Jan Gatewood is a 25-year-old self-taught artist living in Los Angeles. His work’s sweet spot is in the intersections of drawing, painting, and collage, culminating in a specific brand of dark comedy.
Gatewood’s candidness bleeds from his real life into this work—an honesty you can see in his paintings, and through posts on his Instagram. If you peek at his brushstrokes or follow his posts, you’ll see an effortlessness that makes him feel relatable and approachable, yet complex.
Whitewall caught up with Gatewood to see how he’s doing today in the midst of social distancing, which of his friends prove to be his biggest inspirations, and why he’s not into resolutions.
WHITEWALL: You mentioned that just a few years ago you began cultivating an art practice. How has it changed or evolved since?
JAN GATEWOOD: I started trying to cultivate my practice about three years ago. It’s changed a lot materially, and the scale of the work has shifted a bit. In addition to these, I know more about what I want from the work. The work has an ethos of dark comedy, and I’m digging into how I can further that concept.
WW: Nearly every artist has an “aha” moment when they realize they want to create, and why. Did you ever have one?
JG: I’d say there are 2 catalysts that lead me to thinking creatively. The first would be skateboarding. Skateboarding opened me up to drawing, photography, video, music, etc. The second would be visiting New York about three years ago. When I returned from that trip I knew wanted to make and learn as much about art as possible.
WW: A place like New York is filled with public art. Can you tell us a bit about how you feel it can impact its community?
JG: I’m a fan of art being placed in public spaces. I like the fact that you never know who will see the work and what effect it can have on someone. However, what I just said is highly subjective to where the work lives, the context of the piece, etc. Different story every time.
WW: We’re currently in a state of unification, in an odd way—with all of us being quarantined separately during this pandemic. How are you doing?
JG: Amid the current chaos, I’m doing okay. To be honest, I’m stressed financially as my ways of earning money via art have been compromised. However, I’m thankful for food, shelter, friends, and time to rest. Now I’ve got to work extra hard to stay optimistic about making work during, and post, this virus. What helps me do that is comedy, group chats with friends, and looking at shows online. Stand up by comedian Deon Cole and Josh Smith‘s fish paintings have been particularly helpful for me.
WW: Tell us a bit about creating in your South Central studio right now.
JG: Upon entering my studio, I usually will sit for a bit and express gratitude for having the time and space to work. Then, I’ll listen to Future and change into my studio clothes. After that, I’ll put on some stand-up comedy and start working. When I feel enough has been done, I’ll assess and see what needs to happen for the next time I come in.
WW: You work in the inner sections of painting, drawing, and collage. How would you describe your artistic practice?
JG: I once heard someone say, “Nothing fits but everything works.” I think that perfectly describes a good portion of my practice. I like pairing seemingly disparate things together to see where our minds take us. In my practice I tend to make things harder than they need to be in an effort to find an alternative. I hope what’s produced from that is a semi-personal artistic alphabet.
WW: Who are some creators that are inspiring you right now? What cultural changes or happenings are inspiring you?
JG: This is always a tough one for me. I guess lately it’s been Josh Smith, Candice Lin, Tala Madani, and Torey Thornton. My friends in L.A. are the most inspiring to me though. They all work really hard, and seeing their dedication helps push me.
WW: What are you working on in 2020? Any art-related resolutions or goals, or exhibitions in the pipeline?
JG: No resolutions for me, I just want to continue to make and learn as much as possible. I had some group shows coming up this year, but due to Corona I have no idea when or if they’ll happen. Either way, my approach thus far is to just make the work and let everything else follow.