Clint Carney

Clint Carney is a whirlwind of creative output. A painter, musician and filmmaker living in Burbank, California, Clint dances between artforms with enviable ease.

I have known Clint for about ten years and in that time I’ve attended his gallery shows, seen him perform with his electro-industrial band System Syn and viewed a screening of his twisted horror film Dry Blood.

I always leave marvelling at his talent. In the case of his art shows and film screening, I’ve also left feeling shocked, titillated and sick in the best way possible.

Clint’s signature style is bone chilling. But he’s also one of the kindest, most positive people I’ve ever met. I have two theories. Either he channels more than his share of darkness into his creative expression and what’s left radiates goodness. Or when he sits down to make art he becomes a portal for the demons of hell to spew out their bile through. It’s probably not the second one, but stranger things have happened.

I had no doubt that Clint is well equipped to weather self-quarantining with grace. But I was curious to see what he was up to and hoped his positivity might help myself and others shake off some feelings of creative impotence in this stressful time.

Cephalophore painted by Clint Carney, 2017

Living in a highly populated area of Los Angeles, how has your daily life changed since the spread of Covid-19?

Most of my work is for the movie industry, that has dried up considerably. The silver lining is that I have more time to work on some personal projects. Though, I do miss being able to go out to restaurants and the movies any time. And of course, I miss seeing my family and friends. At least we have things like Skype, Zoom, and Facetime nowadays so we can still interact that way.

You are a painter, a filmmaker and a musician, as such a prolific creative, are you drawn to any one means of expression more than others right now?

Though I love all the different mediums that I create in, I prefer writing the most. Being able to build worlds, people, and creatures from my imagination is about as fun as it gets for me. I’m hoping by the end of the lockdown that I’ll come out the other side with some new screenplays completed.

How has your creative process been affected during this time?

I’m trying to make the most of the time, and create as much as possible. But much like it was before the virus, it still feels like there is never enough time in the day to get everything done that I want to. I just do what I can with the time I have, and also make sure to take breaks to spend time with my wife who is stuck here with me.

Clint Carney painting a work in progress

You have already livestreamed one painting session from quarantine. How did that go and why invite people into your studio at this time?

The livestream was a lot of fun. I’ve done that before in the past, but during this quarantine I ended up with a lot more viewers than normal. I’ll likely do a few more live-streamed painting sessions before this is all over.

Most of the time when I want to paint though, I don’t want to bother setting up a camera or talking to people while I do it. I prefer to immerse myself in the work, but every now and then it’s fun to have an audience.

What role (if any) does art and the artist have at a time of crisis?

Well, when people need a distraction from reality or are simply just bored, they turn to the arts to entertain them. So without the mental stimulus that art provides (and by art, I mean any creative medium, including books, music, and film), I think the majority of people would be having a much more difficult time.

Are you painting a specific series or theme now?

I am, though it’s something that I started a long time ago, so it’s not centered around the pandemic at all. I’ve made a few work-in-progress images public on social media, but for the most part, I’m keeping the majority of my new work under wraps for now.

Are you reflecting on current events in your creative work? And do you feel pressure to incorporate current events into your art at this time?

I’m not consciously doing that, but certainly my state of mind is influenced by the world around me, and that will inevitably spill out into some of my work.

I think that a lot of what gets created by artists during this time period will be attributed to our current events, whether or not that’s what the artists have intended. There are a few songs on my new album that have certainly taken on different meanings given these events, however they were all written before the current chaos.

When times are already bleak, does the role of horror driven content change at all?

I don’t know. I think that’s a very individual question. I love the horror genre, and my opinion on it certainly hasn’t changed.

Poster from the award winning horror film Clint produced, wrote and starred in in 2016

You’ve been working on a short film from home. How is that going? What kind of adjustments have you made as a one man crew with location restrictions?

I spent just under 48 hours making it, and am happy to say it’s completed. Dread Central was holding a contest, asking for short films made while in isolation. I thought the challenge of having to make a film without any outside help or materials would be super fun, so I took a break from my normal routine this last weekend and knocked one out. I wrote it, did the set dressing and lighting, was operating the camera (my iPhone actually… part of the contest rules), did some puppet work, acted, edited, colored, did the VFX, recorded the music, and did the audio mix with just a couple hours left to spare before the contest deadline.

