Interview With Robert Nava


How long have you been painting? 
I have painted since age 3, but began to paint more my own projects around 2007 so in that  sense, 10 years

What is your approach or process towards painting?

I mentally link painting to athletics and a kind of training like that.  My stretching would be brainstorming early in the morning.  I keep sketchbooks and draw in the phone all the time.  Music is loud in the studio, and I love it when I can do a piece in one hit.  Although sometimes it’s more of a battle. I get in physical rhythm with my marks depending on energy.

Do you have a day job? Or, do you work full time in your studio.

 Full time, I guess you could say I do ‘jobs on the side’. on occasion, I drive.


How do you come up with your ideas?

 Ideas happen in fragments of what people say/overheard snippets, small sounds.  Yeah I think it is a general collection of little things that have no stake or value often be overlooked, (nothing grandiose) I like the little things, the pieces of life..from there bigger ideas happen.


Your truck paintings are pretty great and refreshing to look at. Explain your fascination with trucks.

Nyc traffic hit me one day was like a slow moving gallery…haha like look at all these rectangles in your face.  So from there I focused on it.  Even the aspect of the labor, intensity, shipment, carrying, transporting and so forth became very motivational for me.

Your content seems to shift from trucks to  loose, humorous, expressionist spray paintings. Personally, I find those really engaging and personable. Describe your shift (If you feel like there even is a shift or change) from seemingly tight abstract truck ends to really loose and fun gestural paintings. 

I’d like to think of them as individual series.  If they were a runner, one of them is marathon and the other is more a sprinter, I have fun with both.  To me they are the same realm, just different areas of interest and help expand my horizons.

Who are your favorite artists?

 I mainly look at ancient art and children’s art, so many of the names I’m not sure.  There are so many great artists though, at the moment, I’ll go with Goya, Horace Pippin, Van Gogh

Do you have any favorite art books?


What are your feelings on academia?

Academia is a great place for conversation and deep levels of theory.  You are able to listen to different perspectives all within a small physical radius, but I also feel it becomes a different experience when out in the world. I think being able to that deep is very valuable, but equally are the things that are in your everyday environment.. knowledge is everywhere.


Robert Nava earned his MFA from Yale University. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He is currently represented by Night Gallery. To learn more about Robert and his work please visit 

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Displaying IMG_8261.JPGstudio2
IMG_8253 studio

How long have you been painting?


Technically I started painting in a serious, trying sort of way in a high school class, I guess I was 16, so that makes it about 14 years.

But, even with all these thousands of hours dedicated, I still sometimes feel funny calling myself a ‘painter’.  I am a painter because what else am I?  But knowing how much there is to know about what that means makes me feel a bit pretentious announcing this.  Especially on something like a customs form or doctor’s intake form.  A lot of times I’ll just write ‘adjunct instructor’ so I don’t have to deal with my own feelings on the subject or the other person’s ideas about it.

What is your approach or process towards painting?


I am  a studio painter.  I like having a particular place that I paint, with my things around me.  I like working on many panels at once.

When I was younger the hardest part of painting was figuring out what to paint, where to start.  So now I have developed some strategies against that.  I keep the first two pages of every sketchbook reserved for ideas for paintings.  Anything from a shadow I saw on a walk to the colors used in a painting by Manet.  I stay really casual about what that intial impetus was and trust that once something is down on the panel I have an entry point.  Then I try to respond through form, what the painting needs.  If I hit a dead end, I have a few options.  I can turn it upside down, block out parts that aren’t working, start a new one of the ideas directly on top or let it rest and move to another panel.

Who are your favorite artists?
Biala, Bonnard, David Park, Piero della Francesca. 
Those are the painters I have loved for the longest.  I seem to feel most at home with Early Renaissance and Figurative Modernist stuff.  But I try to look at a lot, especially recently I have expanded what it is that I spend time with.

What are your interests besides art?


Probably the subjects you see painted in my work….

Cooking and eating I love, I think I would have ended up going that route if I didn’t paint.

Walking, but not in nature.  I like walking around Philly.  And stopping in to shows at a museum or galleries.

Repurposing trash picks and old stuff.  I get so much satisfaction out of finding ways to use things I find.  I absolutely hate the idea of Michaels or AC Moore, they take all the fun out of it.  To spend no money and work creatively with the materials you have is a great pleasure for me.

