Please introduce yourself.
My name is Boris Pelcer and I am a visual artist. I use my visual art as a way to explore and visually capture the intangible complexities of this human experience. In a way, it’s like a visual journal of who I am. Thus every piece is a time capsule of who I was in that moment. I am originally from Sarajevo, Bosnia, SFR Yugoslavia. My family emigrated to USA when I was 13 in 1998. I now reside in Portland, Oregon, USA, where I live and create my work. I got my BFA in Illustration from Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, and my MFA in Studio Art from University Of Idaho: College or Art & Architecture.
How did you get into art and what motivates you to create?
Making art is one of those things can I can’t recall a time when I didn’t do it. I do remember moments when I was 4 or 5 when my dad was showing me how to draw realistic trees and nature. I think that bonding component of those moments most likely pushed me to do it more. As an adult, I’ve thought about how fascinating it is that I was drawn to create. I believe that I kept creating because I got praise for the talent that I had, and most likely I got a lot of attention from doing this, which must have been a motivation enough to keep doing it.
The act of creating something from seemingly nothing, is a really intoxicating phenomenon. Thus I love to do a lot. And the motivation seems to be very intrinsic, as in, I can’t help myself, I have to keep making art. I use art as a way to better understand my feelings and thoughts. In a way it is like a therapeutic and meditative practice. It’s very hard to describe this need to create everyday. At times I feel like a vessel for something higher, and bigger than myself. I truly am in love with my ability to create. I am certain I will continue creating until I die. There is no if and buts about it.
It’s one of my motivating factors in staying physically healthy, and exercising everyday, it’s so that I could make art into my old age. There was a period after my BFA when I was working as a graphic designer in fashion, and in my free time I stopped creating work for myself. I did some sketches here and there, but I didn’t finalize a single piece for over 3 years. I remember feeling like I’ve betrayed myself for doing that. When I realized that, I made a promise to myself to never neglect my personal artistic pursuits. No matter what is happening in my life, I will find ways to keep making my own personal work.
What memory do you recall most vividly from childhood about your creative talent?
The most vivid memories are probably the ones where I got to make art together with my dad when I was 4 and 5. That bonding component of it really made me feel connected to my dad. Its something he had the talents for but just did not nurture it very much. I think I enjoyed the attention that I got from creating art, that it encouraged me to do it more. There was a part of it that became like a performance.
When I was 4 or so, I would take a piece of paper and place it over an outline of a cartoon character in one of those coloring books for kids. But instead of coloring the character I would trace the drawing of that character, and than after I would finish tracing, I would take a brand new piece a paper and without looking at the traced image or the coloring book image, I would redraw the whole character from my memory. And it looked like I could draw Micky Mouse or some other known character from memory. It was a really thrilling thing to wow adults with those tricks.
Also, I feel like the act of creating alone was very enticing, especially once I began creating images from imagination. It allowed me to lose myself in the world of imagination, which ended up being a really wonderful tool during the years when I lived as a refugee, and later as an immigrant. Art allowed me a sort of escapism and a way to feel optimistic about life.
How would you best describe your style and who/what are some of your major influences?
I would describe my style as very surreal and psychedelic. In the last 5 years or so I’ve really embraced more of the psychedelic aesthetic, which aligns with my own personal growth journey where plant medicine has been an integral tool. In a way I am drawn by the aesthetic that feels surreal, and uncanny, because life can feel very strange and kind of absurd at times. Also my role as a creative seems to be that of someone who bridges reality with something more intangible and surreal, so my work tries to capture that surreal aesthetic.
Some of my major influences include Rene Magritte, Dali, Virgil Finley, James Jean, Alex Grey, Moebius. I love the boldness of Magritte’s work to have really unsettling objets just floating with a lot of open space. There is something really compelling about that simplicity. I love the way Alex Grey depicts human anatomy, but the reason why I was drawn to his human anatomy is not why he does it.
I was trying to find a way to depict human anatomy in a way that goes beyond the skin color, and race related features, so my art can be interpreted universally. It began when I was using a program for 3D modeling as a way to pose a figure for reference and one of the options that they offered was to have the figure be an anatomical model. I tried it out and I really enjoyed the fact that it made the figure seem more universal, more vague.
