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Interview with John W. Golden, April 11, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with John W. Golden, April 11, 2008
April 11, 2008
Interview with John W. Golden, local artist and graphic designer who has worked for Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Golden, John W. Interviewer:  Hayes, Sherman Date of Interview:  4/10/2008 Series:  Arts Length  60 minutes


Hayes: Today we are talking to John W. Golden, an artist here in Wilmington, North Carolina. My name is Sherman Hayes and I'm the university librarian at UNCW Randall Library and today's date is April 10th. We're at the Golden Gallery which was named for the whole family but originally your mom was initiated, Mary Ellen Golden. Before we start talking about your career, give us a sense of how you got to be an artist.

Golden: I do feel like I finally am a full time working artist at 40. My mother started the gallery in 1977 and she had had a background of taking art classes early on, actually went to school with the intention of getting a degree in art but it was more out there, what they were doing than what she prefers to do so she switched to English. Years later when my family moved here for my father's work, during the interview, she came over to the Cotton Exchange and did this gallery. I was 10, 11 years old. I spent every afternoon after school down here, was running around downtown; something I would probably never let my-- I'm not sure I have the confidence to let my own kid do that now. Basically, the gallery was here and it was her example of making a living as an artist.

Hayes: Did you feel pressured to be an artist?

Golden: No, not at all.

Hayes: Some people run away from what their parents do.

Golden: One of the benefits of having an artist parent is that-- maybe someone who wants to be an artist who doesn't have an artist parent-- is my parents knew it was possible to make a living at it. I think if you watch the movies, the artist is always the flaky person who can't decide what to do with their life. That was very nice. And then, of course, having a place to display my work helped a lot.

Hayes: When did you start?

Golden: I can remember drawing in notebooks in school when I should've been paying attention. I guess a good friend of mine sort of influenced me with-- we did a lot of airplanes and little war scenes. It's the beginning where you could draw a battle field, you take a pencil and fling it. And if your pencil mark hits somebody else's, they had to draw an explosion on it. So we would do these little drawings in our notebooks and that was actually when we lived down in Charleston, so that was between four and 10 maybe. But when we got here when I was about 11, my mother helped me work on some linoleum block prints. I had two. I had one of a sailboat and one of a surfer and that was my first works that we actually-- we did them on kind of a rough hewn Japanese paper. I had a little corner of the original gallery. It was called John's Corner. I sold my block prints until I was about 14; I did a series based on the North Carolina lighthouses.

Hayes: At 14 you were selling art already?

Golden: At age 11 I was selling art. To my knowledge, I don't have any copies of the linoleum block prints. They all sold or were given away. I don't have any idea of how many--

Hayes: What about in high school?

Golden: It was by the time I was in high school. I had an art teacher -- Rose Brinson -- at MCS Naval Middle School and she was very encouraging during the middle school years. There was a lot of stuff like we're going to do a clay project. We're going to do tempera on manila paper. But she happened to transfer to the high school at the same time that I did to New Hanover High School and somewhere in those three years, she encouraged me to go to school for art. She had gone to Appalachian so that was one that I considered. There was a class that was kind of like a graphic arts class and we did things like that in it. So I looked into ECU. Got into ECU. Got into Appalachian. After it was decided I should go get some general college out of the way before I went straight to an art school. I loved Appalachian and the area so much I just stayed there.

Hayes: So you went to Appalachian State?

Golden: Yes, sir.

Hayes: What kind of a degree?

Golden: It was graphic design.

Hayes: They had that particular track? That's kind of unusual.

Golden: At that time that I went up there, it was still all the mechanical T-squares and exacto knives and things like that. It may have even been called graphic arts. That may be what the degree is. However they use it, it sort of translates into graphic design. Pretty much all the schools that I looked at had that. Even though I knew my mother was making her living in art, it was more apparent that there was actually a career where you could make art, but also have something that was considered a little more stable as far as a job.

Hayes: That's an interesting practical choice.

Golden: I sort of seen them as two separate things. The stuff I do for myself is purely driven by affection or affinity for something and it doesn't have to be approved or get signed off on. The graphic design, a lot of times, interestingly enough, the program didn't really require you to be an artist. You might think you'd need to be able to draw, but as long as you could trace something or hire an illustrator, you were a candidate.

