Consume Till Death, copyright Gus Fink
After seeing my review in the blog, Gus Fink contacted me and informed me that I was mistaken on certain points of my review. He asked if I would interview him and write a more accurate article and I agreed. We wrote back and forth on MySpace and I asked him some tough questions, which he answered gracefully.
Fink related that he was never going for a gimmick, but that he wanted to praise his deceased grandfather for being his childhood role model. He also made art under his own name, Josh Fields, but creating as Gus Fink helped him to deal with his grandfather's death. Besides Gus Fink, he has used other aliases to paint as well, including Alice Koon, his female character. He booked a show as Alice Koon, engaged in a collaborative project under the guise of Irving Berman, worked with a friend as Ed Beans, and his latest work has sold on eBay under the name Enwood Berger. Gus Fink has been living off his work since 2001, and has pushed his friends to do the same, with great success - his friend Jesse Reno brought in over $50,000 last year, Fink says.
I have always been overwhelmed at the fellow's productivity, and being able to live off one's art would account for some of that. When I questioned the time frame involved in each piece, Fink relayed that it could take anywhere from ten minutes to three hours to complete a work. He says that it's draining and often it's difficult to work for more than 4 straight hours, but that he multitasks as he works, and that he goes through phases alternating large pieces and small ones. He uses the cheapest materials he can find, including cardboard and found objects, as can be seen in his eBay store.
I was mistaken before by insinuating that Gus Fink had formal art training. He corrected me and said that his only related training is in computers, PhotoShop and Flash - meanwhile, most of his art is handmade, and he only uses the computer to scan the finished images into the computer. He lists his influences as Todd MacFarlane, Sam Keith, Jim Henson, George Lucas, and all the "cool horror movies of the 80's". He says that he always pictured himself as becoming more of a Walt Disney sort of figure, rather than a painter/artist. Gus is married with two daughters now, and even his wife calls him Gus Fink. He is looking into changing his name in the future and has cashed many a money order or check under the name.
I recalled that in the eBay listings several years ago, the character of Gus Fink lamented his dead wife and claimed her death to be his reason for his artwork. In reality, Gus' grandmother is still living, and when I asked him what she thought of the claim, he replied that she had a good sense of humor and was glad to see his grandfather's memory with so much recognition and success. I also asked Gus about the reaction of his customers when he was outed on the internet as Josh Fields, and he said that most of them were already aware due to his outrageous bio, and many thought it was genius. He said that maybe two out of 600 collectors were upset and he offered their money back. Fink said that most of the people who were offended were jealous artists who weren't selling their art well. He was actually surprised to see my review, since there hasn't been any negative publicity since 2003 or so. I attribute this to Fink's excellent vigilance and desire for good press, and his impressive track record and damage control proves him nothing short of a brilliant businessman. Speaking of which, he's had quite a few accomplishments, including comic books, magazines, and his latest series of toys, which are linked to from his website, GusFink.com.
Fink concluded our interview with some advice to artists just starting out: "Give it your all, don't give up and you'll find your own way. It's better to find your own way on anything in life then to get too much advice from others. I learned that and its good for others to know it too."