Shikantaza Creativity Interview II - Horsenburger
Horsenburger is one of many artists to add artworks into Occupy White Walls,
Discover Horsenburger exhibition (and many others) in-game at the gallery Shikantaza.
Read on for a cool interview with Horsenburger by Shikantaza Art.
Source credit Shikantaza Art.
Our series of interviews with artists and creators aim to answer these questions.
The second interviewee is Horsenburger, creator of Teletext art, Space Misadventurer, and more. You will find his art in the Shikanataza gallery and for more of his creations you can visit https://www.horsenburger.com/
1 – Let’s dive straight in. Those who follow you on social media will know you in the main for your Teletext (not Ceefax) based artwork. For how long have you been creating in this form and why did you use this format? Ceefax is a brand or Teletext, but Teletext was the name of the technology, so that’s why I call it Teletext art, but, I did work as a designer for Teletext Ltd for a while in the mid-90s and I always related more to the content (Digitiser, Turner The Worm, etc. ) than Ceefax. But I do wonder if I had worked for Ceefax or any of the other Teletext providers I would be calling what I do by another name. I got back into Teletext around 2016 when nostalgia started to rise in the technology again, I was invited to a panel as a former Teletext designer and thought I should at least try to get used to the tech again. I never liked the idea of using Photoshop to create Teletext, I wanted to use the proper software but that wasn’t available anymore, and when it was it was so expensive you couldn’t just have it without a hardware “dongle” plugged into your PC. But then I was introduced to the various online Teletext editors, these are amazing, they brought me right back to the old keyboard clicking design I was used to. These editors were created by fans of Teletext and are free to use and just so good. As soon as I had access to these editors I just started making pictures, they started out rough (it had been almost 20 years since I had done this and to be honest work, family responsibilities and some serious health issues had totally put an end to all my creativity for those decades) but they got better and better, I posted them on Twitter and I started getting people following me and interacting. The comments I would get were so positive it helped me changed my life around, I have met some amazing people through my Teletext art. What I love about Teletext is the limitations of the media, it has rules that cannot be broken, you have fixed colours, fixed pixels, command blocks that can’t be edited on, its probably the most limited digital art I can think of. And seeing what I can do with these limitations and how “realistic” I can get an image is the challenge and satisfaction.
Like the Danish Dogme 95 art movement, the restrictions are a source for imagination and inspiration, forcing the creator to work. Restrictions do not equate to limitations.
2 – Before you moved into Teletext art did you create in other genres?
When I was a kid I would draw and paint, I got an A* in my art 0 level, but after that, I just doodled, had a couple of commissions, I got to go to Finland and draw a comic for a meet Santa holiday experience, but nothing really, I had left home at 16 and was just trying to pay the bills so work took over. It wasn’t until I was given the opportunity to work at Ladbrokes doing the Teletext-like graphics for the betting shops that I started to design again, from there I went to Teletext then to an advertising agency still doing Teletext adverts for the travel industry. But, then I got bored, and that was it, kids came along and it was getting a job so I could pay the bills. I just stopped creating, I was heading into London at 6 am and getting home at 7 pm, it just didn’t work anymore.
3 – For those familiar with your social media they might be surprised to see that on your website you have created an adventurous astronaut character. How did you create this character and are there any plans for him?
I started drawing out of necessity really, the truth is, my Teletext pictures are created purely using the keyboard and after 4 years and over 2100 images, my finger joints have started causing me issues. I needed a break so dug out an old Galaxy Note pro I had, it has a tiny stylus, and I thought I’ll try something new, I was just doodling and this character appeared on the page and I liked him. I’m not sure how other people create but I so rarely have plans or ideas, I just sit watching TV and these things just happen, it’s the same with the Teletext and my latest paintings if you ask me to explain my process I can’t, I don’t have one, things just happen. What was so different for me is I started using colour for this character and the pages, I never used colour before, and apart from Teletext which I only have 6 colours, the majority of my work is just black and white, and I realised how much I like using colour. I am planning on bringing back my Space Misadventurer in a comic form one day, the pictures I have done with him so far are telling a story in one image, I have hoping to create a fleshed-out story for each one. I’m not sure how it will go, I’ve not attempted a comic for it must be 35 years, wish me luck!
4 – There are also more traditional sketches and works featuring actors and film characters. There are big slices of horror and humour. Are these a glimpse into your inspiration?
