Artists interpret, process, and comprehend the world and themselves through the individual action of making art. So what happens when two artists with completely different backgrounds, artistic styles, and processes come together to collaborate on the same page? Bill Hoover and Annie Brugenhemke worked together during the spring of 2014, and discovered that both their similarities and differences, manifested in layers of paint, pastels, graphite, and paper, were complementary in surprising ways. Brugenhemke, an artist and yoga instructor, has a style that would be best described as organic, sensual, and dynamic; there is a certain amount of controlled chaos that emanates from every page. Hoover generates grounded, purposeful lines that mold into figurative elements and shapes that turn into memorable characters; when combined, the paintings shine with the interplay and tension that resounds when artists are pulled from their comfort zones into the creative space of collaboration.
What was your motivation to make art collaboratively?
BH: Annie approached me over the winter about collaborating in an artistic fashion, involving writing a children’s book or some sort of creative endeavor. I suggested we just get together in the studio and see what came of us working on the same painting, the same drawing.
AB: Bill and I had talked about working together in another way than doing yoga. I knew I wanted to get back into making art but needed the accountability of working on a schedule with another person if I was going to make that happen. Bill was a natural fit, and he was intrigued by the possibility of what would occur. So basically, I sold him on the idea.
Are there any particular benefits for you in working collaboratively?
BH: A particular benefit of working collaboratively is you are forced out of your safe zone, and when that happens, you have a new and different result. Annie makes totally different choices than I, her colors and shapes and lines, they make me uncomfortable, not exactly happy…what am I going to do with this? And I think it’s safe to say this is a shared reaction. We are not painting still lives or an agreed subject matter. It’s more like running without a known stopping place: just go and we will find the neighborhood of mutuality. I will say I have struggled in this process, as it means releasing total control and dealing with my ego.
AB: It helps me to get out of my propensity to overwork an image; a type of forced sensitivity toward another person who is attempting to create simultaneously with me. It helps me to create images with somewhat of a dual lens, a binocular vision, which is so interesting to me.
Do you have rules or set boundaries with one another?
BH: We don’t have any boundaries that we set up and are sticking to…[our collaboration] is more intuitive, and in a way we self- police the process, so it’s not just me taking over the piece or her dominating the landscape. We try to balance each other.
AB: We state no boundaries ahead of making any one piece of art. We talked about this ahead of time and this was part of what made it an exciting idea, I think especially for Bill. He is more used to being in a controlled/controlling setting. Having me there is a wild card.
Do you feel as though this has been an expansive process for you? Has it opened you up to new ideas you hadn’t previously considered?
BH: I am learning to work with another [as a team] and honor that person’s integrity and trust their intuitions. For me, it’s always been a solo go in the creative process, trying to make new work that is interesting and compelling: what do I have to say? So, to open my space to another artist, and let them in on what I am working on is pretty hard. In that way I totally recommend it. This has been a project, four or so months long, in collaboration and creativity, and I think it has pushed me, in more ways than just painting or drawing. It has pushed me to be assertive, to say yes, to say no, to say I’m uncomfortable, let’s talk about it and figure how to get along….
AB: Expansive, yes! I think both of us have widened our view of what our work can and needs to look like…..we have each explored the others’ techniques and I think it will be great to see the effect we have had on one another’s images when we work solo after the collaboration period is over.
What media are you using together? How do you choose that media?
BH: Our media include oils, paper, canvas, charcoal, oil stick, turpentine, scraping….we just used what we had available.
AB: We both enjoy mixed media- I love oil bar! This idea is something we shared at the outset. Sometimes I like slick and fast materials, sometimes dry and flakey. Working with different speed of application interests me. We don’t even discuss it, really, prior to working. It has more to do with color and mood of the day than with specific material.