My name is Cam Collins and I’m an artist. That’s all I’d really like to say, but it’s best to say more. I live in Chicago, Illinois in the USA. I’ve been working for a while and art is all I’d really like to do, so what I’m doing now is good for me mentally. Thanks for having me do this interview.
How was life growing up?
Oh, it’s fine. So far, I know that the best day of my life is still my 5th birthday party when I had a backyard with a yellow swing. The yellow swing and my cars were a big part of my younger childhood because I’d like organizing the cars and seeing their shapes and controlling them. My grandfather was a painter and we have a lot of pieces of his and others around our house. That is the part where I would say I’m “surrounded” by artwork, but “surrounded” always sounded very aggressive to me, so it’s around. Art’s usually around. I’ve always liked languages as well, and I tried to learn German when I was 8 (I’m pretty sure) because it was a green language. I was able to learn how to read Japanese Hiragana and Katakana at 11 and I still remember all of that. I still like languages a lot, so I’m going to learn more.
When did you begin to witness you had creative talents?
I am laughing because this question makes it sound like they were super powers, and if I chose to have super powers, I would not choose creativity or art skills because that is something anyone can practice and be good at it, for the most part. Some just have to work more for it. I noticed when I was 2. I drew a picture of Elmo on a chalkboard. I probably said something about it being cool and me liking Elmo, and I liked the idea of me drawing more things. I’ve just known I’ve wanted to do art my whole life, but I’ve never liked labeling myself as “creative” or anything like that. If anything, I definitely know that drawing for me was super casual and I liked it a lot because it made me do a lot of things and think at the same time. Lots of things do that, but drawing is the version that I like the most.
In your artwork, you look to focus on victimization, abundance, and human nature. Why is that?
A lot of that subject comes from the feedback I’ve gotten, so I’ve decided to embrace it a bit. Victimization is a complex topic because unlike a “hero against villain” situation, victimizing a larger group (or even the hero themselves) puts them at an equal and lets the story play itself out by the environment around them or the circumstances that they had created themselves. Context is a key part of the final actions of human nature for me. Going on, A common pattern I’ve noticed with humans is abundance and prompting to take more and more of what they would like. Abundance also gives me a lot of things to draw and use to create the context for the subjects in my piece. Would it be a stretch to call me a Maximalist? Probably not, I find that sometimes having less and being too clever is boring, but I do not try to stuff as many things as I can into my pieces without thinking of it. A lot of time is spent on composition and making sure people know where to look (without obvious cues like words or separate colors). Of course, I’m not a master at this or anything and I’m only trying to get better at this as time goes on, especially working with color.
Why don’t you make your artwork based on your own personal experiences in life?
They actually might, but if they do they are not intentional. I think everyone kind of does something like this subconsciously to some degree, and you’ll find that the context for everyone kind of fits into everything they do. If we’re referring to my own stories or using my own emotions for pieces, I think that would just be very boring — there are already a lot of artists making works about their own lives and while they may/may not have fabricated their stories to the fullest extent, it’s good to ask why the viewer of the artwork should care. A narrative story cannot live by its narrative alone because not everyone can sympathize with all of the same stories, and that leaves out a whole chunk of people who never have that kind of experience. Unless you are making work for yourself to reflect on your own past situations, then that makes a lot of sense.
Recently you made the cover art for Ravyn Lenae’s Midnight Moonlight EP. How did you meet Ravyn and what was the inspiration behind the piece
I go to the same school as Ravyn, so it was very casual. I’m still happy she asked me to do it, though! I’m pretty sure she had just seen what I had done for the other band I do art for, Manwolves, and knew that I could do cover art. But I could ask her myself really. The inspiration behind the piece was how it goes with other bands, where they just send me some of their music and I draw by how it makes me feel. The names give it away and I already knew the name of the EP, so that gave me a color palette to work with. The songs had a somewhat numbing feeling for me, so the actual colors for the original album were more of a deep dark turquoise with yellow, as opposed to dark blue and golden. I always send alternate versions of covers to the bands just so they have different versions to choose from. The people in the EP are like “night-goers” and they only exist from the moon’s light hitting places where people dance in the daytime or by mixing the limbs together to make it look like they’re dancing. They are meant to be amalgamations of some kind, so it was a looser piece where I just threw 3 different crowds and put them all together.
(Cover work for Ravyn Lenae and MANWOLVES)
One of my favorite pieces from you was ‘headspace’ talk about the concept behind this piece as well
I actually completely forgot the deeper concept for that one since that was done at the beginning of Fall, but I wanted to make the shape of a brain with people’s heads, and people’s heads already have brains, so I guess I thought that was clever at the time. If I ever make a visual joke like that again, it will probably be for a smaller part of an already bigger piece. I’m glad you like it though.
What was it about Henry Darger that made him one of your biggest inspirations?
The fact that they only found all of his artwork in his apartment after he was dead is interesting, but the work itself has a large narrative where the title of the pieces (often very long) can only give us so much of the piece’s details and what he was actually thinking, and I find it to be something that I see in my own artwork at times. While his pieces didn’t exactly have a dynamic composition, I feel that the way he had everything flattened was a good way to have every part of the piece shown and it was clear that every object he put in there was for some kind of purpose or just to boost the environment. It was clear and simple, but also complex and not completely straightforward with the message it was trying to send. The same kind of idea can be seen in Kerry James Marshall’s work as well.
Why don’t you like revealing your identity?
It is not really about me, it is about the art. I’m not sure what benefits one would get from knowing what I actually look like from pictures or anything. I’m still unsure why people actually DO show themselves along with their artwork — it doesn’t change the artwork if I see who you are. If you invite me anywhere I will show up, of course, it is not a hermit kind of deal. It is just something I am not too comfortable with and I like having the art separate, I would like to be remembered as more of an idea and not my own physical self.
What is it about the colors red, blue and yellow that you love so much?
I think I probably owe it to the toy cars I played with a lot, or that blue, yellow, and red, are often colors I see the least. It is very easy to go into a room filled with different browns and grays, or a forest filled with greens and browns, but I can’t think of anywhere on earth as of now where there is just a solid place for the colors red, blue, and yellow to relax without being forced into a space by someone else. They are not natural colors, yet they make all of them. That’s the deeper version of why I like it, however, and the final conclusion is probably that I just like those the most.
Throughout time, what has been your favorite period/era of art?
I have recently gotten into early 2000s Y2K aesthetics, but I feel like I can blame that on the music I’ve been listening to a lot recently (Bjork, Aphex Twin, other Drum & Bass). I’m still a huge fan of North European Mannerist movement with its colors that would fit with Star Wars posters and the Impressionist stuff that came from Edgar Degas and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Consistently, I’ve always liked photography from the 2000s (internationally) because of the general setting and how everything was kind of being set up for the “future”.
When it’s all said and done how would you like to be remembered?
It’s always very hard to talk about this topic without sounding too confident of self, but it would be nice if I was remembered through the own stuff I’ve made and how it would be implemented into the real world (art on streets, shoes, mint candy boxes, etc.). I’ve always wanted my art to be part of the gallery fine art world, but I know I would be more memorable if my work was with everyone else in the public. Not to make a statement, but just because it is there and people like it. It would be really cool to imagine how others in the future would interpret my art or if someone could invent something based off of something I drew…