Torchlight Series: Talking Street Art Inspiration and Large-Scale Murals with Max Hodgson

January 2018 - by SORAA

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During Art Basel, the world-renowned art fair in Miami this past December, we partnered with Superfine!—a fast-growing, hyper-curated art fair that spotlights up-and-coming contemporary artists. As part of our collaboration, we lit up the artwork of Apostrophe Gallery, the iconoclastic art gallery created in 2012 by two NYC-based brothers, Sei and Kei Smith. 

We were able to spend time with artist and muralist, Max Hodgson, during the art fair. After growing up in Burlington, Vermont, Max studied sound engineering at the SAE Institute. His large-scale mural work is known for its precise line work that blend vivid color and pop culture themes. As part of our collaboration with Superfine!, we commissioned a massive 1,100-square-foot mural from Max that incorporated his love of color and movement.  

You have an interesting background for an artist. Tell us more about what you do.  

My name is Max Hodson, also known as Kolter Hodgson, and also known as Vader. I paint mostly large-scale murals and make music. 

Where does your internal inspiration come from? 

Everything I do is very impulsive. I get the most fun out of something when I’m not premeditating it, for the most part. When I’m doing things like commissions, for example, I definitely have to let the client know what I’m doing. But a lot of what I do, and what I did for SORAA, is mostly freestyle. And that, to me, is the most fun and pure way of creating art. I don’t like going into pencil sketches; I don’t like setting stuff up beforehand; I like just going in and trying to make it work. It makes it more exciting.In terms of my inspiration for what I actually draw... it’s a lot of weird stuff. Often, it’s kind of dark. (laughs) I think it’s very humorous – at least I find it very humorous. So, it’s kind of just weird stuff in my head that just comes out.  

Why do you like painting large-scale? 

I like doing large-scale because it’s much more gratifying. When you finish it, it really feels like “Wow, I did that.”And I like being physical and moving with my body, you know? Painting these walls is like an athletic endeavor. It’s exhausting. And that’s just really fun to me. I like that a lot. It’s almost quicker. I can almost paint large things faster than I can do smaller things, which is kind of weird. It’s fun. It’s a challenge. 

How does the way you paint influence the work you do, and how do you want others to view it after you’re done? 

I love lines. I’m very obsessed with clean lines. It’s something that I find very enjoyable, to be able to just slice it up super-sharp, super-clean. And in terms of how people view it...I want people to just view it however they want, y’know? Often times, people think what I do can be scary because I do a lot of weird characters or whatever. Often times, people think it’s really funny, y’know? So, just take it as you will. I think that’s the great thing about art, right? Just view it as you want. I’m open to it all. Criticize it, love it, it’s all good. I’m having fun.  

How does light and color affect your work? Does it feed into your creative process? 

Usually, unless I’m painting in a space that’s indoors, I don’t get to have it lit. So that’s one of the cool things about painting this wall here is that it’s actually lit from the outside, which is awesome. In terms of color choice and things like that, I like things that pop out. I don’t go too painterly with the colors. Aside from stuff like this, it’s kind of basic. But I like that, too. It’s very clean. Yeah, it’s just what I, internally, think is good. I’m always trying to get better at that. I think blending color and getting better at choosing color is something I just want to get better and better at. It’s super inspiring. 

As an artist, what other artists and art forms inspire you? 

Honestly, everything. I’m a huge fan of large-scale street artists. Like Signer, Asic, and Erase. There’s a dude named Jose Mertz who’s really big down here in Florida and that dude is amazing. I’m super inspired by that guy, I think he’s incredible. I don’t know, it’s all inspiring to me. I get inspired by music. I get inspired by just walking around here. It’s all dope. As far as other art forms, I have a pretty distinct style, but I can also paint photorealistically. But I don’t find that as enjoyable just for the kind of stuff that I like to produce myself. But yeah, I do think it’s important to be able to do different things as well, like, be able to try new stuff, experiment with different styles.

How has your art evolved? 

When I was younger I did a lot more comic book-y kind of things. My style has definitely gotten much darker. I’m able to create it much quicker just because I’ve gotten used to it. But I always wanna get better and better, you know? I want to grow and get better. I think I have a very distinct style. When people see my work, they kind of recognize that it’s me. And I like that, but I just want to keep expanding and I wanna try new stuff. I just want to switch it up. Make it interesting. So, I hope it’s always evolving, I hope I’m always getting better. If I’m not getting better and evolving, I’m doing something wrong. 

How does natural light play into your large-scale outdoor murals? 

If I’m painting something outside, that’s obviously affected by daylight and I wanna make something that theoretically is going to look good at any time of the day. Whether that means thinking about the paint choice or the kinds of colors I’m using. But yeah, sunlight affects the color of everything, you know? And having great lighting on something literally completely changes it. So, it’s gotta look good always, and you have to really think about the materials you’re using to do that. Lighting has a massive effect and impact on art, and really, everything else. Especially when you’re painting outside, the light’s always changing. You can really feel the difference of how something feels if you walk into a room and it’s well-lit, as opposed to walking into a K-Mart or whatever and feeling all tired. It plays a huge role, so when you’re painting these outside walls it can affect you differently depending on what time of day it is, how you’re viewing your work, and how you see the color. It’s always changing. Lighting is everything.

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