Bradley Flora Photography, Painting & Finding Multiple Outlets American Bandito, Season 4 Episode 3

so I’m thinking of things that I could
do besides freelance work for income the other day let’s say I wanted to make
$900 a month just to start out just something small work your way up
whatever 30 days on average so that’d be $30 a day but I would need to make $40 a
day because on top of that I’m gonna say $10 for advertising
so $40 a day for 30 days so some of the things that I already have on hand to
start testing this out today the book now the commission on that is like one
just like five dollars for the book that I have however many I have to sell the
day what is it six yeah so I’d have to sell six books a day it doesn’t seem too
crazy to try and sell six books a day I just really like to try to get away from
freelancing and also I don’t want a freelance see I’ve done freelancing over
the past year mainly because I can build websites one it’s always a struggle to
get what it’s worth is what I’ve learned and to that ends up being what you do
freelancing as always you do that first because that’s what you’re getting paid
for so I need to switch gears and find ways to get paid for things I want to do
with the book and finding people that can relate to it makes me think of some
of the other stuff I do like drawings like what are some things that can earn
money in the background while still doing what I want to do and also just
thinking differently rather than everybody come to my site and get things
whereas put it in other places where people can relate to it that’s where I’m
at still figuring that out that was
basically me thinking out loud trying to figure out what the best answer is I
don’t know yet maybe experimenting on more than one place or one medium at one
time is what I’m gonna try and do first I think. I’m Tom Ray, and this is American
Bandito. now back in season 2 one of the people I
met ran a coffee shop in town here it was called mother fools there was an art
installation there in the fall and the artist that was doing it heard the
podcast and reached out to me and asked if I would stop by to check it out my
name is Bradley flora and I’m an artist we ended up sitting down to talk and he
told me about how he’s been expanding on what he’s been doing photography and
moving into painting and I want to mention one more thing I noticed while
editing this interview he has this dry wit that I picked up on even more when I
went back to edit this interview so I found that pretty entertaining you
originally were a photographer weren’t you I still have a photographer right
I’m on hiatus right now you know I took a picture yesterday it was a sunset I
feel like I’m the first person to ever do that but I mean I think that’s part
of it is that you know I want to say something with my art and it’s really
hard to do that with photography because I like to operate you know as a
photojournalist I mean that’s I’m trained to speak truth with my art
actually a journalism school dropout so it’s like I still managed to get good
enough at photography and take it seriously enough to operate as a
photojournalist for an independent newspaper in Colorado at no point since
then have I wanted to try to photoshop my work or to manipulate the reality
that I see I always want to just you know even when I go take a landscape
picture only within the last year have I even felt comfortable kind of like
pushing a twig out of the way if I want to get that you better like really it’s
more like that twig it’s part of the composition but the flip side to that is
that with acrylic and painting and drawing it’s all staged it’s all comes
from the imagination to one degree or another I’m inspired by um we’ll have to
double check this name but it’s Albert Camus I think he’s the he owned a
lithographic company but he made the book of lithographs that was about the
Civil War field sketch artists during the Civil War I’ve
always been really inspiring to me to of working accurately and efficiently and
I’ve kind of combined that with what I’ve reacted against with the
photojournalism to produce this show where
I’m seeing truth but I’m allowing myself to integrate my opinion into it because
with photojournalism you know opinion is biased and that’s
that’s something that’s really toxic to good journalism how did you get started
with doing the acrylics taking pictures during that time using Kodak ins two
cameras and carrying them with my snowboard you know that evolved to me
working at an art store in Driggs Idaho which is on the western slope of the
Tetons and the art store owner was basically like you’re running the shop
and you’re allowed to use any art supplies you want like a learn Photoshop
on your free time make our print art and his inspiration really got me to think
about photography outside of the frame and ways to display it there were more
alternative and I have to be honest I don’t know if I’ve ever really produced
anything that’s a hundred percent satisfactory to me but as I kept pushing
the boundaries of how to show my photography I started using acrylic as a
