Artists have all different quirks, types of personalities and styles, hence such creativity and self-expression! For instance, maybe you’re the shy-pensive photographer, or perhaps you know a moody- heart broken sculptor, how about those out-of-the-box, off the wall painters (Warhol anyone?). The list can go on and on… but by chance, have you heard of The Gross Uncle? In short, The Gross Uncle encompasses all sorts of personality and talent beyond compare (see question 3 for an accurate formula). Unfortunately for you, Fortunately for him, there is and can be only ONE “Gross Uncle.” Let me introduce you to him..
Grant Gilliland: Artist, Uncle, Super Model
Grant Gilliland aka “The Gross Uncle” is a cartoonist and illustrator with a style COMPLETELY his own. One cool aspect about this artist is that at your request he will put his Sharpie marker to work, sketching anything you wish and ship it out to you for a measly 20 bucks!! (One-of-a-kind art? Yes please! Placing my order as we stare at monitors) Turning a cool hobby into a career, Gilliland strives to enjoy life, have fun and create work that he loves, while being confident in all that he does. Combining big talent with an even bigger personality, this young artist has a long and successful road ahead of him. Let’s dive right into it and find out more about this Sharpie artist…
Tell me about yourself! Hello! My name is Grant Gilliland; I have a blog called “The Gross Uncle” and I love to draw and make things. I spend the majority of my time drawing cartoons and illustrations for all sorts of reasons…sometimes for clients, sometimes just for fun. I am based in San Francisco, originally from Ohio, a place where I spent a great deal of time playing and being creative. As I recall, I also went to high school there, but really all I remember is skateboarding and making funny home movies with my friends. I also enjoy coffee, bike riding, daydreaming about absurd images, scouring the web for inspiration, and meeting new people. How did you get started as an artist? What kind of experience do you have? I started my artistic career in my high chair, cranking out crayon-styled depictions of geometric cars, amorphous birds, and freakishly proportioned people. I would probably stop a minute to spit up or scream some gibberish towards the sky, then after wiping my face and getting something to drink, it was back to work… Come to think of it, not much has changed since then…besides the fact that I use a regular chair now.
When I was a little older, I took art classes after school and then once I got too cool (air quotes) for those, I started making comics with some of my friends. I went to The Columbus College of Art & Design in 2001 and got super-inspired there - It’s when I started to take art a bit more seriously. After graduating with a Bachelor’s in Illustration, I balanced a part-time job as a barista with freelance work. I started getting my feet wet and figuring out my style and eventually met up with my agent, Scott Hull in 2007. I am still pretty new to the world of freelance illustration and am looking forward to what things I am inspired to make in the future.
Gilliland's work displayed at an art show
How would you describe your personal style? This personal style recipe yields one to two editorial illustrations, one overworked 4×4 painting and about half a dozen blog posts with too much writing, it serves an infinite number of portions if rationed correctly.
- 1/2 cup of season 1 Ren & Stimpy mix
- 4 tsp of Surrealism
- 1 page of The Maxx comic book, shredded
- 2 small vinyl figures from Kid Robot (under $40), massaged in oil
- 1 Sonic the Hedgehog cartridge (Sega Genesis), quartered and cut into large pieces
- Pictoplasma to taste
- 1 pot strong black coffee
- sarcasm to taste
Directions: Mix in a blender. Pour over a 4 year art-school education, slowly adding strong black coffee to the batter, while playing a post-punk mixtape in the background. Sprinkle sarcasm over the condensed result. Let bake in the California sun for four years, and enjoy.
