It’s sometimes said that the creation of art is a solitary pursuit. Eleanor Grosch’s success, however, is based in large part on tapping into a group. Whether music lovers, cyclists or Aesop fans, Eleanor speaks to a wide audience through her art. We spent some time speaking with her recently.
GreenBox: Do you have formal art training?
Eleanor Grosch: I went to USF in Florida to study fine arts. It was great but very general. I never got design experience until I started teaching at a school for graphic design. I was teaching some of the lower level classes and I had to learn the programs really well so that I could teach them. I almost feel like I went to graduate school!
GB: It’s interesting that your graphic design training came later, since so much of your work is very graphic. How did you get started with your current style?
EG: I started doing posters for rock bands in 2002. I was living in Tampa and talked to a promoter about it. He said, “sure, make a poster for free,” so I did (laughs). I started screen-printing them and I noticed that the way I was working worked very well with screen printing.
I got a lot of exposure that way. It worked out really well. It was my own thing, but something that people were interested in buying. You always want to have things that people are interested in and that you can make money from. It was not profitable at first, but it got me recognized in that community.
GB: How big a leap was it to go from rock posters to fine art prints?
EG: Often, I’d spend a long time on an image, but I’d hear, “I like the image but I hate that band.” So I started doing art prints.
GB: A lot of your prints involve bicycles. Are you a cyclist yourself?
EG: When a friend and I moved to Philadelphia in 2005 for a change of scene, we wanted to live in a city where you don’t need a car. We tried New York, Chicago, Boston, then we tried Philadelphia. It was February and it was frigid. Just the coldest. And we loved it. We figured if we loved it in the cold, we’d love it year-round. We didn’t have a car and realized that people biked around the city a lot. In 2005 biking, and bike messengers, were the height of cool. When I met my now- husband he was a bike mechanic and it has remained a part of our lifestyle now. I go to the gym sometimes but I prefer riding my bike. It’s the perfect way to exercise. It’s just become sort of another element to add to what I’m doing artistically. Bicycles are simple forms that you can make into a bold, graphic look, and people respond to it because it’s trendy.
GB: Another frequent topic in your art is Aesop’s fables. What’s the background there?
EG: I’ve always loved animals and Aesop’s fables. So classic. I thought that might be a kind of a fun story to tell through art. And they actually sold really well, and I thought, “I’m on to something!”
GB: Who are your artistic influences?
EG: A lot of my work is reminiscent of Charley Harper. Eerily so. I wasn’t familiar with him until people started commenting on the similarity, and then I went “Oh wow.” He’s a shape-based, very geometric artist who got a lot of press in the 60s. Todd Oldham recently reissued a book of Harper’s work. Our work is eerily similar. What must have happened is that when I was a kid I saw Harper’s work or work like it. Even in high school I started drawing animals in a geometric way, so it must have entered my brain somehow. I have since found that a lot of the artists I was into are ones that he was into as well. It’s very weird to think that people born 60 years apart can have such similar minds.
GB: Speaking of geometry, a lot of your work overlaps positive and negative spaces, especially animal bodies. It almost looks mathematical. Do you have a background in math?
EG: I was always terrible at math, but geometry was my one talent! My mistake would be that I would look at how things actually looked. Often in math books you’ll see “this is not an accurate representation of the angles involved” but I couldn’t get past that. I would do relatively well in geometry, though. I had to work very hard at it—it’s no harm to work hard at something, As for the positive/negative, it’s a fun thing to play with in my work.
GB: Do you do your work in a studio?
EG: I work at home on the couch! I have a laptop and I sit most of the day and draw. Around 5, I’ll stop. Ever since I got married last year I try to be not on the computer after 5 and not at all on the weekends. I am trying to establish balance now. If you want to be fully charged, you need to get some relaxation in. I have worked hard and now I need to reestablish what the boundaries are. It’s easy when you love something to want to do it all the time. But then it becomes work and I don’t want that.
GB: One final question: you feature animals in your art so often; what animal would you want to be and why?
EG: Definitely an ostrich. They are flighty and kind of silly and they’ve got big legs. That’s like me. The flightiness is kind of like me. I fell like I’m a practical person but I want to go go go so sometimes I just need to calm down.
Feel free to browse Eleanor Grosch’s GreenBox Art Collection.