Logan Hagege is probably the most independent-minded artist I’ve chatted with to date. In fact, I don’t recall talking with anyone of late who is so certain about what they’re doing with their time. He’s truly a great artist www.loganhagege.com, but wait until you hear what he says!
MICHAEL: Hello Logan, your work is very Western. Are you concerned that people will only see you as a "Western artist"?
LOGAN: I'm not really concerned with the tags or categories that people may put me in. I don't approach a painting with the thought, "I'm a Western artist, what should I paint to fit that mold?" Instead, I paint whatever I want and whatever I'm inspired by. I paint all kinds of subjects and themes. Some of what I paint I do for myself and other work is seen by the public. As an artist, it is important for me to paint what I want. I don't consider what people may think about my decisions.
MICHAEL: That's interesting because as you know, lots of people spend lots of time deconstructing art and artists' intentions, especially after they die. What do you think?
LOGAN: I don't think it's an artist’s job to worry what people think about their art. If an artist is producing work that is honest to themselves and their vision, then they are doing their job. It's impossible to produce an honest piece of art if you are thinking, "Oh, the critics are going to love this one." It seems like wasted effort to me.
MICHAEL: You sound fiercely independent to me. Love that.
LOGAN: People do spend a lot of time trying to figure out an artist’s intentions. This can become problematic because an artist might be experimenting with some new idea or technique. Often times this experimentation is simply the artist being an artist and trying different things out. I've heard critics compare an artist’s evolution to what was happening in the world at that time. This may be true, but natural artistic evolution and experimentation has more to do with what is going on in the artist's head, critics can never get into the artist's head.
MICHAEL: Tell me about living out West. Where exactly are you? You're obviously inspired by your environment. Would you also be painting your surroundings if you lived in Nantucket, for example?
LOGAN: I live in Los Angeles. I take road trips into the desert very often. I was inspired by the simplicity of the desert, which is what I am attracted to in art. The desert became a subject because of its bold, simple characteristics. Funny you should mention Nantucket, because I lived in the Northeast for a few years and on Cape Cod for a bit. I did paint landscapes of that region as well as some fishermen as subjects. But, while living there, I still painted Southwestern Landscapes and portraits. My surroundings have something to do with what I paint, but not everything. I really just paint what interests me.
MICHAEL: Your work gives me the impression that it's not just about art. The landscapes and portraits bring legendary photographer Edward Curtis to mind. Your work is very dignified. I feel like you're also doing documentation of sorts, No?
LOGAN: Yes and no. A lot of my work is based on design and different ways of composing a composition. I use my subjects to explore picture-making elements. I think I am attracted to dramatic subjects which may give the feeling of the work being dignified.
MICHAEL: Are you of Native American descent? If not, have you developed any sort of affinity for Native American culture? Or again, is your work simply the result of where you're currently living?
LOGAN: No, I'm not Native American. I think it’s a really interesting culture. Art has been such an important part of their culture. Even before anything was being made to sell, the early tribes were making pottery with amazing painted designs. Everything from Kachina dolls to weavings that are great. The simplified design is really interesting to me.
MICHAEL: What's life like for you in Los Angeles? How did you end up there? Does the city inspire your work at all? Do you like LA.?
LOGAN: I was born and raised in LA. I'm sure the city affects my work somehow, but it is more subconscious for me. My life in LA is pretty simple. I just paint all day at my studio and sometimes get outside to paint landscape studies. There’s a group of really strong painters who I’m friends with in the area which is great for me because I'm exposed to high-quality being produced by contemporary artists. I do like it here in LA, but I think it's because it's home to me.
MICHAEL: What's your painting routine? Do you listen to music or watch TV while you're working? Do you get an idea and start painting or start and then get the idea? What inspires you to create?
LOGAN: I get to the studio and try to get through some emails, then get working on some paintings. I start with a pretty clear idea, but I'm always open to making changes as I work. The composition is generally pretty much worked out ahead of time through a series of studies. I listen to music sometimes, but usually listen to talk radio while painting. I try not to wait for inspiration to paint, I just keep working. If I'm really not interested in what I'm painting or don't have any good ideas, I will experiment with some new ideas or different mediums.
MICHAEL: When did you first become an artist? Do you come from an artistic family?
LOGAN: I started doodling as a kid. I believe it was during second or third grade on weekly trips to the library that I started. Instead of reading, I began to trace pictures out of the, "How to draw Marvel Comics" book. It wasn't until after high school that I started to get really serious about studying art. My family wasn't artistic in the way of being actual artists, but were very supportive of my interests.
MICHAEL: When you got really serious about art, how did that manifest itself for you? Was it about becoming a full time artist? Did you feel a sense of mission? What differentiated this from art as a side hobby?
LOGAN: I got really serious about art when I started to study figure drawing and painting from life at Associates in Art, in Los Angeles. When I started studying there, I was interning at an animation studio. I quickly learned that I wasn't interested in the animation industry and wanted to focus on fine art. I definitely felt a sense of mission when I started to get serious about learning to draw and paint better. I remember when I was 20, I went to a portfolio review that was hosted by a handful of professional illustrators. I wanted to get some feedback and I asked one of the illustrators if it was "too late" for me. By that time, I had been exposed to the work of Sargent and others. I saw what they were doing at the age of 20 and it was so far ahead of where I was. The illustrator laughed and looked at me like I was crazy because I was only 20 and was serious about art. To this day, I think he was wrong. It wasn't too late for me, but I was definitely behind at the age of 20. I don't think we hold ourselves up to high enough standards these days. I try to look at my work compared to artists that I consider masters. It inevitably falls short, but that is healthy because I don't ever want to become happy with where I am and I constantly push myself to improve in one way or the other. I didn't see art as a hobby, I just believed that I could do it professionally and that was IT for me.
MICHAEL: Interesting comment about people not keeping higher standards for themselves. Isn't painting and art in general ultimately about envisioning ourselves and the world? You clearly followed your vision and are succeeding. What role do you think art plays in the world?
LOGAN: Art is important for the world, especially today. We run the risk of losing our culture if we base all of our joy and importance on reality TV and the entertainment industry. I'm not sure where I fit in or where my contemporaries fit in either. It will be history that makes sense of it all or ignores some of us. When I think about what I do and how I spend my days it can sometimes feel a little silly. I mean, what am I doing pushing paint around on a canvas? But then on the other hand, it is something I feel a literal NEED to do. Art at its core is simply an artist’s view of the world. So if that means painting landscapes or sad clowns that is fine. It's not for any of us to judge, the artist is doing what the artist wants and feels. We can't and shouldn't stop an artist from doing what they want with their art. The art will naturally fit into the world in a certain way. This is the great thing about art which is different from most other professions. The uniqueness should be celebrated. Each artist can show us a new way to look at the world.
MICHAEL: This seems like a great place to end. Thanks Logan. This has been great. More power to you.
Check out Logan’s cool work at his website, www.loganhagege.com.