Where do you draw inspiration from? I spend a lot of time absorbing podcasts, YouTube videos, music, comedy albums, you name it… I just like hearing creative material from people. If there is a sense that they know what they’re doing and have their own voice, usually I’m game to listen. I get in these modes where I get into a certain podcast and just listen to it nonstop…even if I don’t really like it all that much or wouldn’t want someone to walk in on me listening to it. I will go into the archives and listen to the whole thing – sometimes I will listen to the same episode several times. I guess I’m sort of sponge-like when it comes to most things…sometimes vaguely loofa-like, but rarely. How do you use Sharpie markers in your work? What is your favorite Sharpie?! I like the way Sharpie markers make a nice strong line. I have used other pens in the past, but I always ended up coming back to Sharpie for their consistent quality. I love the way they draw on laser jet photo paper…so smooth! I like the regular fine-point Sharpie marker…I have about two dozen lying around at any given time.
Where did you come up with the idea to sell $20 Sharpie drawings? How does this work? I wanted to sell something on my blog that was affordable and fun for me to make. The cool thing about doing these drawings is that I get to post them on the blog and say who they are for and where they are being mailed. People seem to like the idea, and each drawing is made just for them. Also, it’s really helped me loosen up…the more people that order the drawings, the better they will get because of all the great drawing practice I’m getting. All you need to do to get your own is email me at email@example.com and ask! I am open to creative suggestions and I will gladly draw your dog.
What children’s books have you illustrated for? Just one. The book is called “Theo” and there is a blog where you can check the whole thing out (http://theobook.blogspot.com). The book was conceived and written by the talented author Kentucky Lim. We are planning a whole series of books together.
So tell me, do you have a gross uncle or are you the Gross Uncle? Maybe I should just ask this: Where did you come up with the name for your blog?
I him! He me! We be me!
…Actually, the whole alias came about one summer when I was thinking about how great and sneaky it would be to have this “alter ego” that I could get extra illustration work as. So there’s Grant with his cute little round style and then there’s The Gross Uncle with his bizarre, awkward, hairy drawings…and all the time it’s just one guy. I basically scrapped the idea when I decided to use the name for my blog, so I just ended up mixing elements from the two styles over time. Nowadays, The Gross Uncle moniker gets used the most when I participate in gallery shows…seems to fit…and it’s easier to say than my last name.
If you could design for any one person who would it be? Why? I would design for the auto-tune machine because that’s the most popular singer these days. Other than that, I have made a character design for my friend Donny Papermaker…he’s pretty famous on the YouTube nation.
I’m curious…What do you think is the “funniest looking appendage” and why? Great question! I like the nose. That’s an appendage, right? There are just so many great ways to make a nose…you can abstract it and add all sorts of funny joints and angles and planes that shouldn’t be there and it can really add a lot in terms of visual punch. If your drawing is looking real good, then you could put a blue nose on a guy and it could work.
Are you currently working on anything that you can tell us about? I’m finally getting back around to working on a cartoon show called “Touch Base with Gregg Sween.” The show is basically a cartoon version of a daytime talk show…it started out as a puppet show that my friend Patrick Kouse and I did last summer. We performed the whole show live at Fivepoints Arthouse in San Francisco – we only did it twice. We haven’t touched it for a year and now I think it’s time for us to get back in touch with our inner thespians (cue laughter here).
Anything I didn’t ask that you would like to add? Yes. Can you direct me to the Instant Sharpie Replacement Hotline? That would be nice. I’d put it on speed dial and then a Sharpie representative can send new pens to my house in 2-3 business days. You accept drawings as payment, right? (Grant, you can reach me (the Sharpie Rep) at 1-800 illlosemyjob) -cue sarcasm here : )
Do you have any advice for other young artists? It’s always important to be into what you’re doing for the fun of it. No matter what circumstances you are under in life, fun plays a major role. Just being in a good mood can really negate and remove (even permanently) any real or perceived obstacles in life. Also just keep the world up to date on what you’re doing…post blog entries about it, take progress pictures, share…being active is more important than being really good.What do you hope for in 2010? There are some major projects that I hope to finish either this year or next…patience can be tough. Honestly, just to be happy and satisfied with life sounds nice…to be happy with whatever I am working on without doubting it and to spend the rest of my time playing.
He desgins shoes too!
Want more? Follow him on Twitter and take a look at more of his art on Flickr