Portrait of the Artist as a Graduate Student

HoundBytes conducted an interview via email with the talented Versia Hodges II, graduate student and instructor, to discuss his recent show at Golden Library. Hodges creates vivid, color-saturated paintings on cardboard, canvas, and other found media.

My first question has to be: why cardboard? Is it the only medium you use?

For one, I have never seen an artist use it so I took it upon myself to experiment with the texture. Plus, it’s cheaper. I use canvas, sketch paper, and any other mediums I can get a hold of.

How do you create your paintings? You mentioned that you use your fingers quite a bit, but are there other tools you rely heavily upon?

I would usually start off by drawing a quick sketch, then stare at the drawing with deep thought, then I would take a nap. When I take a nap or step away for a few days the images in my head become clear; then I get right to it. I use a standard set of paint brushes along with Prismacolor markers.

When did you start painting? A lot of the pieces I’ve seen seem to be pretty message-driven – did you start creating visual art first and add messages later, or was this the best outlet you had for the messaging? Basically, I guess, what’s the backstory of your art?

I started in January of 2014, a friend of mine and I were bouncing ideas around and the topic of painting came up since he is an artist. He encouraged me to pursue painting. So I went out to Michael’s Arts & Crafts store and purchased all the materials needed to begin teaching myself. Ever since the first piece I did in the backyard of a hot pink Los Angeles home with only my hands the art of painting has taken hold of me, and I don’t ever plan on stopping.

The messages I project reveal themselves once the piece is complete, sure I’ve had preconceived thoughts beforehand but my artwork is created through another realm of higher consciousness. To explain this simplistically, the thoughts that I have aren’t my thoughts, they are passed-down thoughts from people in my past lifetime. I’m a sibling to the past, and my creations pay homage to those before me.

As a kid I would draw from time to time, never understanding my full potential since sports took up most of my time. Now that sports is a secondary hobby of mine I can move towards art. Throughout my career in basketball I was ridiculed and belittled for being too short or not good enough. Ever since that point I made it my mission to prove those who didn’t believe in me, who didn’t trust me, and who didn’t understand me wrong. This behavior got worse, I became arrogant and narcissistic because I was trying to prove something to somebody else instead of myself. Once basketball came to a close I needed something to latch on to that would have a healthy balance, and that is painting. I was never held back from my interest as a child, if I wanted to swim, play football, track, draw, travel, ride jet skis and quad bikes, I could do it. My world is a playing field of opportunity, new ideas, and conscious awareness.

Do you have a favorite piece? Least-favorite piece? Do you find there are techniques that bring you successful results more often than others?

The question here is which piece did you have the most fun with? I enjoyed the process of all my artwork, and how they turn out is how it will stay, I try not to criticize my artwork by any means.

A cliché for the ages: what inspires you? Have you ever been artistically “stuck” or taken a hiatus from creating?

By nature I’m a visual artist, my inspiration comes from a galaxy of ideas and images that I scroll through on the internet regularly. Mostly, I’m inspired by the conversations and ‘faces’ I come in contact with. Everyone has their own story to tell and I try to capture a snapshot of that story through their spiritual aura and body language.

I have, in times when I get stuck, stepped away from it for a few days or just for a nap. I found that by taking a nap my imagination begins to recharge and reboot itself, and once I wake I fall straight into painting.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you or your work?

My artwork is a mere glimpse of my life. It’s chaotic, universal, fickle, ironic, and serendipitous. I can show you better than I can tell you, my artwork is a reflection of the past, the present, and the future all in one. I challenge my audience to travel deep within themselves, to understand their world, and to create their own hieroglyphics. Don’t fear the unknown, embrace it.