Interview with Artist Phillip J. Mellen
At Beard's Framing, we enjoy bringing you insight and perspectives from artists. Today, we have an interview with Phillip J. Mellen, painter and podcaster at www.ahtcast.com
Beard's Framing: Can you tell me a little about yourself?
Phillip J. Mellen: I’m a painter living and working in Taunton, Massachusetts, just about an hour south of Boston. It’s where I grew up, and I returned here after studying fine art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. I’m also a podcaster who produces ahtcast, a visual artist interview podcast.
BF: What made you decide to start up "ahtcast"?
PJM: Ahtcast was born out of many different inspirations and influences. Back in December of 2008 I had begun a blog for my own paintings, as time went on I was disappointed with the lack of interaction. I felt that no one knew about my blog and that it was just sitting there in the clouds. That didn’t stop me. Soon after, in June 2009, I started Artist Family Tree. It is/was a blog where I drew visual connections between artists and grouped them into clusters according to the work’s stylistic similarities. Again, I was surprised at the lack of interactions with readers, if there were any. Part of me thought a bit more realistically about it regarding how hard it is to gain readership.
I slowly began to realize how important dialog was to me, and that I wasn’t getting that with the two blogs I had started previously. I was still very interested in blogs and, as always, a project that would bring dialog to my art practice.
I continued to build my painting blog as well as Artist Family Tree. I also would attend local art critique groups in a neighboring city. Something was still missing. I had experimented with recordings of my poetry but coupling artist thought(s) with recording didn’t dawn on me until I came across a podcast being produced locally. An artist friend had begun a question and answer podcast, on various topics, and I thought it was very interesting and entertaining. So I did a little bit of brainstorming and it didn’t take long to start a podcast of my own. It was a great format for what I was trying to bring to my artistic life.
So I developed a set of questions that would be the basis of my own interview podcast, ahtcast. I began by inviting local artists for an interview. Soon these interviews were evolving into some casual free form conversations. As far as visitors to the podcast, it drew in local listeners that knew the guests on the podcast. The visitor statistics started to grow. It was exciting to see that my project was reaching people.
BF: What have you found rewarding about running a podcast and interacting with artists?
PJM: For as long as I can remember, I was often experimenting with recording devices. Be it a video camera or an audio recording device of some kind. Of course, some people aren’t too comfortable with being recorded in any fashion. So, I started recording my own ideas etc., documenting my poetry and some short art videos, if you will.
Ahtcast is a way to apply the inclination to record moments in time. I really enjoy everything about it, even the editing. The editing process can be viewed as a collage method. Most of all, I am recording interview conversations between myself and the guest. It means a lot to me to be adding this content to the mix of other related projects available on the internet.
Personally, ahtcast is a way for me to share and exchange feedback about the guest artist’s work. I really enjoy talking about their work and process in this casual setting. Even if it is via internet phone technology.
BF: How do you choose what artists to feature on ahtcast?
PJM: Ahtcast started out by inviting local artists to be on for an interview. Once I had a few interviews already a part of the podcast, I started to visit the art blogs and websites I enjoy in search of artists to have on. I wanted to take it further and to reach out to national artists. I respond to many different types, and or visual styles, of work and was hunting for that which interested me. I am pretty open to who I would have on the show. This decision is based largely on the work, but I also feel that every artist has a story(ies) to tell about themselves and the work. That is the content I look for, and as I stated, I respond to many different types of work so choosing an artist is pretty easy and enjoyable.
Currently, I search for many of the artists I have, and would like to have, on the show via social media platforms. They are a great tool in finding artists for an interview. Social media has also opened things up to international artists as well, and that is very exciting, too.
BF: How does ahtcast affect your own art?
PJM: I think my painting practice is also like recording a moment(s). Ahtcast is very similar to that. The artist is just as important as the work. These interviews uncover, hopefully, that side of the process. Some people feel that they don’t want more from an artist other than the work. I feel differently. So, the interviews give me a chance to talk about the vast world of art. It helps me realize that the studio practice of art can bring artists together. An art practice doesn’t have to be so solitary and alienating. I really feel that ahtcast is very important to me, because I can be here in my little city, and talk to anyone in the world about art. It is often a nice break from painting. It really puts things in perspective for me, and expands my verbal and visual vocabulary.
Phillip runs the ahtcast podcast at www.ahtcast.com