medium to frame it so clear acrylic pores I had some success but generally I
was a little impatient I’m so I think one of the fun things about this show is
this is the first time I’ve really produced work where I slow down and
actually do something right if that makes any sense I think I’m finally old
enough to be mature and not not just be like splashing paint Pollock style how
would you describe the style that you are currently doing when I moved back to
Colorado I went to an honor code at art school that taught art in a narrative
impressionist style the painting of the homeless guy holding the Goa master copy
those are a narrative impressionist styles as taught by my teacher Brett
Andrus of the Mod Bo I don’t do what he does
you know and and I kind of I kind of am only starting to come full circle and
his you know his influence continues to trickle in I mean he was such a smart
teacher that it’s you know eight or nine or ten years since I’ve actually you
know actually worked with them I’m still evolving as an artist from his influence
and I was really lucky with this show to have a chance to kind of work to find
the threads of the work that I wanted to produce and follow them the the painting
with the power plan the Buffalo is an example of that where I started it and
sat for almost four months before I painted it on it again so I painted on
it for two days and then I just sat and looked at it and it was the power plant
was vertical I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it and it took a while to
find that thread and to realize that I wanted that painting to be about the
American Dream and colonialism and you know the the death of you know the great
bison herds in the 19th century I mean it but it took me four months to figure
out that that was what that painting was about and in that process how far back
does all the work that’s in the showing that you have right now go it’s all new
this year the first painting I finished when I moved to Wisconsin is not in the
show and that was finished on Thanksgiving Day it’s on a vinyl table
and the acrylic varnish is reacting with the vinyl and it’s not drying so it’s
actually like sticky and wet one year later which is actually yeah it’s it’s
it’s in the garage that’s odd for acrylics knowing that acrylic and vinyl
react poorly I just didn’t know it at the time I didn’t know that so it’s
known to other people I had no clue yeah I have a plan for that piece so it’s
like now that it’s ruined it’s like I can fix it and play with it that was the
first one and then I kind of went from there
kind of like how you’re glad that it was ruined cuz you’re like now I could do
something else with it well I mean I’m glad that it’s ruined because I’m secure
in the fact that I still had a show that was successful you know I mean the show
went up knock on wood you know nothing’s dropped I mean you
make art and no one gets hurt what else do you want right I moved out here
because I was taking care of my uncle who had a degenerative brain disease
he died in May of 2018 and thank you it was a five-year terminal diagnosis so we
knew it was coming and they asked me to come out to help so that so that you
could stay at home and through that process of like moving to a new place
and not having friends and to be honest I’m both really outgoing and like really
unaware of my own social awkwardness so I do a really good job of making friends
and losing them really quick you know as I continue to live here and make friends
I realized that the the winter of last year
when my uncle was at his most sick and I was at my most lonely was traumatic and
making art that helped me heal from some of those traumas and and other people’s
promise too because I definitely got myself into situations where I was
triggering other people and I didn’t even realize it like it’s the kind of
situation where you know if we go look at the paintings out there there’s like
it’s like their pages of my journal where I’m actually actively expressing
how it felt to be in those moments you were doing those while you were taking
care of your uncle so I assumed you were creating the artwork in his home like
during the free time or like while he was resting yeah my my uncle’s name is
Tony Lucca and he got his PhD at uw-madison in
anthropology he was an paleo ethno botanist the world
is that I have no idea what that means well he he actually analyzed charcoal
fragments to determine what kind of tree was that was his specialty the while his
wife was Peggy Flores DeLuca who’s a professional watercolor artist she has
an art studio in the house and she’s really supportive of me making art one
of the things I’m excited about moving forward is continuing to study with her
she’s she’s really talented and wise I mean half of the show when you look at
what’s good and right with the show at least half of it is just like pure
influence from from Peggy she’s really taught me a lot about color theory
allowed me to take over a room and set up in our studio we put plastic on all
the walls and cardboard on the floor and are you that messy yeah so there’s the
