“In 1998, I began building the studio I desired and needed. The wood, mostly northern white pine and hemlock was cut from the property and milled to my specification at a wood mill right up the street.
I needed a drawing space separate from my sculpting space so I designed a drawing studio upstairs and the sculpture studio on the ground floor. This studio plan has been ideal; it allows me to work on a drawing or a sculpture at the same time. Cleaning the space in preparation for a new work doesn’t exist anymore, which had always been the case in my smaller studios.
The footprint of the studio is about 2800 square feet and has a large garage door for moving large sculptures in and out and opens up to a big field where we can watch the wild life.
I not only create objects but love collecting objects, these two practices result in a studio that is visually overloaded. Some found objects find their way into a piece and others into the trash; depending on how long I’ve been staring at them. I think of my studio as my supply store and the shelves are full.”
Bryan Nash Gill was born and raised in the same rural, northwestern corner of Connecticut where he works as an artist today. Gill earned his Bachelors of Fine Arts degree from Tulane University in 1984 and his Masters of Fine Arts from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland four years later.
Gill has received two Connecticut Individual Artist Grants, is a California Arts Council Fellow and in 2005 he received the Artist Resource Trust, from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. He has shown his sculpture, drawings and installations at many exhibitions and galleries across the United States. Gill is the author of “Woodcut“, (New York, 2012, Princeton Architectural Press)
FROM YOUR DESKS: How do you work?
BRYAN NASH GILL: I begin in the morning and follow the day’s pattern. Some days it is a good dance and other days it is a struggle.
FYD: What is your favorite sentimental object at your workspace and why?
BNG: There are two tools I use when rubbing the paper onto the inked surface. A Baren made of Hornbeam, (also known as Ironwood) and a Bamboo disc baren made with a Bamboo leaf and a recycled record player dust cleaner. I made both of these tools, which makes them special.
FYD: What is your favorite or most required tool?
BNG: My hands.
It usually takes a few times to get a good print and to familiarizing myself with the woodblock.
FYD: What brought you back to your native, rural Connecticut?
BNG: I had a studio in New York City for a summer and had exhausted the money I received from a California drawing fellowship grant. I wasn’t to far from where I grew up and there was lots of space where I could continue my studio work.
FYD: You are an avid outdoorsman. Talk about your search and rescue/harvesting process.
BNG: I usually stumble upon cross sections of trees when bucking up firewood. I visit a few bone yards that are filled with discarded trees, and friend’s occasional point me in the direction of a newly cut tree.
FYD: Do you think being a woodsman and naturalist is in itself, being an artist?
BNG: No, but is an integral part of the puzzle.
FYD: How do you prepare your cuts of wood?
BNG: After finding a worthy subject, I plane and sand the printing surface,” baby bottom” smooth, raise the grain, seal the wood and begin to print. It usually takes a few times to get a good print and to familiarizing myself with the woodblock.
Dendrology, the study of trees, a science that has given us historical data about our global environment and forever-changing climate.
FYD: What is your favorite type of wood to work with and why?
BNG: Ash is a great wood to work with because of the distinct separation of summerwood and springwood. (see Ash wood below)
FYD: What is the oldest tree you have worked with?
BNG: A Cedar telephone pole. It was so dense and the annual growth rings were so close together that they could not be accurately counted beyond two hundred.
FYD: Like the “ lifelines” on the palms of our hands, how do tree lines tell a story?
BNG: Dendrology, the study of trees, a science that has given us historical data about our global environment and forever-changing climate. Looking closely at an individual tree’s structure and annual rings teach us about a particular species, the environment in which it grew and the occasional marks therein indicating invasive trauma.
FYD: How does color play a role in your work?
BNG: I rarely worry about color and rely on intuition when deciding on what colors to use. When printing with many colors, viscosity, opacity, and translucency are very important and I sometime feel like a mad scientist. I enjoy the challenge of combining colors and when it works it really feels good.
FYD: Every biological form “ possesses a unique footprint.” What is your favorite story of a tree?
BNG: The stories that come to mind are about narrowly escaping injuries from falling trees or tree branches. That’s why we call them “widow makers.”
FYD: As in your Berkshire Exhibit, what is beyond the landscape?
BNG: The notion of landscape is so rooted in culture. It is hard to get beyond the conventional ideas of landscape. So when I speak of,” beyond the landscape”, I am referring to your own landscape, or more simply, “it is whatever you imagine.”
Own a copy of Bryan’s Woodcut here.