LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Gibbs Rounsavall is a visual artist based in Louisville, working out of his studio in the Crescent Hill neighborhood. In addition to his studio work Rounsavall also paints murals--two of which can be found in the Shelby Park neighborhood--and is a member of the 2019 class of Hadley Creatives, a six-month learning and engagement experience for local creatives geared towards growing their careers as working artists. Using enamel paint—typically reserved for exterior signage and automobiles—Rounsavall employs a rich color palate to create what he describes as “geometric abstract painting with a focus on rhythm, light and movement that pushes the boundaries of visual perception.” He invited us into his studio to discuss his work and how he uses his free time. Here’s what he had to say:
AT HOME IN THE STUDIO I used to teach visual art full-time and just last year resigned after 12 years for JCPS to go full-time as a working artist. I now work out of my studio, which is behind my house in a converted 2.5 car garage. I have always liked having my studio at home so that I could pop in whenever I have time and not lose time in travel. I started out exhibiting in galleries about 20 years ago and over time this grew into private and public commissions and selling limited edition prints through my website. In the past four years I have expanded into the area of public art creating public murals, which I love! It's really nice to go from working in isolation in the studio to being outside and working in public. You really get a unique perspective on a community after spending weeks live painting on the street. This past October I was invited to participate in the SHINE mural festival in St. Petersburg, Florida, which was a thrilling experience because we were given one week to produce a piece (which was something I had to adjust to because my work tends to take a long time) and during that time we were dealing with Hurricane Michael, which added another layer. Every day I feel gratitude that I have found an audience that responds positively to my work.
I am a creature of habit and routine, which I suppose is not too hard to imagine given the kind of work I create. Every day pretty much adheres to the following pattern. Wake up at 4:50 a.m., work in the studio for about an hour and then go running, take the kids to school, return home and work ‘til school lets out and pick up the kids, family time 'til the kids go to sleep, then my wife Sara and I have a few hours where we catch up and either read or collapse on the couch for some quality Netflix time and then to bed around 9:30. We have two girls, seven and five, so my time spent with them usually involves drawing and coloring, playing with Legos or American Girl dolls, reading, working on puzzles or just running in circles around the house chasing each other.
STEPPING BACK I do get a boost looking at other artists' work visiting museums, galleries or studios, but more so in reading about other artists and their own philosophies on art making. In the past couple of years I have placed more value on working smarter not harder. This sometimes takes the form of me taking breaks from the studio, which I’ve found to actually benefit the work. I think it’s important to take time for rest and recovery where you remove yourself from your craft in order to take a step back to get better perspective. Sometimes I’ll be working so intently on a painting that it goes a bit out of focus (sometimes literally!) and I need to take a break so that I can come back with new eyes. I find that to properly get re-energized, I lean towards things that are not directly related to visual art such as reading, going to hear live music or just being out in nature.
One of our favorite things to do as a family is to get outside for walks and hikes. We live in Crescent Hill off Frankfort Avenue near Cherokee Park so we have two great options. It’s not a hard sell to the kids either, especially when we dangle stopping by Blue Dog Bakery for a treat.
HITTING THE BOOKS I am an avid reader and this is something my oldest daughter Edith has embraced. We frequent the Crescent Hill Library (one of my favorite places) at least once a week always coming home with a bundle of books. She and I are currently reading the Harry Potter series which I have been eagerly waiting ‘til she got old enough so that we could experience it for the first time together. It is very good by the way.
My own interest in books leans towards the genre-fiction end of the spectrum peppered with a little non-fiction here and there which usually is in some way related to art. Some of the authors I have been loving lately are Joe Abercrombie, David Lynn Golemon and Raymond Feist. I have a book on reserve at the library, “Dancing with the Gods: Reflections on Life and Art” by Kent Nerburn, which I’m looking forward to picking up. I tend to connect with an author and then proceed to consume everything they have written, completely immersing myself in their vision or subject matter. There was a particle collider phase, an ancient Sumerian phase, exploring our universe phase, theology phase and theories on life after death phase to name just a few. I was introduced to Game of Thrones about a year before the television show debuted and proceeded to read all of his books in one summer. That was a crazy/great summer.
I get this way with music as well, which is probably the biggest influence on my practice and work. I think there is an ineffable quality to both visual art and music that I try to bring out in my paintings. I will connect with an artist or album and listen to it on repeat for weeks. Olafur Arnalds, Bayonne and Tycho are a few of the musicians that are in the studio playlist. Music has been a large part of my life for as long as I can remember. Falling asleep listening to Queen tapes on my Walkman was a common occurrence when I was younger. I played in a number of bands growing up, one of which was named Decapitated Squirrels (as to "our sound” I will leave that to your imagination). Today, Sara and I play ukulele and guitar for the girls frequently so that they are able to sing along with a number of Neil Diamond and David Bowie songs. My oldest daughter is part of the Louisville Leopards so the music-loving torch has been passed.
My main source of inspiration comes from the act of working. Often, I feel like I am just playing catch-up to all the possible ideas for future paintings that spring up while I am working. There is a sweet spot of painting where I’m “in the zone” and all pistons are firing and an infinite potential of paintings reveal themselves. Only a small fraction of these come to fruition but that spark of an idea is a major source of fuel.