Revisiting Al Gord

In this fast paced industry we don’t always get to an opportunity to reconnect with the artists we feature. We are always keen to see how things have moved on and where possible be a part of their creative journey. Today we are Revisiting Al Gord.

Al Gord was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. and the eldest of three, his two younger sisters both enjoy the arts as well. One of his sisters enjoys writing, while the other is active in small musical performances around the city.

As children they were always introduced to the arts, be it visiting local galleries and museums or attending live performances. This had an impact on Al who always created and wanted to be an artist, but life takes us in other directions.

Al went to University where he earned two degrees, neither of them in the fine arts – which people always find interesting as he has no formal art training. After years of not doing anything related to the arts, he began painting again in the fall of 2015 and re-discovered his love of art.

As much as he loves painting, he really enjoys staying active – working out is a big part of his lifestyle as is meditation. In the last few years Al have also become active in raising awareness about mental health – it is such an important issue in society today, one which requires on-going education and support.

Where do you do your work?

Currently I work out of my place. People do not always realise how expensive painting can be. As an emerging artist, my home has become my studio. While this creates a bit of a storage issue with my finished works, it also has incredible benefits.

It provides me access to paint 24/7 in a relaxed environment. I am non-traditional in so many facets of my work that creating from home just seems like the perfect place to work.

What moves you most in life, either to inspire or upset you?

People. That and my innate drive to constantly challenge myself and excel, whether it be in the art world or winning a game of cards. I thrive on high expectations for myself and working towards achieving them. I am also really fortunate that my family and friends are so supportive.

When I got back into art about a year and a half ago the encouragement was incredible. I entered my first juried show, at the urging of a friend, and was accepted into it they were right there with me at the event, which was definitely needed as it was so incredibly nerve wracking.

Where do you feel art is going?

I wish I knew, to be honest. I have only been painting seriously for just over a year and a half. When I look back at my work from eighteen months ago I am embarrassed by the quality of it, but at the same time I feel a sense of pride as to how much I have grown.

I never imagined being in a show or featured in a magazine or interviewed (thank you Niji Magazine for these incredible opportunities). Ultimately, I paint because I love it. It is an adrenaline rush for me and I feel as if I am missing something on days I do not get to create. As to where all this will lead, I am just going to enjoy the journey one day at a time.

It’s cliche I know, but I feel fortunate to have experienced this support and success so early on in my art career. I am going to enjoy the process, see where things go and keep my fingers crossed that galleries start contacting me and that the rock stars I paint discover my work.

What is the role of the artist in society?

I believe that the role an artist plays varies based on subject matter, audience and intent of the work. To some extent the artist is a cultural catalyst, someone who tells a story, promotes the arts and builds appreciation of the changing landscape in the art world.

Whether today’s artists inspire, raise awareness, or even provoke – artists also need to actively make a positive difference. On a more intentional level it is about giving back to society, educating others and supporting important causes.

What technique do you use?

Well in a less technical sense you could call it controlled chaos; a smorgasbord of techniques on canvas. I enjoy the unconventional by combining techniques and sometimes colours that should not work together. The element of control is defined by using a geometric abstract approach; random lines in some of the sections in the background.

I like to balance that out and bring energy, the chaos to the piece using a drip and splatter technique to create the impression of randomness in other sections, almost like a Pollock painting. The background is intentionally created to give a fractal or deconstructed feel to balance out the focal point; the people.

Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it is executed?

Wow, that is such a tough question! I really believe that they go hand in hand, at least when it comes to my work. The subject is important but the likeness is key, especially with my rock star pieces. If I intend to create said artist and the work looks like some random person playing guitar, the whole intent of the piece is lost.

The body language, the posture, the facial expressions, all of these elements are key for my work. Because of that I would have to say the execution of the piece.

Do you prefer a perfect smooth technique or a more energetic expressive technique and why?

When I view others’ works, I don’t have a preference for style or technique; I am captivated by work that I find unique and that pulls me in. The amount of talent in the art world today is incredible – we are lucky that we have the opportunities not only through galleries but through social media to see the wide range of gifted individuals creating today.

As my work draws upon and hopefully emanates emotion, the expression is key for me. I am very intentional as to the colours chosen, the techniques applied to each section in the background and the positioning of the figure. This combination is needed to create a sense of harmony and unification to produce the emotions and energy I hope to capture.

Where does your inspiration come from when you are painting?

If I were to sum it up in one word it would be life. I look at my personal experiences and the experiences of those around me to inspire my work. All of my art is emotionally driven, be it uplifting moments or experiences which are more humbling.

That being said, I cannot paint if I do not have rock music playing the entire time. For me music and painting go hand in hand. The energy of the music helps to influence my work allowing me to produce the pieces on the canvas.

Do any of your paintings have a deeper meaning?

I would hope that all of my paintings have deeper meaning. For me all of my portraiture work is very personal, which may sound unusual since many of my works are paintings of rock stars. Each has a meaning, whether it is a tribute piece or something deeper.

As for what that meaning is, I want viewers to interact with my work, to dig deeper and to find their own meaning in the work. My pieces on mental health are very personal to me as I am a strong advocate for mental health awareness. I hope through my series ‘Walk a Mile in my Head’ I can help to de-stigmatise this important issue and educate others.

How do you feel when you are letting your emotions loose on the canvas?

When I am painting it is this incredibly cathartic experience and often I experience a range of emotions. When I am painting a rock star I listen to their music and their music only. During the creation process I am both energised by the music and yet surprisingly at peace as I lose myself in the work.

For my pieces on mental health, I try to find music that is about struggle and challenge; difficult life experiences. I want to bring that emotion into the piece, to convey the feelings a person may be experiencing with their illness. I have to tell you that by the end of a full day of painting I am exhausted.

Your focus is on Modern Abstract Expressionism, Contemporary Romantic Expressionism and Rock Icon Portraiture, can you explain what these forms mean?

As my style has changed, I would now categorise all of my work as modern expressionist portraiture or modern figurativism. It really is a fancy way of saying that I paint people using a more realistic style, one where I try to capture emotion in all of my subjects. I think my style, my techniques, my colour palette provides a fresh, hip way of looking at people.

Which has been you most rewarding piece of work and why?

That is really tough to answer. After I complete a piece, that piece, at least for the moment is my most rewarding, especially if I am pleased with it, as I feel like I have grown just a little more as an artist. If I had to choose then I would narrow it down to two pieces.

The first piece would be my initial rock star painting ‘The Wind Cries Jimi’ – a tribute to Jimi Hendrix. For years I searched for a style that would represent me as a person: outgoing, adventurous, an individual who does my own thing. After some experimentation with different artistic approaches, I feel as if I found my voice and signature style with this, my first rock music portraiture.

The other piece would be a recent piece, ‘Looking for Solace in the Desert of my Mind’ a piece created to help raise awareness about mental health. This issue is very important to me and one I feel strongly about supporting, as it is misunderstood and often wrongly stigmatised.

Of all the piece in my series ‘Walk a Mile in my Head’ I feel that this piece truly captured the essence of the series.

If you could share one message with others what would it be?

Do what you love. I have come to realise that the simple things in life are amazing, but one has to make a conscientious effort to step back and be in the moment. To really make the most of the opportunities we have, we should always consider what makes us happy and do what we love.

I got back into art due to a difficult time in my life. That time helped shape my art into what it is today. As a result, I have never been more passionate about my art then I am currently. If nothing else I always tell people to enjoy life, experience new things and do what makes them happy.

Connect with Al Gord

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