Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Interview with a Surrealist: Maynard Breese

(C) 2011, Miachelle DePiano

Maynard Breese, Arizona-based digital painter and printer, is a man of character; not in the cliché image of staunch nobility and forthrightness, though he does eschew those qualities. He is full of character. It fills him completely, and you can’t ignore it. Talking to Maynard, you don’t know exactly what his lightning-quick intellect will deliver. You don’t know if you’ll get the softer, more generous Maynard, or if you’ll get the entrepreneur who makes sharp declarations and calculated decisions. Maynard, tall and lanky, pale with a shocking top of curly black hair and dark eyes, is alive with his own hunger and drive to succeed personally and to better his fellow man. He is unconventional, and that is his appeal.

As I set up my camera equipment for the shoot, I see a side of Maynard I’m not accustomed to:  pensive and uneasy. I accidentally found a chink in his armor in the form of a small black box with a mirror and a lens. I decide to tackle the invisible beast.

“You don’t like having your picture taken, do you?”

“No. I hate having my picture taken.”  He goes on to explain his opinion of his own appearance. It’s a common defense mechanism for people who don’t believe they contribute their bit to society’s mosaic of beauty.

As I meter for light and move my tripod back and forth, we talk about his life before his art, before marriage and children. As he sips his wine, the Maynard I'm used to seeing comes forward. His past is as varied as his artwork:  broker (it got too monotonous)…retail manager (in the music industry…hated the corruption)…and currently husband, father, artist, printer. We discuss the frustration of multitasking.

“Multitasking means doing several things not very well. I would rather do one thing and do it well,” he declares.

I counter with the one inevitable truth: “If you are a parent, you have no choice but to multitask.”

He shrugs with an air of resolute acceptance. “This is true.”

“Of the various things you have done in your life, what was your favorite?” I ask.

There it is. The soft, serene side of Maynard that only his family sees. It flashes briefly across his face.

“Being a dad.”

Maynard’s journey to being an artist and a printer is deeply intertwined with his favorite job. In 2007, he was editing some vacation pictures from a trip to London in Photoshop, playing with the various filters and brushes. He liked the results, and began doing it for other people, altering their images to create something a little personally artistic. Unhappy with his J-O-B and wanting to devote more time to his family, he left the world of the J-O-B and pursued being his own boss. Yes, he is multitasking, but it’s a multitasking that allows him to be a steady, consistent and prominent figure in his children’s lives.

During the day, he helps organize art walks in downtown Chandler and other areas, prints other artists’ work and stretches the canvases on frames, helps teach art at his children’s school, and deals with the mundane aspects of running a business. Evenings are spent with the family, finishing a print order, or sometimes showing work in art walks or other venues. It’s late at night, after everyone else is asleep, that Maynard creates his art.

His figurative pieces involve photographing a model in a certain pose. The models are not usually there for their looks, but to convey an emotion.

“I have a vision in my head, and I know what I want. Usually, I only need to take three or four shots, and I’m done,” Maynard says.

He imports the image into Photoshop, and creates layers of backgrounds and brushstrokes, gradually blending in the photographic elements until one cohesive image is created.

“I like to monkey around with the colors. As a surrealist, I want to tweak the world like I owned it for a couple of days.”

Inspiration for his pieces is diverse.

“Sixty percent of my pieces are musical. Lyrics get stuck in my head. I create an image of what that lyric looks like. Twenty percent of my pieces are statements. The other twenty percent, I want to make something pretty. Something that touches me in a visceral way.”

When asked how his family inspires his work, he keeps it neutral: “Having family of any kind comes with a certain amount of emotional stimuli, good or bad, happy or sad.”

There have been successes and rejections, reactions as varied as the color spectrum. They form his personae as an artist and an entrepreneur. His worst rejection was from an art dealer at a cancer fundraiser who called his work “sh*t art,” because his work is digital and there is no “original.” At the time the comment crushed him. Now, Maynard has developed a thick skin and a ready response for such opinions.

“When someone tells me ‘I only buy originals’ I find it snobbish, untrue and anti-artist,” Maynard declares vehemently. “Other artists [sic musicians, writers] are celebrated who sell copies, but as a visual artist it’s okay to screw me? It’s hypocrisy in the art field, that art is not allowed to be owned by the masses. I don’t care if someone wants makes money off me after I am dead. I want to make money now.”

How can you argue with that?

Other reactions are fodder for his creativity and his purpose. One such reaction came in the form of an email from a young woman. She had been in rehab, and a certain work of his was the one thing that gave her peace. She wrote Maynard, asking if she could get his picture tattooed on her body. Without hesitation he gave her permission, and asked to see the tattoo afterward. As he describes the email, I can see he is humbled by the compliment.

You just never know what side of Maynard you’ll get when you talk to him.



  1. I know the man a bit, and you hit right on target with your descriptions. Well done!

  2. Thanks Papa the Bald! I appreciate you taking the time to read this and to provide me with your feedback! :-D