Written By: Charles Frank
Photos By: Dark One Photos
Enter the world of Aaron Raybuck, a 28-year-old Ashevillian transplant by way of Pittsburgh. With his brush, Aaron masterfully creates images of dreamlike environments and beasts. His work is loud but tender, inviting but ferocious, and dark but illuminated. Aaron briefly led me through the window of his presence by which his pieces live. He is concluding his busy summer, after appearances at The Werk Out, The Big What, and Resonance. I picked his brain for a second on the origins of his work, his process, the future, and his brand. Step into the delightfully peculiar mind of Aaron Raybuck:
Firstly, can you explain your motif a little bit and how you arrived to this point in your artistic career? Your work is full of hyper-colorful depictions of nature, which draws the eye’s focus to the calm but abnormal imagery you envision. I wonder how it is you came to this avenue, so speak for a second on your past and your inspirations and muses.
Thanks for having me! My work is a combination of different methods and styles I’ve picked up throughout the years. It has changed a lot from when I first started as well. The themes and imagery have evolved based on what is going on with me at that moment. It gets dark, happy, colorful, refined, abstract, whatever. There is always something going on behind the scenes of why I paint certain things. Graffiti art is where it all started- any city I found myself in I would always be looking at the buildings, trains, bridges, and sidewalks for new pieces. That’s where my eyes got wide. I would fill up complete books of lettering and different characters. I didn’t stick with spray paint, but that is where my roots are.
Your stuff is so cool. I love Lost in the Sauce and Mystic Wanderer, just to pick a few. How do you produce the vibrancy and magical realism your work is rich with?
Lost in the Sauce was a piece I painted at Moonshine Music and Arts Festival. It was a free flow painting without any planning behind it. I do those sometimes at festivals. A lot of the time I’ll have a main subject sketched out and then flow the rest of the painting. I carry around a little notebook full of half sketched ideas as they come to me that I use in my paintings. For one of my recent paintings Hybrids I sketched out the jackalope then flowed for the rest of it. I am always trying to find a balance between my own introversion and how to continue to progress my work into the public, sometimes my stuff reflects this dichotomy as well. I have so many thoughts bouncing around, sometimes even I don’t know where some of my origins come from. To your point about magical realism- I try to make my stuff very surreal and abstract, yet still looking as if it could or does exist. I love depicting environments that inspire a viewer to question something.
Speaking of the festival circuit, art installations do so much more than simply complement a festival experience for a patron or artist. Art like yours is the backbone on which a festival or concept is manifested. Can you comment on your ability to affect a location or experience with your work?
Man I couldn’t agree more with what you said regarding art installations as a backbone. I’ve had a few gallery shows featuring my work and it’s completely different. The festival circuit despite its organized confusion is actually a far more relaxed environment for me. People are more comfortable asking questions regarding my inspiration and process. Conversations usually end up with everyone getting inspired and wanting to create, and that is rewarding. I painted live for the first time at Resonance in 2015. Ever since I’ve traveled all over the place at any festival I can.
Your stuff strikes me to be in the transformational, activated arm of paintwork. With this in mind, how have you seen your art impact someone else’s life? This could be a specific personal anecdote or a larger more general one.
A good example is my piece Mind Tricks. It’s one of my darker paintings. I painted that the week following a pivotal moment in my life, and I can always look at that painting and remember what was going on at that moment and how it’s affected me. In that regard, it has had impact on those who have known me for a while and have seen me go through things. Painting has helped me overcome so many obstacles with myself, and I’ve seen it catalyze change in others who have been searching for themselves. At festivals, I’ve seen a lot of first time festival goers wander into the art tent and get notably inspired to create or affect change based on their experience with my work. That is a really good feeling.
I love the color in your work and I am interested in how you smoothly blend so many. What’s your favorite combination? Do you have a go-to well of colorways to get a piece started, or do you improvise along the way?
I just want my pieces to be bold and stand out. Lots of trial and error finding what colors blend well together and work. I use as many colors as possible when I paint. The color palette I use comes a lot from the graffiti influence in my work. I use color to mix chaos and control. Using lots of different layers without blending too much creates that effect. I layer colors on top of each other until it gets where I want.
Can you talk about Higher Dimension Apparel? How has branding helped you or even impaired you, perhaps? How did you begin painting hats?
I came up with the name Higher Dimension from the subject matter I use in my work.
There are so many things we don’t know and will never figure out, that are of a “higher dimension.” I formed the brand after I had just started hand painting hats. I also just released a run of printed shirts with my piece Smiley as the design. I’m always looking towards the future trying to get into new avenues of clothing design. The hats are great for customers that want to use and wear things they purchase. There are a lot of my custom hats out there and it’s an awesome feeling seeing them all over the country.
Simple question here… Who are some of your peers, either locally or nationally, that you enjoy working with or mimicking?
Ah man, there are so many good and hard working artists out there that I’m humbled to stand next to. Right now I’m really excited to continue to work with Ryan Byrd. We recently collaborated on a piece at this year’s installment of The Werk Out that we both loved, so you can definitely expect to see more from the two of us in the future.
Let’s talk about the future. What does next year look like for you? Any specific ideas or projects you are hoping come to fruition and if so please give me a little spoiler on some of them.
I have so many ideas for my stuff it’s almost exhausting to think about. I can tell you this though, the next move is going to be big… like physically. I am going to start working on some walls and try to do some large scale stuff like that. In addition, I’m working on multiple new designs for Higher Dimension Apparel. Like I said earlier, I just did a t shirt for the first time featuring one of my pieces, and I’m going to keep plugging at that. Keep an eye on my pages, I’m constantly creating new things. More opportunities keep popping up and I am tremendously excited for next year.
Lastly, can a brother get a hat?
Bro, dopest hats on lot man haha. Of course Bones, anytime.