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Meet Gigi Chen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gigi Chen.

Gigi Chen, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I got my BFA from School of Visual Arts in NYC, majoring in traditional animation. As a kid, I always imagined I would be one of those crazy animators working for Disney, flipping through drawings of Mickey Mouse. The reality was when I left college in 2004, everything was about to go digital and I was not super thrilled about working in an animation studio and sitting in front of a computer all day.

My actual love is painting and drawing. I started assisting fine artists almost 20 years ago. I worked with predominantly female painters who trained me to create work with Old Master techniques and to make large-scale traditional drawings. Watching them work with such patience and mastery opened up the door to the possibilities of a career in the Fine Art world. I started creating my own bodies of work and started showing in galleries all over New York City and then to other places like Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I came from a modest Chinese immigrant family. We did not grow up with a lot of money to fund my art career and I have always had to work really hard and have a job. I have been fortunate to have Artist Assisting jobs for the better part of my adult life. And I have predominantly been doing other work related to painting, like creating large scale murals and portrait commissions. At this point, I have not worked at a full-time job in over ten years and the financial situation, at times, can get really dicey.

The Fine Art World is a very complex place to navigate. Choosing to be apart of it as an independent artist can be full of disappointments and dead ends. I really love it though. I really love making giant bodies of work that I believe in. And I have even gotten used to searching for the right gallery to approach to show my work even though it is always daunting. Finding my community within groups of artists also really helps. We can all work and grow together.

Please tell us more about your art.
I am a fine artist. I specialize in colorful and realistic painting and drawing. My most recent subject has been about the fabled bowerbird. The male songbird can spend up to a year collecting twigs, berries and small objects in order to build beautiful and elaborate nests, all in the hopes of attracting a mate. I combine realistic renderings of still lives and mix in bright details and fancy trimmings. Essentially, I am making paintings about the things we do for love.

My painting and drawing skills are my best assets. Aside from that, I pride myself on my ability to compose work. The act of planning is most important to me. It has also become my strongest language. If you plan a composition poorly, you will inevitably pay for it later. It has taken me years to learn how to harmoniously design a piece.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I wish I had known early on that there is more than one way to be an artist and that there are many ways to sell work and participate in the different sectors of art and design. There is so much intersection between the fine art and commercial world now more than ever, but I really don’t know how I could have figured that out on my own. At this point, I just want to make a lot of art and take it one step at a time. I really am not sure what I could have done differently and I am pretty happy with how I am doing right now, even if it is a struggle. After all, you cannot really plan for anything in this life and I always feel like the best stuff is what you work the hardest for. I want to make my art and take it day by day.

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Image Credit:
Studio Photo: Bill Wadman, Phone Booth Photo: Samantha Sanders

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