Artist Interview with Lou Beach
Lou spent his youth in Rochester, New York, riding his bike, building snow forts, disappointing several teachers by not realising his “full potential”. Grabbing a ride with a couple of other nascent hippies, he fled to California and it was during his time as a bookstore clerk that he was introduced to the Surrealists, began going to galleries and museums, scouring art books… Looking. And finally making art — collages and assemblage. Lou has had a rich career making memorable illustrations for 12" records, magazines and newspapers and is considered by many as one of the greatest living collagists.
1. How would you describe your style in 3 words?
Cut and paste. Hit and run. Twist and shout. Over and out. You get the idea…
2. What has been your favourite project to date and why?
I’ve been doing this for over 50 years, so it’s a tough question. I would say the favourite one is the last one which was especially difficult to solve but for which I finally worked out a satisfying solution.
3. How has this past year changed the way you work?
I’m working on my personal projects. Since I’ve worked in a home studio for many years, the past year hasn’t seen that great a change in the way I work, but the outside world and its woes have seeped into my art.
4. What is your current workspace like?
A joyous mess. I have a large table covered in sheet metal that was built to my specs many years ago by a wonderful craftsman from Mexico City. He also built the cabinets and shelving in the studio. I have files cabinets and flat files and loads of material to confuse me.
5. What is your favourite thing about being an illustrator and why?
It provides an opportunity to solve a problem, to puzzle out a visual solution for a client’s needs. It’s like having a job, as opposed to my personal work, which is more like training a bad dog.
6. Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Other artists, writers, musicians — they all influence me. My two grown artist children inspire me. Though they often work in a similar vein to mine, their approach is unique and enviable…’how did they do that?”
7. Having worked on projects from advertising to music — which has been your favourite sector and why?
I love editorial assignments, though they don’t pay particularly well. I would have preferred to have been a musician to being an artist, so working with bands has been a highlight.
8. How did you develop your signature collaged style? How does it differ to when you first started out?
Trial and error; mistakes and epiphanies. I have become more abstract, at least in my personal work. I’ve been able to fine tune the editorial work, though I still blunder and become lazy at times. My wife gives me good kick to put me back on track, shake out the laziness and arrogance.
9. What would be your dream project to work on and why?
One that I could just dream and have become manifest. And paid extravagantly.
10. What’s the best thing about having an illustration agent?
Not having to find the assignments, of course. And having someone to speak to in the middle of the night, someone who understands my tender emotions.
11. What do you wish you’d known when just starting out that you know now?
You don’t have to sleep with the art director to get the work.