How did the idea behind Monsters and Robots start?
It started many moons ago when one of my students [at the JCCSF] brought me in a drawing of a robot and asked me if I could make it out of clay. I told her I would try, and I was really happy with the results (and I think she was, as well). I started asking more of my younger students if they wanted to draw me a robot and monster to create, and it just took off from there. The biggest surprise for me was how much adults have enjoyed participating in the project. Bringing the project to my Oakland studio really opened it up to a whole new crowd.
Every month, people attend Art Murmur in Oakland and create sketches of monsters and robots, hoping that you’ll turn their creation into a sculpture. How do you choose?
I try not to interact with the people who are drawing in my sketchbooks during the Murmur. I want as little influence as possible between us and to let the drawing do the introductions. Usually a day or two after the Art Murmur, I will sit down with the sketches and see which ones pop out to me. It really is exciting to see what people have drawn. I was raised jewish, but I imagine its like being a kid on Christmas morning. Each page is a new present. Sometimes there are a bunch I want to work on, sometimes it’s just one, and sometimes I’m just not feeling it. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any great work, though, because everyone who takes the time to draw has created something of value in my eyes. Usually upon second, third, and more viewings I see inspiring things that I might have missed the first few times. After I create the piece I try and email the artist and invite them to my Oakland studio to meet them and to have them see the finished project.
What do you think of as you’re creating a new piece? Do you imagine a life for it? Do you try to give it a sense of realism? Do you just try to have fun? Are you focused on it as an artwork?
I’m usually thinking about whatever other projects or tasks I am working on. At any given moment I have 3-7 projects going. Its really a strange moment when I finish everything and there is this brief time where I have no active pieces and I need to figure out what to make next.
I only recently started imagining my creatures’ personalities. More often than not, they take on their own identities as I am creating them.
I used to take my work so seriously, but now I just have fun with what I am making. I have plans to go back to more realistic figurative work after I finish the Monsters and Robots project, but it really makes me happy to make these little creatures, so I don’t think that I will ever stop.
What was your favorite monster (or robot) growing up?
Answering this question is really hard. I want to write down Chewbacca, or Yoda, or Sweetums from the Muppets, but are they really monsters? Lets just put it this way – if it was in a 70s or 80s George Lucas or Jim Henson production, then that was my favorite. All of them.
If you could become one of your sculptures which one would you be?
I’m pretty sure I AM all of them already. Each one of those guys has a lot of me in them. But the robot and toaster bunny piece is really just the clearest picture of me and my dog.
But, if I could be one of them, I would probably choose Gordo the Cuttlefish monster, or one of my Octopus. I am totally afraid of what lurks in the water, yet a lot of my work the past year has been underwater creatures. I would really love to explore the ocean, but with tentacles. Because tentacles are bad ass.
What would you like people to know about your project?
I would like them to know that this project is for everyone. It does not matter how old you are. How good your drawing skills are. How much time you can spend on a drawing. Whether I choose to sculpt your drawing or not, every piece is respected and admired for the creators effort and interest in being a part of this visual conversation.
Joshua Margolis will be in residence at the de Young museum in July. To submit a sketch to the artist, visit the Kimball Education Gallery, attend Art Murmur at the FM Collective gallery, post it on Instagram #monstersandrobots, or submit it online here.