We are so fortunate to work with living artists, therefore we have the luxury to interact with them on a personal level. When I’m asked a question about an artist I really love to incorporate excerpts from any conversations I’ve had with that artist. I believe it adds a personal element, it makes the artist relatable, the human element is added and an existence is seen beyond the work of art.
In an effort to venture beyond merely sharing an artist’s biography, I put together a series of eight questions that explore a different side of our artists and shed light on the journey artists take to reach success. So, I hope you enjoy this blog series of one-on-one interviews!
First up, local artist Gavin Glakas!
Gavin Glakas is an artist, husband, father, teacher, and an unstoppable force, who lives for art. He worked as a Senate Staffer on Capitol Hill for a year and a half. However, his career in fine art was realized after he suffered an eight month illness that culminated in the removal of a tumor from his lung when he was 24 years old. Ultimately, Gavin realized his true calling and has been creating art ever since.
Now Gavin gets to combine politics and art through his figure commissions! He is the man behind the portraits of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the architect of the U.S. Capitol, Stephen Ayers, former Governor of VA, Terry McAuliffe, Congressman Ike Skelton, and many more.
Below is my series of questions and Gavin’s answers. Enjoy!
Q. Is there something that or someone who inspires you daily?
I’m inspired by everything all the time – experiences or ideas, anything I’m enthusiastic about from an examination of human nature, music, history, literature, current events, all of my artistic heroes – painters, illustrators, filmmakers, musicians, architects, writers – to the people I love and encounters I have. The world I see is a fascinating and exciting explosion of wonder, exploration, learning, adventure, danger, love, heartbreak and limitless possibilities. I’ve always lived in this world through my art and it is a source of constant inspiration. It’s the feeling that life matters – the opposite of cynicism.
That’s why I’m so interested in depicting the society that we’ve built. We know that nature can be wondrous, but so can humanity. We’re inundated with negativity through the news and various forms of media, and lately I’ve been feeling like there are more horrible, unfeeling bastards out there than I initially may have thought, but we build incredible creations and do wonderful things for each other. I suppose that I have one foot in the “here and now” and one foot in the “what could be.”
Q. Is there a specific project, commission, personal creation, etc, that you are particularly proud of? What makes it so significant?
After college, I worked on Capitol Hill. I felt like a coward because I didn’t have the courage to pursue art full time and I had decided to take the “safe” route. I used to gaze longingly at the portraits on the walls of the US Capitol, which were constant reminders of the life I felt I’d turned my back on. 17 years later, my portrait of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was unveiled and placed on display in the Capitol. My grandchildren will be able to see it when they go up to visit. I felt like Douglas MacArthur returning to the Philippines. It represented a victory over cowardice for me. That felt good.
Q. What does it mean to be creative and how essential is creativity to making a successful work of art?
To me, creativity means taking the world around us and all the preconceived notions we’ve amassed and building upon them – changing, tweaking, shifting and, most of all, improving them. Creativity is taking some idea we have about something and attempting to convey it, and if we can tap into the deepest recesses of our own souls while doing it, it will be unique and it might even be good.
Q. Which museum is your favorite to visit?
We’re so lucky in DC – we have the National Gallery, the Portrait Gallery, the American Gallery of Art, the Sackler and Freer Galleries of Asian Art – quite possibly my favorite of DC’s gems – but the museum that really inspired me to try to become a professional artist is the National Portrait Gallery in London. When I was studying painting in London, I used to venture in there whenever I could. If I had to be imprisoned someplace, it would probably be there.
Q. What serves as your artistic motivation?
I’m overflowing with ideas and I just can’t wait to get them out and start experimenting with them.
Q. How do you sustain your ambition?
It’s frustrating because there’s only so much time in the day. Even if I live to be 130, I’ll have countless ideas that I haven’t brought to fruition and that feeling can be crippling. All I can do is work as hard as possible and remind myself that I’m doing the best I can.
Q. Have you been faced with discouragement? If so, how did you overcome it?
Discouragement is part of the gig and it makes for great motivation. If positive reinforcement doesn’t get you to go back to work at 11:30 pm, when you’ve got a cold and you’re exhausted from standing up all day, maybe negative reinforcement will. All I can do is to work through it. That seems to be the answer to most of my problems – get back to work!
Q. In the beginning of your career, what was the best piece of advice you were given? Who gave it to you?
When I was getting started, my dad, a lawyer and Navy combat veteran, said, “Do what you love and the money will come.” Without that sentiment and encouragement from him and my mom, and the example they set in terms of hard work and high expectations, I wouldn’t be an artist.
Available Works by Gavin Glakas:
St. John’s in the Late Afternoon and Logan Street Sunset will be featured in our upcoming 25th Anniversary Invitational Exhibition, opening on Friday, February 22nd with an Opening Reception from 6:30-9pm. Come join us in celebrating 25 wonderful years in Old Town Alexandria!
For inquiries please contact email@example.com and click here if you would like to view more work by Gavin!
Below is our schedule of upcoming events! All of our events are free & all are welcome!