“Being an artist requires patience, confidence, passion and lots of hard work, but I enjoy every minute of it.” – Al Gord

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Exclusive Interview with Al Gord – Artist from Canada

Al Gord is a self-taught up and coming artist in the Toronto, Canada art scene. While he considers himself a painter, some may suggest that his works borrow from mixed media, as he uses both sheet music and acrylic paint as his chosen materials. He found his way back to painting after a lengthy hiatus from art. His work developed as a natural progression from experimenting with different styles, subject matter and techniques. He has always loved rock music, from the classic sounds of the late 1960s to the current sounds of today. Combining his passion for painting with his affinity for rock music – the songs, the people, the energy, and the stories – has been his inspiration in creating his works of art.

Using song titles and lyrics from songs as a starting point, Al creates paintings that display the musician in an iconic pose that is truly distinctive to that individual. He draws the viewer into the piece using various contrasting elements which are seamlessly blended together to create a sense of balance in his work, while giving his art an almost three-dimensional quality. Inspired by the music of the artist he paints, Al listens to the specific artist throughout the entire painting process, as he immerses himself in the “energy” of the musician.

Recently Al has branched out into other series as well. While he still enjoys painting rock stars, a subject matter he will continue to paint, he is at the early stages of developing two new series, one based on Classic Hollywood icons and another; which focusses on more erotic pieces that bring music and sensuality together.

Al has exhibited in shows in Canada, the United States, Italy, Australia, Scotland, and England. His works are gaining in both notoriety and popularity, as his art is owned in numerous private collections. His distinct and unmistakable style makes his portrait works unique. He is currently represented by a gallery in the United Kingdom.

Sing with Me

NY Glam: Tell us a little about yourself and your career beginnings.

I am the eldest of three; my two younger sisters both enjoy the arts as well. One of my sisters enjoys writing, while the other has been active in small musical performances around the city. As children we were immersed in the arts, be it visiting local galleries and museums or attending live performances. This had an impact on me. As a child, I always created and enjoyed the arts, but I never saw myself being in the art world. In my younger years I sketched a lot, usually fantasy pictures, reminiscent of creatures you would see in Lord of the Rings. I also experimented with different painting styles and media, watercolor landscapes, oil landscapes and acrylic – recreating other artists’ works. None of the subject matter really moved me for any length of time, but it did allow me to experiment with different techniques and styles.

I went to University where I earned degrees in both science and education. During this time, I did not take any post-secondary related arts courses. I have no formal art training. After years of not doing anything related to the arts, I began painting again in the fall of 2015 as a way to find some work-life balance. I would paint every day, playing around with various ideas. Eventually it led me to painting my first rock star piece – a portrait of Jimi Hendrix. I continued painting rock star portraits, refining my style, having fun with new ideas and techniques and continuing to learn from each painting. A little less than four years ago is when my work really began to take on its current form. For me I found my voice; my identity as an artist. Through all of this, I have re-discovered my love of art as well as the sense of tranquility it brings to my life. Recently I decided to make this my focus – leaving the long hours of an intense career to focus on my calling as an artist, working at my pace and schedule.

NY Glam: What projects are you currently working on?

Currently I am working on a couple of paintings for my “Legends of Rock” series. Coincidently enough the artists, arguably two of the most influential of all time, are from New York and neighboring New Jersey. The New York music scene has always played a major role in the music industry and the uniqueness of the artists from the area have played prominent roles in my art. Joey Ramone, Billy Joel, and Gene Simmons are all artists who I have painted to date. I am excited to be adding two new icons to my series. After that I am torn between a few possible rock stars, a very iconic Hollywood figure or a new sensual piece. My “to paint” list never gets smaller; it only seems to have new potential paintings added on to it, which is exciting.

NY Glam: What art do you most identify with?

As an individual who appreciates art, I enjoy contemporary works. The subject matter can vary as can the style, but works that are bold, that make a statement and which are unique and fresh really appeal to my sense of taste. As for my art, I do not know if I can really categorize my style. If I had to describe my style, I would suggest that I combine Pop Art, Street Art, and Abstract Art with
Portraiture.

