Hi, my name’s Ian Storey and I am an artist living in Portland, Oregon.
The examined life is a steady unfolding.
I do not intend to make the world a more beautiful place through pretty pictures, nor do I endeavor to resist the status quo, or anything more lofty (though I will take great pleasure in arguing for all of these things).
Art helps organize my thoughts and untangles the emotional, existential and spiritual questions that arise from life. Mark making, whether drawing or painting, allows me to reckon the facts of the past with the continual construction of the present. Hours into the work, memories, dreams, difficult decisions, the innumerable problems of today, past pain and conflict, all well up inside of me and address how I feel at the present. It is visceral- sometimes peaceful and other times stomach churning. It is an unconscious thing. At times, a session will stir me to a degree that it deters me from the whole enterprise, placing hours of procrastination in front of what I feel I have to do. Then, to work is to deal with what I cannot look away from. It will be overcome: on the best days, through minutes of contemplation. On the worst days, minutes extend into hours and then, drink. In the end, the fact remains that sustained drawing and painting is the only way that I can work through these feelings without having to “solve” them (Being that they are unsolvable).
My work displays all of this. I don’t know what it will look like when I have nothing left to work through.
James Baldwin likened his impulse to write with breathing. He insisted that he could not apologize for something so natural to him, and neither will I.
This comes naturally because deep down there is something unmovable: I am discontented.
To that end, it has never been about the works produced but the working. Pieces are only complete as a way of compromising with the world. A handshake with the inner world and the outer world where the inner makes an effort towards clarity and the outer gives up its rigidity. Individually contained pieces are not so much done as they are left behind. They are mile markers that dot a secret trail- it hugs the ridges of an impossible mountain range. What pulls me down this path is not simply self expression but a search for what is true. In this way, there is no difference between art and philosophy.
The artist and the philosopher share an identity assumed by those who cannot deny what civilized society ignores. This is not to be confused with the territory staked out by The Partisans. (The banner carriers, whatever label they wear: Capitalist, Communist, Socialist, Libertarian, Reformer, Catholic, Hindu, Atheist, etc.) Though they may share the same language, dogma is an anathema to the curious and the creative.
The truth is not one thing, nor is it static, so to pursue it, one must go out looking. Voyages to end in discovery or get dashed upon the rocks. To sail and sail again, and then dock and plan for the next thing. The stable ground preferred by the partisans (in a word: orthodoxy), does not sustain the artist and provides little safety- the opposite of its intended effect. It is here where the partisans and artists are at axiomatic odds: The artist finds loneliness without solitude in conformity and aloneness and freedom in solitude.
Being attentive to so many possibilities, turning over every stone simply to do it, rather than fulfill any ambition, the artist is a sensitive kind of person. Living this way, attempting to understand what curiosity yields, brings about many emotions and states. Drawing and painting then help contemplate these states. To observe the heart and the mind and address them head on, I do not intend to ‘fix’ or change the world as I see fit, but rather, understand.
So then, the artist is, that is, I am, not merely another means of production, an expression within a materialistic society, but rather one who leads an attentive and sensitive way of life, vigilant and critical of society. I am successful to the extent that I am enough to keep exploring and continue on. The mile markers along the way, are just that.
As the examined life unfolds, each twist yields new vistas. The artist observes. Reflections reveal new surfaces, shadows fall to describe new textures. Craft unearths and sharpens avenues of expression and obfuscates others.
All of that said, art is not simply meditation. I have to share what I make with you because I love so personally and thoroughly what has been shared with me. And, because I love so effusively, I am just as angry.
I studied the humanities at Linfield College with philosopher of sport, Jesus Illundain, ethicist and pragmatist, Kaarina Beam, and philosopher gone rogue, Seth Tichenor. I learned how to draw with Luke Zimmerman and conceptual artist, Cris Moss. Art critic, Brian Winkwenweder, taught me art history and most importantly, how to write. I graduated with a bachelors of arts with honors in philosophy, a minor in visual culture and another minor in political science. After college I continued my education in drawing and painting in Portland, Oregon with Phil Sylvester at The Drawing Studio. There, I discovered my voice and after a few years of drawing, eventually made the leap into painting. An ill fated foray into the white collar world led me back to blue collar work where I could survive and continue my practice. From then on, my mentors were accomplished illustrators from history: Berne Hogarth, Andrew Loomis, and George Bridgman. And also painters still living though from afar: Dave Rapoza, James Gurney, and Richard Schmid. Eventually, when the pandemic hit, I took course work online through the Watts Atelier. Though my work is primarily expressive, I value close and technical study of the human figure to develop my craft. In the time since studying at The Drawing Studio I have taken residences at True North Studios and Civilian Studios, ultimately ending up where I began, my easel arms length from my bed.
All of the above coupled with a letter from a family friend, a birthday letter from an old coworker, valentines messages from my 5th/6th grade blend class, a goodbye letter from my peers at my most recent grocery job (as of this writing), have led me towards the creative life that I continue to pursue today.
You can find more of my work below: