The Q&A: Charlie Powell

By Peggy Roalf   Monday August 28, 2017

Q: Originally from [where?] what are some of your favorite things about living and working in [your current locale]?

A. I grew up in northern California, in a small rural town about an hour from Sacramento.  I now live in the Santa Cruz Mountains, about half an hour from the city of Santa Cruz. It’s a beautiful area with lots of redwoods, and the ocean is close by.  I’m fortunate to live in an area where there aren’t many houses, and there are great trails very nearby.  

Being able to spend time in nature most every day is a great way to exercise, clear my head, and work out ideas if I’m stuck on a project.  San Francisco is about a 90 minute  drive, so I can get get there easily when I need a good city fix. 

 Sketchbook page 

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between art you create on paper [or other analog medium] versus in the computer?

A: I always have a sketchbook in progress. I’ve been working in sketchbooks for a long time now, and I find it very important for generating ideas, and trying new ways of working.

99 percent of my work is analog, usually acrylic on heavy bristol.  I use photoshop for minor tweaks, color adjustments, etc.  

 L: Hillary cover. R: Neil Young

Q: What is the most important item in your studio?

A: Aside from a cup of coffee, the most important item would have to be paints…..and brushes. 

Q: How do you know when the art is finished?

A: When there’s nothing left for me to obsess over.  That usually happens pretty close to the deadline.
Q: What was your favorite book as a child? What is the best book you’ve recently read?

A: Hop on Pop was an early favorite, along with lots of others by Dr. Seuss.

Recently, The Gold Finch, by Donna Tartt.  I couldn’t put it down!

L: Sketchbook page. R: Casey at the Bat

Q: If you had to choose one medium to work in for an entire year, eliminating all others, what medium would you choose?

A: Probably acrylic paint, though I do love drawing with a crow quill pen and India ink.
Q: What elements of daily life exert the most influence on your work practice?

A: I’ve been playing guitar for quite a while, and I think that definitely has an effect on how I work, and the subject matter I’m drawn to. Listening to music, NPR, Marc Maron’s WTF, Tim Ferris, and other podcasts has become a part of my daily work routine.  I share a studio with my wife, who is also an artist, and we are able to give each other feedback on projects we’re working on.  Sometimes it helps to get another perspective.

Q: What was the [Thunderbolt] painting or drawing or film or otherwise that most affected your approach to art? 

A: I was absolutely blown away when I first discovered Mort Drucker’s work in Mad Magazine. There have been many things since then that have affected my work, but that was the big one.


 L: Billy Gibbons. R: Anette Bening

Q: What was the strangest/interesting assignment you've taken that has an important impact on your practice?

A: I did a series of portraits for a magazine, six per month for a period of four years. I used the opportunity to push myself to keep the paintings looser.

I think it had a positive impact on my work by keeping me from obsessing over details.

Q: What would be your last supper?

A vegetarian burrito from La Hacienda (a great local burrito joint), and a good IPA.

Charlie Powell lives and works near Santa Cruz, California. He has created illustrations for many publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, The Nation, The National Pastime Museum, and The Progressive, among others. His work has been recognized by American Illustration and 3X3 illustration Annual.
Instagram: @charliepowellart


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