I'm not sure how many artists I've met through the Nashville Creative Group (started by Beth Inglish), but I am positive it is quite a few. I definitely met Joseph Heckle through the group, and have enjoyed watching him evolve as an artist.
As you will experience here, Joseph's paintings and music have such depth. So does his mind. I love interviewing creatives, and reading through their q&a's...and every so often, I get a set I especially enjoy. Joseph's would be one of those. I hope you will take the time to enjoy as well.
What does Creativity mean to you?
It means a lot of things. It means finding solutions to problems... it's a way to identify with people.... it can feel like the justification for an entire existence, I suppose. It's purpose. I know that I feel like rather a wasted person if I don't at least attempt something creative every day, even it's just ruminating on a project.
How do you expand yourself creatively?
I basically just try to absorb as much really terrific art and beauty as possible.. i'm a lifelong art student... but, honestly, just about the worst student imaginable. Ill-disciplined and disorganized... I'm interested in so many different creative endeavors that I doubt I'll ever have any sort of mastery (which i don't believe in anyway) over any of them. But yes, lots of fresh art. Not necessarily New art. In fact, I'm usually quite surprised when I find something 'new' that I really fall in love with. But always looking and listening.
Were you creative as a child? If so, how have you evolved through the years? Did anyone encourage you, especially?
I was... quite. I loved to draw. And, actually, pretty much everyone in my family encouraged me for as long as I can remember.. I've been quite fortunate in that respect, definitely. But yeah, when I was a kid I mostly read and I drew. Lots of medieval warriors. Guys with swords and morningstars and crazy armor. I loved the whole Arthur legend. I'm still hugely into mythologies.. moreso than ever, actually. But, anyway, at 14 I decided I had to have a guitar and wanted to be a rock star. I was pretty positive, too. It didn't seem *exactly* impossible... This was '94, if you can sorta conjure that up at all. .... So the guitar very suddenly took up just about every moment, and I drew less and less as my teenage years progressed.
What inspires you most?
That's very difficult to say with any certainty, and it changes frequently I think.. 'Most'... hmm. In the most general sense possible, I think I have to say the human mind.. It's a fascinating item to me. The inner worlds of people. What we're capable of projecting and making so. What frightens or intimidates us. Our motivations and our aspirations.
Do you daydream often? If so, does it inform your work?
I daydream about work, while I'm at my day job. often. I'm a chef, and I work more or less by myself during the day. I basically listen to music and think about projects. well, not, you know, *always* ...the other day I caught myself trying to re-write lines of dialog in Blade Runner that I think are less than scintillating.. And I sometimes get Wham!'s 1984 smash-hit "wake me up (before you go go)" stuck in my head for days at a time. Hopefully that's not something that's glaringly apparent upon viewing (or listening to) my work, though.. But I do a lot of thinking about what I ought to do when I get home, and then, you know.. some of it sticks. Sometimes not so much.
How does a relationship and/or children affect your creativity?
I don't have any children and have no plans to have any in the near future. Honestly, I can only imagine the negative effects they would have. As in; I don't have enough time (or money) as it is to do everything I want to do. So they're gonna have to wait. If they happen at all. As far as relationships go.. I mean, that can go a lot of ways. I’ve had a couple relationships that were utterly doomed to failure, but were fantastic inspiration, and I’ve had relationships that had almost no affect on my creativity whatever. I’m exceptionally fortunate to be in a relationship now that I think is a true partnership, with a creative person that I have nothing but admiration and respect for…
I'm not going to say that finding another creative person to share your life with is necessary, but, it probably makes things, if not easier; at least a bit simpler. I think creative folk have a certain.. um... shorthand? maybe?
Is there a Creative, past or present, that you would give just about anything to work with? Who, and why?
heh.. I would have loved to score a Kurosawa film. I love that man's work absolutely to death, but, honestly, he had a bit of a tin ear a lot of the time. He probably would've fired me. He wasn't shy about doing that. Maybe not though.
