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Childhood cartoons, dreamy spacescapes, and psychedelic cats come to life in vivid colors in Austin Horton’s imaginative paintings. A contrast to Austin’s black and white robot series, this collection of literally mind-bending imagery is chock-ful of craziness that you’ll have to see for yourself. Read the full interview below for an exclusive look into the mind of this incredibly diverse artist.
You’ve moved around a lot as an artist, how has each city influenced your work?
I grew up in Florida, and that’s where I began drawing and painting in my teens. Most of my stuff at that time was real angsty, stark, industrial scenes in a sort of deco style. I really gravitated towards oppressive imagery back then. I moved to New York, and my style shifted to more abstract color fields and textures. I was selling work to a bunch of private collectors back then, mostly wall street lawyers, so I did work that appealed more to that demographic. It was a great opportunity to experiment in different styles. I would say that every place I have ever lived has greatly influenced my work.

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Are you self taught or school taught?

I work in a bunch of different mediums, some of which I picked up in college; mostly printmaking, but some, like sculpture and painting, I learned how to do on my own. (Or because I told someone I knew how to do it and then learned how to do it after I was hired.) I went to Parsons in NYC for Design Management with a fashion concentration, mainly because I wrote an essay on the history of the vibrator which got me a full scholarship.

Is painting a career or a hobby for you?

This is definitely a career, art has kept a roof over my head for the last several years and I don’t plan on stopping in my lifetime. I do however look forward to a new chapter in my career where I turn up the heat and focus on showing more frequently and producing more.

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What’s your inspiration? How do you find it? 

My inspiration comes from my experience, I try to work out complex unique ideas I have had in various states of mind, and I borrow iconography from popular common sources like cartoons, old sci-fi, film which influnce my art heavily. Inspiration is kind of like love, sometimes if you’re looking too hard it will elude you. If I get into a creative block I usually switch gears and work on something else….it really helps with burnout.

If you could collaborate with any artist who would it be? What would you create?

I have fortunately had the privilege of working for and collaborating with a lot of great artists over the years, and am always open for new projects. I would really like to work on marrying installation art with event promoters to make surreal immersive experiences.

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Do you have an overall theme to your work or is each piece a separate being? What do you hope to convey with your work?

I usually work in series. I have such vastly different styles that I really like to apply a formula to a thought process and let it play out over several canvases. It helps to convey a concept more completely than just one piece. I do produce one offs, but unless they are super compelling, I don’t show them.
Describe your current studio setup.
My current setup is pretty close to ideal. I have a huge loft space with plenty of room to do large works. I frequently work on multiple pieces at a time and here I can have them all laid out in a row, which is awesome.  It’s also my home. I just wish I had more room to do stone work, but it’s pretty noisy and dusty for this place and my neighbors. Otherwise it’s been a great creative space and I have produced a lot of work here.
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What’s your typical work environment?

I work usually in the daytime. If I am really inspired I’ll work through the night. Sometimes I’ll have a bunch of people over and make a party of it, because why not fuck solitude.
What’s your favorite music to play while painting?

Lately it’s been more deep house, I dig Maceo PlexArt DepartmentLee BurridgeCaribou…. I like weird hooky electronic stuff.

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Do you have a show in the works? How was your live painting experience at Woogie Weekend?

Yes I do actually, and it’s going to be a shit show (in a good way). It’s at Exact Science November 7th. It’s pretty comprehensive work-wise, and my first solo show in LA.
I had the opportunity to do some live art at Woogie Weekend, which was my first time doing live art, thanks to the Do-Art Foundation. It started out beautifully, the location in Silverado was beautiful and inspiring. Then there was a monsoon! Even though I made sure I had all my airbrush equipment, extra needles, brushes, paint…. I neglected to check the weather, so there were a few challenges. But overall a great experience and I managed to make a really cool piece despite natures wrath!
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What is the most difficult part of being a painter?

All my clothes have paint on them and the drug-fueled orgies are also exhausting.
How do you grow as an artist and improve?
For me, growing as an artist has come by allowing myself the time and resources to experiment and create. I think shifting things up and working outside of your comfort zone forces you to adapt and grow. Being open to new experiences and retaining a sense of optimism are important. I hunger for knowledge and always want to be learning something.


See Austin’s work in his upcoming show at Exact Science November 7th and follow him on Instagram.