Grant Pham is an American painter who focuses on using oil paint to recreate the human figure. With a foundational background in both academic teachings of painting and architectural craftsmanship, both becoming major sources of inspiration for his current oil paintings, Grant's practice diverges from the technically precise and rather becomes looser and loser with a focus on brushwork.
1) Which art movement do you consider most influential on your practice?
I have always enjoyed the work of the impressionists/post-impressionists and the ideas that drove them more than any work I’ve ever seen. I value the intense rigor in form and naturalistic lighting they tried to preserve while still being the first to break away from the normal academic ways of painting. I find them all to have practiced a way of working that was beautifully balanced in its approach. I could look at the fine details and brushwork of a Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and find qualities of an abstract painting, while still stepping back and enjoying the representational imagery of the work.
2) Where do you go and when to make your best art?
I work the usual 9-5 workday, directly from home in my designated studio room. I have a tendency to get paint everywhere whenever I work, so the first thing I always have to do to get comfortable in my studio is to build a new standalone wall that I can work off of, and then lay cardboard everywhere. But inspiration I’ll find randomly throughout my day in the weirdest of places. I was at the notoriously disgusting Penn Station bathroom in Manhattan around the time I was working on one of my recent pieces (The Crew), and found the grungy color combination of a green wall illuminated by an orange light so interesting that I had to bring those colors into the painting when I got back to my studio
3) How do you describe your 'creative process'?
My process is very, very impulsive in nature. I tend to go into each day first mixing nearly every color I would need for the day’s painting- but that is where the ordered routine ends. For me it really depends on the subject imagery that I am working on that will dictate how I want it to be painted. Do I want to go for something airier with a sense of lightness and flow, or do I give it a more stagnate and heavier feel to it? I have a rule that I follow to always scrap what I was working on, starting almost completely over if I am not happy with what I produced for that day and retrying the next day.
4) Which artist, living or deceased, is the greatest inspiration to you?
John Singer Sargent! That little rule I mentioned before about starting over completely from a clean slate was something I read from Sargent’s manifesto on his painting techniques and methods. I believe every painter, whether they are an abstract artist, or a figurative artist, can look at John Singer Sargent’s work and find something to learn and takeaway from it. Just like Lautrec, his brushwork creates pockets of what could be an abstract piece, while also maintaining tight form to create a portrait.
5) If you weren't an artist, what would you do?
I used to think that I’d want to be an architect, but that’s all in the past now ever since I started painting full time. I just became so fascinated with the entire art world, the arts community, the market behind the art studios and artist adventures, and everything in between. I don’t think I’d ever be able to do anything new outside the realm of art, so I think I would end up getting into the business of sourcing and art dealing of secondary market blue chip artists.
6) What do you listen to for inspiration?
I listen to a lot of Paramore just cause that’s the band I always grew up with, but nowadays I just try to have a range of playlists ready for different moods that I’m feeling for that day. Technology really is getting ahead though cause now I can always rely on my Spotify recommended songs and it’ll feed me music that is completely my taste (and super convenient).
7) If you could own one artwork, and money was no object, which piece would you acquire?
The Mona Lisa. Except I wouldn’t trust hanging that piece in my house and wouldn’t let anybody know that I had it. It sounds crazy but I think I would keep it locked up in my basement for me to go checkup on and admire once or twice a day (and then locking it back up).
8) If your dream museum or collection owner came calling, which would it be?
I’m from New York, so I’d have to say the Met in Manhattan, that way I could drag all my friends and family to the Met every weekend and have them see my painting up on the wall
9) What is your key piece of advice for artists embarking on a fine art or creative degree today?
I get asked for advice often on social media from aspiring artists, and each time I always tell them the same thing: every artists path will be different, and that they must do the exact things they want to do. And that sometimes finding approval of your work in other people’s opinions- professors and other artists included- is not worthwhile. When you really enjoy the art your making, that’s when things will connect and others will connect more often with it as well.
10) What is your favorite book of all time (fiction or non fiction)?
To be completely honest, I’m not much of a reader but I am a huge movie buff- my favorite movie of all time is Into the Wild, (probably have seen it over 50 times in my life so far)- and the book has been sitting on my dining room table for some time now. I’d imagine once I finally pick it up that it would be my favorite book as well.
11) If you could hang or place your artwork in one non traditional art setting, where would that be?
I think it would be pretty cool to have pieces placed in some kind of exhibition display on the beach. It always fascinates me seeing sculptures that are on permanent display at public beaches, but you never see paintings on permanent display at a beach (not including murals!). I guess for now the closest thing we can get to something like this is having work exhibited at one of the Miami art fairs that are held right on the beach.
12) What was the biggest lesson your university course or time studying taught you?
During my time at Syracuse University we mainly discussed theory concepts of art making and how the art sits in a contemporary context of relating to social and political discussions. I think these things are still important, but just not as important as the essentials to the actual ‘art making’ part of the process. I think the big takeaway from my art school education was the self-realization that it was perfectly okay to be out of the bubble of creating highly conceptual art like all my classmates.
13) And finally, if we were to fast forward 10 years, where would we find you?
Still painting in my studio, still working on new pieces to exhibit, and still always driving back and forth from my home to the nearest Home Depot or art store for painting/framing supply runs.
Learn more about Grant and discover his collection of paintings.