How do you balance life and art effectively? Or, do you?
I think you just have to be mindful, intentional. Pay attention to your surroundings and do things with purpose, and you will see your life in and of itself become a kind of art. Of course, if what you mean is finding the time to work on art and also have what many people consider 'a life,' I'm afraid I can't really say, with the exception of reading (which is really just more inspiration) all of my interests are creative in nature. I will say that having a partner who is also creative and appreciates the ups and downs of that sort of existence helps immeasurably.
How do you deal with creative dry spells? Do you make space for them, or push through?
I... don't really have them. There are times when certain things are working better than others, to be sure... Sometimes I'll go two weeks without painting anything I'm in any way satisfied with, but it usually only takes a couple days of less than stellar output before I'll just tell myself to give it a rest for at least the rest of the day. 'Play some piano for christ's sake.. It's been days since you touched yer guitar.. How long since you picked up one of those nice pens and just doodled something?'
The only other thing I'm really interested in spending a lot of time doing is reading, so, I must needs have many creative outlets.
How do you deal with change, especially when it comes to creative mediums and passion?
This is interesting, because I only recently shifted my creative career focus more towards visual arts. Up until last year, I was still expecting to become a rock star.
I kid, of course. ...to a degree. I haven't really wanted to be a rock star in a very long time, but my focus has still been, since age 14, primarily musical. But in August of 2013, after over a decade of really quite sincere abuse and multiple hospitalizations, I quit drinking. ...And, there's really no other way of putting it; this changed everything. A little over 6 months after getting sober I painted Conjecture #1. Number 2 was finished about a month later, and#3 about 2 months after that. But I've become much more prolific in the last year, and actually starting to 'look like me,' I think.. I have a lot of flotsam and jetsam to sort through and get to the bottom of, but I'm getting better at paring things down.. distilling the things inside my head down to a thing that I can point to and say: 'Yeah. That. That's what I mean.' or 'That's how I feel.'
I didn't stop writing and playing music though, when I quit drinking and began painting. I just threw myself into everything creative that I'd ever tried, and then some, basically. I mean, when you stop doing something that takes up every bit of your time, energy, spirit, and money, you can, after a period of serious adjustment, really let it fly, so to speak.. and you just kinda try to not spend too much time thinking about how much time you've already wasted. At least, that's how I've been operating.
Do you have any other mediums you use to express yourself creatively?
I've been writing music for twenty-one years. Mostly on guitar, but I've been slowly teaching myself piano for at least ten now. My most recent efforts can be found on Bandcamp, under the moniker: Confusion Born.. and sorta fall into two distinct camps, both instrumental. One being more electronic, dark, but at times quite fun, and clearly written on/for synthesizers. And the other being.. well, this sort of guitar-oriented post-rock/trip-hop thing. it's... fine to roll your eyes. I did when I had to come up with that, so.. but that's basically what it is. Equally influenced by both Explosions in the Sky and Massive Attack, I would say. At any rate, it's all stuff I've written since getting sober, and, I think, sounds the most 'like me.'
Do you enjoy collaborating, or prefer to work alone?
I've never collaborated with someone, visually. This is probably not the most mature way to go about things, but I always anticipate failure and disappointment, and so would rather it all just fall on me when it happens. I don't much like being let down, but I really don't want to let anyone else down. Perhaps in 20 years or so I might feel comfortable enough in my... everything... to work with other people. I'd like to think so, anyway.
Do you plan thoroughly for projects, or go with the flow?
I always start with, at the very least, a couple ideas, no matter how vague. Sometimes just a certain color palette can make me feel like my work is mostly done; this thing is going to paint itself, I just need to not stumble over myself getting out of the way.
