Featured Artist Peter Grzymkowski

Artsy Shark presents New York City artist Peter Grzymkowski. After you enjoy his interview below, please visit Peter’s website to see his full portfolio, including a great line of apparel featuring his designs.

What got you started as an artist?

I grew up around my father working in his basement studio in Ridgewood, so I grew familiar with the artistic process by watching him, and seeing the way he approached his art. I was too young back then to know how much I was really absorbing, but looking back now a lot of it makes sense. For example, when I was little – I loved drawing book covers. I’d take a few sheets of  8.5×11 paper, fold them and staple them together – but I never bothered to fill the pages with anything! So all you’d see was an awesome, hand-drawn cover with nothing inside. Looking back now it’s pretty funny, but here I am – designing for the web and print, and making money at it too. Too quote Chuck Palahniuk, “prophecy isn’t the right word, but it’s the first word that comes to mind.”

What are your goals or aspirations?

The response you’re looking for would only serve to strip away all the spontaneity and fluidity that makes up the artistic process. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many pieces were started and never finished, only to be picked up again months later and taken in a completely different direction. I could be walking home from work one day, notice something in the street and suddenly – I’m overwhelmed with inspiration. The kind that sends you running home, anxious to get to work.

However, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a greater ambition at work here. I’d like to reach a point in my career where I can give up my 9-to-5, and throw myself head-first into all the various projects I have planned. I love collaborating with other artists, and my spirit yearns for the freedom that will allow me to take to the skies, figuratively speaking that is – I’m not a fan of airline food.

What inspires you?

I draw a lot of my inspiration from seeing fellow “creatives” pursuing and ultimately realizing their individual goals and ambitions. In a culture of distractions, built around the worship of the almighty dollar, it’s refreshing to see young people investing so much of themselves into something so uncertain and undefined. It definitely takes a lot of courage to swim against the current, and yet hundreds, if not thousands of young people do it everyday. And that – that’s what gives me the strength I need to carry on.

But on a whole other level, a lot of what I do is influenced by my love for music, film and classic, as well as contemporary literature. If you could see my studio, you’d see what I mean – the walls are covered in tapestries, tribal masks and posters, and my shelves are lined with books, movies and records of all genres.

If you could meet any other artist, from any point in history – who would it be?

I came up with a lot of potential answers to this question, but in the end I’d have to say Van Gogh. There’s just something about him (maybe the fact that he cut off his own ear and gave it to someone else) that gives me the impression we’d have a lot to talk about.

Describe, in detail, one inspiring moment in your life that helped define some aspect of your craft or who you are as an artist.

Back when I was still living at home with my parents, I spent one summer teaching Arts&Crafts at a local summer camp. I came up with a kite-making project for the younger age group, an idea I was really, really excited about. A part of me was quite skeptical, as the younger kids are less focused and get distracted more easily than the older age groups. Nonetheless, once the kites were finished – we took off for the open field to put our new creations to the test.

My students began spreading themselves out across the field, but with the wind dying down and their interest waning, there was very little initial success. The few kids who did manage to get their kites off the ground only made the younger children more jealous – and within minutes, all the kites that managed to go airborne were brought right back down to the ground. I was faced with an open field, filled with disappointed kids, all looking to me for answers. “What do I do?”

What else could I do – I grabbed my kite, and I took off into the field. For the first few yards the kite struggled, pathetically bouncing and kicking across the grassy field behind me. But then, just as everyone began leaving for lunch – my kite took flight. And when I say took flight, I mean it shot right up into the sky. My students eyes immediately lit up, as they ran back out to join me, grabbing their kites and friends along the way. In a matter of minutes, the field was full of smiling children and the sky danced with the colors of their kites. It was a beautifully inspiring moment for me, one I often turn to for inspiration – even to this day.

You’re a prisoner on death row – tomorrow morning, you’ll be dead. You’ve been given one last meal, a book and a vinyl record of your choice to enjoy in your final hours – what do you choose?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, with Paul Simon’s Graceland – probably my favorite album of all time. And as for my last meal, I’d have to enjoy one of my favorite dishes, Spanish Seafood Paella. If you’re a fan of seafood, I’d highly recommend it.

In your own words, what is “the meaning of life”?

Assuming Monty Python quotes aren’t admissible, I’d have to answer your question with yet another question – why does life have to have meaning?

For me there’s a greater beauty in chaos; the unknown is far more appealing to me than any fact or truth could ever be. The past doesn’t exist – neither does the future. There is only the now, and within us lies unlimited potential. The sooner we learn this, the sooner we can begin focusing on the journey as opposed to the destination.

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