Gregory Ferrand ventured down a couple of different paths before realising his true calling in the art world. The American artist originally studied film at Virginia Commonwealth University in the late 90s, before upping sticks for Buenos Aires to teach English to business people.
“While living there I kept an illustrated journal in which I experimented with different media and recorded my observations about the culture and people around me,” Ferrand tells CR. “In doing so, I came to understand two things about myself: firstly, I was a painter and secondly, I was fascinated by the subtext of human interactions. I returned to the States in early 2000 and began teaching myself how to paint.”
The Washington-based artist has been painting full-time and showing in galleries for 15 years now, and is currently represented by Evoke Contemporary in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the Adah Rose Gallery in the Washington, DC area.
Ferrand’s background in film is evident in the strong use of narrative he employs to tell stories about characters and situations, while his cinematic aesthetic is influenced by everything from comic books to Mexican muralists to 1950s fashion.
The common denominator of Ferrand’s work is the essence of what he captures: the human condition. “My paintings explore the disconnection and alienation we often feel despite (and sometimes because of) the close proximity in which we live to one another,” he explains in his artist statement.
“These questions regarding the human experience have long informed my work. Instead of answering these questions, my paintings invite the viewer to enter the narrative, armed with their own understanding of the world, in order to have an authentic moment to share, identify with, and/or answer these questions themselves.”
This thought-provoking approach has earned Ferrand legions of fans both in gallery settings and on social media platforms such as Instagram, where he has over 22,000 followers. The artist recently discovered one of his more high profile fans – Tyler, The Creator – via the platform, resulting in an exciting commission to create the album art for the rapper’s hotly anticipated new LP, Call Me If You Get Lost.
“Tyler found my work on Instagram and messaged me directly to say hello and that he loved my work and to ask if I do commissions. I, of course, was surprised and excited about the opportunity to work with an artist of his stature – I’m also a fan of his music, so I was thrilled!” says Ferrand.
The initial brief for the album art was wide open, with little detail about how it would tie into Tyler’s broader vision for the album, Ferrand explains. “What he did come to me with was a super helpful, very rough sketch and a list of details that he wanted in the painting.”
From there, Tyler sent Ferrand reference photos of the details, and in return the artist sent him two rounds of rough sketches, six colour studies and, once the colour palette was decided on, one final drawing and the actual painting.
“I have a typically slow and deliberate painting process but this project was different because I had a short turnaround time. So, I came up with new ways to speed up and make my painting process more efficient. The actual painting was completed in nine days, working 12-15 hours a day,” says Ferrand.
“On my end, it felt like a conversation but throughout the whole process, it was obvious that Tyler knew exactly what he wanted from me. And now that I’ve been able to see the rollout for Call Me If You Get Lost, his planning and creativity is very impressive.”