Hayes: It was more about the industry of art?

Golden: That that point for me. They had Master's of Fine Art in Painting and Sculpture. One of the nice things is even if you were doing graphic design you did have to take foundations courses like drawing and sculpture and all that sort of stuff sort of influenced everything else that I did. It was really a matter of wanting to be sure I could afford to do art because at that time, it was more expensive than it is now. I sort of worked it out. Now I do digital; it costs me a whole lot less as far as materials.

Hayes: After college you stayed in Asheville?

Golden: In Boone. I stayed there probably about a semester longer and then I came back here. I started a company called Ampersand Photographics. I always liked the ampersand symbol. Since graphic design at that time was very much type-based, it seemed like an appropriate name. I did a little bit of photography, a little bit of graphic design, but mostly what I was doing was putting my photography in the gallery at the time. I didn't own a computer so I wasn't producing as much art. I did paintings, things like that. Now, who knows where they are. I did try my hand as a freelancer basically for about a year and a half and then met my wife, which is good that she was there because she was always the one that sort of-- I don't know if you saw the V8 commercials where they knock the person on the head. I got a job for Encore Magazine taking their photographs and one day when I came in to turn in my photographs, they asked if I knew anyone who's a graphic designer. I'd met some people here in town and I said "I'll think about it and let you know." I get home and my wife's like, duh! I went and did that job and that was basically layout, which was very slightly based on the computer at that point.

Hayes: When did the computer really start to alter the whole ad industry?

Golden: For me it was the early '90s. They had opened a computer lab at Appalachian during my senior and I took a job as the art building sort of building monitor, letting people in during the summer so they could use the studios. I would go into the computer room and teach myself. I had already kind of taken everything. The Intro to Computers didn't fit in with my senior portfolio and all that stuff so I was very fortunate to somehow have the idea come into my head that I should learn the computer and it was too late to take an official class in it. At that time, it was purely "I need a word" [ph?] typeset and so you could type it out, print it out on a very low grade laser printer--

Hayes: So the whole layout program was not started.

Golden: Photoshop was there and I believe, though I'm not sure, what was called Pagemaker at the time.

Hayes: That's a layout thing.

Golden: Right. But all we did was if you had to do something that was an advertisement for this gallery, you would type big old gallery, print it out, take it to a large camera that was called a Lucy, a high contrast camera. You'd blow it up so that you could go in and ink it with your French curves and your technical pens and then you'd shrink it back down with the Lucy and that's--

Hayes: When you were doing the layout for Encore, what was your technology at that point?

Golden: There were some pretty huge leaps because we were actually making ads that we printed out and then we'd conventional--

Hayes: So it was more cut and paste type thing?

Golden: Yes it was.

Hayes: Then that camera image was a film that you gave then to--

Golden: Actually, they used to have sheets with a grid and we'd paste up on there and those would go out to the publisher. I was very lucky to get that mechanical basics because it's helped me out later in life.

Hayes: As you're practicing commercial art, you're continuing side work?

Golden: It was awhile before I started doing the digital art because I went to work-- again, it was another incident of my wife knocking me on the forehead. I was sent out to the hospital to take a picture for an article on their volunteer program and while there, the people in the public relations department-- when you go into a place like that you have to go through an agency usually like the public relations. They said "Do you know any designers." I said I don't know, I'll think about it and get back to you. My wife said, once again, duh! So I went out for the job and got that job and moving up through these different corporations which a lot of times into a little bit nicer piece of equipment. Essentially, it sort of started a trend for me of working at places that had the money to get the equipment but not always a lot of extra money-- There's not a lot of money set aside in healthcare at that time for graphics design, patient education booklets, all these things, and I would go we need an illustration but we didn't have the money to commission it, buy the materials and things like that. So I began to do the illustration digitally because it took out a lot of the steps of once you had a piece--

Hayes: Were you an employee?

Golden: I was an employee and that lasted about two years. It was right around the time that HMOs were becoming popular. I think they still have designers on staff but after about two years, which is what they kind of recommend for graphic designers so you don't get stuck in any one particular style, moved on to a job outside of the triangle in a place called Sax Hall, which is between Chapel Hill and Graham, and it was privately held medical supply company. I became their art director and did product photography and layout.

