Thursday, October 18, 2012

Eight Minutes With Artist Ernest Gillman

I met Ernest Gillman this summer at the Bayfront Art Fair. Gillman is a Minnesota-born artist who, like many others, found a portion of his inspiration from having spent time in the Southwest. I found his work compelling and knew that I wanted to share it here at Ennyman's Territory, as well as insights from the artist himself. Gillman currently lives in the Twin Cities.

EN: When did you take up an interest in drawing and who or what were your biggest influences?

EG: I remember drawing as a child and wanting to get the cartoon characters to look exactly like the ones Charles Schultz drew in the Sunday papers. By the time I was ten I was trying to imitate Les Kouba's ducks and deer. At fourteen I had fallen in love with rock and roll and was rendering as closely as possible the faces of the Beatles, The Monkees, The Rolling Stones, etc. I soon lost interest in portraiture and set my sights on the psychedelic images I was seeing everywhere around me. After high school I tried my hand at Architectural Drafting. This didn't seem to satisfy any of my desires for drawing so I decided to pack up and go see the west coast. What started out to be a couple of months, ended up being the better part of the next decade. I traveled around this country in whatever beat up old vehicle we had at the time. I packed light, so the pencil and paper were perfect for this life style. I never thought of my drawings as pieces of art until my late twenties when I had finally had enough of the road and settled down to the world of marriage, job, and children. During this period I started reading a lot of art related books and found I was drawn to still lifes. Everything else, for me, was and still is pale in comparison. Not since I had first heard rock and roll had anything grabbed my attention so resolutely.

EN: What is your favorite subject matter and why?

EG: The subjects in my still lifes are usually very personal to me. I choose items that have meaning and memories, and in many cases my drawings are portraits of family members and friends. For example, in the drawing "Family Album" I represent three generations of my family. The embroidered table cloth and war ration booklets represent my grandparents, my mother and father are represented in the wedding photo and anniversary clock, myself and my brother are represented in the camera, the wedding ring, the coins and bullets. The crucifix is the predominate catholic community I was raised in and also became an altar boy in. Many of my works have this subjectivity to them, they are snapshots of a time and place in my life.

EN: Where do you do your work?

EG: I have always worked out of my home. For the past seven years I have lived in Cottage Grove, MN. and I have a studio in our basement. Prior to that I lived and worked for twenty years in a small one story in St.Paul, MN. During this time I went to the University of Minnesota for four years and studied the fine arts. My concentration was on black and white photography. I also worked with a bronze sculpture studio for several years. They made life size sculptures of police officers, firefighters, soldiers, and celebrities. Their work can be seen at the VA Hospital, The Target Center, Minneapolis City Hall, The State Capitol, and many police and fire departments across the country. During my time with them I did several commissioned drawings of police officers and firefighters. One such drawing can be seen in the recent movie "End of Watch".

EN: How did it come about to take up going to shows on the weekends?

EG: In 1979 my travelling companion and I were in Portland Oregon. We heard music, so decided to follow the sound. There were jugglers and mimes, food and drink, art and crafts, and a comfort you don't often find after being on the road too long. This was my first time at an art festival and I enjoyed it immensely. A decade later after a marriage and a divorce I went with my two young children to the Uptown Art Fair in Minneapolis, MN. The feelings from Portland came back and I knew then that I would be doing the weekend festivals. Four years later I did my first show and was an award winner in the Uptown.

EN: Any advice to young people who wish to take up the pencil as a medium?

EG: The pencil for many years was considered a tool used for only sketching. Something you used to lay out the design for a painting. Artists like Paul Calle and Skip Stienworth brought it to the level of fine art. Even Picasso's line drawings were made for the purpose of studies for paintings, but are now looked at as something more. I'm assuming that if someone is considering the pencil as a medium they have already recognized the beauty graphite holds in its texture and depth. There are a lot of different styles of pencils and papers on the market. There are graphite, conte, charcoal, colored pencils and more. There are hot press papers, cold press papers, handmade papers, and papers that range from a satin finish to a very rough toothy texture. My advice would be to experiment with as many different ones as possible and find what your comfortable with.

EN: Where can people see or purchase your work?

EG: People can see and purchase my work on my web site www.gillmanstudios.com. I also show my work at the Art Guild Gallery, 402 N Main St., Stillwater, MN. 55082 (651-689-0149 ). In December and January I will have works hanging in Gallery 13, 811 LaSalle Ave. Minneapolis, MN. 55402 (651-592-5503.) And throughout the summer months I can be found at many of the Twin Cities weekend festivals.

1 comment:

UptownArt said...

Ernest Gillman is a very talented artist. I have been following him for years at art shows and he continues to show beautiful work. I encourage everyone to see his work in person and I guarantee you will be a mesmerized by his work like I am.