Introducing Artist: Christian Gabriel, City of Roses

I was fortunate to have met Portland based artist Christian Gabriel just before the Shutdown.  Cory Huff of the Abundant Artist introduced me to him and I reached out to him in time for the First Friday Art Walk in February.  It feels like a lifetime ago; back when we were all full of excitement that we were nearing the end of Winter and that we would soon be able to frolic outside and mingle with other artists and potential collectors.  Alas, our hibernation sees no end. Now we are faced with the facts that all Art Fairs will be closed for the season and we must showcase our art in different creative ways. Therefore, I want to take the opportunity to get to know this very cool young man a bit more and to bring you in to meet him as well. He is a big part of the Art Scene here in Portland.  He oversees the Instagram feed for First Fridays and was granted a Public Art Commission by the Regional Arts Culture Council for his proposal to paint 34 columns by 34 artists on Madison under the bridge as a future festival grounds.  Of course even the greatest plans of the Artists and Creators of our community have been derailed and altered since March, but this humble guy is still finding a way to give back and keep helping those who need it most.  He is on the board for Do Good Multnomah, a homeless Veterans Shelter in Portland. He also works part time there and will be staffed in one of the newest permanent housing facilities off of Dekum in North Portland, which should be opening at the end of the month. He will be working as peer support and will be offering art lessons there.
Enjoy the following conversation as you get to know more about the Man, his Art, his background and now his work up in Cool Art House.  We also have the IGTV Live video up on our Instagram Feed from Sunday.  @CoolArtHouse

DC: Tell us a bit about yourself, Christian...
CG: My name is Christian Gabriel (Fazio) and I'm an artist working out of Vancouver/Portland. I 
created Acrylic Warfare as a way to give Veteran artists a platform to express themselves. These shows are a way to inspire the Veteran community in efforts to reduce/end Veteran suicide.  (Acrylic Warfare is a juried art show where Veteran artists can show their work promoting alternative therapy as a voice for change. Together, we can inspire others, ending Veteran suicide.) 

DC: As an artist, what has this Quarantine experience been like for you? On one hand, we are all in this together and on the other some are hit harder while others are very happy to stay at home or have reserves that keep them from stressing out as much… care to comment?
CG: I haven't been motivated to really paint much at all. Most of quarantine has been spent on fixing up my house, landscaping my front yard. I did paint a mural in my 2 year old son's room(Forest, trees, mountain scenery). I also painted a Rasta Lion for my friends storefront boarded up window in Portland recently.  I received a large commission through The RACC (Regional Arts and Culture Council) called “Under The Deck”.  This is a 4 column pilot project on the corner of SE Madison and 2nd. 

DC: How do you work? 
CG: Alone with music usually, unless it is a group collaboration. I think of a concept or message I want to convey, then I think of a dynamic way to sketch it out. My medium is acrylic on canvas or a wall.

DC: What’s your background? 
I’m mostly self taught, have a Bachelor’s in Media Arts and Animation from The Art Institute Las Vegas.

DC: What’s integral to the work of an artist? 
CG: I think a lot of people see artists’ work and just think of the end product. The finished creation. Time is an element that often gets overlooked. Life is short and as artists, it is our choice to spend our time on our creations. As an artist, if I put a few hours into a painting and I don’t like where it’s going, I’ll restart it because I want to put out a product that I feel good about and I want people to respect it as much as I do.

DC: What role does the artist have in society? Especially now? ( For example, I am offering my art for sale and give up to 50% of the sale to charities who help those suffering more than me.)
CG: I think artists play an important role in communities. We transform ordinary walls into conversation starters, we make people stop and think, evoke an emotion. We also add value to communities and sometimes make them so desirable that the very artists that painted those walls can’t afford to live in those areas. 

DC: How has your practice changed over time. 
CG: I used to be “by the book” and really stayed inside the lines. In my later work, I use abstract designs along with representational. I love comic books.

DC: What work do you most enjoying doing? 
CG: I like painting murals because it’s a different adventure every time. New setting, different concepts, etc. 

DC: What’s your favorite art work (of yours and/or someone else)? 
CG: I like William Bouguereau, Frank Frazetta, Gerarld Brom, Danny Roberts

DC: Describe a real-life situation that inspired you? 
CG: I went to Paris on my Honeymoon and got to see all of the beautiful museums and architecture. I saw the Bouguereau “Inhabitants of Hell” in person and got a frog in my throat. 

DC: What jobs have you done other than being an artist? 
CG: I was in the Marine Corps for 6 years, a Bellman on the Las Vegas strip for 9 years

DC: Why art? 
CG: After returning home from Iraq at the end of 2005, I began drinking heavily. Around 2007/08, I got inspired at a First Friday festival in Las Vegas and wanted to start painting. I would stay up painting and writing stories late at night when I couldn’t sleep. (Back then, I was sleeping 2-4 hours a night.)  Art was my therapy for my PTSD

DC: What is an artistic outlook on life? 
CG: People always fear the unknown. We cling to religion, politics, sports, etc. to forget the concept of death. The sad truth is no-one gets out alive, so we work on some kind of legacy so we won’t be forgotten. I am working very hard on my mental wellness. In the end I’d like to look back and see that I had more good days then bad. I also hope to be a Light that everyone enjoys being around.

DC: What memorable responses have you had to your work? 
CG: I've gotten hugs, meaningful connections with people that resonated with my work.

DC: What food, drink, song inspires you? 
CG: My life sometimes feels like it revolves around pizza lol

DC: Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
CG: It can be lonely sometimes. Not everyone in my circle(s) understands me.  I co-launched the Portland artist meet up group. I’ve gotten to meet some really cool people over the past few years.

DC: What do you dislike about the art world? 
CG: I don’t like the business side of being an artist or the politics of the art world. 

DC: What research to you do? 
CG: I usually research a subject if I don't know much about it and I'm supposed to paint it. 

DC: What superpower would you have and why? 
CG: Flying

DC: Name something you love, and why. 
CG: My son. Having him brought a whole new perspective on life. 

DC: What is your dream project? 
CG: I would love travel around the country to help revitalize poor communities. Fresh paint, murals, even help with some construction and rebuilding

Great goal, Christian! I love it. I can see you doing that some day, maybe even with your son!

with love, art, and health,

De Camille

Cool Art House