Paul Wackers

Sep 5th, 2012

Fall means back to school, buckling down and studying up.  We asked some of our favorite creative people about what they’ve learned as students, and what they could teach us now.


U: How did what you studied in school affect where you ended up today and what you’re doing now?

PW: I studied fine arts for undergraduate and grad school. So I got my BFA and MFA in studio art or painting. I think my stubbornness in only studying art might have helped because I did not leave many other options. I lead me though many years of working great retail type jobs at night so I could spend every day in my studio trying to get my art work out into the world. Which in all honesty had some calculated moments on my part but really I think it’s a crap shoot that you really can’t make happen, and it’s about meeting or having the right person see you work or become interested in it at the exact moment that that they can use it.


U: What do you wish you’d learned in school that you found out later?  Was it something that could even be taught?

PW: I think having gone the art school only route I missed out on an opportunity to learn the business side of things because as I get farther along in this art thing I am learning it requires more administration type stuff that I have very little clue how to do. Taxes, budget, and knowing where work is and stuff like that. I think that is the only thing I wish I had learned at school.


U: What’s in your toolbox?  What are the items you need in your workspace to get things done?

PW: Hmmmm, my toolbox. I don’t know I have had some pretty funky studio set ups lately, just sort of bouncing around from different sublets, -- some horrible 100 sq. ft. no window spots here in Brooklyn and renting at the Marin headlands for two months this winter, or working at a farm in the French country side -- to now what I hope is a more permanent situation which I just put together now. One of the only consistent things I take to these spaces is a need to be outdoors and with plant life and breezy air to keep me inspired. So I guess its not what I have around with me but what I keep in me, the experience of a more free and open space. But I always need a little spot I can take a nap in. I think naps help to work through things I’m stumped on. But for actual tools it’s just paint and brushes and something to put it on. (I do have a few secret tools and I think I’ll keep it that way.)


U: What’s in your pocket? Do you have anything that’s always with you so you can sketch/take photos/make notes anytime?

PW: I always have a few good luck charms in my pocket. I don’t think I really believe in them doing anything for me but I think it can’t hurt. I carry a small crystal with me or a small stone I found with me everyday and I also found an old coin on the side of the road in France which I imagine a farmer losing 60 years go while working on his fields. I used to carry a small notebook with me every day to take down notes and impressions of things. But ever since I got a “smart phone” I have not carried a physical notebook. I kind of miss having all those tattered little books around. It’s hard to carry all that stuff every day when now one little brick can record sound, keep my notes and take photos, it’s crazy. And I only got one of those fancy things one year ago and now I don’t know what to do with out it. Wow, that makes me sound really old.


U: Who was your most memorable teacher… of all time, not just in a classroom?  What did they teach you?

PW: I can’t really think of any one teacher that was great in a positive way; I had some good ones but no one that was overwhelmingly memorable. In away I think the friends I have surrounded myself with taught me the most. Most of them are very driven musicians, writers, and artists and the like that have kept at what it was they were trying to accomplish and never really compromised their vision or goals to make other parts of there lives easier. Seeing how that kind of determination and experimentation can pay off has been a good lesson. 


U: If you taught a class that you could base on some expertise or obsession you have, what would it be? 

PW: To be really honest I have never really wanted to teach a class. I don’t really share the obsession some artist get to become teachers in the traditional classroom kind of way. I like helping people when I can and having a discussion to work things out, but I’m not really in to the here is how it’s done kind of a thing.


Painter Paul Wackers was born in New Haven and currently lives and works in Brooklyn.  He holds a graduate degree from SFAI. Pauls is represented by Morgan Lehman, New York; ALICE Gallery, Bussels; Eleanor Harwood Gallery, San Francisco; and Image Art, Los Angeles.