BIJIJOO Talks About His Paintings, Music, Creative Process, Life & More

by Rubén Palma
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Bijijoo (given name: Michael Todd Horne; nickname/preferred name: B) was born in Atlanta, Georgia (USA) in 1975 and has lived in New York City; Seattle, Washington; and Eugene, Oregon. B currently resides in Portland, Oregon with his wife and daughter.

B has been painting and drawing since childhood. He has experimented with figurative, abstract and conceptual work in a variety of media, including writing, music and video (an archive of B’s music from 1993-present can be found here). B diverged from art practice to pursue technical studies in mathematics, physics, computer science and chemistry, culminating in a Ph.D. in biophysics in 2008 (select scientific publications can be found here) and a career as a research scientist and then patent agent (most recently working in Nike’s intellectual property department). He then returned to painting by creating several series of surrealist works, including The Presidential HamCelebrity Still LifeThe Arthropod CompanionDemonstrations. After pausing to remodel an old house and become a father, he began resetting his painting practice in 2018. B’s current work draws on his technical background in math, science and computer programming, as well as his daughter’s imagination and love of monsters.

Hi BIJIJOO! Thank you for sitting down with me. First question that I always ask. How does a regular day look like for you in Portland, Oregon?

Hi! I’ve got a 6 year old daughter so she really dictates what the days look like.  School days it’s getting her ready and off to school before taking a walk and then getting to work on art projects. 

I’m curious. So your real name is Michael Todd Horne. How did you get your nickname BIJIJOO, or B?

I just started using the letter B or words that start with that letter as a tag about 25 years ago and it stuck. Bijijoo came about when I was settling on choosing an internet domain name around 2002.

Before we start talking about your art, I’m thinking that it would be cool to establish a timeline. So with these next couple of questions I will try to go back in time a little bit. So! Growing up, what kind of kid were you, what did you enjoy doing and how did you spend your time?

I’ve always been on the introverted side and spent much of my time drawing in my room. 

Please correct me if I’m wrong. But doing my research I understand that you started to paint at around the age of 9-years-old. But then at some point you stop painting to focus on other things am I right? Can you talk to me a little bit about that?

Yeah I had a propensity toward making art from a very early age and started taking my first oil painting classes when I was around 9 years old. Oil painting has always been my favorite. I’ve never really stopped making art since then, just focused on other things sometimes as well.

Ok, so at some point you start studying mathematics, physics, computer science and chemistry, which culminated in a Ph.D. in biophysics. And then you’ve worked as a research scientist and a patent agent, most recently for Nike. All of these fields seem pretty far removed from the world of art where you’re currently thriving. My questions are. When did you start having an interest in art and what made you want to pick up your air brush again and start painting?

Like I mentioned I’ve always had a hand in art, always working on some art related projects, even while studying math or working as a scientist or patent agent.  Art has always been something I do. I started refocusing my work during the pandemic and developed a really sustainable art practice during that time.

You had your daughter about 6 years ago. Has becoming a father influenced or affected your creativity in any way?

Yes, massively. Seeing her approach to drawing and creativity has been a huge influence on me: how she approaches making it in such a free and open way. I’m lucky because she is really into making art too, so it’s something that we bond over.

With that in mind. When did start taking being an artist seriously?

I’ve always taken it seriously but only really began to see potentially making money doing it about 4 years ago, just from successes with gallery shows and that kind of thing.

Ok B. Let’s talk about your art now. The various oddly shaped creatures / monsters. Who are they? And what’s your inspiration behind them?

Mostly I use free form drawing or unpredictable processes to generate initial imagery that I then finesse. The creatures, monsters, and other things are just what comes out of me during that process.

So what made you want to document these various monsters / creatures? And what is it about the topics: Struggle, celebration, and introspection that resonates with you? Lastly. How do you capture the essence of personal space and time in your artwork, and how does this contribute to the narratives that emerge from your pieces?

I never set out with a particular thing in mind to create, but as mentioned above, have developed a process that I use to discover imagery. I draw all the time, every day, and make so many discoveries that way. I think the results of this process reflect my subconsious and what I’m going through personally while I create. 

I know that you use both traditional and digital techniques. Can you walk me through your creative process. From beginning, to end result?

Yeah I usually start with a drawing, many times a digital drawing. Then I problem-solve how to render it on canvas, where it evolves in unpredictable ways. Sometimes I bring the work in progress back into the digital realm to map out next steps. It’s all problem solving and developing an ever evolving and growing toolkit of techniques.

With that in mind. How long has it taken you to develope your current style?

47 years (my whole life)

How do you approach color?

I use a ton of intuition and draw on experience to choose color palettes .  Its not very scientific haha

You’ve had several of your paintings gone viral. Both on TikTok and Instagram. And I recall seing your works in my suggestion feed a lot during the pandemic. That must have been a trippy experience, being in lockdown while your art is going viral. Talk to me a little bit about that experience. 

Yeah, social media can be helpful in getting your work out there for sure (even if there are maddening things about it). Having stuff go viral is cool. A friend of mine introduced me to tiktok and I started doing process videos for that and they were a big hit. I think I got like 20k followers on there in a day when one of those went viral, that was pretty crazy.

So what did the pandemic mean to your artistry? Did you turn it up a notch during that period? And could the pandemic in some ways have been a blessing in disguise?

For sure, it gave me more time to focus on work in my studio  and since more people were online, I made a ton of art connections, really grew my network which was super helpful.

Alright B. So besides painting you’re also a musician. Can you tell me a little bit about that? Like how long have you been making music? And what makes it one of your prefered ways of expressing yourself?

The first instrument I learned to play was the alto saxophone (when I was around 10 years old). Since then, I’ve learned to play so many different instruments (none very good but enough to get by) and have been making home recordings for about 30 years. The creative process of art and music go hand in hand for me.

What motivates you?

Being the best person and dad I can be for my daughter is my biggest motivation.

How would you describe a perfect day?

Doing something creative with my daughter and getting to spend some time working on my art projects

Alright B. I always ask these two questions at the end of an interview. The first is. What’s your favorite movie(s) and why?

I love horror movies. Some current favs are Barbarian and Nope

The second is. What song(s) are you currently listening to the most right now?

I really only listen to music when I’m driving in the car (pop music radio) or when I’m working in the studio (usually high energy techno).

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