Monday, 19 February 2007

Interview with Michael Gillette

q) Introduce yourself first please?

a)Hello Claudio, I'm Michael Gillette

q) Where do you live and work?

a)I live in San Francisco, I have a studio at home. I moved to America from London back in 2001, San Francisco is a place I'm really grateful for.

q) How did you started? How have you realized you wanted to become an artist?

a) My mum was an art teacher so drawing was always in my life. I do remember entering a school art competition when I was 5 or 6, I did a picture of the moon with loads of spacemen on it, and I was called out in assembly in front of the school to show it. It won a £1 book token and I thought this is alright, I like this.
I did well academically at school, and university was on the cards, geography at Cambridge, or art history at Manchester. I knew however that I'd probably never graduate at either, I had no real interest. My parents were good enough to trust that I went to art college with the pretense of being a graphic designer, (probably thinking in practical terms of earning a living, so 80's ) though really I wanted to be in a band. I thought, go to art college, form band, and then the rest of my life would roll out like a big red carpet. Over the course of my degree I realized that neither music nor graphic design were happening for me, but by the time I'd come to that conclusion I was in my final year and had learnt pretty much nothing. So I graduated, by default, as an illustrator.The week after I left college, I felt I'd better shake some action, I needed money of course. I had more knowledge of music than skill as an artist, and Saint Etienne were similar pop culture enthusiasts, so, I found their address on the back of a single, made them up a package of my work and hand posted it. They liked it and I did some work with them which started me rolling, I was lucky to pick the right band at the right time. I think they were charmed by my naivety. I was keen.

q) What's your favorite medium to work in, and why?

a)I don't have a favourite, the first 7 years out of college I painted solely in acrylic and I got really tired of working the same way continually, I'd sort of painted myself in to a corner. I barely even drew, I'd trapped myself in a media. One weekend, I had a real freak out and pretty much ceased painting in acrylic, turned down commissions and started working digitally. When I started using the computer I absolutely set out to try different things. The modus operandi was anything goes.with different media, new possibilities are presented. This week I did a piece in chalks which is something relatively new to me, and it brought a feel that had previously eluded me. I have recently also been painting a lot with watercolour. It's really important to me to keep mixing stuff up, learning, getting turned on. I'm not hooked on technical ecstasy, but I do appreciate a bit o' skill.

q) Do you draw influences from a wide range of artists, musicians, books…?

a)Music really is very important, trying to capture a musical vibe in picture form is a strong motivation for me. The core of my musical taste is 60's psychedelia, which branches in so many different directions.For a few years at least I've been influenced by Victorian illustrators, Rackham. Grandville, Edmund Dulac John Singer Sargent's drawings, a lot is fairytale related, I think tackling more modern subject matter with that vibe is interesting, avoiding the cliches or subverting them. British Pop art is really important too Peter Blake, Hockney's drawings. I think the level of design and simplicity of the is work is important reminder. I saw a documentary about Frank Frazetta yesterday, and although sci-fi, fantasy has such a nerd reputation, it was very inspiring to see that level of creativity.

q) Do you rule by any tendency in your creative work, or you only follow what comes in your mind?

a)I try and keep things as open as possible and create in a way that serves the idea best, that really is my goal now, to be in service of an idea rather than giving the same kind of solution to whatever problem confronts.

q) What haven’t you done yet that you definitely want to try someday?

a)I try to create a project that has a longevity, I have an animated series idea which at some point I want to do

q) Are there any contemporary artists that you love?

a)I really love Roger Andersson he's a swedish, I guess he's a deathmetal watercolourist, he's working in the vein of Durer's studies but his subject matter is troubled kids, weeds.... the margins. I like work that finds a deep beauty in seemingly ugly things. I think that is an amiable thing to do.

q) How long does it take for you to finish a piece?

a)It depends how I'm working. But generally no longer than a day or two.

q) What music, if any, do you like to have on while you're working?

a) A lot of 60's pop & psychedelia, soul, soundtracks, folk. I like finding obscure music. currently I've been listening to Ronnie Lane from the faces, his pastoral solo work. I'd like to set up a little music blog.

q) Do you do many art shows?

a)I've done 4 in the last 10 years. Every few years I get the urge to do a show.Making art, displaying art and selling art are three different jobs. I had a couple of large solo shows in London, and I was seriously looking in to the idea of giving up commercial work, but I realized after a while, that it wasn't what I wanted to do. it wasn't me, I like to do a variety of things. I think we are all on our own little journey and the variables are infinite, so I try and just trust my gut.

q) Favorite clothing setup?

a)I've always been a bit of mod, pretty much all my clothes are second hand, I'm not trying to look like it's feb 7th 1966, but San Francisco is a goldmine for really amazing quality used clothes. I avoid FASHION wherever possible, the whole disposable made in China aspect of it really disturbs me. I guess clothes are more about dignity at this point.

q) What are you doing when you are not creating?

a)I listen to a lot of music. But mainly in my spare time I walk around San Francisco, it's endlessly entertaining. I'm a wanderer
q) Do you get emotionally attached to your work and do you miss your work when it is sold?

a)As I do so much commissioned work, when I make work for myself I don't actually have to sell it. These pieces are really for my own mental well being, and I'm fairly attached to them. Now I have a really great print maker who will make editions of my work, and I find that works out a lot better, people get to own affordable pieces, and I get to keep the original. The shows I had in London, I'd be about £5,000 down on framing, advertising, booze.... I had to sell at those events and I gratefully sold a lot of work which I never even managed to have photographed. I regret that a little but it really pleases me that my work is hanging in peoples lives.

q) What new projects or exhibits are in your future?

a)I think I'll have a show in the next year , I plan a drawing show, I have about 6 large pieces ready and I've been finding some amazing frames for them, so gradually it's coming together, I'm in no hurry though. I deal with deadlines constantly elsewhere in my life so my own art is protected behind a velvet rope.I've been collating work for a book, a sorta forward looking retrospective. That is a real priority, to get a publisher and put it out. Also I'm doing a talk in New York at the NYC Center for Architecture on Saturday March 17 as part of the candy sweet talk series. Commissions wise I'm doing some sleeves for Candie Payne in Britain and the envy corps in the U.S.

q) Describe your work space.

a) It's about 10 by 17ft room one half is my computer/ digital setup and the other half is based around a large drawing / painting table. It's the first solid place I've had to work since 2000.

q) What kind of projects/shows have you been involved in?

a) Whewff... for 6 months last year I worked on a large website involving the comedian Demetri Martin, called I did some work for beck throughout that time too, and over the years I've done all manner of work, from animation for the Beastie Boys through advertising and a about a zillion tee shirts.

q)your contacts….e-mail…links


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