Hayes: What is an art director?

Golden: Generally, when you start out, you're a graphic artist or graphic designer. That's kind of the entry level job or it was then. An art director is someone who usually has that experience, has been doing it long enough, and then goes up and is really responsible for directing the project and the person that the graphic designer would go to for approval on layout and art before it was presented to--

Hayes: Who does an art director mainly interact with?

Golden: They all have a superior who's the creative director and the creative director is someone who at one point probably was an art director. They're a lot of times more like a partner in a design firm. It's gives people a ladder of approvals prior to submitting something to a client. Art directors sometimes will meet with the client; creative directors, and then there's usually an account person who is the main contact with someone who's commissioning the design or the--

Hayes: Were you starting to use the computer by this time?

Golden: Right. The job that I took up in Sax Hall was one of these jobs where regardless of what we had to do, they were absolutely convinced we needed two graphics designers. So sometimes it would be 11:00 and you wouldn't have anything left to do but you'd have to be at work. So I started doing more computer illustration at that point. That's kind of where the seed of it was. It wasn't a slag job by any means but we could usually get what we needed done pretty quickly because there were two of us. That's where I finally got my own personal computer and at night and stuff, I started developing a series of illustrations in font format so you can install this font, hit a button, and get-- I had a restaurant font and it was all pictures of pots and pans and things like that and I was able to license that to a company called Font House and that was sort of my first--

Hayes: Tell us about that.

Golden: They sold it. Generally they still sell them. I got a check for $4 yesterday. They have a catalog just of different-- They have typefaces with actual text but it kind of became popular once the software for making typefaces-- there were two things that happened when that came out. One was a lot of people copied a lot of typefaces and changed the name and sold them themselves. And then there's was a group of people that made these pictographic or picture fonts. Some people did really, really well with it and it was kind of like clipart, which there already was clipart.

Hayes: What is clipart?

Golden: Clipart's usually a collection of artwork that has-- it doesn't have to have a central theme but it may and it's for designers who might have been in the position that I was in that couldn't afford to commission illustrations. You try to make it kind of central theme but kind of broad based to cover--

Hayes: Now every program comes with a set of free clipart.

Golden: Just about.

Hayes: It's kind of pushed the graphic art element into a whole set of people that never would have thought of doing it.

Golden: It's certainly made it a lot easier and it even went so far I think as to soften the illustration market one higher end illustration became-- because the process of commissioning an illustration can be a lot of work and there's back and forth with "we like this but change this." It always takes me forever. If I have to find a piece of stock photo or illustration to use, it takes me forever to find it but it's usually less time than it is for the actual-- And font's expensive so I think it became-- I never got that far as to selling stock. I just had these little black and white things that might get used in a newsletter or on a menu. So I kind of feel good that I didn't -- I hope I didn't contribute to the softening of the illustration market but it--

Hayes: What do you mean by stock?

Golden: It's again photography that you take and you don't have to be really generic; you create collections generally because that's more useful to someone who just wants to buy the stuff if there's a collection of-- say you want to do stock photography of vegetables. It's become something I think that people do pretty well at with websites like, where people can actually make their living by selling their photography.

Hayes: In the industry, a stock photograph becomes something for a graphic designer to use and they don't have to hire their own designer.

Golden: There are and some people I think still do really well at it.

Hayes: Have you ever considered stock photography as an angle?

Golden: I had thought about it. My photography started out very abstract is what I'll call it. I liked to get up close on the textures and things like that so you might not be able to tell what it is. That has a very small audience of people that can really connect with it. Really what I first did, at that time you had to buy your paper, you had to buy your chemicals, I had an enlarger, all these things. So you reach a point where only so many people want a picture of a manhole cover or a rusty scrape on the side of a dumpster. It became apparent that if I wanted to continue to take those types of photographs, I needed to have some way to pay for the materials. So I turned mine towards scenic photography and never really considered stock until recently but I just don't have time to go out there and create stuff.

Hayes: Your mother does mainly watercolor--

Golden: She'll occasionally take a photograph that she takes a reference, that she likes enough to sell but mostly watercolor.

