Driven by Disease

Graduate Student Interview with Nathan Motsinger

Article by: Maddie Pearson
Photography by: Kyle Stalla

Nathan Motsinger is a graduate art student at Eastern Illinois University. Below is his artist statement: As an artist, I am influenced by the creative process of layering, editing, and creating areas of the unknown.  Two inspirations that drive my creativity come from exploring topographical maps to observing the inner workings of viruses and disease. Expressing my inner emotions through such raw material, while also combining the severance of architectural landscapes, has granted me the opportunity to identify with the technique, forced perspective.

With a high sense of curiosity, I am constantly searching for new ideas and paths to take, which challenges my artistic realm to use various mediums in order to both achieve personal connections with nature and the abstractions from the paint.  By surveying the core of spatial qualities and how those layers are precisely placed together, I have witnessed how to control the visual elements of my design. 

How did you first become interested in topographical maps and viruses and disease, and how have these inspirations evolved over time?

I have always enjoyed exploring areas of the world, in hopes of finding out more about the unknown. One of these explorations took place in Colorado, where the town I lived in was titled the “highest incorporated town in the U.S”. When I went straight from farmland to living in the high alpine, my expectations to survive increased. I had to plan, gather, and build fires every night for warmth.  I had to find my way around pretty quickly! Knowing where you can and can’t go is a huge asset in finding the beauty in what’s around us. Backcountry snowboarding in zones that may or may not avalanche and having the proper tools to survive is a key ingredient in making it out alive. You never know your full potential until you put yourself in those situations and find out how to make it work out. These experiences in the mountains have driven me to include topographical maps in my current artwork. Viruses and disease have been a constant wonder to me; it’s been a nonstop search to understand why my best friend passed away at age 23. An unknown disease attacked his heart and it has driven me to explore my ideas of why this happened and how. So, through painting, I am becoming closer with myself, and finding those solutions to unknown diseases. The passing of my best friend has always given me motivation to keep painting and to continue exploring the unknown.

“I start off with a blank white canvas, a white bill of health, and I come into the studio as the disease that takes over these forms”

Do you feel you’ve found a balance between the two, or is it something you’re still searching for?

I am trying to balance the two in my body of work for this program; it has been challenging! However by balancing, I am discovering what I want from myself. I have always said, I start off with a blank white canvas, a white bill of health, and I come into the studio as the disease that takes over these forms and areas of the unknown and make them known to me, to help me better understand the ideas and concepts within my work. Through time, I will then become more powerful as my disease becomes stronger and I can use that tension in many ways to overcome the solutions I am searching for through painting. I think that’s the goal right there!


If a new idea comes up that you find interesting, how do you go about incorporating experimenting with the idea?

I attempt to work out ideas in my head and try to figure out both the problem and the solution simultaneously. It’s a tough process, but it’s also interesting in the way of once you feel it, or know that’s the answer, its such a great feeling to overcome. Go with the flow and let the painting be the process of finding out the answers. I would encourage drawing as much as you can! A sketchbook is a great tool to find out what works and what doesn’t. The best thing about being an artist is you never have to leave the office; the office is your head. So, it’s always working itself out in one way or another.


Is there any advice you can give to young artists out there who may be thinking of trying something new and exploring ideas much like your own?

DON’T GIVE UP! Don’t give up on your thoughts or ideas for any reason. Always be exploring with a sketchbook or ideas with your friends. Get different perspectives on life and your ideas. Try them out and don’t be afraid of where they may take you! Art is a process of discovery that seems to never leave my thoughts. Stand up for your views and make it a point to try them out. You will never know your full potential until you let yourself be open to exploration and constructive criticism. There will always be someone else’s perspective on how they see your work, but you are the artist, and it’s just another person’s opinion. Don’t let it get you down or feel like you’re not worth it. You learn so much from your mistakes and you will start to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Oh, and invest back in yourself!! Do what it takes to stay on the road of exploration and get outside the studio from time to time. Plenty of life to be had, and experience is key in the art world.


No more articles