Erin Coffey:How did you get started in the psychedelic world of live painting?
Gwen A.P.:I‘ve always been artistic and creative, and I have drawn and painted since as far back as I can remember. In college I had some extra money allocated at the bookstore so I bought an acrylic set. That is the point in my life where I began to put a lot of myself and what I was feeling into creating something using paint. Live painting came about when I decided to bring paints and a canvas to a music festival. I was looking to create something that captured the feeling of those few wonderful days of music. Last summer I live painted at Bonnaroo while vending next to the main stage. A month later I painted with the Disco Biscuits at Camp Bisco during their Saturday afternoon set. That was the beginning of what has been a wonderful year of incredible live painting with mind blowing musicians including Conspirator, the Manhattan Project, Brothers Past, and RootsCollider to name a few. I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to compliment such great musicians. I owe a huge thank you to people like Marc Brownstein, who believed in me as an artist and whose support has allowed me to grow and flourish as I continue to pursue my passion.
Erin Coffey:What inspires you when you are creating? For the non-commissioned pieces, do you dive in with an idea or do you let it just speak to you?
Gwen A.P.:I think music is a huge inspiration for me when I am creating. I create what I feel and I love how music makes me feel. Sometimes I go in with a bit of a plan, sometimes I just let go and see where the music takes me. There was a Conspirator show that I was prepping for not too long ago and I was really into Owls, so I sketched an owl on my canvas the day of the show. I went in unsure of my color scheme, but figured it out pretty quick once I got there and got a feel for the energy of the band. Once they started playing I just kind of let the music take over and by the end of the show the painting spoke for itself. The show I recently did with Brothers Past was completely different. I had never live painted with them before and I went in intending to do an abstract piece so I could let the music dictate what it may. Both pieces turned out incredibly well, but the creative process was different. I usually try to go along with whatever I’m feeling. Sometimes it’s masterfully planned, other times its spur of the moment.
Erin Coffey:Throughout your career, has there been a moment that you feel was life-altering; a moment that in a way changed the game for you?
Gwen A.P.:There have been a few moments that I would consider game changers, where the world stops for a minute and I wonder if this is all really happening. When my husband came home from FedEx one day, about 2 years ago, with boxes full of prints he intended to sell at Bonnaroo, I thought he was crazy. Looking back I realize that was the start of turning my passion to paint into a real career. Another huge moment was at Camp Bisco last year; painting on stage with the Disco Biscuits. I remember looking around the stage at these incredibly talented musicians that I have admired for so long, who were now only a few feet away from me. I remember wondering how it was possible that I was standing there; doing what I love, with those I admire most. It seemed unreal. Painting with the Biscuits made me realize, shit I can do this, I love to do this, I was born to do this. It was about that same time when my teaching career took a hit with our district’s budget cut. I took a deep breath and realized life was leading me down a different path.
Erin Coffey:What is something you would like the world to know about you as an artist?
Gwen A.P.:As an artist I try and capture the way I feel when I feel most alive, and somehow document that emotion on canvas. I think a quote from the great Hunter S. Thompson will help me convey what I’m trying to say here. “(B)ut no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world.” With my paintings, I aim to capture what that feels like.