Hayes: Tell us about stuff you did for the film industry.

Golden: After the medical supply company, I went to work for Blue Cross so I was going-- it was always medically related and it was corporate in-house stuff. While I was there, I was trying to do illustration as a sideline and this was before the market got as soft as it did for awhile. I had met an art director at an agency and one of the gentlemen named Doug Grim who had been a partner but had gone out on his own was doing work for Cartoon Network and also Nickelodeon. It was kind of a hybrid of animation and what they now call motion or broadcast design, which is graphic design that moves. So Doug had started at a company with himself and the guy who was the office manager at the place he had just left. It was a really interesting choice to pick this guy because even though he was an office manager, he really had great ideas and he was an excellent musician. Doug was kind of in the [inaudible] of plucking people out of places and giving them a chance to do something much better for what they seemed suited to do. So he asked me to come in. He had a particular project he was working on that the gentleman who had sold the storyboard and worked at Nickelodeon--

Hayes: What's a storyboard?

Golden: Storyboard is generally six to 12 pictures for the length of things that we worked on, which was five, 10 seconds, that just kind of gives the person who has to give approval for a project and we give them something visual to look at. It's an inexpensive way to really get your idea across and showed the style of it. This gentleman had sold a storyboard to Nickelodeon for a little station ID and then he was here on a visa. He had some problems, he was from Poland. He'd had some problems and had to leave the country and so while he was gone, they had given the project to Doug Grim and his company to produce. Basically Doug was friends with this art director and said "You have any illustrators that you think that could do this?" He gave them my little sample things and so I started at night going over to Doug Grim's house and trying to work until about 2 o'clock in the morning. It was nuts. I would work from 8 to 5 at Blue Cross and then head straight over there. It worked until about 2. So we did this little thing for Nickelodeon and then shortly thereafter, he got a couple of projects for Cartoon Network that I helped him out on. He was taking me-- Design was my background. I had no television training at all so it was very nice of him to give me that opportunity.

Hayes: Was this a different approach?

Golden: There's a different color palette that you-- Over the years you kind of learn what sort of things work in print and when you switch over to television, you've got to be real careful with your reds and your 100% white. They tend to fluoresce on screen. A lot of times--

Hayes: Were you just doing stills--

Golden: That first project for Nickelodeon was about 19 drawings and we took them and taking those 19 drawings, we were able to make an animation out of it.

Hayes: That was in the mid-'90s?

Golden: That was '92, somewhere in there.

Hayes: Would anybody today draw to produce that?

Golden: It usually depends on what they're looking for. It had started for me as a kind of niche of recreating traditional methods digitally because this fellow had drawn this with a pen and ink and it was very cross-hatched, kind of an Edward Gorey style. What I had to do was take that and try to mimic it and all through the years that I was doing that, a lot of times that's what people came to me for because they might say "Well, we want to do a Christmas station ID for Cartoon Network but we want it to look like this children's book I had back in the '70s." [inaudible] what makes it look like this and figure out how to recreate that with a compute. And that's all sort of come back full circle now, is what I do. After about two months at night, Doug said "Do you want to come work for me full time?" and I was his fourth employee. A month after I did that -- it would've been two months. A month after that my first son was born. A month after that, we got the job to do what they call repackage Cartoon Network, and that is you take the on air look of a television channel and you redesign it to update it. I think it's a much shorter cycle now. Then it was about every three to five years.

Hayes: Cartoon Network came to you and said to redesign it?

Golden: Yeah, to a company of five people.

Hayes: What is Cartoon Network?

Golden: It's basically part of the Ted Turner television channels.

Hayes: It's a cable channel, right?

Golden: Right.

Hayes: So that was really a coup.

Golden: It was nice and it worked out in my favor that what they wanted to go with was something that was more classic cartoons, like the Warner Brothers. At that time, they owned all the Hanna-Barbera cartoons. I don't know if they had the Warner Brothers stuff at that time, but we were doing stuff with mainly Hanna-Barbera characters. I sat down with Doug Grim and we looked at books that were about the history of cartoons and we figured out what it was that made those look that way. I was very lucky that I was real integral in the development of it because I had to go do it.

Hayes: Would you take an image and feed that in a computer and change that?

