Columbus Makes Art Presents: Painter Grant Gilsdorf’s VLNS NVR DIE at Gateway Film Center
Grant Gilsdorf is an Ohio born and raised contemporary realistic narrative painter who has harnessed his exquisitely rendered realistic paintings into a visionary storytelling device that combines images of carefully crafted beauty existing within a brutal and gritty reality. His dark, tension-filled works mirror the narrative-driven experience of viewing a feature film, and his expertly rendered paintings leave the viewer contemplating their symbolic significance.
Scott Vezdos, director of marketing for the theater, sat down with Gilsdorf to chat about his exhibition VLNS NVR DIE currently on display at The Gallery at Gateway Film Center.
Scott: Describe your art and your creative process.
Grant: My process typically begins with writing before any sketching. From this hornet’s nest of words comes a theme or narrative I’m looking to explore and construct. In the same journal, I thumbnail out the finer details and preliminary composition.
Next, I scout for the setting, props and characters needed to execute my vision. I’m always looking for the right model to cast, or the ideal environment. That aspect can be one of the most challenging as it can be tough to find a perfect match to the character or scene I see playing out in my head. Sometime this is where compromise or change happens.
Then, I take far too many reference photos and hunt for any additional supporting images. Photoshop becomes one of the most important aspects of my creative process, because it’s there that I build various layouts. I sometimes create up to 12 different compositions and tinker with the design until I’m pleased. Once I’m satisfied with it, the painting becomes the final journey, and stays fairly true to the Photoshop composition. If I’m lucky, the painting reflects those initial writings and the intended narrative or theme.
Scott: How do you recharge and/or refine your artistic process?
Grant: My problem has never been having to recharge, but rather I feel this crushing inability to pour through the backlog of ideas I have built in my head. I’m constantly trying to speed up my process or work more efficiently, in an effort to try to address more of the ideas I have stored.
Inspiration has never been a problem either. I’m surrounded by amazing people every day with fascinating traits and compelling stories. Additionally, I devour new books, films, music, textures and artists as often as I can. As an artist, you are your influences, so I’m always trying to keep ingredients close by that will eventually find their way into my work, whether consciously or not.
Scott: How long have you been painting and what is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself along the way?
Grant: I was a photographer before I was a painter, but I was equally terrified by and in awe of the grandeur a final painting commands. I had painted some in high school, but had let those skills deteriorate. For the last 10 years I’ve worked really hard to build up my technique and aesthetic.
Painting is the most humbling form of art. I feel like I spend the majority of a painting problem-solving and trying to dig my way out of a pit of self-doubt. Yet, there are moments of pure zen. There is this flow you reach, where the world falls away, and you just exist. That’s what makes the battle of painting so worthwhile, and that’s what has kept me addicted. If I go a couple of days without creating, I find myself in desperate need of that “fix,” or that “place” I go when I paint.
Through painting I’ve learned a level of mental fortitude I hadn’t experienced before. I also learned to trust myself and the process … to keep fighting, as the end often comes together despite the hardships along the way.
Scott: What villain or antihero inspires you the most?
Grant: Whereas many artists are influenced by other artists, I find myself most influenced by films. So, this is a tough answer for me. My instinct is to rattle off 30 or 40 characters that I’ve loved over the years. If I have to pick one though, I would choose the remorseless villain Anton Chigurh from the Coen’s No Country for Old Men. He is a character that is far less straightforward than traditional villains. His world view seems to have a logical integrity, even if it doesn’t represent truth. He seems to be this stalwart that serves to remind those whom he encounters that their lives are not free to their own will, but ultimately at the mercy of forces outside of their own control. He is a personification of the chaos that awaits to answer our feeling of comfort and direction. He is not some villain that can be killed off or defeated. He is an idea, and a haunting specter at that. I couldn’t shake off his performance for months … I’m still not sure that I have.
Scott: What actor would play you in a movie of your life?
Grant: I wish it would be a handsome star like Michael Fassbender or Ryan Gosling. My wife thinks Robert Downey, Jr. would be ideal. The truth is that I see someone more like Sam Rockwell. It would need to be a character that is funny, relatable, sensitive, approachable and wise, but with a hint of lunacy and orneriness. I think Sam is the perfect blend of charming and rascal.
The Gallery at Gateway Film Center is a movie-themed art space located on-site at the film center, and is free to all ticket holders. Featuring movie-inspired collections by local artists, The Gallery is designed to thrill and inspire GFC guests, support and promote Columbus arts, and explore how storytelling extends off the silver screen into paintings, sculptures, and more. All art is available for purchase. Grant Gilsdorf’s VLNS NVR DIE will run through the end of March.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art and sharing information about exhibitions, performances, concerts and more at ColumbusMakesArt.com. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.