I also really like plants but I think I need a bigger garden space because I’m no good at it.  I think I am too into them and their every move, like a plant helicopter parent.

Do you ever have awful studio days?


Yes, of course, many more bad or mediocre than good.  I think anyone who doesn’t needs to change their working parameters.  It doesn’t feel good but its the only way to know when you hit it.

Do you read often, does it influence your work?


Yes, I read a lot; articles, interviews, books.  Love to consume stories, I love books, I love podcasts, I love TV and movies.  I read a lot of fiction, this year the best few have been: A Tale for the Time Being by Ozeki, The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Murakami, A Fine Balance by Mistry.  I read about 10 others but they were not influential on me in any way I can tell.

These four, yes, in my recent show I had a painting called Toru’s Spaghetti Breakfast.  That is a painting that I started of myself at a diner in Paris but realized it was also the main character from Murakami’s novel so I tried to resolve it by letting both narratives live in the same painting.  It’s not usually that direct, but definitely an influence.


What are your feelings on academia?


My biggest feeling is it is far too expensive for students and far too little pay for adjuncts.  Not just in crippling both parties financially but it creates a strange dynamic.  Students feel they are consumers and should be satisfied on a customer service level, and I don’t blame them, many of my students work overnight shifts to pay for their education.  And adjuncts feel disregarded and hesitant to make the tough decisions because their jobs are so unstable.

I think it is very difficult to be an excellent instructor in the arts.  You need to create an environment which is both open and communal but also one where the expectations are extremely high.  Many students who I have as first years come in with the assumption that a drawing class is going to be easy.  Very quickly they realize this is the hardest class of the semester.  But I think its important because those who stay really want to be there and they really take off.  It keeps me up at night but when I hear from a student a few semesters later it reassures me I am doing the right thing for them long term.


Aubrey Levinthal earned her MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Her work has been exhibited nationally. She currently lives an works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

to learn more about Aubrey Levinthal please visit:




Mauve Interior

Blue interior-e_o



annie- green weaving_o


How long have you been painting? 

I’ve been painting / drawing / arting for my whole life I guess, obviously starting in the childhood way. I went to a music & arts day camp every summer from ages 5 – 12. I think I was 10 or 11 when I decided I wanted to be an artist, and before that I think I wanted to be something like a singer/artist/model/actress/teacher/dancer/musician/astronaut.  When I was 13 I applied to two different charter high schools, one for art or one for math & science. I chose the arts high school and I think that’s when I really started taking painting seriously.

Who are your favorite artists? 

That’s such a hard question! I think also because my work is so interdisciplinary it’s hard to just briefly name a few. In one moment I will focus on painting, then in the next ceramics, then textiles, woodworking, etc. I can’t ever stick to just one thing, and my influences definitely reflect that. But for the sake of this I will try to pair this down to the essentials:

Historical – Anni & Josef Albers, Henri Matisse, Andre Derain, Emile Bernard, Paul Serusier, David Hockney, Alice Parrot, Sonia Delaunay, Lucie Rie, Hans Coper, Yanagi Soetsu

Contemporary – Tom Polo, Michael Bennett, John McAllister, Elizabeth Malaska, D.E. May, Jonas Wood, Joshua Abelow, Helen Levi, Cody Hoyt, Kat & Roger

What are your interests besides art?   

Landscapes, wild spaces, plant matter. I really like camping, swimming holes, and hot springs. I also am really in love with flowers. I realized recently that I can straight up go on a walk and look at flowers forever and ever. I also like good beer, herbal medicine, throwing pots, yoga, and eating tacos. Yeah!

What inspires you to work? 

Going to museums, a clean studio, good vibes. : – )

Do you ever have awful studio days? The ones that you want to quit painting forever?

I think I jump around to too many things to have this feeling, actually. If I get frustrated or bored with one medium I jump to another, and I think material-wise my work goes in cycles. Painting is always at the root of it though, and it’s such a personal thing to me. Never have I thought about quitting making stuff, but maybe instead it’s like “ah, that’s getting boring, what’s the next thing I can do?”.

Your weaving is pretty cool. Are they related to your paintings in anyway or are they different?  