I don’t think it’s going to win, but I don’t care about that. It was just a good motivator to stay active on the filmmaking side of things during this time. The hardest part was having to constantly run back in forth from behind the camera, to adjusting the lights, and then acting. But for what it is, and the time I spent on it, I think it turned out pretty cool.

At the beginning of March you posted that the new System Syn album was close to completion, is that still the case? Are you able to work on your music from home?

Yep, all the songs are written. I just need to record the final vocals on two of them. Then it’s just refining the mixes, and working on the album art.

Ted Phelps, who has mixed and mastered six of my previous albums, is performing those same duties on this one, and his mixes are sounding amazing.

I feel that it’s the best album that I’ve written yet… which of course is no indication as to whether anyone else will like it. Ha. But, hopefully it will find its audience. Overall it’s a very sad album, and I don’t know if that’s what people want to listen to these days. But, I like it.

The Visitor by Clint Carney, 2016

If you were going to choose a piece of visual art from your collection to encapsulate the current environment, what piece would it be and why?

I know that this may sound like a cop-out answer, but I already have different emotions associated with the art in my collection, and those feelings for the art have yet to be tainted by the current circumstances. Fingers crossed that it remains that way.

What advice would you give to other creatives who might be feeling blocked right now?

I don’t think there is any answer that I could give that would apply to everyone. Every artist has their own creative process, and they all are experiencing the state of the world in different ways right now.

All I can say is that making art makes me feel better. If it makes you feel better too, then by all means, do it. But if making art is a chore for you, or frustrating, or depressing because you are creatively blocked, it’s also entirely okay to take a break from it.

Are there any supplies or tools that you rely on or would like to have but are currently struggling to get?

Fortunately I’m all set with painting supplies. I do wish that I had some more clay and molding materials, so that I could make some masks, but there will be plenty of time for that in the future.

What kind of art have you been consuming and why? Is this different than what you typically consume?

Other than not being able to go to a movie theater or music concert, my art consuming habits have thus far remained the same. I’m currently enjoying the third season of Westworld on HBO, and watching The Office for about the millionth time through. Also, in January I got an Oculus Quest VR headset so I do get to take a break from things and go into VR land every now and then.

Surrender by Clint Carney, 2017

Did you have any planned showcases that have been postponed or cancelled? Or were there any shows that you were looking forward to attending?

I had tickets to see Dean Koontz give a lecture on April 1st, that got canceled. And I have some group art shows that I had committed to, which I’m pretty sure will be postponed.

I’m still working through the plans on what to do with the release of my new SYSTEM SYN album. Certainly for the short term, I won’t be able to play any shows to support the release, so I’m putting a lot of thought into how to handle that. I don’t have the answer just yet though.

Has your financial situation been affected by the spread of Covid-19?

Well, aside from some small gigs that I started before this, paid work has pretty much come to a stop. Art sales and shipping physical products in general are all hurting all over. But you know, we’re all in this same boat together.

There are many more people out there in the world that are having a much harder time of it than I am. So, I’m trying not to worry about that too much by focusing on creative projects and staying healthy.

What can we do to support your work at this time?

If you use a music streaming service like Spotify or Pandora, you can add my music (SYSTEM SYN) to your favorites or put it in a playlist.

If you are into horror movies, you can watch my film “Dry Blood” for free on Amazon Prime and Tubi. And if you dig it, tell a friend and/or leave us a good review. All that helps out in a big way, and you don’t have to spend any money to do it.

But the biggest thing that you can do to help not just me, but everyone out there, is to stay home and adhere to strict social distancing. Everyone’s collective behavior is what will dictate how fast or slow this virus stays around. And the faster it’s gone, the faster we can all get back to doing all the things we enjoy.

Thank you so much to Clint for doing this interview.

You can follow Clint on Instagram @systemsyn.

Some of Clint’s deliciously gory original paintings and prints are available from Hyaena Gallery.

If you love horror and have not seen Dry Blood, it’s well worth watching. You’ll be glad you are locked inside for a change.

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