Gillian Drier’s Graphic Arts

Gillian Drier’s Graphic Arts
A self-portrait by Gillian Drier

When I first saw Gillian Drier‘s self-portrait on the RAW: natural born artists’s Madison website, I was drawn to her vibrant use of color and bold sense of pattern. After emailing her a few questions about her work, I got the chance to learn about a fascinating young artist. Please read on for the interview.

Where are you from and what brought you to Madison?

I was born on the East Coast in New Jersey. I was adopted at a few weeks old, and around age two my family moved to Huntington, New York, on Long Island. In 2004, my parents both received job offers with the University of Wisconsin–Madison. I’ve lived here since then. I recently applied and was accepted into the art program at UW–Madison. I love the city, and I definitely wanted to stay and receive my education at an excellent school and a warmhearted community.

What are you studying at UW?

Currently my intended major is in graphic design, and I’m hoping that I can also complete a minor in advertising. Coming into the University of Wisconsin, I had a really clear idea that I wanted to be an art major, but I also know that a career in the arts can be really risky. I think an advertising minor is a great way to enhance graphic design.

You mention Chuck Close as an artistic inspiration. What exactly about his work speaks to you?

Chuck Close is a photorealism painter and creates immense portraits. What makes him unique in his craft, is how he breaks down the piece into a grid, and individually makes each box its own work or art; but when the piece is viewed from a distance it becomes a cohesive portrait. When I look at his paintings, I can feel the care and work that goes into every square. His paintings are intentional, but have this ease about them that I think is very hard for artists to achieve. His understanding of color and shape is extraordinary, and I aspire to have a comprehension that matches his by the end of my art career.

Another inspiration is the Fauvist movement. In my Contemporary Art History class, we covered the Fauvists in depth and their methodology was inspiring. Although I don’t create art for the same reasons as the Fauvists, I do consider some of their qualities when generating my own work. They emphasize the medium (in their case paint), and in my case this would be colored pencil. You can see all the pencil strokes and lines in my work, and I think that’s important. And more importantly they use strong, unrealistic colors. I find the colors to be really impressive; I want to create something with that much visual power.

What is your process for creating art?

Concerning the series that I’m working on right know, the art comes from the feelings that I get when looking at a picture. I looked through old photo albums to find pictures, or I’ll even just go through my Facebook. If I feel an emotional attachment to a picture, I’ll draw it. If a photograph isn’t interesting to me, I don’t think I can convince others that it’s interesting when I’m recreating in another medium.

When I select my reference photo, I grid it out and create a larger grid on paper. I think a lot of people learned how to grid pictures in drawing classes. It the art community, the ability to grid pictures is often considered elementary. I feel like I need to expand upon a simple skill, and make what I’m creating unique. I begin in the center of the picture, specifically at the nose. I use the center grid of establish which colors will be my low lights, mid tones, and highlights. When filling in more squares I combine looking at the picture, and eventually just use my personal aesthetic to complete the picture.

Your self-portrait is stunning. Can you tell me more about that piece?

It actually was an assignment for school. We were asked to create a self-portrait using an aesthetic similar to Chuck Close’s. I already appreciated his work but this assignment pushed me to create something that I thought I couldn’t. Prior to this I assignment, I had worked exclusively in gray-scale, and black and white. I found out that I can definitely use color and that was a really important discovery. This assignment not only made me produce a strong piece of art, but also enabled me to expand the boundaries of creative process and to develop a strong aesthetic that I plan to enhance and improve.

How would you describe your aesthetic and the type of art you make?

Prior to creating my current collection, I worked solely in black, white and gray-scale. I actually preferred creating images on the computer. My first semester at UW encouraged me to make art on paper. It’s made me a much stronger artist. I would now describe my aesthetic as colorful and bold.

What do you hope to do after graduation?

I would love to working in some sort of advertising agency. An advertising career would combine a lot of things that I think are important. It would be a job where I could merge art and functionality, and potentially have some influence on the world. I would love to be a part of Green Living campaigns, or jobs that focus on bettering a population in some way. It’s important that I use the skills that I’ve been blessed with to help others in any way that I can.

What do you hope people get from seeing your art?

I hope that people have an honest reaction. If they don’t like the art, that’s fine, but I do want them to recognize the work and thought process that went into the piece. I don’t aspire to change anyone’s mind, but I do want to inform people so that they may make a decision independently. At the very least, I want the people looking at the art to have an emotional response, and personally think about why they felt that way.

When I look at a piece of art, I think about the story, whether that’s the artist’s thought process, or the subject matter itself. It’s an important part of my evaluation process, and I hope that others take the story into consideration as well.

Find more of Drier’s artwork at