I think everything I do is pretty related. Material decisions are always driven by color, pattern, texture, and a feeling of joviality. I really see the weavings as paintings, especially the ones attached to their frame looms, and almost all of the work I make is in response to landscape, the relationship between inside/outside, and residing in the domestic setting.

Do you read often?

It’s hard to keep a good reading practice while in school but I try to read at least a few books per year outside of my studies. The one I read most recently was Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay by Christopher Benfey. It’s simultaneously a kind of memoir and history book about American craft traditions and the beautiful metaphors of soil. It is all discussed within the context of his own memories and family history, which involves amazingly rich subjects like old North Carolina folk potteries and Black Mountain College.  Highly recommended!

What are your feelings on academia? 

Academia is wonderful and so important to my creative process. I am about to finish my undergrad in November and I keep thinking ah! I could stay in school forever! I really enjoy research and writing and I think it does something really good to one’s brain to be engaged in critical discussion with other people (especially off of social media!). Anything to keep the brain juices flowin!

Annie McLaughlin earned her BFA from Pacific Northwest College of Art. She has exhibited at various galleries and museums across the Pacific Northwest.  She currently lives and works in  Portland, Oregon.  

To learn more about Annie please visit


AutoCorrect, 2014


Casting, 2014


13-96, 2013


Untitled, 2014

Untitled (12-43)

Untitled (12-43), 2012

Untitled (Ox-Bow suite)

Untitled (Ox-Bow Suite), 2010

New work, 2015


How long have you been painting? 

I painted from the usual early age until adolescence when I became discouraged by perceived limitations. A few years later the desire to paint returned and around 1999 I felt I might be able to contribute something, which at 19 was premature and maybe insane. The lost years: When I was 12 I wanted to make political cartoons and a little later was into ‘film’ and running around with a video camera. But I’m not collaborative or energetic enough; what I like is to be in a room alone and then after a while bring my alone to the people.

 Who are your favorite artists?

I like artists with secret passageways. I like artists in secret passageways. Artists willing to complicate our understanding of their work as a whole. Ones addressing the smartest people in the room who don’t necessarily turn others away in the process. Cézanne is my favorite dead guy artist. Justin Rhody is a photographer in Oakland people should discover. Keith Allyn Spencer, Ellen Siebers, Alison Hall, Steven Husby, Max Manning, Susan Bee, Kim Westfall, Brian Cypher, T.j. Donovan, Erin Drew, Sarah Gamble, Mariano Chavez, Lauren Collings, Matthew Wong, Kristina Lee, William Staples, Clinton King, John Berry, David Leggett, Osamu Kobayashi, Cody Tumblin, Jessica Simorte, Brian Edmonds, Ezra Tessler, Lucy Mink, Jared Buckhiester, Julie Torres, Tatiana Berg, and Robert Otto Epstein get me and might be worth your time. And many more.

 How do you begin your paintings? 

Begin with the last painting, check for clues… misdirection counts. Often if I think I have a smart idea it backfires so I make some marks and have a look and respond. I turn supports around a lot and sometimes that’s the end. Whether paintings take a long time to paint or a little they almost always end abruptly, more so than they began. A blank canvas or piece of paper is such a drag, a mocking thing. To mess it up a little goes a long way towards resolution.

 Why do you make abstract paintings?

Because: the sex is better. But I don’t think of my paintings as abstract. I used to. Then suddenly there were figures and parts of figures and I looked around and abstract friends were painting dogs and ships and self-portraits and language and collaging Picassos onto their work and so on and I relaxed. We’re probably no longer well-served by the word ‘abstract’ but once the work is out of the studio I can’t do a thing about terminology and that’s as it should be. What a relief we don’t HAVE to arrange for meaning! And how should I know, anyway? And lots of luck to those that try. As artists we’re poorly positioned to see what we’re doing– we can’t define use-value for ourselves, that’s only for other artists to determine. Institutions not so much. There are probably more Mondrians in 2015 than there are theosophists. With regard to my body of work (more like body parts) I think I’m a product of sampling culture, a scanning Internet thing. I understand my peers similarly. Painting-as-critique doesn’t interest me. In part this is a luxury of circumstance and I try to be mindful of that. But painting for me is more of an archaeological thing. Loosen your clothing and drink plenty of water. Live a long time.

 What are you interests beside art?