My goal when creating is to draw the viewer into the work by using contrasting elements, which seamlessly blend to create a sense of balance and harmony in my work. With varying colors and techniques, as well as sheet music, I create fragmented backgrounds. My goal is to create a sense of equilibrium and unity, where the icon is the focal point, but the viewers’ eyes are not fixated only on the image.  I would suggest that the lines and abstract splatter in the background create a sense of movement and rhythm, and perhaps even visual depictions of sound and emotion. I also use a lot of black and grey to depict outlines and shadows in each portrait, which gives my work a street art feel, one that hopefully elicits energy and raw emotion in every piece.

NY Glam: What themes do you pursue?

It really depends on the series I am painting. A significant number of my works focus on rock stars as well as other musicians who have played a significant role in the music industry. With these pieces, I am delving into a wide range of topics such as politics, mental health, addiction, individuality, and life – the obstacles that we all deal with at one time or another. A lot depends on who the artist is and the song I have chosen to include as motivation for the painting.

A second series of works, my “Women of Rock” are sensual and edgy portraits inspired by rock songs about women. These pieces often focus on love, heartbreak, and inspiration. Relationships – the highs, the lows, and everything in between make for powerful narratives, both as song lyrics and as paintings.

I am in the midst of building up a collection, yet to be titled, of very sensual pieces. The themes in these works are somewhat evident based on the visuals. Passion, raw emotion and sex; however, there are all kinds of subtle messages built into the pieces. Once again, based on a specific song and artist, the backstory to the song and musician also plays a role in the piece – with the couple displaying tattoos that connect to the music and song.

Finally, my newest series “Classic Hollywood” really focusses on concepts such as stability versus freedom, nature versus culture, sacrifice, loyalty, and so on. Really, it is about what it means to be human; understanding one’s sense of identity, self-awareness and personal growth or in some cases – the lack of understanding. Through this series, I hope to capture these themes in a manner that exudes timelessness, elegance and sophistication.

In reality, all my series focus on the “human condition” and what it means to be human. In part, each piece is inspired by emotion and by life. In some ways, I let circumstances choose my next piece for me based on how I am feeling, an experience I have recently had, or even the connectedness I am feeling with a certain song at a given point in time.

NY Glam: What’s your favorite art work?

My favorite work seems to change month to month, depending on what I am currently painting. I find excitement and motivation through each new piece, which brings me a certain joy. There are certain paintings, which stand out for me for various reasons – the first piece I sold, at my very first show. That has special meaning but nobody would ever recognize it as one of my works. At the time, I was still finding my voice and style as an artist; it is an abstract piece with symbols embedded in the work. My first painting I did of Jimi Hendrix stands out for me, as that was my initial foray into painting rock stars. While my style has greatly changed since then and it is far more polished, that piece set the tone for who I am as an artist. As I have also painted pieces for loved ones those are all very special to me as well. So in short, each piece has a certain meaning for me – I do not think I have yet to have a favorite in my portfolio.

Son Can You Play Me a Memory

NY Glam: Tells us about some of your recent exhibitions. What memorable responses have you had to your work?

Last summer I was in a virtual exhibit hosted in Milan, Italy. Being part of a show in a city renowned for its fashion, history, art and culture was a real honor. What made this extra special for me what that the gallery showcased my sensual paintings – the first time my non-music pieces were featured. The organizers specifically sought me out because of those paintings where the intent was to highlight the passion, love and beautiful edginess of the works. Over the last three months I have done two shows in my hometown, with artists from all over the world participating. The response to my work has been very positive. For me the most memorable part of the two shows was that I was part of a five-person artist panel where I spoke at the virtual opening for the first show. Being able to talk about my work, my inspiration and the impact of creating during this pandemic was a very powerful experience.

NY Glam: Tell us about one of your projects which you are very proud of.

