Artist Snapshot: Todd M. Casey

Twenty-five questions exploring the mind and habits of an artist.

Todd Casey interview
Todd M. Casey in his studio, 2016
At what age did you decide to become an artist?

That’s a tough one to answer. I shared a room for about eight or nine years of my life with my brother, and he was good at art, so I got into it because of him. There was not much sibling rivalry between us; I just liked to do things with him. I didn’t take art seriously until high school. This was also the time I realized that the Boston Celtics would most likely not draft a 6′ 1 ” backup center who average about 1.5 points per game. So maybe eighteen?

How did your parents react when you told them you wanted to be an artist?

My parents have been so supportive of everything I’ve done. Every step of the way, they’ve encouraged me to follow my natural talents (art, not basketball).

Who are your favorite artists?

Boy, this changes by the day. I’d say Dean Cornwell, Edwin Austin Abbey, Emil Carlsen, Hovsep Pushman, and John Singer Sargent to name a few. Ask me tomorrow, and I’ll probably have a different answer. 

Who is your favorite artist whose work is unlike your own?

I’d have to go with Mark Rothko. I love the scale, the color, and the textures in his work. 

Art book you cannot live without?

Probably The Art Spirit. There is so much good advice in that book about creating art from the heart (and not so much from the head). 

What is the quality you most admire in an artist?

Eagerness to keep learning and the ability to be fearless.  

Do you keep a sketchbook? Todd M. Casey interview

I absolutely keep a sketchbook. I write everything down and sketch in it as well. I find myself looking back to my notes quite often. 

What’s your favorite museum in all the world?

I love the big ones like the MFA Boston and The Met,but the smaller more intimate ones are my favorites. I’d probably go with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum if I had to pick one. 

What’s the best exhibition you have ever attended?

The most inspirational exhibition I have seen is the Americans in Paris exhibit at The Met and the MFA Boston in 2006–07.

If you were not an artist, what would you be?

I would have hoped to play professional basketball, but that was not in the cards. I’d probably be in math or an engineering field. I almost chose to be a mailman for my career.  

Did you have an artistic cohort that influenced your early creative development?

The two most influential people were my brother and my cousin Jamie Shaw. Since then, I’d say the two who have nurtured me the most in my professional career are Max Ginsburg and Camie Salaz. 

What is one thing you didn’t learn in art school that you wish you had?

Well, I have a BFA in illustration, almost an MFA in animation, and then time studying in an atelier setting. I feel that helped to round me out, but each school has their pros and cons. 

What work of art have you looked at most and why?

I’d have to go with Edwin Austin Abbey’s King Lear,” Act I, Scene I at the Met or Jean-Leon Gerome’s L’Eminence Gris at the MFA Boston. I love narrative painting and a really good composition and both of those are the best for those. 

What is your secret visual pleasure outside of art?

I’m a big fan of sports, so going to see a professional sports game is always visually stimulating. I also enjoy a good garden, park, or nature. 

Do you listen to music in your studio? Todd M. Casey interview

Absolutely, and I’m all over the place with what I listen to. Some days it’s 80s music, classical, Spanish, rock, metal, or even hip-hop. Every genre of music has something worth listening to. 

What is the last gallery you visited?

The last gallery I visited was Rehs Gallery in Midtown (on Fifty-seventh Street). I think I visit them too often—but they secretly love it. 

Who is an underrated artist people should be looking at?

I don’t think there is such a thing as a secret artist anymore, not with the internet and social media. For years I couldn’t fathom how Emil Carlsen and Hovsep Pushman were not household names, but more and more people know about them now. 

What art materials can you not live without?

I think no matter what materials I have, I would create art, but my love is for oil painting. 

Do you paint/sculpt/create art every day? Todd M. Casey interview

Yes, I do!

What is the longest time you went without creating art?

After college I tried to see if I could live without it. This was the time I was a mailman for almost a year of my life. I think I went about two months without it and then went back to it and have not looked back since. 

What do you do when you are feeling uninspired?

I go visit a museum or look at the work of old masters in a book. 

What are the questions that drive your work? Todd M. Casey interview

What relevance is art in the world we live in today?

What is the most important quality in an artist?

To stay humble and let your work evolve. It’s in line with the Friedrich Nietzche quote: “The serpent which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.”

What is something you haven’t yet achieved in art?

The thing I have not achieved is something that cannot be achieved: Not ever being complacent. This reminds me of the quote by the legendary cellist Pablo Casals when asked why he continued to practice at the age of 90: “Because I think I’m making progress.”

What is the best thing about art in the era of social media?

I would have to go with accessibility. The ability to experience a painting without actually traveling to the place is pretty powerful. But of course, it’s second best to experiencing the artwork in person. 

TODD M. CASEY (@toddmcasey) will be teaching an online color wheel workshop in June. His latest book, The Oil Painters Color Handbook: A Contemporary Guide to Color Mixing, Pigments, Palettes, and Harmonywill be published this fall by Phaidon Press. Todd M. Casey interview

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