Weekdays I do custodial work in a public school from 4:00 until midnight and so I have a professional interest in that, which is not-art, but is sometimes close to art. Lately I’ve been watching old episodes of Dr. Katz on YouTube. I was married last October and my wife and I have a lot of fun together. 

How often do you paint?

I think I paint a lot, usually mornings and afternoons. Recently there was a three week pause and the work is better now that it’s resumed. The painting activity (never practice, gross) extends beyond painting to looking at and thinking about my stuff and others’. I really like to do it, it’s not a chore. The business of providing context and support sometimes feels like a chore but wait, it IS a chore and it IS a business. I’m feeling my way towards a better attitude.

 How has your studio practiced evolved over the years?

The mechanics are similar today to when I began. Facility is unavoidable but I’m not thinking about craft and technique and what Top Secret medium Fairfield Porter used to achieve this or that viscosity. There are better ways to honor our heroes. Anyway, decision-making improves as my body of knowledge expands. You just keep going, it’s so simple. I’ve painted other painters’ paintings that I don’t have to paint again. I do want the work to last so I try to be a responsible builder. The evolution has mostly been attitudinal but if I pay too much attention to that stuff I die. A guy said to me you can’t drive the bus and read the map at the same time. I cruise around making rolling stops; for me that’s what has proven sustainable and the most fun. Fun is always underrated.

 Do you read often?

Yes and no. I have trouble starting and trouble finishing. I’ve stuck with Lydia Davis for the past year, however.

 What are your feelings on academia?  

I dislike academic art, which is not necessarily a product of academia. I see so much painting in a rush to arrange for meaning, to accommodate itself to norms rather than troubling them. Art is a vocation if you’re doing it right but self-seriousness just sucks up all the fun. There’s very little at stake. Art is the safest place to fuck up. I’m unlicensed– I didn’t go to art school; I earned a degree from Indiana University-Bloomington through the School of Continuing Studies which has been… discontinued. I’m a Bachelor of General Studies, one of the great salad bar degrees. It worked out fine, I took art history and comp lit courses and that stuff. There’s a nice museum at IU and a great fine arts library which was enormously important. I worked in the bookstore in the Fine Arts building, the Friends of Art bookstore. We sold bagels and sometimes we could take old bagels home. Taking old bagels home is close to art.
Ten years ago when I developed a sense of who the good younger painters were I worried that it would be a hindrance getting onto the field without a serious art school pedigree but I don’t worry about this now. I’ve heard there’s a trend away from blue-chip programs but I don’t believe it. In any case most of the artists I admire DID go to art school and many of them teach and they seem like happy people! I think teaching in some capacity is the way to go if you want to be really good.

Peter Shear earned his BA from Indiana University. His work has been featured in national and international exhibitions. He currently lives and works in Bloomington, Indiana 

to view more of his work please visit: 


From Untitled


From Alexei Plutser (Voina) 


From Untitled


From NA


How long have you been making artwork?

Since I was 16—about 9 years. I had a cracked version of Photoshop that I used to manipulate portrait photos all day at school.

Who are your favorite artists?

Austin Lee, Summer Wheat and Michael Shultis. Also keeping close tabs on Blair Whiteford.

Do you ever have bad studio days?

Most of my studio days are terrible, but they create a lot the surface history in my paintings, so I soldier on. Good studio days are exceptionally good. Like gooooooooood++.

How do you begin a painting? Do you jump right into it and just start painting? Or do you take your time and plan each work?

I don’t know how to plan anymore. Sometimes I don’t think I even know how to paint, but that I just know what a good painting looks like when it’s in front of me. Even that sensibility is probably stolen from the artists I like. Fuck talent; copy your godz!

Do you read often?

Yes. I try to keep up with contemporary Painting and stuff, but I’m not sure I understand what that’s even about or if it has anything to do with painting. I mostly stick to fiction.

What interests you about portraiture?

 Empathy. We feel somethig through our brief and instinctual attempt at understanding the face in front of us (the Other). With painting, I can play with that feeling. I paint the people with whom I want to empathize. They are really great people and I think I love them.

Are the people portrayed in your portraits real or imagined? Or are they something entirely different?

The latter. They are the result of a combination of process and materials that I know give birth to my kind of baby.

