Zachary Proctor is a talented painter with a skill for capturing scenes of adventure, wonder, and adrenaline. Proctor says of his art, “My intent as a painter is to arrest motion on canvas by artificial means, to capture life and hold it fixed.” He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah and holds a BFA from the University of Utah and an MFA from Utah State University.
Describe yourself as an artist. I often ask myself why I spend so much of my time in a studio painting. Many things come to mind, but mostly I think I make paintings because it allows me to meditate on something for long intervals of time. I can choose to focus my attention on something and then study it out while making paintings about it. The process allows my mind to wander as I explore the different meanings I see in my little world. I think I paint, because painting teaches me so many things about my surroundings, similar to the reflecting pool in a fairy tale.
I enjoy painting at night and finding solitude so that I can focus. Without this I find it hard to get in to the proper frame of mind. I am an oil painter looking for different ways to apply paint to a surface. Recently I have been exploring ways to layer paint by shooting air through loaded house paintbrushes. I am a figure painter because I like the challenge of capturing people in complicated settings. It also allows me to explore narratives or themes.
So many of your paintings are in motion. Why do you like to ‘capture life and hold it fixed’? Painting can be such a static medium. I am trying to find ways to imply movement. After visiting the Prado a few years ago, I was shocked at how soft and blurry Diego Velazquez’s paintings are. It inspired me to soften out the subject and take it a step further by showing movement. I am interested in painting people who are trying to better their situation and to do that involves motion. I take a lot of inspiration from Maynard Dixon’s painting, Forgotten Man. I want to paint people similar to that, those who may have fallen through the cracks, but are out there trying to find a way to better their circumstances. Hard working people who are not afraid of rolling their sleeves up and getting their hands dirty.
What do you draw from to create these scenes? A painter cannot shut off his brain, he/she is looking at everything as a possible subject. I am inspired mostly by film, hence the term “motion pictures.” Wes Anderson, the Coen brothers, Kubrick, Terrence Malick and Alfred Hitchcock are a few of the directors I am stealing from at the moment. I grew up as we all did watching movies and getting lost in their stories. Nothing much has changed as I get lost making paintings in a studio as I reflect on those films. I sort of see a painting as a scene in a movie and an “art show” as a movie full of “scenes.” When you reflect on the life of a painter you see the many movies or “shows” they had and one can see the compilation of their life’s work.
I am also finding a lot of imagery from the books I am reading. I have recently read four of John Steinbeck’s novels and those have opened me up to a wealth of new ideas and images. I have dozens of sketchbooks full of ideas that I work with to collage things together. And I am collecting interesting images I find everywhere from photo albums at my grandmother’s house to things I see on the Internet.