This past foggy SF weekend, we visited Ferris Plock at his workspace in the Inner Richmond to check out his new work for “Just For One Day”, his upcoming solo show at the Shooting Gallery. The works are stunning, filled with the intricate details and whimsy he is known for. He continues to work with his familiar characters, and for the first time has infused the paintings a sense of nostalgia—recognizable icons and characters from his childhood have been featured in many of these works, giving them a new level of mischief and fun that anyone can relate to.
I got to sit down and chat with Ferris about his work, how it’s evolved, and what’s been inspiring him as of late.
MF: You mentioned the title of the show Just For One Day is taken from David Bowie’s song “Heroes” and that these pieces are a tribute to your childhood heroes and icons. Do you usually work in such a nostalgic way or is this the first time you’ve done that?
FP: I feel like it is the first time. I do reference characters in my work, I grew up working in a comic book store so I feel like just the fact that I’m painting and illustrating is kind of an homage to that, being a storyteller, story-based illustrator. But I think having a kid, and as he’s developing, I’m feeling nostalgic. Once you have a kid you start mentally preparing yourself for like Star Wars and all those fun things. I have all kinds of memories that I haven’t thought of in years and now I’m thinking about them again.
It’s neat seeing the progression from your older work to the pieces in this room for your show. It definitely feels more playful.
I mean look at this stuff, all of Brixton’s toys. How can I not be painting with more color?! Everything that we get him has 85 different colors in it. It’s definitely influencing my work.
MF: Can you talk about your process? Where do you usually start and how do you reach the finished product on panel?
FP: I’ve been heavily influenced by the traditional Japanese printing process. Having Brixton, and with Kelly having shows, I’ve had to put together a process that’s similar to printmaking where I start and stop. I’ll block out characters on 5 different panels, mix colors and then I colorblock each one. I feel like otherwise I’ll burn out. So it’s nice to have a whole bunch of pieces so I can rotate around, work on one, and move around to another so it’s all still fresh in my head.
MF: You often mention traditional Japanese woodblock prints and ukiyo-e imagery as influencing your work. Where did this attraction stem from?
FP: I grew up with them in the Bay Area. I’ve been to Japan multiple times and done a couple of mural projects over there. When I first met Kelly that was one of the things that she and I really vibed on. The process alone is just mind-blowing. It’s all layers. Kelly and I both are illustrators and I work on the computer a lot, and an adobe illustrator file for me is like layer upon layer upon layer. So that all keeps my work fueled.
MF: Your work is heavily infused with intricate patterns and print. It feels very textile-inspired. What are you looking when you paint these areas?
FP: I’m definitely inspired by traditional Japanese textiles. In Tokyo there’s a couple stores where you can spend the entire day just looking at different fabrics. There’s something that just I love about patterns, it soothes something in my head. Before I even considered myself an artist I did a lot of pattern work in high school, filling up whole sheets of paper with patterns. It helped me listen and learn.
MF: Can you tell me a little about your materials choices? How did you gravitate towards wood panels, the gold leaf, and other things you use?
FP: I really think the wood panels tell a story. Wood tells a story, there are faces and patterns in each one I get. I feel like it adds something to the work. I didn’t initially think I would leave so much of the pieces bare but I love the wood and how it’s its own background.
Kelly taught me how to use gold leaf. We collaborate on process and talk about materials all the time and that’s a big subject that comes up a lot when we’re hanging out. She just used silverpoint in her show at 111 Minna, it’s a forbearer to the pencil and you’re actually drawing with silver. Then it oxidizes and changes over a couple months. I also use spray paint, gouache, Our old studio space was a very forgiving space and it opened the door to trying any material. So we did try everything. We may have lost a couple brain cells in the process but it was worth it.
– written by Michelle Fleck with photos by Michael Cuffe for Warholian
For more on Ferris’s show visit the Shooting Gallery website here:http://www.shootinggallerysf.com/
To visit Ferris Plock’s official site: http://www.ferrisplock.com/