Golden: We were designing it. We created backgrounds and things like that. We kind of combined the look of very old Bugs Bunny. They had these things called title cards that would have the name and a little silhouette at the bottom for every cartoon. We felt that a really important part of the development of cartoons was in companies like UPA that did Mr. Magoo and Gerald McVoy and these really funky '50s things. Disney even did one that won an Oscar. I think it was "Tube, Whistle, Clank and Boom" and it was just very funky. So we kind of combined that because it needed to have this retro feel but also be kind of hip. Like I said, I was lucky that I sort of made myself integral to that look, not intentionally but--

Hayes: What was a day like?

Golden: For the commercials we were already making, you'd go in, you'd watch a lot of cartoons because what we did, they called it rotoscoping but the original-- Originally, rotoscoping was filming a person and then drawing over the top of those frames to create very lifelike animation. But by the time I got into it, what it was you took existing animation, you looked for a character doing-- If you needed a character to do this, you tried to find that and then you would capture this video in and take it into the computer and kind of cut it out from its background so that you can put it on a new background. For the time we were in Chapel Hill, we were doing 60 second commercials where we were-- there was usually some script for it and concurrently, we were developing the new look for Cartoon Network. Once we got the network reface job, we picked up and moved to Atlanta and down there, we hired actual cell animators, so they would draw everything. We didn't have to sit there and cut it out anymore. We would then take it and scan it in, paint it and sequence it and had camera moves into that.

Hayes: So they were buying your skill as a graphic designer.

Golden: I was generally in charge of developing the color palettes for a lot of things, doing the backgrounds and then by the time I left there two years later and moved back here, I had the record for 112 hours working week. It was a lot of work. My kid was two or three at that point. I did get to see him from time to time but a lot of times, he was asleep when I came home. We moved the family back up here because we felt like I could do freelance. I had made some connections and I was getting some graphic design work from places up here. Basically-- What was the question again?

Hayes: I was saying that your strength was--

Golden: The color palette was a big part of it.

Hayes: And you had your knowledge of photography. You said you had become efficient with the computer.

Golden: We were working on the very fastest Macintosh computers they made at that time. There were only 300 MHz computers. It was a lot of sitting around and waiting for the computer to do whatever it was you told it to do. It was a good time to be getting into that because not a lot of people were using that technology or that software. I actually got a piece or two on the demo reel that a software company used to sell the software.

Hayes: Was there a particular brand you used?

Golden: We used Adobe Aftereffects.

Hayes: That's still a very big name.

Golden: There was no such thing as Final Cut Pro at that point to my knowledge, which really has taken over as the video editing software that competes with Abbott a lot for that. It was all trial by fire or-- it was baptism by fire, a lot of trial and error in using it. Generally you had three days to do whatever it was you needed to do with getting a lot of this stuff. The main thing I think I came away with from that experience is that was where I got my affinity for robots which became identified with that a lot, robot art. Doug Grim had done a series of calendars in the '80s for a company called Workman Publishing that was photographic setups of classic robots. So we had all those classic robots that and were using that around.

Hayes: Are you into robots today?

Golden: Quite a bit but it's kind of golden age of sci-fi robots. Everything I've done is robots that I've made up because I don't want to have to deal with--

Hayes: He was actually taking pieces to make robots. Your robots are coming out of your head.

Golden: Right. The reason I started to do robot art was my wife wanted me to do my son's nursery in a space theme. We had the little tin toy replicas but it was very hard to find the artwork that would tie into that. I did a couple of kind of what I would call almost like robot mug shots, just a torso and head. Just gradually along the way, you bring the stuff into other versions.

Hayes: You're drifting into science fiction and fantasy art, which is a blend out of movies and comics.

Golden: Right and literature.

Hayes: So a subset of that is robots?

Golden: I think so. They're pretty popular in general. Something I'm leading on about, that I got out of doing that work for Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, is my audience was kids, and so a lot of my illustration now has been almost target to kids but it has really appealed to kids. A lot of times I do stuff with kids in mind and then it's always interesting to see people that are grown up really like it, something I thought that kids will love this. If it's not good, they'll tell you but at the same time, they're a lot more gentle I think than some adults who are critiquing and unsolicited critiques.