A lot of the time though, it takes a plan just going completely south on me. Just totally not working the way I anticipated, either because I'm not skilled enough to execute it, or it just wasn't actually a terribly good idea to begin with... I have one larger piece that went through probably 6 'plans' before I finally began to see within it what it ended up becoming. For me, things sometimes take a long time to rise to the surface. And I kindof mean that literally, as in; If I'm working on a layered piece, I might make 20 passes before it gives me a clue what the end result ought to look like... And it will just sort of rise up out of the layers.. It almost beckons, like... 'this way... more like this..'
The fluid pieces I think are more about being really well prepared and ready to react quickly.. It's all about mixture, viscosities. And having a nice palette. Being willing and able to improvise quickly though is a good thing to cultivate, I think.
Does spirituality and/or culture play a role in your creativity?
Certainly, in the sense that I am a student of art, and that most of the great works of humankind in general are supposedly divinely inspired... All that there seems to be a consensus on, anyway. (although that's a whole other can of worms; the 'consensus' on great works...) So, as a student, and one who derives inspiration from other artists, absolutely. But I am adherent to none of the current mythologies, popular or otherwise. I will admit to a more than slight Buddhist slant to my general outlook on things, however.
Do you believe art can change the world? If so, how?
Most definitely. But, I mean, everything causes ripples. Nothing is without consequence. It doesn't matter that on a cosmic scale, you barely register as having mass or existing at all, what you do matters. The fact of you is indisputable, and your actions do change things. So, yes, art can change the world. Making it positive and persuasive is our dilemma.
What effect do you want your art to have on the world?
When I see (or hear) something that makes me unconsciously nod my head in agreement, or do that sharp intake of breath thing that I do when something another person's done amazes me... That's like.. the light in the darkness, the pressure of another soul (for lack of a better word). I don't have an especially rosy world view, and those rare moments are important to me. I hope that I imbue my work with my truest self, and that that might shine through for others. Cos in my mind there are few things worse than feeling that no one understands you, and that you are all alone.
What music, if any, plays while you work? What are you listening to at this very moment?
At the moment, I’m listening to Julia Kent, a lovely solo cellist. I listen to her when I work as well, sometimes. But, nothing with words, ever. Most of the time I don't like stuff that feels very directional. Herb Alpert's a genius, but I don't listen to the Tijuana Brass while I paint. Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto are wonderful. Minimalist. Two notes on the piano here, some soft clicks and drones. Delightful. Deaf Center is one of my favorite groups. They skew quite dark, and involve recordings of nature. Softly menacing. I'd be quite remiss not to mention the godfather of ambient music, Brian Eno. His importance to my work cannot be overstated. If you've not heard him, you've at least heard records he's worked on as a producer, and he's put out well over a dozen great records of his own.. My favorite is probably The Shutov Assembly. I'm not going to attempt to describe Brian Eno to anybody. Go listen. I also cannot leave out Murcof's 'Cosmos' album or Daniel Lanois' 'Belladonna.' Murcof has, in my opinion, totally nailed the sound that deep space makes, and 'Belladonna' sounds like an underwater acid trip through the Mojave. Splendid, both. Incidentally, I could spend pages answering this question.
Do you have any favourite books?
Hundreds. As far as things go... that I own, my books are probably my most prized possessions. I'm going to be brief as all hell with this.. 'Ada (or Ardor)' by Vladimir Nabokov, 'Chimera' by John Barth, the entire 'Dune' series by Frank Herbert, 'Foundation' by Isaac Asimov, 'The Dragons of Eden' by Carl Sagan, 'Catch 22' by Joseph Heller..
Do you have a favourite quote?
Tough… maybe: “All that had gone before was not a thousandth of what was yet to come; the story of this star had barely begun.” -Arthur C. Clarke, from 2001, A Space Odyssey.
Where can we find your art?
My visual art can be found on the web at jfheckle.com and my IG is Jos.Hex.V… and don’t worry, it’s not just a bunch of pictures of what I had to eat or inspirational quotes in baroque fonts.
Listen to my tunes at https://confusionborn.bandcamp.com/
Also, a selection of my paintings will be on display at the TSU main campus library through February, if you'd like to check them out in person.