Gosia is a Toronto-based artist who trained as an illustrator but is now transitioning from creating original paintings and small sculptural works to larger fine art sculpture.
I visited Gosia in her east end studio where she was putting the finishing touches on several new sculptures in preparation for an exhibition opening this week at Latitude 44 gallery.
How did the shift into sculpture come about for her after years of painting and illustration work?
“When I left school, you had to do a lot of cold-calling for illustration and I didn’t really have it in me.
“I had my website up, and I was getting a lot of requests to buy original illustrations, so I started doing more painting, and doing tiny local shows like the Gladstone – selling prints and some originals. And then the One of a Kind found me at one of those shows, and they asked me to apply, and I did and I got in. They wouldn’t let me sell prints, and I couldn’t just paint a million paintings, so I started making little Sculpey faces.”
Over the course of a couple of years, Gosia’s exploration of whimsical polymer clay faces, dolls, shadow boxes and elfish busts, eventually led her to attempt larger sculptural works:
“After a few years of that, I wanted to make big sculptures. I could feel it – I had this urge. Plus, I got skilled enough with my hands that I knew I could do it.”
Gosia exhibited her first three big pieces at The Artist Project last February:
“I had a really good response, so I’m trying to do more of that. Transitioning from craft into fine art – which is something that I always wanted to do. “
I ask her to tell me a little bit more about her process, which involves making a mold of the original sculpture and elaborating on some of the resulting casts with additional materials:
“I sculpt the original out of clay and I make a silicone mold. I can do whatever I want with it after I have the mold – I can use fabric or different types of clays and come up with new characters, different atmospheres.”
The original sculpture for Eva (pictured above) was bald, personalized with hair & headdress after the cast was made. Two other busts from the same mold – Luna and Pearl – were each made unique with their own additions.
Gosia is making a small number of editions of her latest sculpture, Shape of Her Eyes (also called the Penny bust, after the model who inspired it), without additional elaboration:
“The new stage is creating a sculpture that can stand on its own. [Penny] has hair, she is finished. But she’s still simple enough that I can add to it as well.
“And it’s fun – because I can have the edition and be proud of the piece I sculpted, but then I can also make new ones and explore, and have fun with it.”
Though her illustrations and smaller sculpted faces had a strong touch of the fantastic, the newer work is steering away from fairy tale motifs:
“I wanted to go a little bit more classic at this point. I was doing little elves and fairies and things like that for the last three years, and I feel like I explored that enough for now. I thought I’d go back and learn to do the human form without those elements. I find that more of a challenge right now.”
Why was the fantastic element so strong in her earlier work?
“I grew up in Poland, with a lot of stories about woodland creatures. There’s always something living in the woods – in cartoons and children’s books. So that stuff obviously influenced me and stuck in my head and whenever I was doing any kind of drawing – before I thought this would ever become a career – it was always those sorts of creatures and those sorts of ideas.”
Gosia is now focusing completely on sculpture and leaving the illustration work aside – and off her new website.
“It wasn’t because I didn’t like the old work that I was doing; I just had something else inside of me – this is going to sound cheesy – that had to come out. And without a clean break, I don’t feel that you get the chance to move on.
“If I still have the stuff on my website, and I still have it in the store, then I end up having people asking me about commissions, and I still end up going back [to] the old work. […] But at this point I wasn’t happy doing that work anymore.
“Now I’m doing this and I’m so excited to come into the studio every day and work on it, and so proud. There’s also a lot of crying – when it doesn’t work out. There are ups and downs. When stuff’s not working out, you get upset. But when I finish it and it’s good, it’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
“These guys are great. Full of knowledge and caring. Kelly will tell me about a gallery or I’ll let her know about some project that’s happening – it’s really nice when you get together with some people, because you’re that much richer in knowledge.”
After college, Gosia worked out of the basement of her parents’ house until getting together with her studio mates two years ago. The poor light was one of the drawbacks of her home studio setup – was solitude another?
“My mom is a stay-at-home mom, so I had company. But if I’m stuck and I need an opinion – it’s different coming from an artist and coming from my mom, who would say: ‘Ooh, honey, it’s beautiful!‘ Here they can actually be more technical, and say something about the lighting being too dark or other solid feedback, so that really helps. “
Gosia does a lot of creative exploration and experimentation in the studio:
“I do everything myself, so I try to figure out a good way to not completely break my back.
“It’s a lot of exploring right now, learning techniques – and there’s so much stuff online. So much information, so many people willing to share. It’s the greatest thing. I can’t imagine doing this not in the age of the Internet.”
Doing everything herself leads to additional unexpected benefits, like becoming handy with tools:
“Five years ago, I didn’t know how to drill a hole. If I needed to put hardware on a drawer or something, I wouldn’t know how to do that. And now, because I had to use so many different tools, I gained this other knowledge that I never thought about gaining but did.”
What would she say was the most surprising thing she learned over the years about the life of a professional artist?
“I think a lot of people don’t realize how much work it is. People think, ‘Oh, you’re an artist, you do this full-time? You just sit around and paint all day?’ – they have this light, romantic idea of it. But it’s actually a lot of work.
“I have crazier hours than all my friends. I now take my weekends off because I moved in with my boyfriend and he started getting really upset because I’m never home: ‘How’s this going to work if you’re going to be at the studio all week and then at the studio all weekend?’ Because that’s what I used to do. The truth is, it takes so much effort and energy.”
Gosia is looking to keep exploring the classic form, and push it further, too.
“I want to go further with the clay and actually fire original pieces in clay, and learn all about glazes and ceramics. And I want to do full figures. I just kind want to go all out.
“A million ideas. Not enough time in the world.”