Hayes: You're back in Wilmington but you're still in your mind a commercial artist.

Golden: Right. Actually, I was actually doing contract work until about midway through last year. We came back here December of '99. It was one of those things we had no idea if I was going to be able to freelance. I was. It worked out great. It was better than I ever expected but it was still 2, 3 in the morning working on stuff.

Hayes: And the reason is the client needs it now, right?

Golden: Right. The other niche that I kind of carved out for myself was you could call me at 5 o'clock and get something before your 8 o'clock meeting the next morning. That was a good niche to fill in terms of being able to always have work but it got pretty-- I'm surprised I lasted eight years at it, or seven years doing it, freelance, just because it really was one of those things where I was very tired.

Hayes: Freelance means that you don't work for somebody else; it's your own company.

Golden: Right. The strict technical version of it is you do it at your will basically. Even though they do, because they're paying you, have some control over when, how, where you do it, technically that's the definition of freelance includes, that you decide when you do it, how you do it.

Hayes: And you provide your own equipment, your own materials. Obviously you work for a client.

Golden: Right.

Hayes: I think some of the people we've interviewed that blend that include some of the sculptors, which is a relationship thing; some of the people who do fine art that are going into a corporate setting, as opposed to the fine artist that maybe puts it in the gallery or the art you would put into this particular gallery is a different approach. Were you in a position to take your commercial art or art that you were doing on your own and put that into the gallery?

Golden: Yes. I was actually. Most of the stuff that I created is the property of other people. It's work for hires. So one of the things I did when I got back here, just before I left Atlanta, we had purchased a color print and it was when they first started becoming available for around $200 at the time. So we got back here and we bought one and because I was creating stuff digitally, I had no way to get it out in a form that people could own it or put it on a wall. I always had people coming up to me with my lighthouses I drew when I as 14 and telling me how great they were and here I am, I've done all this stuff. Of course, I'm like thank you very much but at the same time, I'm thinking I hopefully have outgrown this as an artist. So one of the first things I did for a digital that I printed after the robots that I'd done for my son was to update my lighthouses because I really wanted to kind of show-- So it was like a 20th anniversary. I guess I was 34 at the time. So I did those and that sort of started this whole thing where now I had this outfit of I could create artwork and print it and took awhile to really get to where we are now, where people don't even really think about it. The printers are so good now--

Hayes: Have you started to take some of your stuff up to the giclee?

Golden: The printers that we have will print stuff that should last -- it varies for different papers -- up to 200 years. I have gone giclee when I needed something larger than we can print here. It's funny because for someone who's a digital artist, I don't try to make the arguments I think that a lot of people are making now, that every one of these-- I could make 50 of one of these fish prints and every one of them is an original because no physical work exists until you print it. So you can't technically be _________________. I think I've fought my fight.

Hayes: You don't take and draw or color something and then make a production out if it.

Golden: It completely starts with a blank screen. Some of the stuff now I've photographed texture and I'll use that.

Hayes: It's assembled and created in a digital medium. Is that what you define a digital artist as?

Golden: That's my definition in terms of myself. I think you can be a digital artist if you just use digital tools. Some of that includes you might draw something and scan it in and use it as a basis.

Hayes: Some people are taking a whole painting and adding digital elements.

Golden: I think in terms of being honest with the person who's going to have it, if there's digital in there, it needs to be in some way part of the description of the piece.

Hayes: These fish are yours? What do you tell the person this is?

Golden: I don't really call them giclees but I do call them archival artist prints that are produced by me.

Hayes: But you do say digital art.

Golden: Yes. It's digital. It's completely digital. The fish start out with-- I have reference that I gather for different fish because I want it to be accurate enough that you can tell what it is. But I also try to give it a little bit of I don't want to say flair but give it something that makes it--

Hayes: Your colors are not necessarily--

Golden: Right. I don't stay true all the time. I try to get enough in there, like the barracuda up there was the first one I did and it's probably the most whimsical I guess of them. I found that as I went along it was more difficult to really capture the fish without being a little bit more technical. But I draw it with a mouse in Photoshop and I have a lot of custom brushes in Photoshop that I've made. You can make a brush that will-- it's almost like a stamp in the way that it will put a texture on it and that's where a lot of the painterly texture comes from, but the painterly texture is actually made using a dirty scanner in my hands in a dark room.

