Purely Circumstantial is moving up in the world. From a logo made in Microsoft Paint, to one made by a real life artist, nothing can hold us back!
I’ve never met Henry in person, but I’ve been familiar with his art through his cousin and my close friend, Jonny Adamow. Jonny is another a profound artist I recommend everybody check out. Anytime he speaks of Henry it is with great admiration. Here is the first piece I bought from Henry:
Please enjoy our digital conversation with Henry Fernau, and don’t forget to support him if you can.
PC: Hi, Henry! Thank you so much for making this logo for us. Did you enjoy creating it? Or were you thinking “Oh god, let’s just get this stupid thing over with.”? Do you ever feel that way when it comes to drawing/making art?
HF: I really had fun making the logo and did a bunch of doodles. It’s always nice to get a commission that is open and free-form. I’m not good at pretending to not be me. I feel that way often and god-willing I hope to angle my career into exclusively doing my own idiosyncratic stuff. That said I love doing “covers”, like covering a song, and to do your alien guy, which is so simple and straight-forward, in a more ornate and elaborate form was right up my alley.
PC: I should mention our Purely Circumstantial connection. You were a counselor at a summer program Matt went to, right? And, your cousin is my good friend Jonny Adamow! Jonny is an incredible artist. Are there any other artists in your family? Is that where your inspiration first came from?
HF: I don’t have very specific or very clear memories of Matt at NYSSSA but he was one of the kids on my floor and his vibe was always very cool and friendly. Easy to deal and chat with and he had the like guy-who-takes-art-seriously, as like a true calling, kind of vibe about him. Jonny (@manta_j) is truly one of the greatest beings on this earth. I’m blessed with an amazing family. So much of them are really skilled artists and artisans. Either knowingly or unknowingly. My family, is a strong element of my lifefuel, not sure if it comes across in my work.
PC: Your creativity is not exclusive to making visual art, you also make music and are a generally creative person. How did that become a part of your life, and how is that process different from the visual art medium?
HF: Can’t remember when it started. As long as I’ve been aware I’ve been drawing/making things with intention. Since memory kicked in I’ve always had this CASIO keyboard that figures in a lot of my recordings. My dad was in a band in the village before I was born and continues to tinker privately but we don’t really do the same thing. I just got obsessed with tape recorders as a kid, so I’ve always been a one-man band on the side. I don’t pretend to technically be very musical but music affords me some abstract outlets I can’t really barf up as drawings or paintings. Like with art I have a lot of technical skill and knowledge to lean on to achieve what I want but music is just playing around. It’s all by ear mostly and it feels like just putting colors together.
PC: Did you ever record a song about the Pokemon Lapras? And now of course we have to know what your favorite Pokemon is.
HF: Yeah. My friend sings that one. Kakuna.
PC: When I look at your art I notice many different styles. You like to draw/paint superheroes and science fiction, but at the same time you’re making some really abstract and psychedelic stuff. Do you ever struggle with the pressure on artists to create a distinguishable style/identity?
HF: Yeah. It’s a two way street. Psychedelic art, dark art, low-brow art, fantasy art etc. need to be taken a lot more seriously. That is fact. But like artists themselves gotta find some middle-ground between high-concept abstraction and visually representative iconography. The two sides alienate each other way too much and it’s everybody’s fault. Same goes for Dark Art and light-hearted Psychedelic Art. It’s just two sides of the same coin.
PC: What’s Cabbit and Dog?
HF: An existential gag strip. Like if Calvin and Hobbes was just the snowman/art theory strips. I hope.
PC: Wait a second…where are you from? Where’d you grow up? Queens? How was that?
HF: Born in Flushing, Queens and raised in Saratoga County. I always have a foot in each pond. I love them both and that wasn’t always the case. Saratoga is a very privileged and self-important place but under the ridiculous tourism economy it can be very beautiful and quiet. Queens is very near and dear to my heart. Visually and emotionally. I hope to complete some Queens-inspired work in the near future.
I met Orlando while staring at a sign advertising a missing passport on the fence of Justice Gilbert Ramirez Park, just off the Morgan L stop. The sign read that the passport was found in the garbage at the park. “Do you know him?” Orlando asked myself and Cameron from his car. Sadly, we did not. Cameron attempted to reach out to the person whose passport was found, but to no avail.
I was not as concerned with the missing passport as I was impressed with the sign that Orlando made. He scanned the passport, printed it out, laminated it, and zip-tied it up in front of the park entrance on the corner of White and McKibbin street. I started to think, who the heck is this guy? He doesn’t work for the Parks Department, is this just a random one time samaritan? Seemed a bit more involved than that. Turns out he’s the unofficial/official(?) parkeeper!
About a week later, I was still thinking about this dude. This isn’t his job, he’s not getting paid. He doesn’t have any sort of supervisor to report to. Orlando takes care of the park simply because he loves to do it. I decided to call the number that was on the flyer for an interview. When I asked him for an interview he said, “Why not?”
Of course after I turn the microphone off is when the most interesting stories come up. He told me how he was at Ground Zero on 9/11, I watched his eyes change as he recalled the day. He did tell me that the missing passport had been claimed! He also offered me some of the loose tea and other herbs he keeps in the back of the park, and gave me instructions on how to dry them out.
After the interview was over, he asked where I was off to next. I told him I was going to stop by the record store down the street. He was bitter about that record store, it was the one that only gave him $50 for over 300 records. I wonder if I bought any of the records he sold to them.