Your handling of materials is very playful and fun. Why do you choose to use a variety of paint and other mediums in your work?

Diversity of marks and surfaces, three-dimensionality, fast and slow marks, shortcuts/longcuts, etc. Use all of your toys during playtime.

What are your feelings on academia?

We’ve only been out of school for a year and my contemporaries are dropping like flies into not art. From painters to ainters. Most artists are leaving art school with no idea what to do outside the shoddy womb of academia. I personally want to see bolder, blunter and more honest critiques, increased criticality and greater accountability. Oh and more studio time. Fewer assignments and more production! Accreditation in an art is so anti-art it’s not even funny. End that; become a river. I don’t want to see more academics either. Academic Art is gross. I really like what I’ve seen from Yale’s MFA Painting and Printmaking program. I like their academia. It’s the only painting program I’ve found that at least ostensibly looks like it’s main concern is physical painting and not the concept of painting. I’m so bored of concept prioritization. I want to see something exciting. Throw me a bone!

Any advice to young and emerging artists?

One sentence: Let your freak flag fly live dangerously destroy your reputation if you feel challenged then you’re on to something new comfort is a quality of bad repetition habit is good repetition style is a consequence of habit you’re only in competition with your 5 best artworks you will be more successful if you persevere than if you taco so donut taco.

Colin Marx earned his BFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2012. He currently lives and works in Kansas City,MO.

to view more of his work please visit:

from Minor Character

from Minor Character

From Andro/Pause

From Andro/Pause

Hands off my Viagra

Hands off my Viagra

video still from Nobody's Home

video still from Nobody’s Home

From Connect Up to me

From Connect Up to me


How long have you been making artwork? 

My earliest memory of drawing probably goes back to grade school. I remember being really inspired by team colors and mascots. I used to fill my room with drawings of every school in our division. I really haven’t stopped making “art” since. I didn’t really commit to the idea of being an “artist” until I graduated from college. 

Who are your favorite artists?  

This is a tough one because I love so many. I’ll just name a bunch of artists I find interesting off the top of my head… Kai Altoff, Bjarne Melgaard, Martin Kippenberger, Tala Madani, Joe Brainnard, Richard Tuttle, Cady Noland, Gary Hume, Christine Hill, Carol Bove, Ray Johnson, George Kuchar, Absalon, Forrest Bess, Chris Martin, Paul Thek, Joanne Greenbaume, David Wojnarowicz, William E. Jones, all the artists who show at Lump…

Who or what are your influences when it comes to making work?

Since I left grad school, I only follow projects, hunches, theories or ideas that interest me. I’m not really looking to make a living off my work, so I try to keep my work as pure as possible. I am a pretty restless person and I like to always be moving forward.

Do you read often?

Yes, I am always reading a variety of media; journals, blogs, magazines, novels, and theory… I jump back and forth from high to low. Currently, I am pretty obsessed with Leo Bersani and Kevin Dean. I am hoping it will develop into a project with my friend John Neff. In terms of my work, I have a half written novel that has reached a dead end, a couple blogs and I am reediting the Joe Orton diaries for a Kenneth Halliwell project I am working on. Always reading and writing.

Before you begin creating images, how do you come up with your ideas? Do you draw from personal iconography, or do you just start putting ideas on paper?

Things happen pretty organically with me. Usually, everything I do starts with drawing. Then to expand it into bigger idea or project I usually recognize that a drawing is not going to be enough and find other strategies to make the work. I don’t have loyalty to any medium or technique.

You use a wide variety of media and strategies. How are your sculptures, paintings, drawings, and video connected? Are they linked by an idea or theme, or are they something completely different?  

Well, as a result of running Lump ( for the past 17 years, my curatorial practice has crept into my work. When I think about my own exhibitions I approach it from an editorial perspective, and this also comes from my background in film and video. I like to fill holes.

Your portraits are really engaging. Who are these people featured in your wallpaintings and paintings?  

For the past 15 years I have been drawing bald guys. I just like to imagine their personal economies within our culture. Sometimes I turn my quick 1-2 minute sketches into these large laborious paintings and wall paintings. I’ve made portraits of Perry Rubenstein, Barry Diller, Stanley Tucci, Michel Foucault, Lloyd Blankfein, and random bald guys I see in the street or at the gym.  Recently I invited everyone I knew to draw Lloyd Blankfein for a book project.  I heard he is interested in contemporary art and I was hoping he would take notice and let me photograph the toilets at Goldmann Sachs. Sadly, it never was printed, maybe some day.

