Interview: Allan Gorman

Photo credits: Sandy Ross

Name: Allan Gorman

Where do you live:
I was born in Brooklyn, NY (aren’t all the great ones?) Now I live in West Orange, NJ, a suburb of NYC.

Known for:
Realistic oil paintings of machines and structures.

Currently working with:
Paintings that explore and reveal the abstract forms created by—or found within—the utilitarian things we take for granted. I find myself drawn to patterns, angles, distorted reflections, etc. I’m always looking for ways to share a different take on our reality.

When did you realize that you were going to work with this/in this area?
It seemed to evolve naturally. As I was exploring subject matter I was struck by the shape of large trucks and shipping containers and thought I’d do a series of paintings based on these. I used to go to industrial sites and truck stops to take photos for reference. Increasingly, I began to be drawn to the parts—mirror assemblies, lights, reflective surfaces and angles—rather than the trucks themselves. That kept on expanding and growing to other forms—pocket watch mechanisms, motorcycle engines, architectural marvels, etc. And it still does.

If you could choose one place only to live, where would that be and why?
I suppose I could live anywhere—your home is where you make it, right? But I like having access to New York City and being able to go in and look at exciting art exhibits and the other culture that the city has to offer. It’s too crowded and expensive though, so I choose to live outside in the suburbs instead of in the middle of all that chaos.  I’m happy where I am.

How would you describe your creativity?
It’s a matter of taste. We all have taste, and I have a compelling need to see that taste manifested as reality. For sure, the paintings I make are pictorial objects, but I really find that when they are successful, they become more than just rectangles of visual information, but actual interactive experiences that move your emotions too. I think good examples are “Steam Punk”, and “Rocket”. Their large scale feels intimidating and awe inspiring, but you can’t help but to be drawn in and just can’t stop looking at the details. I want to make more art like that.

How and when did you start to work with this in a serious manner?
I used to work in New York City as an advertising creative director and started teaching classes at a prestigious art school. One of the bonuses of teaching there was being able to take classes at no charge. My wife suggested I take a painting class. This was back in the 1980s. The instructor had us painting from live models. I had no affinity for the models and didn’t like it. I was also studying black and white photography at that time, and had a really good eye for tonal values. I asked if I could try painting from photos instead of the live model and the instructor said “Sure!” This led to a series of works using old black and white family photos as reference. I liked doing them and for a first attempt they were pretty good. But then we had a baby and I started my own new advertising design business, and had to concentrate on growing that and making enough money to feed my family and pay the bills. So I put away the brushes for twenty-five years. When my son Sam became older and my business was more mature I picked up the brushes again. That was in 2009 and I haven’t looked back since.

What do you do at the moment?
Presently, I’m creating a series of paintings that explore how the moldings and shiny paint jobs of automobile bodies distort what’s reflected into abstract shapes and compositions.

A recommendation for those who think about starting and running a creative business?
As an adman and business owner, I learned that the way to real success is through cultivating relationships, making friends and being true to what you stand for. In other words, your success is directly related to what others perceive and like as your unique “brand”. And their perception is based on everything you do, everything you say, every activity you engage in, and everything they may have heard or imagined—true or not. If you can gain clarity and understand how your unique brand might appeal to those who are naturally attracted to it, you can then consciously make efforts to cultivate and grow that persona. You’ll need to act with integrity, urgency and passion; and without ambiguity or deviation. Even with all that, not everyone is going to love you or what you do. But some will, and those are the ones you’ll want to embrace and cherish. Most importantly, you’ll have to love your job and constantly strive to keep getting better at it. As an artist—or in any endeavor—that’s the most important thing to learn.

Tell us how it all started.
I think I covered that earlier in question 8. But, if you mean “How did I start defining myself as an artist?” that happened in elementary school. As a little kid, I was overshadowed and ridiculed by my two older brothers in everything, and had little self-esteem. In third grade, I took a piece of paper from my notebook, folded it into twelve little rectangles and did a little drawing in each box. My teacher saw it, was thrilled and then made me take it around and show it to all the classes in the school. I got strokes for my work! That experience defined me as an artist and gave me a north star to follow for the rest of my life.

