Colton Brock: Artist and Photographer

Colton Brock, photographed on top of Shaw Butte in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Colton Brock, artist and photographer, photographed on top of Shaw Butte in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Colton Brock

Colton Brock has made his mark on the Valley’s art scene in a big way, as the creator of several murals throughout the downtown Phoenix area and beyond. The 33-year-old Phoenix resident creates landscape art in a variety of mediums, including photography, and presents his work at a solo exhibition at The Hive in Phoenix, called Location¬≥. The exhibition debuts with a music and refreshment-filled reception Friday, October 16 from 6-10 p.m. and runs through mid-November.

Brock has had several commissions with the City of Phoenix and City of Tempe and has shown at The Lost Leaf and Phoenix Public Library, as well as in Minneapolis. You can currently see his murals at Tempe Farmers Market, at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, and around Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix, and he created a public installation at the light rail stop at Mill Avenue and 3rd Street in Tempe.

Brock shared his artist inspiration, and you can hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born in and grew up in Phoenix and went to Arizona State University, where I got my bachelor degree in art and design, with a minor in religious studies.

My grandfathers were both born in Arizona. My whole family is from here, back to four generations ago, and before then, I don’t even really know where they came from.

What’s your earliest memory of being interested in art?

My dad would paint as a hobby. Seeing his paints and brushes and knickknack paintings he did was my first exposure to it.

Art was my focus in high school, and I got a scholarship through my mom’s work to study art in college.

What’s your typical week like involving your art?

Usually, I’ll cram in a 12-hour painting day on Monday to make up for working my other job so much during the rest of the week. I paint during the day and bartend at night. I shoot photos all the time, whether I’m driving, working or traveling. I’m always shooting photos, looking for visual references for paintings.

What inspires your paintings?

I grew up skateboarding, and a lot of my composition inspiration comes from skateboarding photography. The skateboarding photography style is very low to the ground, usually looking up, taking photos with a fish eye lens or a wide angle lens. Skateboarding, you’re always looking for landscapes and places to skateboard, which is probably what led me to painting landscapes.

Do you plan on branching out from landscapes?

Who knows? I’ll know when I get there. I’ve done portraits and still lifes, but this is what’s interesting to me. When it’s not interesting, I’ll do something else.

What mediums do you prefer?

I use everything, and with paintings, I use mostly oil, acrylic or aerosol on canvas or wood. I love painting found objects, like a coffee table that’s in the alleyway, or if someone threw away a cookie sheet.

The biggest paintings I do are the biggest I can transfer, and now I have a cargo van.

How did you get involved with painting murals?

I did a mural as a painting job at a friend of a friend’s house, in probably 2005. I had never really done one before, but he had money to spend and had a recording studio at his house. I did it, and it worked out pretty well.

I did a mural at Cartel Coffee in Tempe on a wall that’s not there any more. I did some pieces at a studio space I used to live at, near Tempe Farmers Market. I did some more in Tempe, and it grew from there.

What inspires your murals?

The surroundings and the mood of the surroundings. I like to take that opportunity to play with color schemes and bounce colors off of what’s next to what I’m painting. Say there’s a big purple house, I’ll maybe take that into consideration and how they’re going to play together. I use my usual subject matter and take advantage of the opportunity to do something big and fun and stylized and not overly serious.

What can people expect from Location³?

It will be my art, about 10 paintings and nine photos from the past year, and El Goonie DJing music loosely inspired by the places in the artwork, which are Mexico, New Mexico, and California, some trips I’ve taken recently. Casa Noble tequila and Modelo Especial have given me products to play with, so I’m going to pre-batch some cocktails, and there will be some light snacks from Barrio Urbano.

How do you hope the collection impacts viewers?

I hope people enjoy looking at the pieces, and I hope it sparks maybe some nostalgia with viewers who have been to these places before. I play with color a lot, so that plays off my own memory and hopefully will tie in to viewers’ memories or remind them of a past feeling.

Why is color important to you?

It’s really interesting to me. Growing up, I always wanted to do everything black and white and never wanted to color anything. It wasn’t because I didn’t like color — it’s that there’s so much you can do with it, and it can be so much work. I’ve always loved color theory, though, and everything has always been a certain color to me. Like, when I think about Tuesday, that’s always a certain color, or when I think of a lowercase “b” versus a capital “B,” they’re two very different colored “b”s in the alphabet. I always associate everything with color. Flavors have different colors.

How would you characterize the Phoenix art scene?

I love how the Phoenix art scene is growing up and breaking out of the mass-produced, homogenized, cookie cutter feel. I love contributing to it, since my family is here.

If you go some place like L.A. or Chicago or New York, the payoff can be really big, but you’re a drop in the ocean. Here, it’s the opposite: it’s easy to make a mark, but you have to be in it for the love of the game, since the payoff is not always huge. You’ve got to want it to do it here and be in it for the love of it, which is why I like it. It’s hard to be fake here.

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