A few years ago, I created a four part series of paintings. All four portraits were monochromatic; all painted in various shades of blue. The focus of these paintings, all non-celebrities, was to raise awareness about mental health and wellness. I am a huge mental health advocate and proponent. I feel that additional education, resources, and supports are needed, as this is a growing health issue, one that is sadly still misunderstood and stigmatized by far too many. I felt it important to use my voice as an artist to let others know my perspective and support for this very important issue. While these four pieces have not gained the same notoriety as my other works, they are pieces of which I am immensely proud.

NY Glam: What does “being creative” mean to you?

That is such a great question because the term often seems to be associated with someone who is an artist in one form or another. As an artist, a lot of time is spent honing skills, developing new ones, and putting in the time and dedication to excel in our field. I would also suggest that people think of “being creative” as someone who produces finished pieces, be it a song, a performance or a work of art that is seen in a gallery. For me it is a mindset. We are all creative in our own way; some people write, others are creatives in the kitchen. The biggest key to being creative is getting out of our own heads, taking a risk and not worrying about what others think. While I would argue that there is added pressure being an artist, both in breaking into the industry and in making a living at it, “being a creative” really is about enjoying the time experimenting and trying new endeavors out of my comfort zone. Most importantly, it is about being in the moment, focusing on the time spent creating, and learning from these experience to further enrich my life.

Twenty Twenty Twenty Four Hours to Go
Twenty Twenty Twenty Four Hours to Go

NY Glam: What are you trying to communicate with your art?

With my paintings, I hope to challenge the viewer to dig past an image of a famous person and in the process, gain a deeper understanding of each icon represented. A key part of this is the title of the work, which is significant to the painting. The musical pieces are based on a song title or lyric that reflects the message of the work and which serves to heighten the emotion of the piece. For fans of the musician, this helps them to further the connection to the piece. For viewers who may not be as familiar with the artist, the title helps to draw them in, as they begin to learn about the artist and the significance of the song-painting narrative. Each painting has a unique story to tell – the history and meaning behind a song, the backstory of the musician or the reason why I was compelled to paint a specific icon. I hope that my work promotes conversation, as people search to make their own meaning of the work, while at the same time seeing the individuals painted in a completely new light.

NY Glam: What role does the Artist have in Society?

I believe that the role an artist plays varies based on subject matter, audience and intent of the work. To some extent, an artist is a cultural catalyst, someone who tells a story, promotes the arts and builds appreciation of the changing landscape in the art world. The beautiful thing about the visual arts is that it is truly is a global language, one that we all speak. Regardless of where one comes from, we all can make meaning from a work of art – for example; a picture with a happy couple sends the message of love. That is universal. In many ways, art unites.

Whether today’s artists inspire, raise awareness, educate or even provoke – artists also need to make a positive difference. I am not suggesting that art be censored; on the contrary, it needs to be a voice for those who do not have one. I am all for art that pushes boundaries and tackles difficult issues. From sensuality to mental health, from social justice to confronting “isms” artists have a significant role to play.

Finally, at least for me I see the need to give back to society and support important causes. It is one of the reasons why for the past six years, I have participated in an international art exhibit. Funds raised have gone to help various organizations including a woman’s shelter, a charity to help adults with disabilities, and to support children with Leukemia and their families.

NY Glam: What are your thoughts on being an artist in today’s world?

It can be very challenging for a whole host of reasons, but I personally feel it is very rewarding. The industry itself is very difficult to break into. While social media makes it easier than ever to market one’s work, the sheer number of artists creating today is mindboggling and everyone is using the same platforms to share their talents. There are so many incredible artists out there that it becomes a numbers game at times with regards to: shows, galleries, and other creative ventures.  I have had talks with well-known organizations where I thought we were moving forward only to have things fall apart. In other instances, I have forwarded submissions for unique artist opportunities, again for very recognizable companies. When there are limited slots and hundreds upon hundreds of artists applying, many who are established and known throughout the industry and in some cases household names, it can be tough to be one of the few chosen. However, that is also part of the thrill, the rush of being an artist. As competitive as one might think the industry is, I have found it to be a very tight knit, supportive community. Being an artist requires patience, confidence, passion and lots of hard work, but I enjoy every minute of it.

