Painting Outside the Box

Production is up: art by Chris Sharp.

What happens inside an artist’s studio? Red-eyed bacchanals followed by noon-time wake-up calls? Marathon work sessions fueled by crusty takeout and flushed with week-old coffee? Canvases stacked to attract a dealer’s eye, or the subversive marketing genius of a Banksy? Inquiring minds want to know.

A certain picture emerges at the downtown studio of Chris Sharp and Jeremy Gregory, recipients of a six-month Spaceworks Tacoma artists’ residency. The two painters (who work independently) occupy 904 Broadway, a large space that gives pedestrians a fishbowl glimpse into their workaday world: an alternate universe of non-scheduled labor and chaotic creativity. Oh, and fun.

Artist Jeremy Gregory.

Just as we suspected, there’s a ton of great art to be seen. Sharp is a fine artist whose gallery paintings cross time barriers and explore the semiotics of language through ghostly layers of brushwork. Gregory is a figurative painter whose current work suggests that the rapture isn’t coming, it’s here. Both claim that the rent-free studio has had a positive effect on their work.

Gregory's visions for a dark future.

“I can do whatever I want, and just make stuff,” smiles Sharp, standing beside an altar-like arrangement of studies, and painterly landscapes thick with oil pigment.
“This location is ridiculous,” says Gregory, who moved his easels out of a home studio to this prime spot across from the Pantages Theater. “I’m here all the time working. I never would’ve done these paintings [from the old space],” he says, waving at a group of canvases. He adds that it’s a boon to see Sharp as well as other Spaceworks resident artists working in the neighborhood, instead of laboring in isolation. “We spend all our money down here. We’re working here and making art for the city. This is the best thing ever. I say it three times a day.”

Sharp takes a break on the quarter-pipe.

Both of these artists stay busy with art gigs that extend beyond the edges of the traditional canvas. In addition to painting Cormac McCarthy-esque canvases, Gregory is an illustrator, and the editorial cartoonist for City Arts Magazine. Recently the magazine sent him to Manhattan to cover the New York City debut of Tacoma/Seattle band, Motopony.

Sharp is a branding specialist and professional signage painter whose freehand, often vintage-inspired logos dot the local landscape at destinations including Satellite Coffee, Smooth ‘n’ Juicey and the Rosewood Café. He is currently creating the branding for Prana Wellness Center. He was the first recipient of the $7,500 Foundation of Art Award from the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, in 2008.

Both artists have created outdoor murals for the city; Sharp at 38th and Portland Avenue; Gregory at 2143 Martin Luther King Way. You can take a peek at what they’re doing in-house through June 2011, at 904 Broadway (don’t let the bikes, skateboards and quarter-pipe fool you; these are working artists).

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