Paint Unknown – Gary Komarin – Ep 8
December 15, 2021
ON TODAY’S EPISODE
The meaning people derive from your art is up to them. No one lives this edict better than world renown, NY-based painter Gary Komarin.
Gary’s work is utterly unique, modern, somewhat playful, but also has a seriousness to it…with its use of line, iconic shapes, and color fields–it’s like a gorgeous visual feast given to all the viewers of his art. And we the viewers get to decide for ourselves what exactly this work means — what’s in it for us?
Gary’s carefree exploration is not just demonstrated in his art, but in his life too. Join us for a lovely conversation about his journey. You’ll hear about the influences that have shaped him into the amazing artist he is, the experiences he’s had with collectors, exhibitions, and a glimpse into his carefree art practice and approach.
Listen if you are interested in…
- Gary’s time under mentor, Philip Guston at Boston University, lessons learned [3:25]
- The first gallery Gary approached, his first show, his first sales of his works [15:26]
- Gary’s experience with a Japanese collector who bought 100 paintings [19:29]
- The “figure it out as you go” approach Gary takes to his work [29:14]
- How Gary uses his “Cakes” works to fill the gaps and explore [42:07]
- The process Gary uses to title his works [54:49]
- Future plans for Gary and where he’s at emotionally these days [57:26]
No one painting has to hold up a career
Gary doesn’t like to think of the process of creating as “work.” For that reason, he doesn’t come to the process with much of a plan. In fact, when he first begins a new painting he’ll often randomly mark or smudge it, just to get something on the canvas and break the tension that can exist at the outset. He’s also not afraid to step away. If a painting doesn’t feel right, he may turn it to the wall and work on another painting. He says that by doing this, the pressure is off. He’ll pull it out at another time and come back to it.
All of this illustrates his core approach — which is really more of a non-approach. Gary says it best…
“If I have a specific idea, it very rarely sees the light of day. I try not to work that way. Even color-wise. I often start out thinking I’m going to do a pale yellow painting and two hours later it’s dark gray.”
Gary explains that this approach has helped him to be successful because it removes the pressure of “this next painting has to be my best yet.” He simply won’t allow himself to think that way because he believes that no one painting has to hold up his entire career. As a result, he’s free to do whatever comes to him, each and every painting.
You can overthink almost any activity, but when you can be in the moment…
Gary once had an art professor ask him, “How do you combine drawing and painting into one work?” Gary’s response: “You know, I just do it. It comes naturally to me and I didn’t think about it.” That statement is characteristic of how Gary goes about creating his art. He doesn’t overthink it, his goal is simply to be in the moment and put something on the canvas without much planning or intention. He describes it as “following intuition.”
But how does he know when a painting is not working, or when he needs to go in a different direction? Again, he says he just feels it. When that happens, he takes a break. He may walk down the path between his studio and his house, make a few phone calls, get a cup of coffee, or even hit a bucket of tennis balls. When his mind is free, he’ll go back to the studio… and unbelievably, when he gets there he often doesn’t remember what painting he was working on.
Though he’s not intentional about his paintings themselves, I hope you can see that there is so much intention applied to keeping his mind free. There’s a lesson there for all of us.
Social media has changed the exposure of artists
Gary is an extremely accomplished artist, approaching the realm that most artists dream of reaching. His work has been displayed alongside many of the great artists of our era and he’s amazingly prolific. With that kind of success, I was curious how he manages the opportunities, showings, and more. Not surprisingly, his networking and connection-building are almost as free-flowing as his approach to painting.
Don’t misunderstand, Gary definitely works with dealers and galleries. But he has also experienced an amazing amount of connections and even sales of his work through social media platforms. He posts regularly about his work, his process, and the behind-the-scenes view of what he does, and that gets the ball rolling. People see it and share it with others. Over time, inertia takes over.
He’s also quite creative in terms of what he includes in his posts. He’s made up his own stories to include with his images, complete with casts of characters (English Bob, the Baron, the Vicar’s wife, and more). He says these stories and characters come to him rather quickly and serve to draw viewers into the story of the painting.
I found this conversation delightful. It expanded my own view of the creative process and what it means to create in the moment. I hope you do too.
Resources & People Mentioned
- Philip Guston – Gary’s mentor
- Oscar Wilde
- Morandi, Italian Painter
- Bill Traylor, artist
- Barry Schwabsky, New York Times Art Critic
- Richard Diebenkorn, artist
- Hans Hoffman
- Joan Mitchell
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the founder of Art2Life.
With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.