These are another new endeavour to give my joints a break. I treated myself to an iPad and pencil after I realized how much I enjoyed drawing the Space Misadventurer and started using Procreate. Halloween 2020 was a great time for me, I just had my iPad, so I painted a picture on it every night. It started as something way out of my comfort zone, but now I really love doing these. As for the subjects for inspiration, I was born in ‘71, so Star Wars and then ’80s and 90’s movies, especially 80’s horror movies have been such an influence in my life, I still watch these movies all the time. I think my love for them is down to the passion of the talent involved, and the limitations of the technology at the time and the results are wonderful.
5 – In your Shikantaza Art exhibition there are numerous works that display a mischievous tone, however, one particular work breaks away from that, focusing on a much more serious subject. The Black Lives Matter campaign. Can you tell us why you were compelled to make this and its importance to you?
The Black Lives Matter campaign is something that is very important to me. My wife is black, I am white, our kids are mixed, we have been married for almost 30 years and even though we have been very lucky (as we live in the UK), we have still experienced racism and prejudice, this has been from schools, teachers, and more worryingly the police in the past. The experienced my wife went through growing up in London in the ’70s and ’80s has left deep scars that she still has nightmares over. Our kids are in their 20’s but we still worry that something might happen to them as their skin tone is slightly darker and hair curlier. Things need to change so people don’t have to live in fear anymore, but the rise of extreme right-wing politics around the work over the past few years doesn’t instill hope that it will do for a long time. The worrying thing about my Black Lives Matter art is I could have been doing a new one every day, the stories are endless and horrific, it's more than depressing.
Your art is your opportunity to speak. Say it. Say it loud. Say it with your voice. You never know who might be listening.
6 – If you were to direct people towards a particular piece of work that really nails everything you are trying to do, which would it be?
That’s a hard one, I think I would count the video on my website as it, it does need to be updated but it showcases 1200+ of my Teletext images in 105 seconds, I think that is the piece that makes me proudest. Version 2 will be out soon with an additional 800 images. But for a single piece, it’s the BLM piece in the Shikantaza Art exhibition as it also takes the Teletext back to its roots to inform and educate.
7 – The more torturous questions on creativity. From where do you find inspiration?
I always struggle for ideas, if I am lucky I will dream something or a doodle turns comes to life, but I mainly just beg my Twitter follower for ideas while I keep looking for something from Pop culture to become relevant again. I find others' work more inspiring than I find my own, that’s probably a bad thing.
Doubt in one's own work is not unusual. I have written many articles and by the end, I am tired of them, bored of them. Yet, when I have returned to them I have actually been impressed by the work. We get too close to our work.
8 – Is the creativity in your work within the use of the format or the subject matter? Or are the two too closely intertwined to possibly separate?
So many things just don’t work within the Teletext format, some people just can’t be recognizable with the limited pixel but others just shine. But, what I love is trying to get the right view, angle, or section of a subject to make it work. When it works it feels so good, when it doesn’t it's really disappointing and I just look for a new subject.
9 – When inspiration has left the building what things do you do to rediscover it?
I ask my followers, have a sleep, start to draw, then go back. I have had a dry spell recently so I decided to try something new and that was creating widescreen Teletext images, these are made up of 3 separate pages and then stitched together to make a really wide image. It’s allowed for some epic images and certainly inspired me again.
10 - Why? This is the question I am going to put to everyone. Why do you create? What is that pushes you to keep creating? Can you conceive of a moment where you will stop creating?
I create because people seem to love it and if I can bring some happiness to others it makes me happy. My mum was a very talented artist but she did so little with it and it was lost with her when she passed which made me really sad. Also, I want to challenge myself, when I look at what I have created over the past 5 years, I realise I can be creative and I know that time hasn’t been wasted just playing games and sleeping. I’m never going to stop, I missed so much out not creating anything for over 20 years, I won’t make that mistake again.
“The saddest thing in life is wasted talent” – A Bronx Tale
11 – What would assist you most to create more works? Is there an ultimate goal for your work?
If I had more hours in the day I could create more work, and If I had a goal it would be to continue to work, improve, and be able to make a living from my work somehow, unfortunately, Teletext is a thing of the past and its never coming back, maybe if I retire one day I could spend my time creating pretty pixel.
12 – If you were to offer any advice to a creator, what would it be?
Don’t give up, life will get in the way but just keep on creating, and share it online, you might not be happy with everything you do but others will love it. And remember you have the power to change or improve lives with your talent.
(All images by Horsenburger)