Intern Katrina sat down with Fitton printmaking instructor Billy Simms to talk about what inspires his teaching and artistic practice.
Q: With all three of your degrees, why have you chosen to be an educator alongside creating your art?
A: I had always wanted to be an artist, but I knew that I could do more with my skills. Teaching is also just a handy skill in general to have.
Q: On your website, it says in your artist statement that you ‘decide which media to use based on the idea of the piece…’, do you have a favorite media to work with? Do you have a least favorite media to work with?
A: My favorite are relief prints or fabric, specifically hats that I sell through my Etsy shop. I don’t necessarily have a least favorite, but I don’t really enjoy charcoal just because it’s dusty and it gets everywhere.
Q: With your personal practice, how long does it take you to finish a series, from start to finish, on average? When you’re working on a series, do you stop teaching, or create and teach at the same time?
A: I am always working on my art, so nothing ever stops. There is no average time, it just depends on the pieces, and I tend to go back and revisit things later. Some pieces may be ‘finished’, but I’m done with them once I die. I’m always going back and adjusting. Sometimes I leave a piece for a number of years, and then come back to it after I’ve changed, and the context of the world has changed.
Q: When coming up with a new artwork series, are you inspired by your personal life? If yes, do your students inspire/influence your art?
A: I am inspired by my personal experiences. Either the environment, or a book; I pull from the world around me. My thesis show is faintly inspired by the home town that I grew up in. My series The Clown Genocide was influenced by the book, ‘How German Is It?’ by Walter Abish, and I used it to explore the question, how does a culture heal from atrocities?
Q: You have 17 years of teaching experience, over time have you found that you have a specific age group that you prefer to teach?
A: Now it’s closer to 20 years of teaching. I personally don’t have a favorite age group. Every age group is different in their needs and abilities, so I just adjust the teaching to the needs of the learners. I enjoy that each age is a different experience.