Hayes: Do you sense the digital artist is going to get greater acceptance?

Golden: I've been very fortunate to have gone through the whole realm of that. When we first started putting this stuff out, it was like what? People couldn't really get their heads around it and it wasn't particularly groundbreaking what I was doing.

Hayes: It may have been for Wilmington.

Golden: Right. I've changed my opinion I guess of what I do as an artist. I would never say that I'm doing groundbreaking work but if you really think about what it is a digital artist is doing, they're taking a piece of plastic with a wire attached to it and making artwork. I think being able to grab a hold of that idea and make a piece of artwork out of it, to me, it's somewhat groundbreaking when you consider people have been using brushes, paint, paper, things like that for a long time.

Hayes: It's a new tool.

Golden: That's something I think a lot of digital artists deal with because there are things where you can just push a button and it alters something to make it look more artistic, that a lot of times a person will think that's all that you're doing. I try to avoid that.

Hayes: The difference is you could use that but it seems like somebody is pushing the button to change that.

(overlapping conversation)

Hayes: It's the argument for the photographer, where you're just pressing the button.

Golden: I tend to think every person just has their way of seeing and that's what my photography has always been, just sort of here's how I look at this particular thing. It really comes down to whether or not what you make connects with a person. I don't necessarily consider so much how the person got to the end, what the means were if it's something that really grabs me.

Hayes: Have you been exposed to the whole Japanese art element with fish?

(overlapping conversation)

Golden: It's difficult. It's a very difficult thing to do. I actually had to help a group of my son's cub scout pack who did a program here with the local aquarium. They make these rubber fish pieces for kids to use, not dead fish. Having watched them trying to do it gives you a whole new appreciation for someone that does it really, really well.

Hayes: It seems that you represent kind of a breakdown of the definition of what a fine artist is.

Golden: It's funny because I've submitted some stuff to some of these-- there's a gallery that holds a yearly competition for digital art and I was kind of disappointed with the results. Of course I didn't get in but I think one of the things about my artwork is it's not digital enough.

Hayes: You mean it's not wild enough?

Golden: It doesn't have the earmarks of digital, some of the digital earmarks or whatever. I submitted and I thought surely these people will see I'm taking this thing and I'm making artwork that I feel like doesn't look all that digital. There's things about it that someone who created digital artwork would probably be able to look and say "Yeah, I don't think he did traditionally." It was just sort of lost on the whole kind of gallery museums exclusively created for digital art. What they picked more than anything was digital photography, which is just a flip-flop. I know when I tried to get photography into art shows a lot of times it was very difficult.

Hayes: Many times they exclude it.

Golden: Right. So it was very interesting for me to try to get my digital art into the art shows--

Hayes: You say there was a museum for digital art--

Golden: There's galleries and museums and I'm kind of thinking I guess I'll get in there posthumously someday.

Hayes: I didn't realize there's kind of like a parallel world.

Golden: I think digital art, digital photography is starting to reach that level of acceptance where I recently saw that they were trying to make frames for the format for digital photography, things like that. That I think probably is a signal of more of a mainstream acceptance. But the whole digital art, I think I may have intuitively moved more towards creating artwork that doesn't look all that digital because I knew that difficulty of getting people to accept.

Hayes: And you want to sell it and make people happy with it.

Golden: I mainly use it as a tool. I'm an instant gratification kind of person when it comes to my art. I've done stone sculpture. I've done metal sculpture. I've done oil painting. While I enjoyed the process, the same time, I can't get to what I'm seeing in my head fast enough with the traditional methods. An oil painting, there's sometimes where there's steps where you just have to let it sit aside and dry for weeks. One of the things it does for me is it allows me create and get to what I'm seeing so much more quickly.

Hayes: I think you're bringing up one of the challenges of the art process. There's a myth that it ought to take a long time.

Golden: I saw a discussion online where someone was talking about one of their friends that paints 20 pieces a day and sells them for between five and 15 thousand dollars. I think, like you're saying, people expect a certain amount of time to go into things. I think maybe people feel like they're buying a piece of artwork that time and labor went into, but a lot of times, I think it's more the artist, you're buying a small part of the artist's vision and how that vision connects with you and means something to you.

