(SALUT) Bradd Young
Your work is largely inspired by innocent feelings and child-like imagery. Are there any specific memories from your youth that you think back upon when you create your works? How do you preserve this child-like imagination as an adult confronted with reality?
The inspiration I draw from my youth at this point is something that is embedded in me and subconscious, so it’s not so much a conscious effort anymore. But my most vivid art memories as a kid were when I was sculpting with air dry foam clay. I would create my own characters that I imagined would fit into the shows I watched. There’s something so visceral and free about the work we make early on. I had an attention for detail but the concepts and character designs were spontaneous and the styles would change dramatically. I think that has stuck with me in my adult years, as I try not to overthink the composition and work with different painting techniques on the same piece. I think of it as a collage in a way. I think I stayed grounded in that “child-like” imagination because I still enjoy the same media that I did as a kid. Watching cartoons and playing video games will always be my way of relaxing.
The vibrant colors, dynamic poses, and expressive faces that your characters possess contain references to cartoons that shaped your childhood. What were some of your favorite cartoons growing up? As our favorite cartoons are known by name, do you similarly name your characters while creating them?
This question is always so difficult for me. The most important cartoon for me growing up was The Simpsons. Aside from the fact that I thought it was hilarious, I really was drawn to the colors of the show and the shapes in the characters. The mix of saturated colors and pastels is something I try to emulate in my own world. I grew up in the late 90s and early 2000s so Powerpuff Girls, SpongeBob, Chowder, and Courage the Cowardly Dog were in my rotation. The most reoccurring guy I paint was originally based on my brother Archie; I called him “G”. He’s got dreads and blue skin. Over the years, that character has been distorted and changed and has become more of a reference image for whatever style I’m working with.
You’re a mixed-media artist, and you create art in both 2D and 3D form. Do you have a preferred medium? What is the difference (or is there even a difference) between painting your characters versus sculpting them by hand?
I would say that doing sculptural work is more fun for me to make. Manipulating the clay or carving gives me a visceral reaction that transports me to my youth when I was truly making art for myself. I would say I’m more prolific with painting nowadays because of how immediate it is for me. Both mediums influence one another. I’ll go through periods of sculpting for a couple of months, and then those pieces will inspire me to return to painting with a new perspective and new ideas. I get bored doing the same medium for too long.
You utilize ‘dreamy’ colors: soft purples, pinks, yellows, blues, and greens. How did you develop your specific color palette and how does this enhance or contrast your subject matter?
I was attracted to using mainly soft color palettes when I was out of college and developing my style. I wanted to use colors that made me feel nostalgic. Over the years, I’ve spent time refining the aesthetics I have been trying to emulate and have incorporated more saturated colors. I wanted the colors to be bold to reflect the expressions in my characters and the absurd imagery. I’m still trying to capture the feeling of daydreaming and stream of consciousness- just through a different lens.
What would you like for your audience to feel or take away when they see your works?
This is a tough question for me because I bounce around stylistically. I would say that I see the beauty in imperfections and not taking one’s self seriously. I’m the type of person who likes to keep to myself generally and I use my art as a way of expressing my more chaotic and extroverted side. If people can appreciate the carefree, tongue-in-cheek, and happy absurdity of my work, I’m cool with that.
Last great piece of media (book/show/music/movie)?
Okay I got something old and something fairly new. I revisited this game from the early 2000s for the Wii, Warioware: Smooth Moves. Still holds up, one of the quirkiest and most fun games I’ve played. And then I’ll shout out this cartoon, Apple and Onion. I haven’t resonated with a modern show as much as this one. I love Richard Ayoade.
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Bradd’s Instagram: @young_salut
Interview by Tiffany Kang.