I love that nothing I learn is ever unrelated to my work. If I read a geology textbook about riverbeds, it finds a way of influencing the way I draw. If I have lunch with a colleague who teaches math, the systems in their work wind up re-emerging as a new way to think about color.

Location: Indiana, United States

1. What does a typical day in your life look like?

Most of my artistic energy comes from new juxtapositions of ideas and images, so I value fresh input throughout the day. New images and ideas often collide with the studio projects I am working on and produce unexpected combinations that move images forward. The best days for me start early with coffee in an old mug, a pile of reference photos and the scraggly brushes I have used for years.

After working for a few hours, I usually shift gears to Indiana Wesleyan University, where I teach studio classes. Almost every element of this transition is helpful. The commute to campus brings me past some gorgeous old brick walls, trees, and neon signs. Teaching is a source of joy. The questions that students ask and the way they challenge and reinterpret ideas push me to rethink my assumptions about color, form, and concepts that I thought I understood solidly.

Teaching is wonderful and exhausting, so to be honest, I usually need to read a book after my students leave. I normally have five or six books going at one time, from fiction like My Name is Asher Lev (a recent favorite) to theory (Suzi Gablik and Martin Jay have been delightfully challenging my assumptions recently). Reading new ideas challenges what I think about painting, and it is a huge part of my work.

Prayer is also a huge part of ideation for me. It is energizing to feel God challenging my assumptions and encouraging me to take risks.

2. What does your studio look like?

I work in a wonderful house owned by a ceramic artist named Tara Rochford, who has started a co-op called Fold 334. My studio is in an upstairs old room with gorgeous water stains on the walls. The walls inspire my work as much as reference photos or materials do. In the corner of my studio are stacks of drawings works on paper that I collage in to larger paintings along with paint, cloth, wood, photos, and copper.

Intimate Immensity

Intimate Immensity, oil pastels on paper, by Henrik Soderstrom (Currently for sale)

3. Tell us one unique thing about you / your art.

An eight year old who saw my work in a show recently said “nothing is clear”. This was a delightful thing to hear. I like fog, mystery, and elements of paintings that allow the viewer to collaborate with me by interpreting the image. Barry Schwabsky’s writing about liminal states in painting, where an image oscillates between representation and abstraction has been very inspiring for me.

Prayer is the best refill for inspiration that I know of.

4. What do you love most about being an artist?

I love that nothing I learn is ever unrelated to my work. If I read a geology textbook about riverbeds, it finds a way of influencing the way I draw. If I have lunch with a colleague who teaches math, the systems in their work wind up re-emerging as a new way to think about color.

5. Which is your favourite artpiece so far and what is the story behind it?

I had the chance to work on a large sculpture and painting installation at the end of graduate school, which was a blast. The piece included elements of large paintings, cast iron and bronze, wood, ceramic, and plaster, and it took several months to complete. The work actually began as a large painting, but while I was layering imagery on the panel, I realized that what I was drawing was a picture of a sculptural house with a boat on its roof and a bridge to its front door, so I felt like I needed to bring the work in to three-dimensional space by building it.

The ideas that went in to the work had to do with everyday things becoming sacred and being redeemed- a sort of alchemy, so I was able to extend this in to the materials by building the sculpture with iron from the scrapyard, wood from burn piles, and painting panels reclaimed from the dumpster behind a museum where Massimo Vignelli had recently shown his work. Moving this piece around from one exhibition space to another (between New York, Rhode Island, and Indiana) was hilarious. With lots of help from wonderful friends, I loaded the work in to a ten-foot trailer attached to my tiny 1999 Geo Prism, which topped out at about 45 miles per hour with the weight attached. The effort was well worth it, as it led to some rewarding collaborations with the Society for Freshwater Science, FuturPointe Dance Company, and Thomas Warfield. While I haven’t made sculptural work on this scale since, I look forward to the next opportunity.

6. What are 3 things you can’t live without in a day?

Prayer, coffee, and a few moments outside.

7. Where do you get inspiration when you need it most?

Prayer is the best refill for inspiration that I know of.

8. What does success look like to you?

If I can make objects and images that help other people to perceive their everyday routines in new ways, I will be very happy.

To commission a piece by Henrik Soderstrom, visit his artist page now.