Corey Bond is the first visual artist to be featured on Artists on the Rise. He grew up in an artistic family in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, his sister is a graphic artist, his father an illustrator and fine artist. It’s safe to say young Corey was mixing colors before he was out of diapers. Thanks to a combination of talent, genetic ability, and training from some of the top art institutions in the nation, Bond’s ability to capture raw emotion in his paintings and drawings is uncanny.
His career as a painter stems back more than a decade to 2002, when he sold five of his thesis paintings right after graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Bond, now resides in Brooklyn and is one of the top painters at internationally acclaimed, award winning artist Jeff Koons ( “Jeff Koons balloons I just want to grow up.” -Jay-Z Picasso Baby) studio. Bond talks photo-realism, the future of art, and how to make it in the biz with Artists on the Rise.
You identify as a photo-realism painter, but what is photo-realism?
Photo-realism is a style of painting that uses photography as a reference point in order to create a detailed painting that looks just like a photograph. Sometimes it involves just one photo, other times I use several photos as references for different characters I’m painting in a scene. I’ll use images from SLR cameras down to old cell phone cameras and sometimes paint in the pixel static you would notice from enlarging a small digital image to get the painted effect I want.
What are your favorite objects to draw or paint?
I love working on portraits, there’s a lot of raw emotion that can be captured in a look or a gesture. You can encapsulate everything someone has been through or is going through in just their face.
Where do you find inspiration? From the cities you lived in or is it more than that?
My ideas behind my work actually stem from experiences when I lived in LA and Baltimore. You see a lot on the street in both of those cities that makes you think differently about things. I also come up with a lot of ideas when watching old Noir Films and reading history books. It’s a combination of what I’ve seen, merged with classic film style from the 40’s and 50’s and applied to an overall historical context. I’m fascinated with the psychology of the people that first moved out west to California, people that were choosing to leave society behind and live in a lawless wilderness where every day is a fight for survival. Every part of the country was founded on that mentality, some areas still have it, but I’m interested in how that fight has changed and moved into contemporary and urban society.
Your work is very detailed and precise. Can you describe the painting process?
I’ll start with a photo. Often I’ll work from mugshots or photos of crime scenes from police archives, sometimes I’ll just like someone’s attitude or how they carry themselves and it gives me an idea for an image, or I’ll take photos of someone I know for reference material. From there it can just be a feeling whether an image will look better in color or black and white, or whether it’ll look better larger or smaller.
Once I’ve figured everything out I do a line drawing of the entire image including where color transitions and gradations of shadows/highlights are. Then I just start painting or drawing. From the beginning, I try to get as much detail as possible, working in small sections at a time. With painting, it’s a lot of layering of colors, blending it out, adding more colors, blending those out. I keep going like that until I fill the entire space. From there the painting and drawing process splits. If I’m working on a drawing, once it’s fully drawn, I just go back in with an eraser bringing out highlights or I’ll darken some of the shadows. It might only take a day or two to wrap everything up and add some details here or there. But, definitely with a painting there’s more repetition, so its a longer process.
Wow. How many hours go into a photo-realism drawing?
It really depends on the work, if there’s a lot of detail and it’s a larger painting it could take several months. Sometimes I get bored with a painting, put it away for a while and finish a couple drawings, in that case it could even be over a year between beginning and completion, even though I may have only spent 30 or 40 days on it.
How much does a Corey Bond masterpiece cost?
Generally between $2,400 and $10,000. It depends, if there’s a large commission a client wants it might be more where as if someone just wants a logo or photographs I’ll charge a lot less.
Are you commissioned to draw or paint specific things or do you sell your own creative work?
I generally sell my own creative work, but I do a lot of commissions too. I’ve done commissioned portraits for corporations and law firms. Sometimes it’s a client asking me to do my own idea but in a specific size for their house or office. I always enjoy it, maybe that’s the illustrator side of me, it can be fun doing what I do but fitting it into a client’s parameters.
How were you able to transition from an underground artist to working on paintings for major clients?
I’ve met a lot of my clients from shows I’ve had my work in, or by word of mouth. I get a lot of repeat customers that like the aesthetic I create, and I’ve built some great friendships and working relationships with a few of my collectors. A lot of business just comes down to quality of work and whether you connect with your audience. It’s been a very gradual and slow process building my audience. I noticed early on that the majority of people interested in my work were my own age group, so it’s been a waiting game. Ten years ago a 23 year old might like my work but can’t afford a $6,000 painting. Now that same person is 33, they have a career, and can afford to buy art.
Now you work for Jeff Koons. What’s that like?
I’ve been working as a painter for Jeff for more than eight years now. My paintings don’t share much conceptually with his work, but my technique is exactly what he looks for so it was a good fit from the beginning.
Can you talk about some of the major projects you worked on?
I’m an assistant painter. He comes up with the ideas and images, and a team of us paint the images to look exactly like the reference he created. I’ve painted everything from 9 foot tall playboy models to giant Popeye toys and, Greek statues. It’s always something different.
As an artist who is still on the rise, what advice do you have for visual artists trying to break out?
I would say just do you. You can’t worry about making a name for yourself, in this industry your work makes your name. The best thing to do is to just create work you love. I’ve always thought it’s most important to just sit down and put your time in. Everything else will follow.
What are you working on now?
Right now in my studio I’m working on a portrait of Stella Blu, she’s also an artist and I love her style. When I came across her website I immediately wanted to paint her.
You have sold paintings, you work for Jeff Koons, I would say that is pretty successful. What else would you like to accomplish as an artist?
I want more time to create the work I want to create (laughs). That’s always the goal. When you look at my work as a larger group rather than individually, I want the viewer to see a world I’m creating that has a past and a present… With specific types of individuals and landscapes, almost like reading a good novel or watching a good film. I’m accomplishing that, but I always want more time to work on it.
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