What is the most important thing in a workplace/studio for you?
It has to offer enough room to spread out and experiment. Also, it needs good light and has to be comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. I do better work when I’m proud of my space.

What is your favorite film?
Hmmm… That’s a tough one. I have no one favorite. I’d say I’m attracted to uniqueness, humor, integrity, visual interest and emotional impact. In that case, Fellini’s “Armacord” comes to mind, and also Lina Wertmuller’s “The Seduction of Mimi”. Certainly “2001: A Space Odyssey”, and more recently, the films of Wes Anderson. I absolutely loved “The Grand Budapest Hotel”.

Who would you like to invite for a dinner and why?
It would be great to have a salon with artists I admire and could learn from. Rackshaw Downes, Gerhardt Richter, Anish Kapoor, Picasso. It would be great to listen to them and find out what drives them.

How do you like to spoil yourself?
I like to see new things and learn new stories. Going to a museum exhibit, traveling, a terrific movie, a great book.

What is luxury for you?
I have little need for excess and lavish things, but I do enjoy the theater or a good evening out or a spa treatment on occasion. Never having to worry about financial security or health issues I’d consider luxurious.

What is the nicest compliment you’ve received for your creative work, and from whom?
You… accepting me as an interview candidate!  🙂 Seriously, selling a piece of nice artwork to a collector who appreciates it is a wonderful reward. Not only do I know what I’ve created will enrich their life every day, I also feel that I’ve made a connection and a new friend.

What do you fear most?
Losing my physical ability to create. Also, becoming chronically sick and a burden to my loved ones.

What is a happy life to you?
I’d like to know – sooner than later, that what I create will endure and have meaning for a long time. That would make me very happy. Other than that, I’m pretty happy with my life now.

What does a regular day look like for you?
I make myself a little breakfast, get in the car and arrive at the studio around 10:30 or 11. I paint for at least 4 or 5 hours. Go home, feed and walk the dog, and then spend the evening with my wife. Right now, I’m in a production mode, so I’m not concentrating an awful lot of time on networking and marketing, other than Facebook and the occasional e-mail newsletter. I don’t feel quite ready to make marketing and finding outlets for my art a daily activity yet, though I know I should. About once a month, I’ll take the day off to go look at art in galleries, a museum or an art fair.

Tell us about your dream project.
Later this year, I plan to start on some large paintings inspired by rusty industrial girders and columns. They will be quite challenging and complex, and I’m hoping the end result will be impressive and wonderful. I think that’s going to stretch me to the next big project. But I always want to keep dreaming, so I don’t have a perfect answer to this question.

Who is your professional role model/inspiration?
I look at the art world today and see commercial success going—in a large degree—to artist/businessmen who create slick, expensive, mass produced and shallow work. Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, et al. That’s definitely NOT a role model I care for. On the other hand, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other artists making amazing and inspiring works that stretch the imagination and cause people who engage with them to say “Wow”, and want to keep coming back for more. I’m so impressed by the work of Anish Kapoor and the way his creations interact with the public that sees it. His sculptures are truly a gift. I’ve never met him and don’t know all that much about him as a person, but I admire the courage and integrity that I have seen in his work.

How would you describe your work style (academic field or fashion style, or both, or something entirely different)?
Because of the process I use, I’d say I’m a photo-realist or a contemporary realist painter. But I don’t like the label, because for me, it’s more about the impact of the art I make than it is about the technique.

Which is the one thing you can’t live without?
Music I think. And people.

What inspires you?
The universe is the greatest artist there is. Look at all the species…at the cloud formations…at the landscapes… the galaxies… at what mankind creates and how it impacts on all of us (as an extension of the larger universe.)   Personally, I look for the interesting and provocative and want to share what find interesting and moving. Often I tell people, “I’m not painting objects. I’m painting the dance…the music.”  I’m inspired when I see things that are beautiful and in balance.

A book that has changed/made the most impression in your life?
Hmmm… Don’t think I have any one book that changed my life.  Maybe Dr. Wayne Dwyer’s “Your Erroneous Zones”.

Connect with Allan via Facebook & LinkedIn & Instagram
Check out his Website
Oh, look at his Wiki page



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