Painting

Lovejoy Artist Spotlight: Casey Gray

April 18, 2016

A celebrated spray paint artist, San Francisco’s Casey Gray has been exhibiting all around the world since 2008. Pieces from his recent “wavy series,” made specifically for Converse's Lovejoy Art Program, have been on display on the 9th floor of the world headquarters. The work is now available, along with the works of other artists included in the program, as part of an auction benefiting Artists for Humanity.

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What inspired your Lovejoy pieces?
Casey Gray: The wavy series is loosely inspired by the communicative nature of emoji characters in a text message. When hung together in a group, they can read like a sentence. Up until this point I had only made small works with the wavy technique, but was excited to have a chance to experiment at a larger scale for the new Converse HQ.

What is your workspace like?
My pieces for Lovejoy were actually all created at my former studio in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco. I had about 3,000 sqft of space in what used to be the band Journey’s former warehouse, believe it or not. Since then I have moved to a much, much smaller space down in Hunter’s Point due to the fact that developers bought our property and just recently demolished it to make way for, you guessed it, 94 new luxury condos and 72 parking spaces. Thank you tech boom...not.

How do you alleviate creative blocks?
I have a few different ways of alleviating blocks; in fact, that was how the wavy series came to be. I cut a simple template out of paper and told myself, “You have to make something using just this template.” The next thing I knew, I was staring at this wavy block form and a whole new direction of thought started opening up for me. I find posing limitations upon oneself is a great way to force your brain to think differently. Also, just getting out of the studio and finding new experiences always helps.

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Do you have any unusual sources of inspiration?
I wouldn’t say any of it is unusual. For the most part, my inspiration comes from my surroundings and day-to-day experience, whether that’s in the digital realm or actual reality. I tend to reference a lot of art history in my work as well. Skateboarding, computer graphics, online shopping all make their way in there somehow.

What is your process like from starting a piece to finishing it?
The very first step is building the panel so I have a surface to paint on. Sometimes I’ll make digital collages to reference while painting. Other times I will just go straight with my gut. In most cases, it is a bit of both; but the finished product is never what I thought it was going to be when I started. The piece always changes and morphs during the painting process based on what’s working, what isn’t, and whatever the hell is going on in my life at that moment. Technically, my work consists of 100% spray paint and is created through a layered masking process which I adapted from air brush and auto body painting techniques.

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What do you believe is a key element in creating a good composition?
Lines, shapes, colors. :)

What is the most challenging part about being an artist today?
Besides not always knowing where your next paycheck is coming from? I would have to say getting the right people to notice you; and more than that, getting those people to take a chance on you.

What do you wish you knew about the art world before you got started?
How much of a business it really is, and how deceptive and misleading some gallery owners and operators can be. The art game is a hustle, make no doubt about it.

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Art is the ultimate example of subjectivity. How do you handle negative criticism?
The best way to handle negative criticism is to listen to it and work harder. You can’t expect to please everybody, nor should you try. If you’re happy with the work, that’s all that really matters. It’s been my experience, however, that most people have nice things to say. I wish I could get more critical feedback, but outside of graduate school, that’s a hard thing to find these days. The Internet has turned us into a culture of ‘yes men’, minus a few bold souls.

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Visit Paddle8 to view and bid on artworks in the auction!

Receive a special print of the "Large Slice of Pepperoni" when you purchase a copy of the May issue of Juxtapoz, available here and on newsstands worldwide.