Hayes: The abstract art that was slapped together, there was a perception that it wasn't taking forever. Everything doesn't come out immediately, does it?

Golden: No. I'm at a point now where most of the stuff, because of how much I've used my tools, I don't always get what I want and I have to work with it a good bit. I have things that take me very little time because I have a really good idea of what I want it to look like, the idea is well formed. Then I have things that the idea may be well formed but the process is labor intensive. It's hard for me sometimes to think I have to spend a whole day making this one piece. I would say, for the most part, just with tweaking things and working them out, that it's probably four or five hours, which would probably surprise people. Some people think it's (makes beeping noise) press a button and it's done. I like to think I at least put some amount of time into a work that would be comparable to some traditional piece of art.

Hayes: A few years ago you decided to change that. Was it the impetus to get back to art--

Golden: It was actually a year ago. It was in May I think of last year when I-- Basically, as the story goes, a friend of my mother sent word to me in a message that I don't really go into because I think people would get-- it's long, it's a lot to talk about. A message from a stranger basically sort of calls me again. There's something about me and being not really like what they call a wage slave. I hesitate to use "slave." I was really just tied to my work. The lady sent me this message that said something about-- she didn't know me but it made me kind of reexamine everything and it told me how to change the thing that was holding me back, which was that I was afraid to say no. So if a job came in, I took it. And it was just piling up.

Hayes: The point of the matter is, you don't know if another job's coming in. But it's a dilemma for any small business.

Golden: It definitely is. Basically I did what this woman said, which was just to kind of ask to be released from this fear of saying no and some other things she said. At that time, I had begun selling online. My mom came in before last month and said here's a heartwarming guy who's selling $2000 of his art online. I said wouldn't that be great if I can do that? Now I kind of laugh about that because it's doing so much better than that. I happened to come across a website called Etsy which is a place for all things handmade. It's It's just a gathering of artisans, craftspeople and basically, it gave me an outlet for which to put myself out to a much larger audience. There's apparent over a million members now. There's about 160,000 people selling their artwork or their craft in this--

Hayes: Who's the audience?

Golden: I thought it was 20 to 30 year old females and it is predominantly, like 96% female but there's actually-- They did a survey recently and the people that are on there are a little bit older. It's a different demographic than I actually thought it was. Back in May I started up and every month I'd do a little bit better and I'd say this is something I might actually be able to do. Finally, I reached a point where it was like you're either going to fill your orders from Etsy or you're going to do that project. And if you do this one, you're not going to be able to do the other. Back in May I sort of said I'm doing this. This is what I'm doing.

Hayes: But you also have the outlet of the gallery here.

Golden: And that's good. That's probably more cyclical than Etsy in terms of we get a lot of people in the summer and around Christmas and things like that.

Hayes: What are the subjects that are going to be next?

Golden: I said earlier, a lot of my subject matter comes about just as an affinity for something, texture, things like robots, things like that. I tend to do what might be a little more retro. I've done little old toy record player type thing. I actually last night was looking at what they call kiddy rides, the little rocket you put a quarter in. I want to do something like that because the things that I really like and have fond memories of, and it turns out a lot of other people do too, but it's sort of just what comes to me. I just recently--

Hayes: But you're driven by what you're interested in less so than--

Golden: ...than what seems to be selling. I've been real fortunate though that whatever I've picked a lot of times is connected with enough people to make it work.

Hayes: But you're not chasing after something the industry says will sell.

Golden: No. I recently did dogs and cats. For about 15 years I've been trying to do some dogs and never could find a style that I really liked. Then I found one and those-- I'm not saying everyone likes dogs, everyone likes cats, but it's amazing. People will come in here, they'll sit down and they'll go through everything and say "Well, where's this breed, where's that breed." I'm working on that. That's kind of my most commercial stuff in that it's got a long term plan and it's going to be showing up in places all over the world. We'll see how that goes.

Hayes: Thank you so much. I really appreciate you talking to us particularly about the blend of commercial art and the fine art. I welcome you back to the fine art community. Thanks a lot.

Golden: All right. Thank you.

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