When the beholder is Wesley Burt, beauty is everywhere. The Cleveland Institute of Art graduate has a fixed, wide-eyed gaze on a world few people see. For Burt, art is everywhere and everyone, it's the natural byproduct of a childlike sense of wonderment few possess – and even fewer can translate to meaningful art. His visionary designs and renderings highlight his versatility, from strikingly detailed black-and-white sketches to captivating computerized imagery. His inspired work has made him among the country's most in-demand artists, working on a wide breadth of projects. In this Q&A with OhioAuthority, Burt discusses his early call to art, his inspirations and style, his professional career and advice for up-and-coming artists.
Style and Inspiration
OA: You possess an undeniable gift for art. Do you think talents such as yours are something you are born with or something that can be learned?
WB: It's something that's been ingrained in me since I was very very young, I don't really remember any time in my life when I wasn't drawing or scribbling on paper. One of my mentors in art school, Ralph Woehrman [an Ohio artist], liked to say that I was probably drawing before speaking. But with that said, I think art really relies heavily on the mindset of the person approaching it, maybe more so than a technical understanding... and some mindsets just don't mesh well with certain people, so maybe it's a little of both.
OA: When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a life in art, and what inspired you to follow that path?
WB: I don't know that it's really something I ever questioned, from growing up drawing comic characters and Star Wars toys, to studying traditional fine art in middle school and high school, and to showing with galleries and doing freelance illustration and concept art during and post college. I've always done something with the arts and would be doing it even if I could not make a living out of it and had to do it on the side. My dad has been involved in the illustration and creative process at various advertising agencies my whole life, and my mom has worked as a middle school and high school art teacher for nearly as long, so art was always encouraged and supported when I was a kid.
OA: How would you characterize your style and aesthetic, including preferred mediums?
WB: I've always responded to working with representational imagery, often the human variety. I work frequently from my head, but from observation and photographic references as well. I enjoy the search for making an image work as I go through the physical process of art-making, but also the idea phase and scribbling and jotting down of information into my Moleskine. I work in abundance with the simple basics of pencil and paper; I enjoy the air of mystery that a drawing provides in contrast to some works with paint. That other-worldliness comes through in painting as well, but there's something tangibly different about an image comprised of black and white value and line... it can be wholly relatable to the viewer in its representation, but it can also bring a sense of awareness of the medium and mystery.
OA: Where do you find inspiration - do you listen to music, watch movies, visit museums, look outside? What environment seems to provide you with the most creatively fertile ground?
WB: Definitely all of the above. So much of my role in the arts has to do with being a sponge: soaking up all sorts of sights and sounds and people and experiences and then sorting through all of it to figure out what I want to use and work with and re-interpret.
I work in my own studio for my personal work, and work in a creative office as part of my job, so both are great for different reasons. I also love to sit and draw in certain coffeeshops and places that have a bit of bustling activity, but aren't totally filled with distractions.