Cam Collins Would Share His Studio With The Yellow Magic Orchestra

by Zoe Rayn; Editorial Director


Quite possibly one of the most genuine and pure artists I’ve encountered, Cam Collins proved to be an anomaly of sorts given his seemingly dark subject matter and lighthearted cynicism. Crowded illustrations, in varying color palettes, make up the majority of Collins’ portfolio - a stark contrast to his soft-spoken, innocent demeanor. The Chicago based artist presents work(s) that encompass feelings of misplaced nostalgia, ideas of the future and of course, the whimsical world of comics. Currently taking the summer off and spending time in Rhode Island, Cam took some time to share his process, hopes for the future and ideal studio mate.


Z: When exactly did you know you wanted to be an artist?

C: If there was a pivotal moment, I wouldn't remember...In my head, I've always wanted to be one and didn't think there were any risks or bad things associated with it. I really do just like to draw, and as far as I know, I always have. Sorry, there is no flashy story, I really couldn't imagine doing anything else, ever since I was young. If it helps, I've always had a lot of art around the house, so that's probably why it seemed natural to me like a life.

Z: Don't apologize! haha, can you share the process for making your work?

C: In terms of the actual making, I've always liked to use direct ink on any surface. Control is very important to me because I'd like what I draw to look how I want it to, and if it ends up being a mistake, I can have enough control to change it. That's really the only parameter for the physical making, but there is a lot of fun subconscious thinking that comes before the pieces. All the thinking usually ends up in the pieces that I make, whether I recognize it happened or not. Maybe scary, but as long as the story I wanted to tell is told to me, then I am happy with it.

Z: Do you find your preference of ink to be so strong you wouldn't explore other mediums? If not, is there a medium or style you'd be interested in trying?

C: I've explored a lot of the other mediums, and along with ink I'd say pastel, digital, watercolor, acrylic, and oils are all fine with me. I really just use the mediums as a tool and don't take it on as an identity -- I'm only going to use those things if there comes a point where I really just can't get the look of something without using that specific thing. The problem (?) with my own way of thinking that way is that I also happen to like the idea of visual translation, so if there is something that I think would look "better" with the watercolor, I feel urged to just try it the best I can with the ink medium. In the end, I guess it boils down to me wanting control over how everything can be placed on the image, and experimentation in that regard has never really become a close friend of mine because I'm already married to what I can do with the ink. It has never failed me, or at least, failed me in the way that made me disappointed -- I just can't get mad at it.

If I wanted to get good control over anything else...coding would be incredible, along with the robotics...


Z: What things for the future are you making? What would you encourage other artists to make?

C: My next piece is going to be about dancers. That's all I'd like to say about that one...

Another larger one will be set in medieval times. Maybe I have accidentally delved into that aesthetic before, but this time I am going into it with purpose, and the piece is striving to be as large as "Mr. Gnev's Orchestra". Another large piece like that to work on over the summer will be good. I am also working on a game, I would not like to say anything else about that either. Lots of secrets, but please know that I am working on things and having fun. That is what other people should be doing as well.

Z: Would you dabble in performance art, in any capacity, then? 

C: In my head, at least once a month or so, I remember my dream of having an entire opera show one day...I would not perform in it, but the opera would be based on a story I made and I will do all the designs for the mechanisms to be in there. The project itself is almost a bit too large for me to even think to do it in this lifetime, and it's not even that I think it will be super amazing or anything like that, but I would just like to see it realized. That is a very exciting thing to go for, I am never bored, really. I'd feel bad if I did!

Z: How would you describe the Chicago art scene for a young artist/creative?

C: I think Chicago has nice turquoise things for people to look at. I don't know how many people see that, but if they were to look at it, they'd realize that they might be able to make things that can be in the future. Turquoise is one of the things that do that, so if you are in Chicago, then you have the right colors around you to make things for the future. 

Maybe this is a good and bad thing, but a lot of art isn't too regional-centric anymore, due to the internet and all. Things might start to look all the same eventually when everyone's getting influence from all the same people who are very filled in on social media. The strength of the region-centric is that there are real people living in there, and humans like humans, so talking with the people who have seen the colors of that area will help someone realize the worth of where they are, and knowing where you are aesthetically is one of the most important things you could know.

Z: What do you hope people experience when viewing/interacting with your work?

C: It is best for me when people just look, even if they don't get anything from it. It makes me feel good to know they see little things I draw. I think when I was younger I had wanted people to see much more than that but after my first art fair I realized  people, maybe a couple, standing in front of my piece and just pointing at different things they notice the 2nd time they've come to the booth is all I've ever really wanted. People can ask the narrative, and I'll tell them, but I don't even think it's necessary now. It is fun to look at things for me -- it's always been that way, so I just assume other people would like that too. 

Z: If you could share a studio with any artist (dead or alive) who would it be?

C: If I shared my studio with an artist I'd probably want it to be a sculptor or a would have to be someone who can do something that's just in a different field than me. If it was music people, I'd want the Yellow Magic Orchestra. I get nervous if someone else is working with me though because they might look while I work or try to think, so maybe a blindfolded musician? I can't do medical things either, and medical instruments are really cool to me. I'll settle on a doctor to be in the studio with me -- they have nice colored tools and doesn't have to look at me! And I don't draw with music, so it's a win-win situation for both of us. I don't know any superstar surgeons, but I think a surgeon would be the best call for a studio partner, we can share tea.


Learn more about Cam and his work on his website here and give him a follow on instagram @collins_cameron