As part of our member-only newsletter, The Exclusive, Mississippi Today caught up with Laurel-based artist Adam Trest. This interview was originally published on July 27 and shared with Mississippi Today members. Each month, we bring our members exclusive interviews and events, such as this conversation with Ben and Erin Napier, to thank them for their support of our newsroom. Become a member by donating any recurring amount today and be the first to hear about our upcoming exclusive interviews and events.
Trest is a part of the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Artist Roster, which selects artists from various medias and helps organizations fund presenting the artists through grants. His work is featured in the Caron Gallery and in a current exhibit at the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience in Meridian, Mississippi.
His unique style caught the attention of many when he was featured on HGTV’s “Home Town” with Ben and Erin Napier. Recently, Trest illustrated a children’s book written by Erin Napier titled “The Lantern House,” which made him a New York Times bestselling illustrator.
Tell us about yourself and how you got your start.
“I started painting before I could write. I can’t remember not doing it. I grew up with parents who saw my potential in the arts and made sure I always had what I needed to create. I graduated in 2009 from Mississippi State with a BFA in Painting, and have been working as a professional artist ever since. I am a painter, I work mostly in acrylic paints and inks.”
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
“I find most of my inspiration from life in the south. I love the flora and fauna of Mississippi, and I love the tradition of storytelling that is so rich in our area. I often refer to my process as “visual storytelling” because I find my work most successful when the viewer can tell me more about my paintings than even I knew about them.”
How has being from Mississippi and the South influenced your work?
“I love the landscape of Mississippi. I just completed a series of paintings for the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience in Meridian (the MAX) that is a celebration of each of the regions of Mississippi. Each painting showcases one of the regions and gives a taste of the plants and animals that are unique to that area. There are so many wonderful secrets in our state, and I had such an amazing experience seeking them out and telling their stories through my work.”
How do you measure success for yourself and what has been the biggest success of your career?
“I was raised in a home that celebrated hard work and persistence. To me the measure of success that I’ve seen has been equal parts hard work and not giving up (my wife would probably say stubbornness). I’m extremely goal oriented, so to me, success comes when I’ve met a goal I set for myself. The biggest success of my career (and also one of the most challenging projects of my career) has been the launch of the children’s book I had the privilege of illustrating for Erin Napier. Working on a traditionally published children’s book has always been a major goal of mine, and seeing that come to fruition, and then also seeing my name on the NYT bestseller list for a few weeks following the release. That was a pretty amazing time.”
Since being featured on Home Town and illustrating The Lantern House, how has the increased attention affected your work? Has it changed the way you approach your art?
“The exposure that has come from both “Home Town” and “The Lantern House” has been pretty amazing. It has given me the opportunity to really push myself into the style I have developed. It has allowed me to create work that I’m really excited about. I wouldn’t say that it had changed my approach too terribly much, but it has given me a springboard to work on projects that would possibly have been out of reach before. One of those projects is a new line of cement tiles that I was given the opportunity to design that will be out later this year.”
What do you hope people think and feel when they view your art?
“My biggest desire for my work is for people to see it and it to evoke some kind of memory. Because my work is heavily influenced by traditional folk art and nature, I love it when my work serves as a sort of illustration that awakens a lost memory for the viewer. When someone comes into the Caron Gallery and sees one of my dog paintings and it reminds them of their childhood pet, or maybe the first dog they brought home for their kids. At that point, the painting has taken on a life and a story beyond anything I could have hoped for. At that point the painting has taken a life of its own.”
How has being a part of the Mississippi Arts Commission artist roster impacted your career?
“Absolutely! Being on the artist roster has opened quite a few doors. Without being on the artist roster, I would not have gotten the museum exhibition that I have opening July 26 at the MAX in Meridian.”
If you were to give a piece of advice to an aspiring artist from Mississippi, what would it be?
“I would probably encourage them to find their peers! One of my favorite things about being a Mississippi Artist is that I get to count myself amongst other artists working in Mississippi today. There are so many wonderful and kind artists around our state, and I have become a better artist for knowing them. Having a local support system in South Mississippi and also an even larger network on the state level. My experience has been one of encouragement and support.”
How can people find your work?
“My original works as well as prints of my work can be found at www.adamtrest.com.”