It reminded me of the way Alex Grey did his work, but was a bit different, yet I still decided to explore that direction. And I’ve been really happy with where its taking my art. Lastly, James Jean has been such an inspiration. I love the way he can explore digital art, acrylic paintings, sometimes its more realistic, other times more stylized, even cartoon like, yet its all cohesively his work. I found his exploration so liberating and have been really inspired to explore the same things myself.
What is part of the creative process that you would rather avoid, and part that you can’t get enough of?
I love the concept stage of an idea, its fun, playful, exciting. Anything could happen. And I love to see it as it evolves into the final image. The unknown is where the excitement resides. The rendering part is where I can sometimes loose steam with a piece, so that is something I wish I could avoid.
But I also know that in that rendering stage happy accidents happen, so I know that I have to be present for it all. I think when I create original paintings the part that I could avoid would be to just have someone retrace the image onto the paper or canvas and lay down all of the basic blocks of color before I jump in to add dimension to it all, and add all of the textures. Thats more possible with cleaner work.
How does commercial pressure and the business of art effect, shape, or guide your creative decisions?
This is the biggest challenge of running an art business. For years I have been a commercial artist during the day and making my personal art outside of that. And the two have always felt kind of separate. But in the recent years Ive been trying to really think about my personal art from the business perspective, which goes beyond just making sure to make beautiful art that really resonates with me.
I still try to just focus on what artwork can I make that will resonate with me the most. In the recent years Ive been paying attention to other factors such as, what do people respond to, how can I make sure that people connect with my work but yet have it be authentically me. And if they like it how would this look like in their homes. So in the recent years I began really playing with color a lot more, as well as rendering main figures in a vague way that makes it easier for more people to relate to.
I finally began turning my work into Limited Edition Prints, and really want the way I use the color to add something kind of magical to the homes of those that place my art on their walls. Also because so much of my art is very existential in nature, and at times kind of heavy, intense, I want the color to be the thing that adds another dimension to work that makes the work enjoyable despite the subject matter. Its like viewing very vulnerable and contemplative work from an optimistic perspective.
Lastly, my work in the last 2 years has been about my personal growth journey, which includes a lot of therapy, and many therapeutic sessions of plan medicine to really heal some old childhood wounds. Pandemic really highlighted the mental health crisis that is happening all over the globe. And because my work in the last couple of years has very much so been about my personal journeys of healing my own emotional wounds, it really resonated with many people who are on the same personal path, trying to heal.
So I’ve been putting in a lot of effort to really capture my own personal journeys with my personal art. And the hope is that I can find new ways for people to own my work and in doing be able to create a suniness with my work.
Your favorite book, song, film.
This is hard as I feel like I have periods when certain art forms really resonate with me more, and later that might change a bit. Favorite books: The Stranger by Albert Camus. I just love the psychological and existential angle of this book that really explores the idea of morality and human existence. It’s unsettling, and I like it. Attached by Amir Levine is a great book on attachment theory. Its been an incredible resource in understanding how my childhood and my relationship with my family has shaped all other relationships.
I highly recommend anyone that wants to know how to build a secure relationship with themselves and others to read this book, Dune is just a classic fiction that had a big impact on the world of fiction. Of course I resonate a great deal with the use of Spice as ritual in understanding one’s own mind, very similar to my own plan medicine journeys. Favorite films: The Matrix. This movie was the first movie that made me wonder and question the nature of my reality.
I remember I was 14, and it just blew my mind. I knew religion didnt make sense to me, but this kind of philosophical thought was something new altogether. Favorite songs: Jamiroquai – Alight. I heard this song when I was 12 before I even spoke English. And there was something so funky, melodic and so groovy that I’ve been in love with that tune ever since. Its like it captures the peak of being deeply in love with someone.
Send a message to your future self.
“Keep making the work that you believe in. Remember to have fun. Let go of perfectionism. Explore looseness. Continue your self growth work. Focus on human connections that bring meaning to you. Look for ways to continue to be a kind human being to yourself and others. And most of all remember, you are enough.”