As I start this blog post, I already feel the need to apologize to any other artists I've featured that may feel their spotlight waned in comparison. I promise it wasn't intentional, I've just followed Ms. Gwinn for so long that I have much to say!
To the best of my knowledge she started her social media presence up around 2012 and I started following her not long after! Her work, to me, is definitively surreal and sometimes grotesque, in the best way.
The Sun by Heather Gwinn
When I first started following her her artwork was only really pen and paper. She has an amazing eye for composition and design; it amazed me when I found out she's only self-taught.
The Tetrad by Heather Gwinn
Eventually she started adding color and wow... it really brought her work to life. This piece mildly gives me the creeps, but I cant help but love it. It's visually interesting to me, it feels organic and smooth, and with the neutral palette it makes me think of nature.
Kaleidoscope Garden by Heather Gwinn
This one mesmerizes me. She keeps her colors muted across most of her pieces and it always gives me this feeling of dysphoria and foreboding. They feel dimensional and otherworldly. It's one of my favorite paintings shes ever done!
What medium did you start with?
My first medium was pen and ink (Sharpie was the very first). I've always done a lot of writing and penmanship practice so my control of a pen is pretty solid and pens are ALWAYS laying about (until you need one of course). I still do a fair bit of pen and ink work (holla to my Copics ... my homeboys ... my heart) but have spent about 80% of my creative time in the last year with oil paints.
What is a medium you’ve always wanted to try?
I've done some ceramics historically and would REALLY like to try my hand at sculpting with intent (as opposed to just mucking about - which is delightful in its own way). I like the tactile nature of sculpture, it's like kneading bread or giving a massage - feeling your medium push back against your hands is viscerally satisfying.
What subject matter do you feel most drawn to?
Birds ... damn birds all day 'err day. I have recently finished three paintings that feature beaks or birds and I have so many more swirling about in my head. Hooded birds, fat birds, thin creepy birds with giant feet, birds with snake hair, birds with ferocity and fear, birds with kindness and wisdom .. hell birds with ferocity and wisdom. I do paint other things sometimes, but the birds just keep coming back.
When did you realize you wanted to make a career out of your art?
Truly, I'm not really sure I do. I daydream about a life where I wake up and face a canvas every day, where I research techniques and experiment and spend all my hours dreaming and creating. The reality, however; is that the tension between my 'survival job' and my parenting time and my art is very valuable to my process. I've gravitated toward oil painting because of the cure time. I wait for layers to cure and I go off to work or I drive my daughter to rehearsal or I catch some sleep and in the meantime, I am processing and thinking and wondering about my next move with the painting. It makes for a slow progression and sometimes lots of frustration, but I see value in moving slowly with my work and allowing the personal alchemy of my growth as an artist the space it needs.
How do you balance making art for money and for fun?
Oh that's easy. There was a time, several years ago, when I was selling quite a bit of art and very very aware of my audience. I took commissions and drew the visions others presented to me ... and I was miserable with it. Once creation feels like a job to me some of the magic is lost. I don't create for money anymore. I feel very comfortable with the notion that if I create what I think is marvelous my tribe will show itself. I may never make much money from my work, but I make something far more important. Integrity and authenticity and self respect are, for me, all tied up in being able to do exactly what I want on the canvas. Much of it is not particularly marketable.
What do you want to contribute to the art world?
Sometimes I wish I thought in terms of the 'art world'. Ultimately, I'd like my contribution to be authenticity and bravery. I'm exhausted with the hiding I've done for acceptance and propriety, the hiding I've done to feel safe. At the St. James Art show in Louisville, many years ago, a man walked by with a young girl in tow, she was probably four or five. They both peeked into my booth and the man went on but the girl lagged behind. She declared that they should stop to look and he said 'That's too weird for me. Not my style.' (which I've heard about four million times since I started sharing my work). The girl sighed and looked disappointed and said 'you never like anything real.' This question makes me think of her and makes me proud that I'd done something she saw as real. She's my audience.
What’s your favorite piece of art advice?
I'm not entirely sure it's art advice ... as opposed to advice in general. I often encourage people to create something, ANYTHING, that brings them any sense of calm and contentment and worth. The world is hard and living in it is difficult and we are so often forced into small cages of productivity to survive and get by. The very audacious act of being productive and creative when it is NOT required is powerful and builds a sense of agency in me that is hard to achieve in any other way. I create because it makes me feel good and I believe it makes me feel good because it is not required for me to survive, to pay my bills or to engage in my community. It's something I do wholly for me, a purely selfish act... and it's wonderful.