid. And people ask me what does lighter fluid taste like, and it tastes exactly how it smells.
W: What are your plans after graduation?
G: I graduate this May. I take some summer school. I just got my hands on my own ersonal studio space that's outside my home, so I plan to just work and build up my work. Do some traveling and eventually return to school for graduate school, but I feel that I'll need a little bit more worldly experience. I don't think I'm quite ready personally for graduate school in my work. I feel like I need to see a lot more to be able to get to the level that I want to be at.
W: Where do you see yourself in five years?
G: Probably not here. I could be anywhere. Painting, drawing, making work, making a living off my art - really, I could be anywhere.