painting in the other room I think it’s called when expectations outweigh
benefits or something like that and it’s it’s a non representational abstract
piece that is a perfect example of how messy I can be okay because when you
look at it there’s a lot of acrylic pores and stuff going on there where it
just drips off the side you can see accidental marks because I wasn’t paying
attention at my brush stroke was hitting it I didn’t notice it until after the
work was you know quote-unquote done subconsciously that was integrated into
the whole in the harmony so as I’m finishing up the other marks I’m taking
in that accidental mark into account so when the whole painting was finished and
then I found this you know it’s it’s on a piece of it’s on a flat black plane
there’s like a little white – yeah it’s on one of the black and white paintings
and you’ll see this little white mark and if you look above it there’s all
these white brushstrokes so it’s almost looks like I did the white brushstrokes
and then I kind of pulled away from the canvas it must have been like 4:00 in
the morning and I wasn’t paying close attention I just I just dabbed it that
integrated into the harmony of the painting you know I part of the process
of learning how not to ruin paintings is making sure that I don’t go back and
touch it once it’s considered done and so that’s why I left that brush mark on
there you know like I knew it was there in in September when the paintings done
I’m getting ready to hang this show and it’s like man no one’s gonna see that I
mean literally I don’t think anyone would know it’s there or see it as a
huge mistake unless I pointed out I was gonna say that exact same thing you
basically said I have to stop working on it or else you could go on forever and
there it’s like there’s the voice in my head and it’s sort of the cumulative
voices of all the wise women in my life they’re like don’t touch it anymore
Bradley it’s time to stop Bradley and I regret every time I don’t listen to that
voice there’s always the other test too which is I like to call it the day after
test so you stop and you go okay I’m done with it and then like look at it 12
hours later and then go okay am I really done am I happy with this or at least
that’s what’s worked for me I’ll find out that half of the time it’s
like oh yeah no that’s that’s okay it’s I’m happy with that I had an event where
it was an artist listen so it was like an artist talk but opposite yeah explain
that to me you know it’s just a rebranded academic critique I created an
opening for people to tell me what my art meant to them and that’s where I
started because this was a show that focused on non-binary social justice
issues so my position of privilege as a white male comes from of focusing on
these issues and wanting to make art that open discussion about specific
issues where each painting to one degree or another is about a different issue
that is important to me I don’t think I get to have the definitive say of what
that means and so when the opportunity came to have an event and to have an
artist talk it became really clear to me I didn’t want to tell other people what
this artwork man I get that because it’s you don’t want to ruin it for him like
if it does mean something to them you don’t want to turn around go no that’s
not what that means I mean that was that was certainly the part of the point of
the event but you know talking about the the painting with the power plant the
it’s called the portrait of the Martin Drake power plant I mean jeez I don’t
even really want to talk about this in detail because it’s not even a fun topic
but basically all the Buffalo got wiped out and it’s fucked up and but that’s
that’s like I live on stolen land and I’m talking about it as if I have a
right to say this is wrong but all I’m doing is making something I’m making
beautiful art about it and trying to sell it you know and so what does that
mean to the ho-chunk well I actually I don’t know they didn’t respond to my
emails but you actually contacted them yeah I mean I I mean I basically said if
you guys don’t like this painting you know this is what this paintings about
if you don’t like it please let me know I’ll paint over it they won’t be in the
show although I think I said that like the
day before the show so you know it would have been like this big performance art
piece where I like I come in with a bucket of paint and like paint over it
like vandalize your own work like in the in the in the coffee shop but that’s the
thing is their opinion on this is a lot more valid than mine because we’re all
living with the history but the pain for them is much more raw what are some of
the methods that you use to actually get yourself out there and sell your work
how do you sell the work it comes down to intent I’ve produced a body of work
that’s like every single image I chose I did you know 15 4×6 beautiful
photographs I picked my 15 most beautiful photographs the ones that are
most likely to sell I’m painted them with a clear acrylic I made him as clean
