Written by Deianira Tolema
Brian Lutz’s work upends the mundane, evoking uncommon twists on what passes for the quotidian. Lutz captures the essence of mid-20th century American illustrations and cartoons with the savvy of artists like Robert Crumb, Ralph Steadman, Gary Larson and even Thomas Eakins. Reality for Lutz is plastic and the artist takes a certain glee in stretching the viewer’s preconceptions to ironic proportions. Lutz is something of a diarist. His obsessive drawings (portraits of children, Abraham Lincoln, soldiers, Mark Twain) and random bits of contemporary life, allow the viewer to peer into the artist’s percolating thoughts. Lutz is unafraid to detail junk food, two-headed animals, as well as American icons like the Statue of Liberty, New York City police cars as well as the occasional Madonna working a crack pipe.
Brian Lutz (b.1985) studied Advertising Art at the Pennsylvania College of Technology and Studio Art from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Lutz currently lives and works in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
Deianira Tolema: Do you consider yourself a painter or an illustrator? What is the difference, in your opinion?
Brian Lutz: I consider myself both. I think a good illustration tells a story. My work usually has a narrative, even if I am the only one who knows what that narrative is. My artwork illustrates my life. I also do work for hire, so sometimes I’m telling someone else’s story.
DT: You take inspiration from Robert Crumb, Ralph Steadman, Gary Larson, and Thomas Eakins. However, you are certainly not the only artist born to imitate one of his idols. Do you know any other illustrators your age? What is so new, different, and even bold about you and your work? What does your research focus on?
BL: I draw inspiration from so many artists. I know a few artists around my age that are doing amazing work. I try to get out to openings as much as I can, but life can be a juggling act at times.
My artwork is unique because I don’t second guess myself. I show up, I do the work, I take chances. I still feel like that kid sitting in his room alone drawing, completely excited with the work and the process.
DT: The subjects of your illustrations and paintings are witty, but also, in a way, serious, indeed, your drawings can sometimes be used to measure the political climate in the States or merely to criticize the role of the mundane in your culture. How would you further explain this introduction to your work to our readers?
BL: I try not to take a personal stance in my work, but rather, report my experience. It all seems so utterly ridiculous to me at times. I like to shine a light on issues whether they be minor or major. It can be strangely funny; the things people get worked up and angry about (myself included). So sometimes I like to just do a dumb drawing to make myself chuckle in the hopes that it may make someone else chuckle as well, forgetting the nonsense that is life.
DT: Books are not the only factor that have informed your creations. The statement on your website mentions an accident that you had recently that affected your art production. Can you tell us more about that experience?
BL: The accident didn’t have anything to do with me wanting to be an artist. I was drawing and painting every day well before that night in 2013. However, it changed me forever. Everything became much more urgent. I had a seven-month recovery and I had to learn to walk again. I drew and wrote every day in a journal that my cousin brought to me. It was during that time I decided to get serious about my work. When I recovered, I had a fire lit inside my chest. I tore up my journal and began painting and drawing again. Many of these pieces I may never show. Just like the journal, they take me to a dark place in which I don’t want to dwell.
DT: Have you been using social media to get more visibility and even make sales? What do you think about Instagram?
BL: Social media brings a whole new side to being a working artist. The times we live in are very exciting to me. I was born in 1985, so I’ve had the opportunity to watch the rise of the internet. To me, it is truly amazing. The reach we have now, I could’ve never imagined as a kid.
I have a few ways to make money on the Internet. I have an online store brianlutzart.net and an account with Society6 society6.com/blutzart. I also use Instagram (blutz.art) to networking and inspiration.
DT: How do you decide what to represent in your works and how? Is life drawing part of the process?
BL: My work comes about in three ways. The first being my concept, the second is being hired to create an image, and the third is through collaboration. In all three of the possibilities, I must create in my mind a connection to the piece. The idea usually bounces around in my head for a few days. It may change into a completely new thing by the time I decide how to execute it. Then it may change again during the process of sketching, finding images or objects or people to work from. Finally, I get the image to a point of no return and I start working on the piece. When it comes time to put my first marks down, I have already been thinking about what the piece will look like, obsessively, in silence for days.
DT: Is there anything else that you would like to talk about and even promote in this interview? Are there any upcoming exhibitions? What is your relationship with galleries? How are illustrators perceived in the art world by writers, editors and curators?
BL: I am excited to be working with my friend Mark McClelland, a photographer based in Detroit. He recently gave me a bunch of images to work with that I am sorting through and eager to create some paintings from. I had a few solo and group shows in Philadelphia, but stopped showing after my car accident.
I think illustration can sometimes hold a certain stigma. I’ve had people ask me things like, “How can you make work to support someone else’s vision?” To me, even working for someone, I still make it my vision. The piece is still part of me and a reason to keep working. Maybe in a sense, I’m less of an illustrator and more of a painter.