Q&A With Gina Palmerin
Los Angeles artist Gina Palmerin spoke with Sparks Gallery on her inspiration, her artistic process for her “Picture Day” Series, and how she brings each of her portraits to life.
Sparks: How do you stay productive as an artist? What do you do on days when you don’t feel inspired but need to finish projects?
Palmerin: I just love what I do, it’s easy to produce, it’s actually harder for me to stop. Once I start a piece, I get into this creative flow, I really lose track of time, I block everything else out, and I get very focused. I normally will continue until I’m pretty exhausted and need to rest. Then I just continue this pattern until I complete a piece, which is extremely gratifying. Then I can’t wait to start a new piece!
At rare times it’s hard to start, so I meditate, play music and force myself to begin. I focus on small tasks instead of thinking about the project as a whole, and work on one task at a time, like just mixing my paint. Usually when I’m feeling uninspired it’s because I’m feeling overwhelmed and I’m trying to tackle too many things at one time. It helps to break things down into smaller bites—then it will normally start to flow.
Sparks: How have your style and choice of medium changed over time?
Palmerin: I’m always evolving. I like to keep my work fresh and unexpected. A few years ago I was painting exclusively in oils on wood panels and my style was surrealism and realism. Now I’m painting in oil and acrylics on canvas and combining street art, low brow, pop art, expressionism, and abstraction. I’m always inspired by something new and excited to experiment with new ideas.
Sparks: Based on your recent series, you draw from classical iconography with your reinterpretation of Greek and Roman sculpture. What draws you to this style, and what other periods of art history inspire and/or interest you?
Palmerin: I’m drawn to classical iconography; I’ve always been interested in the art, architecture, and history of this period. It has such a sense of beauty and timelessness. I also love painting my interpretation of a sculpture with the carved blank eyes, it seems refreshing for me at times to leave them blank and to not have them staring at me. I think this also adds a sense of interest and mystery. I’ve definitely been inspired by other periods of time throughout my life such as Art Nouveau, Art Deco and then more recently by Pop Art and Street Art. I love to take something iconic and classic and modernize it.
Sparks: How do you decide what details to add to your portraits? For example, some of the people included in your pieces do not have tattoos in real life, so it adds another layer to the characterization of these figures. What is your intention through the creation of these miniature narratives?
Palmerin: My icon tells me. I also research their life to get a sense of their personality as well as their life achievements and things that were important to them. The tattoo creates an opportunity for me to emphasize the icon’s monumental achievements and anything of special significance. I love to add details that are not so obvious, those details that are more personal to the icon (and sometimes personal to me and how the icon inspired me). For example, Bob (Marley)’s tattoo was designed by me and inspired by his song, “Three Little Birds”, which holds a very special place in my heart. When our daughters were around 7 and 8 years old, we would go to this Mexican place in Fallbrook, called Rosa’s, almost every weekend. The girls would play Three Little Birds on the jukebox every single time. This tattoo takes me back to those special moments.
Another example is Kobe, I actually started painting him right after his tragic helicopter death in 2020, and then for some reason I moved on to another painting before finishing him. He was packed away until I brought him back out to finish him in the fall of 2021. I originally started to paint him in his yellow Lakers jersey, but I decided to change it up to give him an unexpected look, recommended by my team member and creative director, Chris. I decided to paint him in his high school jersey, Lower Merion #33. One of his tattoos is of his actual tattoo, angel wings with the name of his wife Vanessa, and the other tattoo was inspired by his tattoo with the names of his kids. I designed the black mamba cobra tattoo, with his daughter Gianna’s jersey number 2 and his jerseys 8 and 24.
Sparks: What your hopes and dreams are as an artist, and what you would like to achieve with your art?
Palmerin: My hopes and dreams as an artist are to be able to continue creating my art, to be inspired and to inspire, to connect with as many people as I can in order to share what I’ve learned. I hope to inspire others to live a life of purpose and passion. I also want people to connect with my work and just enjoy it! Maybe to bring a smile and add a sense of quirkiness, playfulness and color to a space. To connect with more people, recognition is key, so this is a big focus. My solo exhibition was a major step in the right direction—I believe that if I receive recognition for my work, I will be able to connect with more people. I also believe persistence in doing what I love will lead me down the right path to achieve my goals.