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Paint By Number

photo courtesy of austin given
"Hey! part 1," a portrait of Austin Given's brother, will be one of six works by Given in his first show, "Paint by Number Exhibition," which opens Saturday night at 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St.
By Nathan Tafoya
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 16, 2004
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Artist uses photography, physiology to color outside the lines

During spring break some months ago, artist Austin Given got a big idea, picked up a brush and began putting paint to canvas. As his work progressed, the physiology senior decided to take a semester hiatus in order to put together his own art exhibit.

This weekend, the culmination of Given's efforts will be realized at 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St., with a multi-medium artistic expression which will include a DJ, an art showing and band performances.

The name for the show, "Paint by Number Exhibition," was derived in part because of the way Given went about constructing his work. Given, who started painting in high school, began by taking pictures with a digital camera. He then projected photographs onto a canvas.

"And then I'll put down layers," Given said. "I'll put down shapes of different colors and then blend them together. So eventually it looks more realistic, but in the rough stages, it's kind of doing paint by numbers."

Depending on his inspirational muse, Given said his works, from conception to product, take him about two weeks to a month to complete.

While Given said painting was very enjoyable, he admitted that he can get a little stressed when it comes to his subjects and his work.

"I'll get stint of anxiety and then I'll calm down," Given explained. "It's a very therapeutic process."

Given, whose six works are portraits, said he likes human subjects the most.

"I do figurative works because I can use people and bend them, and basically make them do what I'd want to," Given said. "You can't do that with other objects. I mean you can in a way, but you can't get the deep down energy of what's going on."

Sure to be a favorite Saturday night is a work called "Hey! part 1", which is a 60" X 48" oil painting of Given's older brother. Lots of deep down energy there.

Given's brother, who is a model, sent Given the photograph used to make the painting. The photo depicts the brother in a James Dean/The Fonz-type pose against a strikingly pink background.

Given also used friend and drummer for The Retainers, Dave Williams, for two portraits at the show.

And ultimately, it is friendship driving a lot of what is going on with the exhibit. Given is a friend of the bands playing at his art show and rooms with one of the singers.

Given said he has put in a lot of hard work to get the show put on and getting a buzz, but that he couldn't have done it alone, crediting Carl Johnson with his large support.

Roommate Johnson, 22, is a guitarist and lead singer for The Retainers, who will open up for The Strays from Sacramento and Tucson's Chango Malo as part of "Paint by Number Exhibit." He also plans on transferring to the UA from Pima Community College.

Johnson said they were all just trying to help each other out and get exposure for one another, in an example of art supporting art.

"Hopefully we can bring people to the show through music and they can see his art and hopefully people who come for the art will see us," said Johnson. "Hopefully we get a lot of crossover."

But life isn't always easy living with an artist.

"He got some paint on my stereo brushing," Johnson said of Given. "Other than that, he's pretty clean. He always has canvases lying around everywhere. It's not bad. He tolerates me playing music all the time."

Given said he thought the show would be a good opportunity to get a lot of people involved in music and art and said he hoped the show will be a success for all the artists.

The bands will perform after the 10 p.m.- 10:30 p.m. artist slot when visitors can discuss the paintings with the artists and buy or commission work.

Given is optimistic about the show on Saturday and said he hopes to sell out his paintings.

"I think there's a niche in this town for what I'm doing," Given said. "This town is very supportive of the arts and the music scene."

Given said he at least hopes to recover the cost of some of the canvases, some of which were over $100 alone.

"It can't just be the cost of the materials," Given said. "It also has to be the worth of (the art). I'm actually low-ending it now to see if I can sell anything. If this is a successful show, I'll probably create more works and make my painting sell for more of what I think they're worth."

Given, who is currently working three jobs, said art is more than just a hobby.

"I'm trying to make this more career oriented," said Given, who has actually utilized his knowledge in physiology to determine how to shade facial muscles and to capture certain poses. "I would pursue this, but you have to have a back-up plan. It's funny to make physiology your back-up plan."

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