Although I don’t like using the term “naive,” why do you intentionally use naive mark making in your paintings and drawings? 

I was thinking about this the other day in my drawing class when we were having a discussion about mark making. I was telling my students I went through a very technical phase in high school and college but have drifted very far away from that. The style you see now is really a reflection of me in this phase of my life. I love gesture. The crummier the better, the less I do the more I like it. I also told them that you have to know the rules before you can break the rules so they wouldn’t all show up with shitty drawings.

Your work appears to contain a sense of dry cryptic humor. Do you feel that is accurate? 

Yes, I believe I have a pretty dark sense of humor. I usually let it all hang out in the studio and then edit what gets to seen. Some work is just not right for certain audiences. I am revealing hints about what the work means to me, but in no way am expecting the viewer to follow my trajectory. 

You mentioned in an earlier email you were working on a book and solo show. What is the book you are working on? Where will this solo show take place?

I recently went to China and bought a bunch of brushes and ink when I was there. The handling of the brush has completely loosened up my style even more. It is welcome change. I am in no ways trying to work in a traditional Chinese technique, but I like the materials. Anyways, I started using the brushes and ink to make drawings. After I had about two hundred I started editing them and “films” started to emerge. I store all my drawings in portfolios and when you look at them and they read like a film. I am trying to release them as a book. The show I am working on right now will include some of these drawings or a “film” called “Low Hanging Fruit.” I am also working on a bunch of other pieces as well. It is going to be at Spectre Arts in Durham next year.

What are your feelings on academia? 

Well, I teach and I have gone through two programs (BFA/MFA) so I think it’s pretty important to me, but not necessary for everyone. It really is a personal choice. If an academic setting interests you I say follow that path, if not try other approaches. I know plenty of artists who learned from immersing themselves in the art world and have been very successful.

Any advice to young and emerging artists who want to get their work out there?

I guess the most important thing is don’t waste time. Don’t wait for galleries come to you. Put on your own shows, get involved with your community, volunteer at a place you would want your work to be shown, follow your instincts, and make the world a better place.

Bill Thelen is an artist, curator , and educator. He currently lives and works in Raleigh, NC. He earned his MFA from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has exhibited nationally and internationally. He currently runs Lump Gallery and Projects. A contemporary art gallery, collective, and alternative space in Raleigh, NC.  

to view more of his work please visit

To learn more about Lump Gallery and Projects please visit

Guest Artist: Leanne Grimes        


ink on paper, 2013


Charcoal on paper, 2011


ink on paper, 2013

Rainbow Surf Hostel, Maui

Rainbow Surf Hostel, Maui, 2013

ink on paper

From MittWitts, 2011


From MittWitts, 2011Gardenia 

Gardenia, 2011

oil on linen


Owlwoods, 2012

oil on mylar

Cherry Top 

Cherry Top, 2012

oil on mylar


Dream Car, 2010


How long have you been painting?
I’ve been painting most of my life. My mom is an artist and teacher, so she always had creative things for me to do as a kid. I remember using watercolors when I was 4 years old. I would put shapes of colors down, and build walls of colors that filled the page, almost like a brick-layer. I try to go back to that memory and process in order to connect with the simple joy of painting. Too often in my studio, I feel the weight of external pressures, which can be very dangerous for the creative process. But it took me awhile to pursue painting in a real way. I’d say I’ve been painting for 10 years. 

What are your influences?
It might sound weird, but I’m influenced by driving. I don’t have a car right now, so it is always a special treat when I get to drive. I find that it clears my head, and allows room for very specific and often cathartic thoughts to arise. I’m also influenced by physical movement – whether it be biking, walking, dancing, practicing yoga, or swimming. If I am not connected with my body’s physical presence, I find it very difficult to paint. Lastly, I am influenced by beautiful fruits and vegetables, no matter how hippy-dippy that sounds. I love cooking, and I relate that process to painting. Some of my favorite paintings have been inspired by meals I’ve made or shared with friends. 

