Interview with Adam Lister


Artist Adam Lister shares his examination of pop culture and art history through unusual watercolor paintings inspired by his love for 8-bit graphics found in old Nintendo and Atari video games. In addition to producing recreations of famous paintings, Lister also paints portraits of famous pop icons. Trying to describe his style can be difficult as it’s not quite digital and it’s not quite Cubism. The modulated technique makes each image appear futuristic. They are like puzzles, carefully taken apart and then pieced back together to reveal the subject.  While most of his works are distinctly humorous, many are also strangely nostalgic, recalling moments from the recent past. Adam finds these works to be transformations of images that have a collective familiarity. Combining his love for geometric abstraction, color field painting, and old school digital graphics

Hi Adam, today MoW selected six of your artworks inspired by music. Can you tell MoW why you chose to create artworks representing music? And what did inspire you to create the artworks presented today? What is the story behind each artwork?




I started making portraits of musicians about 2 years ago.  The first one I did was RUN DMC, it was a custom made piece for a collector of mine.  It sparked something in my head, and it led me to build a "RAP ICONS" series of paintings.  I grew up in the 80s and the 90s, listening to hip-hop.  RUN DMC was one of my early favorites, them and LL Cool J, Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, Heavy D, to name a few. 

I started to take some of my favorite rappers of all time, and make 8-bit inspired portraits of them.  





The A$AP Rocky picture drew me in because I had never attempted to paint smoke before, and I liked that challenge.  He's also one of the current artists pumping in my studio while I work.  The JAY-Z portrait had to have him in the classic Yankees cap.  Jay is definite icon in rap history, so he had to be included in this series. 

The Tupac painting, like the JAY-Z portrait, just had to get made.  To me, Tupac was poet who knew how to combine and channel his anger and passion into powerful music.     




The Biggie Bape portrait is the 4th in a group of 5 Biggie paintings that I did.  Its from a classic photo taken of him about a week before he was killed.  BIG was another one of the artists that I respected so much as a kid, I remember back in 1994, playing "Ready to Die" constantly and discovering his new kind of rhyme flow, and I was a fan ever since.



Adam Lister ODB.JPG





The ODB album cover painting is like a time travel portal for me, I look at it, and i'm instantly transported back to high school, sitting in a smokey basement with my buddies, laughing and drinking and playing the tape over and over and over again. It was hard rap and it was funny as hell at the same time.  He was a one of kind artist, I don't think we'll ever see someone like him again.

The RUN DMC painting, as I mentioned, was the jump off picture for the group.  



Do you have a favorite piece between the ones presented today?

My personal favorite would probably be the ODB album cover.  I'm a die hard Wu fan, I'm actually planning a series of strictly Wu-Tang images.

Why is music important to you, in your life and in your art? 

I have music around me all the time.  When my 2 year old wakes up in the morning first thing we do is put on some new tunes while we make breakfast.  I'm trying to expose her at an early age to the wide range of sounds and musical ideas.  

Music in my art keeps me focused.  I always have something playing while I'm in the studio.  It keeps me away from the bullshit outside world, and it helps me connect with the physical act of making paintings.

 Do you have plans on creating new artworks inspired by music/musicians ?

Yes, absolutely.  I have an ongoing series of heavy metal album covers, this is an evolving project for another collector of mine.  He has commissioned me to paint 8-bit recreations of 8 of his personal favorite albums so far.  In addition to the Wu-Tang series, I'm beginning work on a group of paintings based on the newer guys on the rap scene, Future, Chance, Logic, just to name a few.   

Can you tell MoW more about your techniques and how long does it takes you to make an artwork?

I work mostly with watercolor, and lately I've been making a series of large acrylic paintings.  I always draw the picture in pencil first. I have an image of the subject that I'm working with and I start to break it down and deconstruct the entire composition.  I block in some of the major shapes, and then gradually add details.  After the drawing, I paint in the shapes by hand, each shape individually.  Depending on the size and complexity of the image, a painting can take anywhere from one day to several weeks.  

Do you listen to music when you’re working ?

Absolutely. Always. And I listen to a very wide variety, I go through fazes, I'll listen to Kendrick for a week straight, then switch to Bjork, then switch to RZA, then Jim Croce, I'm all over the place.  Its like everyone else, I like what I feel a connection to.

What is the song you liked the most lately? 

Song : Goldfrapp: Deer Stop (I'm literally hooked on this one like crack)

What album?

Album : A$AP Rocky:  Live. Love. ASAP

Are you a musician yourself? 

I'm not a musician, I wish I was. 

How would you see yourself as a musician?

I'd love to learn the piano someday.  My voice is too deep to sing, unless you like ogre music.  





Bad Dads: Winter 2016 (Spoke Art in NYC)

Supersonic Art: Winter 2016 (TBA)