Monday, September 21, 2009

15 minutes with Jan Gosnell

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down to talk with painter Jan Gosnell about his life as an artist. We sat outside of The Vault Gallery in front of his current solo exhibition, Back from Krypton which opened the First Thursday of September and will close this Saturday, September 26th at 2:00p.m. This is his show's final week, so be sure to see it and all the other wonderful exhibitions currently on display at the Fayetteville Underground.

Jan has always been an artist; drawing and painting from a very early age. He was encouraged in his art by his geologist father (who perhaps yearned to be a painter) and his crafty homemaking mother. He remembers his father laughing and enjoying the art Jan would make and this encouraged him to remain on the artist's path for life. Jan also remembers time spent creating art in local museum classes; he was especially intrigued by an oil painting class that was going on across the way from where he was making "kids art." He wanted to take the more advanced class so badly that he went and talked with the teacher and they told him to come back when he was 11 years old. He did come back and he remembers his first oil painting was that of a still life.

Jan maintained his affinity for art through school, and once headed to college there was only one major that would do. Jan received his B.F.A. from the University of Texas at Austin, and then later he received an M.F.A from the University of Arkansas, here in Fayetteville. Jan taught art as a graduate assistant for two years while there. Currently he has been teaching at North West Arkansas Community College for the past for 4 or 5 years. Jan says he particularly enjoys the advanced courses he offers because of the one on one interaction he has with the students.

When asked to classify his style of painting, he says it is "basically pop imagery done with traditional oil painting techniques." Jan's paintings are filled with the same sardonic humor that make working with him such a joy. He says he approaches his work playfully with an openness that children have when making art.

I asked Jan if he ever experienced any of the common "artist's blocks." He mentioned that starting a painting can be a problem at times, like jumping in without warming up. He actually has a term for this issue: "The Shit Barrier." He has gone 2 months without painting as sometimes he feels it becomes too much of a commitment to get started with a new work. When this happens he turns to his drawing, as he feels this is less of a commitment. Jan also can become self conscious about a painting, and when this happens he feels the most important thing to do is just to keep on working. He knows that eventually he can make it work, but even then it doesn't mean it will be a good painting. There have been at least 2 instances where Jan has burned his paintings, whether because of moving or just making space, sometimes he has to let them go. He is not as sentimental about his work as some artists but at the same time when he looks at a body of his work up in the Underground or in his home gallery, he is always shocked, and wonders where it all came from and he is pleased with what he sees.

Jan has been enjoying working around other artists in the Fayetteville Underground. He wanted to re-establish his ties with the Fayetteville art community after feeling a bit reclusive over recent years. When I asked him if he had any advice to younger artists struggling with their art careers or passion for art, he said, "Use your ability in art: Art has a stabilizing influence in your life, you shouldn't let it slip away, just do the work and focus on the process. Whatever else comes from it, is gravy."

Jan Gosnell
"Back from Krypton"
Exhibition remains up through this Saturday September 26th at 2:00pm.

Fayetteville Underground
One East Center Street
East side of the Fayetteville Square.
Fayetteville, AR
Gallery Hours W-F 12-7pm
Saturday 8-2
4 galleries: Open Studios

As is common in this segment, I ask the artist to list 15 things. Jan came up with a list of 15 Diversions. So when he is not painting you will find Jan Gosnell...

Reading Science Fiction, Exercising, Practicing Martial Arts, Enjoying Ice Cream, Building things, Meditating, Spending time on the Computer, Focusing on Politics ( comes in handy when you draw award winning editorial cartoons) Watching Films, Smoking, Shopping, Researching a variety of subjects, Making conversation, People watching, Writing

Pictured above: a selection of works from "Back from Krypton"
© 2009 Jan Gosnell
Photography by Henry Turner

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