Who are your favorite artists?
Paul Klee, Peter Doig, Matisse, Ellsworth Kelly, Rothko, James Turell, Agnes Martin, Cy Twombly. I’ve gone through many different love affairs with certain artists, but I find that I always come back to these ones. It’s funny because most of them are minimalists, or as I prefer to name them reductivists. 

Do you draw and paint from observation, memory, or imagination?
I use all of these ingredients! I used to think they were mutually exclusive, that I had to pick one way of working in order to “be a good artist”. But that is not true at all. Some days I really need to go outside and draw a tree or a landscape. Other days, I am forced to look at a photo for visual information. Some days I feel like a slave to observation, so I put all of that away and make a drawing straight from my imagination. This is actually terrifying, but equally liberating. It feels like a direct link to my subconscious, which can be unnerving. Memory is a whole other process. I find that in order to work from memory, I need to have a very specific and clear image of what it is I am remembering. Otherwise, there is not enough information, and the result can look generic. Like how if you ask students to draw a tree, 9 out 10 of them draw the iconic symbol for a tree, which is not a specific tree at all. The cool thing about working from memory though, is that if you draw something from observation, it commits it to memory. So if I go out and draw a tree from observation, when I go to draw it from memory, chances are I will produce that same observed tree, minus a few details.   

How do you begin a painting? Do you start with an underdrawing?
I spend a lot of time drawing, which informs my paintings. However, I think I “draw” very little in my actual paintings. I love putting down large chunks of color, and little spots here and there, and then building the rest of the painting around those moments. My paintings actually deal with color theory more than anything. I am very interested in the process of mixing colors, and how they behave in a relative way.

Your mittens titled “mittwitts” are really playful. How do they relate to your drawing and painting process? Or are they something different?
These little sculptures were made for an installation. I teamed up with a video artist. and we performed a few days worth of activities, such as eating, swimming, driving, cooking, and grocery shopping. The point of the Mittwitt is to force personal interaction with people. At the opening, people were encouraged to take them off the walls and spend some time joined in the mitt with a stranger. At one point, there was a circle of 6 of us joined in the Mittwitts collectively drinking wine. The process of making these was actually very intense, but also fun. I found it to be closely linked to painting, but even more immediate and direct. I used fabric from clothing I had been holding onto for years. Some of them are made from shirts I had since I was 14. Others had fabric from a hat a friend made. I loved the process. There was an internal narrative embedded from the beginning due to the stories behind the fabrics. It was actually really weird, because I found that the colors of my clothes were similar to the colors I gravitate toward in painting.

How do your sculptures relate to your painting process? Or are they something different?
I use sculpture as a way to work out ideas. It is a different process than painting, but it is all in the same vein – to realize a vision that occurs, and becomes strong enough to facilitate a creative endeavor. The dream car sculpture was exactly that – I had been having a lot of dreams about cars, especially an invisible one. I didn’t think it would be served well as a painting, so I set out to make the object and photograph it. For me, that was enough. It did not need to be painted. 

Do you ever have truley awful frustrating days in your studio?
Yes. Not only frustrating days, sometimes weeks, or months. I think the important thing is to embrace this time. We can’t always be producing masterpieces. Painting is a practice for me. In viewing it this way, it has alleviated the pressure to constantly be perfect in the studio. Through practice, things develop. 

What are your feelings on academia?
I have mixed feelings about academia. I went to art school. I graduated with a bachelors degree and spent three years out of school floundering around for a bit. So I went to grad school. I had a great experience in grad school. It opened up my creative process and moved me across the country which exposed me to a whole new landscape and allowed me to experience life, which I ended up translating into paintings. The tricky thing about academia is that it does not give you any actual skills to make money. And there are student loans to repay. So what do you do for money? Because more and more, I feel like the idea of living off of painting is not a reality. Sadly, our economy is very different than it was 10 years ago. So I am currently exploring some ideas about how to balance all of this. I’ll get back to you when I figure it out!

What is your advice to young/ emerging artists who want to show their work?
I think you need to be confident about your work and go out and meet people. Talk about your work. Arrange studio visits. You have to be able to stand behind what you’ve made, and the more you can talk about it with your peers, the better you will become at this.

Leanne Grimes graduated in 2011 from the University of Washington with an MFA in painting. She has exhibited nationally and her work has been featured in the New American Paintings blog. 

To view her work: