John Charles Sykes Jr., is an award-winning photographer and writer living in Little Rock, Arkansas. He grew up in Heber Springs, Arkansas, and attended a couple of Arkansas universities. He became a newspaper photographer at the age of 16 and has been in the field since.
He is currently chief photographer of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the largest newspaper in the state. He lives in Little Rock with his wife Caroline and their four children.
Ballet No. XIV, Giclee Photograph, 16" x 10"
Why art? There are lots of things you can do in life, why did making art grab you and not let go?
There is something about creation, making something that comes from within me, that I cannot deny. If I couldn't create, I don't know what I would do. I feel the same way about reading. Being creative isn't optional for me... I have to do it.
Yeah, it’s a question that gets asked a lot, but I’m going to ask it again: What inspires you?
Everything inspires me. I can see a leaf, or a cloud, or a face and realize that I need to do something with those things, make something larger than myself. Something greater than the individual parts.
What do you find to be the hardest aspect to being an artist?
Ultimately it comes down to money for many artists. Money for materials, money to free up the time to create… Money is the bane of artist’s existence, especially one’s whose art requires expensive materials. Being creative isn’t the problem. Having the means to be creative is.
Most artists have some idea of where they are going with their work while they are creating it. However, there is always the aspect that the viewer will project their own ideas and experiences onto the work when they see it. Do you feel that you, in a sense, lose some control of the work once it is released into the wild? Is this bothersome to you?
It is odd sometimes to hear someone tell me what they think my art ‘says.’ It can be a little liberating to hear a new interpretation of my art, but aggravating also. Aggravating to realize that they don’t get it.
What role do you see the artist playing in a community?
The role of the artist in all settings is to show the world that there is more than just our mundane lives. That there is something larger, something profound inside us and showing this to others is not just important, it’s necessary.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
My goal is to be able to work full-time on my art, make money doing it, and be incredibly famous. But I’d settle for the first two.
Do you have a preferred medium that you use, and why does it just click with you when you create?
My medium has always been photography. In one form or another. Nowadays that form is digital collages, which means sitting in front of computer. Actually I don’t mind this part of my work! But when all the computer work ends up on paper, things really come alive for me.
I remember in a graphic design class being told that after the class, I would notice graphic design everywhere, and it would change the way I see the world. For me, that held true. Do you think art has that power for most people? Does it for you?
When I did traditional black and white photography, I found that I would view things in that way. Visualizing scenes and how they would translate into a black and white photo. I do the same now, but I see things via Photoshop! Since my work involves extensive Photoshop work, I notice ways I can manipulate things, add things or take things away.
What is your biggest thrill at the opening reception for a show of your work?
It's always a big thrill when someone seems to “get” my work, when they understand what I was trying to do. It’s awkward sometimes trying to explain my work. Another thrill is when someone buys a piece… not just because of the money, but that someone thinks enough of it to put their money where their mouth is.
Sometimes artists feel that their studio is something of a sacred place to them. It can be very personal for them, and allowing others in can make them uncomfortable. Is your studio like this? How do you see your studio or workspace?
I find that where my work happens is a personal place. Many times that place is my computer! I don’t like people seeing my work before it’s finished. My space is a haven, a place that is mine and makes me feel safe.
Thank you John for giving us a little insight to how you create and see the world as an artist!