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Meet Will Day of WilldayART in Downtown Los Angeles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Will Day.

Around 4 or 5 am, you might find Will Day heading to his warehouse studio. He’ll be alone painting on large canvases, forsaking brushes. Then, after a few hours, he’ll open the studio’s garage door to the waking world. His “open door policy” means new clients might stop by, or he might ask questions of people who stroll in. At some point, though, he has to leave, to go outside, itching to move. He might go for a run, come back, work some more. At the end of the day, he’ll go back home to his family. But then he’ll go right back to his studio, the urge to paint every single day too strong to put to rest. “It can be intense,” he says, “but I don’t always show it.” And that’s the crux of Day’s personality. One senses that he is full of constant, brimming energy, and his art, much like his life, is a way of expressing that energy.

Abstract art has a reputation for being difficult to talk about because it is so experiential and subjective. This doesn’t worry Day, who refuses to over analyze his own work and instead views it as fundamental storytelling. His paintings might come from a highly subjective place, but Day isn’t interested in objectivity to begin with. “I paint from things that happen in my day-to-day,” he says, looking to exemplify universal experiences by channeling his own inner workings.

One might not know the details of Day’s life, the intensities that fuel his drive toward abstract expressionism, but one can see a resulting tension. In his painting “The DANUBE,” for instance, the bold momentum of lines and blocks of color force the eye into constant movement, no real focal point to rest on. His painting, “REVOLUTION,” features swirls of pink against gashes of black, the canvas revealing itself beneath. Day is not replicating scenes from his past, but he is evoking the feelings and impressions that he has been collecting, reshaping, and confronting since childhood. Scenes that so many can find parts of themselves in.

Day grew up in Connecticut. His parents divorced in the early 1980’s, which left him feeling “unofficially isolated.” He remembers creating his first painting at the age of seven. At fifteen, he went to boarding school where he played hockey, soccer and lacrosse. The environment was highly competitive and Day’s tenacious energy allowed him to succeed there, yet he still didn’t feel like he fit in even in a world bristling with so many contradicting energies. For Day, art was a distraction, a way to harness those energies and perhaps make himself fit in, make himself “feel comfortable” in his skin. He felt in line with his true calling when he was dabbling in creative endeavors at this time.

But he didn’t pursue art at first. Though he knew he could paint, in college he studied French and International Relations, traveled, and ended up in Tunisia with the Peace Corps. There he wrote, photographed and painted every day, trying to find a way of communicating. Not knowing exactly what his soul was telling him to do, he then went to work on Wall Street. Like the sports, Day grew up playing, thriving in the financial sector required similar competitive and cutthroat impulses. He loved it. But he knew a part of him, the part that revealed itself in school and cultivated in Tunisia could no longer be ignored.

It’s tempting to think that the leap from Wall Street to abstract painting is a large one. To those outside of it, the financial world appears formulaic, structured, and numbers-based, things that abstract art seeks to tear apart. But Day had to learn how to “think in a way that was different from everybody else,” a skill he has translated into his paintings, hoping to challenge audiences.

“There’s not a perfect line or a perfect landscape, or a perfect flower,” Day says, discussing the merits of abstraction. While he admits that there is, of course, movement and mood in figurative art, his own paintings get at them faster, make them overt. Another way he puts it is like trying to capture the experience of looking out of a train window, trying to harness all those passing images, to capture the energy of a single moment.

In all of Day’s work, there is a sense of physicality, whether it’s the whiplash use of color and freeform drip of paint in “JOYFUL CHAOS” or the careful angles used in “SEEKING” to emulate a sense of jagged collision. In his painting, “The CLEARING, “glacial blues give way to dark reds and harsh lines, cracking, disintegrating, pointing downward into an abyss. One is tempted to call some of his work harsh, but he thinks the better word for it is intense. “These are my intensities,” Day says, and he owns them.

Talking to Day, one realizes the emotions conveyed in his work are not traumas, they are textures. Day is ultimately trying help those who see his work navigate beyond the minutiae of everyday life and see a bigger picture; as shocking and awe-inspiring as his incredibly large paintings. Like his childhood forays into art, serving as distractions from his home life, he hopes his paintings will likewise transcend beyond politics and hardship and transport you to emotional spaces that look on better horizons. Day, in that way, is like a guide, and the destinations seem boundless.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has not been an easy path to get to this place of creativity and painting, but life is not supposed to be easy. As I mentioned in my TEDx talk last spring, the journey for each one of us is to try and “FIND THE CREATIVITY IN THE CHAOS”.

I started finding myself on this journey after the devastation of September 11th, 2001. My wife Aimee and I were both working at Wall Street at the time, she was on the 78th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. By the grace of God, she wasn’t in the building yet that day. Many people on her floor lost their lives. This agony my wife experienced was so close to home which shifted things for us. I stopped working on Wall Street and began my graduate studies in architecture at Pratt Institute, which eventually led me back to painting in 2008. My challenges were plentiful, especially when I decided to paint full time during one of the worst economic recessions we have ever experienced. I have my family to thank for their steady support throughout this artistic journey.

Each one of my family members gives me courage. They remind me that we are all in this to guide and support one another. Financially, spiritually, emotionally… they give me faith. Faith and belief that we can do something unique and different. My family is my soundboard for reality and they help me overcome the challenges that I face in the art world.

Though the artworld is inclusive. There is room for everyone; every narrative, every perspective. I don’t create paintings to please people. I create art to give a voice to my experiences and to express myself, to heal myself, to learn from myself. I have to paint. I have to be in my studio. It is essential to my core and my well-being as a creative person. Creating art helps me overcome the challenges that I’ve been faced with. There have been many along the way.

Please tell us about WilldayART LLC.
I am a contemporary fine artist that creates large scale abstract expressionist paintings. I am based in Boulder, CO but also have a studio in Los Angeles. My work is all about opening yourself up to the world. It’s scary and vulnerable. But it’s how I nod to the nuances of the human experience.

Everyone can find something that moves them in my work; to happiness, to anger, to sadness, to joy. There is so much expression in creativity and that is at the core of my practice. Since I have such a large space, I enjoy extending this vulnerable and playful headspace to my community. I regularly host events in my studio such as exhibitions, yoga classes, poetry readings and art seminars. Sometimes I even teach classes. My process is about touching people on their own journey and allowing them to find their creative spirit. I hope my art draws people in and takes them somewhere. Because art connects us all.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite childhood memory was centered around the street that I grew up on, called Briar Brae. The neighborhood kids and I would spend hours outside playing sports and just exploring our natural environment. We would barely come inside for dinner time without rushing to get back and play. I learned so many valuable lessons and built some lifelong friendships on Briar Brae.

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Image Credit:

Michael Ash

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