as possible and I did it all for like three dollars an image so when it came
down to it I could sell him for i think i priced him at $20 each and by the end
of the show I had sold all over so I took that model the next year and I was
like okay I did that now I’m gonna produce work that says
something I didn’t sell a thing so when I say it comes down to intent it’s a
little bit more about like do I have the skills to matte
my vision and is my vision driven by that intention and I think that has been
a bit of a surprise I really didn’t produce this show to be something that
people would want to buy and take into their homes I really was thinking this
is a coffee shop I want to make artwork that stimulates discussion and that
creates an interesting event and says what I want to say I mean of course I’m
looking on it from the back end with hindsight in reality it was more like I
need to produce this type of work or I’m gonna go crazy you know like I need to I
need to explore my own my own challenges and talk about my own things if we’re
gonna be really honest I think one of the best ways to sell your artwork is to
produce artwork from your heart and then start bribing your family members to buy
it I didn’t say it would be financially sustainable a determinant factor in what
type of art you produce it skews the type of art you make you know like I’m
literally looking at my November budget and I’m saying like oh good I’m glad I
sold a painting now I have the ability to eat you know now I don’t have to go
work over as a dishwasher I mean you’d be surprised that like having art skills
and no art degree really limits what you could do yes which isn’t to say that I’m
not I’m not putting food on my table I think living in a capitalist economy
where market forces influence our subconscious skews the type of work we
make in a toxic way so when you ask what’s the what’s the best way to be
selling art I’m not sure that art should be sold I’m really happy to have the
show I’m really excited that pieces have sold I would seriously consider giving
away every single painting in the show if I thought it would help someone be
making something from the heart helps yourself making something from the
heart that helps someone else exponentially compounds that healing and
art that is about healing is the best kind of art there’s like the series of paintings of
people holding signs and in both cases they’re there homeless men and in one of
them I’m calling it a self-portrait that’s literally a small bit of
commentary on my own experience with avoiding homelessness and wanting to
make artwork fits just a little bit expressing gratitude for for kind of
having survived some close calls with that type of type of experience but it’s
also more multifaceted I’m calling it a self-portrait because it’s an example of
taking something really serious and presenting it to the world and which is
a in this case a master copy of Francisco Goya is famous painting from
the early 19th century the 3rd of May which is about reprisals against Spanish
revolutionaries and I don’t even know if his first name is Francisco I may have
gotten that wrong anyway it’s go yet just GOI googling you’re holding it up
to the world like it’s something serious and if the world doesn’t respond in a
positive way you’re left emotionally bereft this particular piece was done
with a model I met I met a homeless guy that I kind of became friends with while
he was in my neighborhood and after I knew that it was okay to do this on his
end I hired him for a dollar a minute to pose for me and so you know I gave him
20 bucks and for 20 minutes he held his sign not facing the road but facing me
and I sat and I drew him this painting was the post that he held there’s all
this interesting symbolism people are saying of like what does this line mean
or what is this stuff and I was like oh that was me trying to draw a jacket you
know I mean so when I talk about the meaning of this painting I don’t
necessarily have that at the beginning it’s more like I want to take this
moment that I drew and I like the idea of putting a famous painting in it what
painting fits and you kind of make decisions intuitively about what clicks
and you feel the puzzle pieces click together and then you make the artwork
and at the end you start trying to say smart stuff about it so people think
you’re smarter so when it comes to selling your work over the long run
don’t admit that you’re not as smart as you’re not really are to see Bradley’s work and learn more
about what he does in his paintings of photography you can go to his website at if you haven’t already you can subscribe to the show at
my website where you can also read my daily comic
blog the music for the show is composed by my band Lorenzo’s Music and our
recent release Rom-Comm Mixtape is available now anywhere you stream music
or you can go to and download it for free next time on
the show I meet two artists that work at a library who decided to promote culture
with their own podcast so until next time so long

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