Briefly describe the work you do.
I’m a painter. In the past year I’ve been making paintings that are based off of small clay figures.
At what point I your life did you want to become an artist?
Like a lot of artists, early successes and a slathering of praise in childhood left me convinced by middle school that it was fate.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I was born in Kansas, and grew up mostly in Indiana. My parents used to farm. My family is very liberal and intelligent in a land that is mostly not and if I had to psychoanalyze myself then maybe that is what made me enough of an outsider to pursue such a line. More than that, I lucked into a few good teachers early on.
What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?
Everybody loves painterly, humanist, figurative paintings, even if they can’t admit it. But it’s rare as hen’s teeth finding anyone really good at it, because it’s such a deep abiding mystery as to why it works. I’m trying to figure it out by trimming, distilling and burning away anything that distracts me from that mystery. I’ve even taken actual human beings out of the equation. These paintings are all based on these small oil-based clay figures- I’m not using paint to effect some craggy, uneven surface, it’s all already there. It’s all just the light, the surface, and limits of my abilities with clay and paint. The funny thing about it, however, is that the narrative elements creep right back in, without my permission. You can’t put a human face on a rock without the viewer trying to read it’s mind, and you can’t place three figures in a room without the viewer inventing a story around it.
We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?
I remember reading some advice on songwriting that I’ve always thought applied to painters too. The advice was to create, in your mind, a famous record that doesn’t exist, and to put it on your imaginary turntable and play it, and whatever came out of the speakers in your head was the song to write, right? I try to work the same way- I can always envision the painting long before it begins. It always becomes it’s own thing, but if I can’t see it in my minds eye beforehand, I won’t do it. I’m sure it’s different for Chuck Close. Some artists can turn that part of the brain on and leave it on all week like a chrome faucet. I’m more of a spasmodic geyser.
What artists living or non-living influence your work?
Merlin James, Siobhan Mcbride, Gerhardt Richter, Anselm Kiefer, Goya, Freud, Bacon, Rembrandt, and those Bantu Nkisi nail fetishes.
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?
I work as an artist assistant full-time, so it’s likely that when I’m not painting for myself I’m painting for someone else. Beyond that- reading, studying music, constant worry, commuting, eight cups of coffee.
Grant Stoops (b. 1985 in Kingman, Kansas) is a New York City based figurative painter. He studied painting at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in Wisconsin and the School of Visual Arts in New York.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.