Young Hollywood Can’t Get Enough of This Artist’s Designs
Gregory Siff knows a thing or two about being a visual artist in 2016. He’s done collabs with Marc Jacobs, Warner Brothers, and Mercedes Benz, to name a few. He also boasts a fan club that probably includes at least one of your celeb crushes, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Zayn Malik, and Big Sean, who’s pictured in a Gregory Siff custom jacket below.
His most recent exhibition, Portrait of an American Ice Cream Man, debuted in his downtown LA studio last month, and it’s as fun and visually appealing as it is delicious-looking.
We talked with Gregory Siff on why every artist needs ruts, how to know when to follow your creative passions, and what’s so amazing about dating an artist.
Your current exhibition, Portrait of an American Ice Cream Man, is inspired by your “beloved childhood ice cream man, Gus.” Can you tell us more about Gus and why you chose ice cream as the subject for your latest work?
I just remember how excited and happy I got from my first memories about how great it feels to get ice cream and to look forward to it. Running down the block to get some ice cream! I grew up in Rockaway Beach where the ice cream man would come down almost every day in the summer and each time his menu rolled by it was another chance to to think about who you are. It might sound like one of the most simple things, but in our time of the digital world where everything is literally brought to you with an app, I like the idea of being a kid and running and earning that reward of the ice cream. Gus was my ice cream man and I was this little kid with curly hair who would order all the things and start up a tab with the ice cream man so when my father came down, the ice cream man would hit them with a $20 bill and be like, this kids been getting ice cream for the whole week. It was kind of my first purchase and I did it on cuteness. Sometimes I wish that I can relive it and I guess the only way I will is by having a kid of my own.
What’s your favorite ice cream treat?
My favorite ice cream treat is a chocolate shake thick with malt. If you get it from Mr. Softee, tell them to put rainbow sprinkles in the bottom. One of the kids on my block showed me that one!
Can you tell us more about The Periodic Table of You?
As I was painting the show I started to think a lot about the most important moments of my life; my favorite selections of time; from the scent of Jasmine in the air to the taste of a chocolate shake, to the pain of when you lose someone. These became elements that compose my story and who I am. If the periodic table is the elements that comprise all of the matter in the world, then these are the things that matter to me. These are the things that are me and when you look at them you’ll find you. That’s the importance and beauty of art. Connection.
What advice do you have for someone dating an artist?
Oh man! If you fall in love with an artist it will be the greatest love. From the highest highs to the lowest lows, you’ll hold onto each other, you’ll taste foods together, and appreciate things that most of the world won’t allow their sensibilities to ingest. Artists live in a hyper real world where the sex is grander, where the chocolate is sweeter, and the tears are new canvases waiting to make you feel good. For the first time in my life I’m dating an artist. I don’t know why I waited so long.
You were born in NY, but you moved to (and now reside in) LA, what prompted the move? Do you prefer LA? Why or why not?
LA is my lover. She became my muse from Sunset Boulevard to the places that I created my artwork and left it in the street to the people that I’ve met in Los Angeles. I’ve been able to discover myself and look at myself in the mirror all alone. New York has my blood and soul in [it]. I was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Rockaway Beach, Queens. I went to New York University in Manhattan. It was all training for me to realize that I was home in the sun among vampires and angels. I once said, “be thankful for your demons for they make you create beautiful things.” When you make love to the things you’re afraid of, everywhere you go becomes home.
You’ve said that you don’t plan out your pieces, you just sit down with a paintbrush and see what comes out; have you always been able to work this way?
That’s interesting. As much as you plan your life it comes out so much better when you let go. I can plan my paintings to the point of where I release them. I arrive in the studio with a feeling it could be love it could be anger it could be pain if I’m able to express it on a square and be honest with myself and that’s a good painting it doesn’t have to be a beautiful decoration it doesn’t have to be hip or sellable it has to be important to me so that way it’s important to you.
When did you first see painting and designing as a career for you?
Vincent van Gogh’s biography. I felt like I understood where his passion and zeal came from. Then I saw the film “Pollock” and I learned about Basquiat in NYU and all of these peoples lives were so romantic. Like Shakespeare wrote their lives read them. This is the life I want to live. I only paint because it makes me feel good and when I put the work in the street it made other people feel good. When I was able to sell these pieces to pay for rent…I just wanted to see how far I could go.
How do you get through a creative rut?
I did it today. You want ruts. You want to make five bad pieces so you can make one great one. There is no such thing as a rut. It is all part of the process. It’s like life, you’re supposed to fuck up. It is better if you do that because then in that mess you find some really cool shit.
You’ve cited love and sex as influences is in your artwork. How have those things influenced your most recent pieces?
Have you ever had sex that was so good that you almost want to call it a wrap and just say it ain’t getting any better than this? If I died right now I’m the happiest person in the world? If it feels that good, [I try] to express that in a painting because that’s what I want to look at every morning before I step outside and go get coffee. I want to feel great about this life.
You’ve said “I am my own happiness dealer.” What does this phrase mean to you? Do you think that’s important to view things positively, specifically as an artist?
That phrase came about when I was alone in my second studio and I gave up the idea of trying to control all of these things that were making me happy; like the love of a girl or if I sold any paintings this week or if everybody likes me. I put all those to the side and just looked in the room and said this is all the happiness I need. One of my favorite artists is named Louis Cannizzaro and he told me that no matter what happens– you can lose everything, love, family members, money. No matter what, they can’t take away your art, all you need is a notebook and a crayon and you.
What advice would you have for someone who’s unsure if they should follow their creative passions and is considering taking a traditional career path?
If it hurts at night when you go to sleep because you are not painting, then you know the answer.