Artist Spotlight: Sanford Black

"Being silly is a gift," says Denton artist Jamie McRoberts, a.k.a. Sanford Black, a.k.a strangebizart. Black's personality of being irreverent, goofy, and playful shows up in his aesthetic. However, that doesn't mean he goofs off with his work. His week is balanced, with 3 days devoted to working at the Bearded Monk, another 3 days to create art, and Monday as a day of rest. The rest of his time is spent with his girlfriend, sleeping, on various adventures, and drinking craft beer.

The roots of Black's artwork can be traced to his lifelong love affair with cartoons and animation. Ever since he could remember, Black was drawing random characters such as Mega Man. In high school, he got really into Japanese role playing games, and created unique characters with backstories and descriptions of swords, skills, and magic powers. He actually hasn't stopped doing that.

That penchant for creating characters came into play when he was one of five artists that took part in the Brooklyn Brewery pub crawl in collaboration with Greater Denton Arts Council. Black and four other artists each made a visual of the superhero that is updated annually to represent the Defender IPA. Take a look through his portfolio to look deeper into his penchant for contorted characters residing in a wildly colorful background. His work could be called odd, uncomfortable, vibrant, and cute. "It's the ideas that make me say 'haha, that's really fucking stupid’ that usually get made," says Black. 

The Path Ahead is Not Necessarily the one You First Considered and its Necessary to Walk Carefully
Sanford Black - 2016
painted after an ultra-shity 2015.

There are times when his canvas is devoted to deeper thought processes and a representation of more complicated emotions. After having an "ultra-shitty 2015”, Black spent several weeks completing the largest work on canvas he's done. Black says, "Most of that time I was simply sitting and staring at the canvas at various stages and trying to decide what to do next. It must have been what Jesus felt like when making the dinosaurs."

The process of creating his work involves patience and resilience. "Sometimes it's just sitting down and doing the work that inspires new ideas," says Black. There aren't always pre-conceived images in his head that are ready for him to present on canvas. At times, there are twelve pieces being worked on. He'll paint a background and let them dry. Then a head shape forms and the next step is contemplated while waiting on that to dry. Then he'll form a title with what is the first to pop into his mind. He says, "Sometimes not thinking about what something is going to be is the best way to make it something good."

What's next for him is to maintain his current schedule while executing a variety of art shows and events supporting anyone within the local creative space. Once the portfolio is properly padded with more design work and little objects fit to sell at community markets, he intends to pursue a Master's degree in hopes of working as an art professor. This past May, he earned a B.F.A. in Drawing and Painting from UNT.

In the meantime, two of his pieces are currently featured on the art wall in Bearded Monk. If you catch him on a night with festive music and fun people, you may catch him gyrating his hips. He'd probably do that even without there being fun people around. Black says, "I'm a silly dude most of the time, and dancing is a way to spread that silliness outward while simultaneously making people feel weird about themselves."


Portraiture by James Coreas
Artwork courtesy of Sanford Black
Header image design by Brittany Keeton