A man of passion, art and engaged purpose, Gregg Chadwick is an American artist currently focused on exploring notions of time, place and memory. With a studio in an old airplane hangar, an impressive collection of Art books and a music taste that ranges from London Grammar to Prince, Chadwick lives and works with a great deal of openness and respect, gaining inspiration from many facets of life – and, most importantly, knowing how best to enjoy it.
We took some time to chat with Gregg about his creative process and daily routine.
Good morning, Gregg! What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
I like to get up early and make an espresso. There’s nothing like the aroma of good coffee to start my day. I have been reading Dave Egger’s book “The Monk of Mokha” which illuminates the story of a San Franciscan’s journey to his ancestral homeland with the goal of reinvigorating the coffee industry in Yemen. As President Obama said, “We may have different stories, but we share common hopes.” With this in mind, I try to be consciously aware of the numerous hands that have labored along the way to make it possible for me to prepare my morning cup.
What inspires you to create every day?
I am inspired by the ongoing beauty in the struggles and triumphs of human existence. I often think of Dave Isay’s phrase “Listening is an act of love” and open myself to the myriad of stories in our world. In my paintings I combine these stories with memories, dreams and desires to create images that resonate with life and mystery.
What does your work space look like?
My studio is in an old airplane hangar at the Santa Monica Airport. When I first walked into the space I was awed by the enormous ceiling and poetic light flowing from the skylights above. Each day when I unlock the door and step into my creative home, I am filled with ideas of space and opportunity. Inside the hangar, around thirty artists have their own private worlds. My space is filled with artworks in progress, a large table with jars full of clean brushes, and a palette covered with paint from years of use. Tubes of oil paints line the edges of the table in a rainbow of possibility. The back wall is lined with books in a large wooden bookshelf. Art books, novels, poetry, history, science, and politics crowd the shelves. When I am working, numerous volumes are spread open throughout the space, offering ideas and inspiration.
How does working in an old airplane hangar inform your process, vision or mindset?
I am always reminded of the history of innovation and the fight against fascism when I walk into my studio. During WWII, Douglas Aircraft used the Santa Monica Airport as a design and manufacturing center. Fleets of aircraft were sent out from here to fight across the globe. I also think of another airport used during WWII – Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport which, like the Santa Monica Airport is now a site for international art fairs and a growing art center. Within ten years the runway outside my studio will shut down for good like Tempelhof in Berlin and become a great park and arts and education center. I am proud to be a small part of this process. It warms my soul that former engines of military production are trading in their swords for ploughshares. Artists and musicians like Woody Guthrie with his guitar emblazoned with the slogan “This Machine Kills Fascists” have also been involved in the struggle for justice – using words and images, not bombs and bullets.
Describe the core of your technique or style.
I work with oil paint and usually create at least one color in each painting from ground pigments mixed by hand with linseed oil. Linseed oil has the propensity to grow more transparent with age and visible traces of earlier painted marks gradually appear because of this tendency – called pentimenti. I embrace this eventual outcome in my work and incorporate planned and unplanned pentimenti in my painting process.
Ghosts of earlier ideas appear within my artworks and combine with other transparent moments to create a semblance of movement, of time passing. I am also conscious of the presence of light within my paintings and build a combination of shadow and illumination to create a sensation of light emanating from the work.
What are your top 3 studio essentials?
My three studio essentials are books, natural light, and music. As mentioned above, my books span all genres but the art books in particular are like old friends – always ready for a visit or a chat. My favorite artists seem to speak to me through the pages – Richard Diebenkorn, Mark Rothko, R.B. Kitaj, David Hockney, Alice Neel, Georgia O’Keefe, Neo Rauch, Adrian Ghenie, Kerry James Marshall, Ando Hiroshige, Casper David Friedrich, Paul Cezanne, and so many more.
In the late afternoon in my studio, the light turns golden and seems to gild the edges of my paintings. In these moments the air seems to grow viscous, submerging the space into a room full of mystery.
Each body of work that I create has a sort of soundtrack. I have a number of musician friends and their music often interacts with my art. Musicians such as Carlo Siliotto, Kelly Colbert, Michael McDermott, Heather Horton, and Peter Himmelman have all inspired me. While I paint, I usually wear Bluetooth headphones that let me move around the room in a sort of dance. I step from palette to canvas and back again over and over. My playlists vary from London Grammar to The War on Drugs, John Legend, Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Bowie, Prince and more.
How do you know or decide when an artwork is finished?
I will sit with a work for a long time before I determine it is finished. Subtle layers of color and tone are added until I am satisfied that the artwork has its own interior light. I also consciously allow there to be space for the viewer to enter into the painting with their own ideas and stories. In this way, all of my artworks are collaborations with the audience.
What do you like to do to unwind after a day’s work?
After a long day of painting, I like to cook. In the evening I will visit the neighborhood groceries. Many of the folks in these stores have become my friends over the years. I’ll ask “What looks good today?”, we ask each other “How’s your day going?”
Often, I get back home with the ingredients for a meal of roasted branzino (loup de mer in French) with herbs. We have music on, of course. Most recently I Used to Know Her: Part 2 by H.E.R. Good conversation with family over dinner and a delicious meal. My wife, daughter and her friends make these evenings shine.
What’s your overall favorite aspect of the creative process?
I love to draw, to paint, to create, to put my vision on canvas or paper. I enjoy the initial birth of an idea, which I usually jot down on a scrap of paper or in one of my sketchbooks. Later, as an artwork develops into a larger project, it’s fun to go back into my notes and find the initial impetus of an artistic concept and then build it into another idea.
I also enjoy the camaraderie with other artists, at an exhibition, or watching a young art student walk into my studio for the first time with a mind full of questions.
And I enjoy sharing my thoughts on my art and life such as in this interview. Thank you for the opportunity and your vision at Singulart.
Thank you, Gregg!
You can take a look at Gregg Chadwick’s full profile here: