Liam Little's surreal world
How old are you, and where are you from?
I’m 20, and I’m from right near Portland, Maine.
When did you come to New York?
Two and half years ago. It was for modeling. But I’ve always been drawing and stuff, and I kinda got addicted to painting.
How did you start modeling?
Basically I finished high school, and I started a band in Maine, and there’s no scene out in Maine so it was doomed from the beginning. We never really named the band, but we did house shows all the time and we always changed our name.
‘Doomed from the beginning’ is actually a good band name.
Yeah, actually. We made shirts and stuff. I did visual art for those and I made little fliers and whatever, but it was always about the music. And my mom was basically like ‘You’re a loser, but you’re my beautiful son, so you should go to New York and start modeling,’ so we just contacted some agencies. Now I’m with DNA.
Do you come from a lineage of artists?
Well, my father is obsessed with music. He’s 67, so he has this giant vinyl collection. When it comes to visual art, he’s way into R. Crumb and quirky cartoonists; stuff like that. But I think when it comes to oil painting, my mom’s husband - my step dad - is a bigger influence, because that’s his job. Like, he broke his hip when he was 14 playing football, started painting on his hospital bed and never stopped painting. And he’s really sick. He’s like an Impressionist.
How did you discover your own artistic skill?
I was drawing since I was super little, all the time. Then I got really into those microns pens and I would do these microscopic-type drawings, which are similar styles to what I do now with paint, but obviously a different vibe because the medium is so different. I describe my paintings are sarcastic, in a way; when it comes to the colors and the people and the situations. I’ve never taken it too seriously.
You mentioned your dad’s work resembles Impressionism, and I noticed your works have a number of different artistic styles. Would you classify your paintings in a certain way?
I feel like you can kind of chain them together in a way, but they are definitely always progressing, or sometimes digressing depending on my mood.
I also noticed a lot of your paintings have wacky and exaggerated limbs. Kind of reminds me of ‘Where the Wild Things Are.’
Yeah, it’s like these weird characters I’ve created. It’s definitely a form of surrealism I guess.
Your paintings are definitely surreal and imaginative. Do you have any interesting rituals for when you're painting?
Honestly, sometimes I’ll be half asleep and I’ll be like, ‘oh shit.’ I’ll kinda see something and I’ll be like, I gotta write this down or do a sketch. Either a color combination or the actual concept itself. I think a lot of things can help you tap into your subconscious brain, and if you’re trying to think of something visual, it can be kind of crazy. Something you could never think of.
I heard you had a show recently. How’d it go?
My dad’s best friend is this guy from Hawaii and he’s been playing flute his whole life. And he’s a composer, so he had this music show with his friend on drums and they were jamming the whole time. We hung up my paintings from fishing lines so they could all look like they were floating around. There was a drum circle at the end. It was pretty sweet.
Do you have any other shows planned or coming up?
Not yet, but I have a lot of people asking me about doing murals, so I’m working on the draft for one right now. I don’t want to tell you too much, but I’m gonna have some murals up soon, which is crazy. Because I’ve never really seen anything around that’s my style. Not outside, at least.
Anyone that acts as a muse for you?
I've painted my girlfriend a lot, but she’s also really enthusiastic about my work. She’s always trying to get me to keep painting.
So it’s like teamwork.
Yeah. And my friend Erin, I feel like we feed off of each other’s ideas. It’s kind of like a Paul and John situation where we’re best friends, but if he does something sick I’m like, ‘Damn. I have to top that. Tomorrow, or even today.’ But he has a way different style so it’s not too competitive. If one person is working more than the other, they try to step it up.
Simple one: what’s your favorite color?
I like red. Red is nice because it can be really rare in the natural world. Obviously we overload the human world with red because your eye just goes to it. But poppies, and berries, or the sunset is only at one time of the day, or if the moon’s red it’s super intense looking. It’s a very passionate color. I think it’s cool. And it’s hard to place in paintings for sure.
Where do you usually work on your paintings?
At my house. And then when I go to Maine, I paint a lot there. And I do bigger stuff there usually.
How do you fix a mistake?
Usually I have a pretty good idea of how it’ll end up, but usually the only - no, I make mistakes, but sometimes they work out. I usually don’t use pencil for my sketches because it’s cool to not have the option to erase. But I turn it into part of the painting, because with oil you can’t really erase.
Which of your paintings is your favorite, if you have one?
The most definitive and individual painting of mine that really summarizes my style in a way is maybe the Ventriloquist one. I don’t really know where I got the idea. I just thought of it and painted it, but I was psyched. There were no mistakes on that one.
Are there any visual artists that you admire?
Absolutely. Magrit is awesome, with his concepts and everything but also his clean style. Obviously the greats. I can’t help but be influenced and amazed by them, like Picasso, Van Gogh. Francis Bacon’s trippy. I really like Lucian Freud as well. Louise Bonnet and Philip Guston are huge inspirations of mine. Dali as well. Francis Picabia is fucking sick. And then also these two guys that are really abstract: Willem de Kooning and also Carol Appel. Those guys can almost paint like children, that’s the hardest thing. That’s what got me into painting. Those guys that were able to make something so compelling with just fucking around. There are so many names.
Artists often have plenty of paintings the public has never seen. Do you have any secret paintings of your own?
Yes, I have tons of secret paintings, and a lot of them are behind ones you have seen. So on the same canvas.
Do you have a plan for these secret paintings?
Maybe. Right now the secret painting I’m working on is the draft for the murals so it’s going to be secret until they’re 12 feet tall and 40 feet wide, which is an intimidating task.
Is that the biggest piece you’ve done to date?
Well I haven’t done it yet. We’ll see.
But you’re excited?
Yeah, I think it will lead to a lot more.