Bryant Small Inside the Studio
New Jersey based contemporary artist Bryant Small is known for his bold, bright and energetic alcohol ink paintings. Bryant’s boldness comes first from his use of materials and second from the way he experiments with alcohol ink. Bryant paints with almost anything; wine bottles, vases, flip-flops, cups, bubble wrap, or even brake pads. In fact, Bryant will utilize anything around him to create his pieces. He typically paints on Yupo Paper, but recently he has started applying alcohol ink to resin to create sculptures in the same manner as his paintings. He has partnered with Puzzles of Color to create a puzzle from one of his paintings. The unique materials and his approach to the medium create free-flowing paintings that are accentuated by slashes, circle marks, waves or other unique aesthetics.
Indulgence-Alcohol Ink on Yupo Paper, 23” x 35”
Tokyo-Alcohol Lumiere Paint on Yupo Paper, 48” x 60”
In addition to winning the Conception Arts Global Art Collective Award for Excellence twice, his work was also selected for the International Art Market Magazine’s Gold List of Top Emerging Contemporary Artists. In 2020, Bryant completed the Elieen S. Kaminsky Family Foundation Winter 2020 Residency Program at Mana Contemporary. Most recently, he has just started an artist residency at Chateau Orquevaux in France.
Bryant’s works can be found in private collections across the globe, and he proudly displays his works at solo and group exhibitions and art fairs. For instance, back in November 2022, Bryant’s Alcohol ink pieces were featured at Art Aqua Miami in Alessandro Berni Gallery’s booths.
Even though Bryant is currently on location for his artist residency at Chateau Orquevaux in France, I got a chance to ask him some great questions regarding his alcohol ink practice!
Follow along with him during his residency on Instagram: @BFLY777
Read on for my interview with Bryant.
For those who might not have heard the story, how did you first discover Alcohol Ink? I was introduced to Alcohol Ink by my mother. As a fellow painter, she does a number of art tours and studio visits throughout the country. During an art tour, she met a woman that was wearing a magnificent brightly colored necklace. Through discussion, she learned that the necklace was Alcohol Ink on dominos. Alcohol ink works well on non-porous surfaces i.e. resin dominoes, glass, metal, tile and in my case – Yupo Paper.
What kind of paper or other materials do you use? I paint on Yupo Paper, a synthetic paper made of recycled plastics that allow the inks to sit on the surface of the paper. I’ve also been exploring glass and resin works as well.
Alcohol ink is notoriously unpredictable, are there ways to control the inks? What are some techniques you use? Oh yes- alcohol inks are very unpredictable. I’ve managed to get to a point that I can better understand what could happen given color selection, composition etc. However, even then, it’s a gamble. With every drop of ink, I can potentially undo the work that I’ve already completed. It’s trial and error, luck, focus, practice and the universe working together.
What do you hope people will get out of looking at your work?
My goal is for people to step closer to the work and take it in. I always want people to have their own unique experience with the work. And to understand that this is original work, it’s not a print, it’s not done digitally. It’s all exploration meets experimentation.
Are there tools or tricks that we might not know about that are helpful in creating your alcohol ink pieces that you can share?
There aren’t any tricks. Just do it. Go for it. I paint with everything around me – a plastic fork, a flip flop, a wine bottle – it could be anything. So, I suppose my tip is to not think about it too much, use your imagination and jump in.
Can you discuss the two online exhibitions; Black is Light and World Traveler?
Black is Light was curated and presented in 2020 right after the murder of George Floyd, to address the searing underlying Heat of Racism rupturing the atmosphere. And often, because I create in vibrant colors and energy, it’s often mistaken or forgotten that I am a Black Man that is greatly affected by racism in life and art. And by association, Black is feared. Black represents danger. Black is Angry. Black is Darkness. The collection is unified by the mysticism, the strength, the consistency, the beauty of BLACK. BLACK IS LIGHT.
World Traveler is a collection started in early 2020 and completed during the initial lockdown of the Covid Pandemic. I started the body of work during my ESKFF Residency (Eileen S. Kaminsky Family Foundation) at Mana Contemporary. I wanted to create a collection that spoke to my love of travel and exploration. Each painting was created to speak to the energy and feelings inspired by my favorite cities, or those that I aspire to visit.
Can you discuss your collaborations with other artists and projects like your puzzle for Puzzles of Color?
I love collaborating with other artists! There’s something so freeing and exciting about the impact of another style or medium incorporated with my work. I love seeing when other artists manipulate my work and dive in. There’s no ego or pressure – if you want to cut it up, paint over it, whatever the case – I'm on board. As for the puzzle, I hadn’t truly considered releasing products from my work. I didn’t want to go in the route of t-shirts or tchotchkes. I don’t even do prints of my work! So, when I was approached by the Puzzles of Color team, a brother and sister duo from Texas – Ericka and Willam Chambers – I was so impressed with their dedication to supporting artists of color and representation in retail. It just made sense. We went through several pieces that would translate well to becoming a puzzle and ultimately landed on “Haute” which is one of my final smaller sized paintings. Seeing the puzzles produced and sold is a dream. Also seeing it featured on news programs and talk shows – unbelievable!
I saw some newer works on your Instagram and was curious about the combination of alcohol ink and resin? When did you come up with this and how do you think this will affect your art moving forward?
I’ve been experimenting with all types of materials and formations. There are many that people never get to see! The successes make it to Instagram! I’ve done several pieces playing with Alcohol Ink and Resin – it's something that lots of artists have done previously. I’ve wanted to create something that was different – that highlighted both the beauty of Alcohol Inks but also how pliable and delicate that Resin can be, while being strong. It’s something that I’m spending more time on. When they’re ready and not embarrassing, I’ll share more. :)
If you are not working on your alcohol inks, what other things do you like to do to be creative and enjoy life?
I wear many hats! I spend a great deal of time connecting with other artists, curating shows and being a connector. I love sharing opportunities and growing my Art Family. I also spend lots of time as a hopeful content creator on numerous social media platforms doing makeup and creative face painting. It’s a mission that I’m working on completing. Most people don’t realize that I set out to NYC for college and to become a makeup artist. The universe had a different plan – and launched my career in Advertising and Marketing. But I’m circling back and having a blast! Follow me! I’m @BFLY777 on everything!