A historic building in Indianapolis, IN
Text by Bonnie Gangelhoff · Photos by Tony Vilainis
This story was featured in the April 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art April 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
Describe your studio. My studio is in the infamous, early turn-of-the-century Stutz Building, where they manufactured high-end cars for the wealthy. The Stutz Building is an entire city block and a half. It really has a great personality of antiquity.
What elements were important to you in designing your studio? My goal was to make my studio have the look of a Sargent or Zorn turn-of-the century studio, with 15-foot mirrors and armoires and multiple pieces of antique furniture. The studio has a comfortable and real environment with old couches, tables, and lamps. I painted the walls a dirty gray-green, which was sort of a takeoff on wall colors in the home of the artist T.C. Steele [1847-1926] that was named the House of the Singing Winds. It is located in Nashville, IN. There are wonderful large factory windows in my Stutz studio, and I can control light with custom-made curtains. It’s my world, and I love to share it with my artist and musician friends.
How does the surrounding environment influence your work? When I left illustration and came into fine art, I thought that if I could have a turn-of-the-century look in my paintings and my fine art, I could have a career. That’s why my surroundings are all 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century antiques.
What inspires you to paint? I have a quote, and it’s from the Bible, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” There is something subconscious and deep in the heart and soul of man, and that’s what tells me I have to paint it.
Why is painting from life important to you? It brings together all of our inadequacies and our abilities to make an honest human statement.
Do you listen to music while you work? I stopped listening to music 18 months ago because I don’t want white noise. Music in the studio has become white noise to me because it complicates and corrodes the purity of my thoughts. Silence is golden. It rules with me.
But music does play an important role in your creative life—you’re known as a great banjo player. Are your approaches to music and art similar? My approaches to music and art are with the same creative attitude. I just see what I can get away with. It’s the challenge. It’s the journey. The same element in writing music with the ear correlates to the same principles with the eye in art. One inspires the other.
Why did you want to make the CD Road Trip, and what genre of music does it belong to? It’s a blues CD. When the opportunity arose to record with some of the greatest bluegrass and jazz musicians in Nashville, IN, I jumped at the chance. I decided it was the right time, as they used to say, to put something “down on vinyl.” I’m always writing new compositions. My music is bluegrass, contemporary bluegrass, jazz, swing, and new American roots.
How do you find time to paint, play music, and teach workshops? My wonderful wife keeps me focused—to keep the main things the main things.
What artists have influenced you? The list of influential artists is a book in itself. I am so blessed to have many living artists as friends. It’s impossible to make a list.
What is your proudest accomplishment as an artist? I try to be a positive influence with every artist I meet. I am so proud of so many of my students who have really worked hard in this craft.
If your studio were on fire, what one thing would you save? My banjos!
What do you enjoy doing when you are not painting? When not painting, I am looking at art, studying God’s word, playing music, and trying to be the husband I need to be.
What is one place people will never find you? At the corner of Walk and Don’t Walk.
Where do you like to take people when they come to visit? I take them to the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, and, of course, to my favorite restaurants.
Eckert & Ross Fine Art, Indianapolis, IN; Castle Gallery, Fort Wayne, IN; Guarisco Gallery, Washington, DC; Gallery 1261, Denver, CO; Anne Irwin Fine Art, Atlanta, GA; InSight Gallery, Fredericksburg, TX.
Featured in the April 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art April 2015 print issue or digital download Or subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!
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