NY Glam: How has painting influenced your life?

As I previously mentioned, I got back into art to find further work-life balance. Never in my wildest dreams, could I have imagined me leaving a very secure career to focus on painting. In doing so, I do not have a set schedule. It took a little while to get used to not having a daily routine. However, the benefits are incredible. My time is truly mine now. That allows me more time for family. I can create for as long as I want on any given day, which is fantastic. I find that on days when the creation process just flows, I do not have to cut that time short for other commitments. Painting for me is also an escape. The combination of painting and listening to music is a cathartic experience, one that is so incredibly peaceful and yet exhilarating. From shows to press I have met so many interesting people, with such a wide range of experiences, backgrounds and gifts; people with whom I would not have ever crossed paths. That is a gift unto itself. Through all of this, I have been fortunate to connect with my two painting idols; two super talented Canadian painters; both of whom focus on rock star portraits and who have provided me insights into the industry. Finding my way back to painting truly has been an amazing experience.

NY Glam: What art movement or artist would you say influences your work most?

I do not really have one specific movement that influences my work. Portrait work is key to what I do, but I have so many different elements embedded into my art. That being said there are three artists who have had an impact on my style. The first is Romero Britto. The first time I saw his art I was drawn to the bright colors and the myriad of contrasting designs and fragmented sections in his work. Elements of his Cubist Abstraction and Pop Art have definitely played a role in my work. The second is Canadian Post-Pop artist Jason Alexander, who again uses a wide range of colors and competing patterns in his work. While very different then Britto, the idea of using varying forms in a singular piece played a role in my approach to creating. Finally, watching speed panting performances from the legendary Denny Dent always awed me. His “Two Fisted Art Attack” portraits, set to the music of the artist he was painting left a real impression with me. To this day, I still watch his performances for inspiration.

This is What it Sounds Like

NY Glam: What can we expect from you this year?

Wow, that is a tough question to answer, even more so with the pandemic still out of control. The only thing I can definitively say is that I will be continuing to add to my current collection of rock star paintings. Recently I have also started a new series focusing on classic Hollywood icons. To date I have painted Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, both of which received very favorable reviews. I find that my color palette for my work, the blacks and greys fit well with that era. You can expect to see more in this new series. I may spend time this year getting back to a couple of other series I have – focusing on my sensual series. I love being in my studio and painting, but there is more to being an artist then just the creative journey. At least for me there is the business side to the industry. As such, I am playing with some painting ideas that are quite different then what people expect to see from me. So much is dictated by the current market. I have been fortunate to have exhibited in two shows already this year. As for additional shows, new gallery representations, potential collaborations and even looking at ways to put a unique and technological twist on my works – we will see where things go. I am definitely excited to see what is in store the rest of the year.  

NY Glam: Can you share with us three favorite things about your city/culture?

I feel incredibly fortunate being born and raised in Toronto, Canada, which is where I still reside. Toronto has everything that a major North American city can offer. One of the greatest things about the city is that we are truly a global city with a wide ranging demographic. Living in such a diverse city, we are fortunate to reap the benefits of being so culturally rich. We have an incredible food scene in Toronto; it really is a foodie’s paradise. An added bonus is that in the summer months we have weekly festivals that bring the city together. We also have a thriving arts district and theatre district; however, galleries and performances are found throughout the Greater Toronto Area. For those who like the outdoors our downtown core is a great place to walk and soak up the atmosphere. From historical buildings to newer architecture, there is a lot to see and experience. We are lucky in that we also have a number of parks, which are great for a hike, as well as the Toronto beaches for those who enjoy nature. Toronto really has something for everyone; it is a necessary visit for anyone who has not been here.

NY Glam: Where can everyone keep up with you to learn more? …social media…website

People can visit my website and reach out to me at https://www.algordart.com/. For those who want to follow along and see works in progress as well as some other behind the scenes content, readers can find me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/algordart/?hl=en, Twitter: https://twitter.com/algord_art?lang=en and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlGordArt. I hope people connect with me and follow my journey.

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