In-Sync with… Tanya Gadbaw (interview)

Tanya Gadbaw
Oil on panel
24″ x 36″

This post continues my series “In-Sync with…” aimed to get a closer look at a variety of contemporary artists and art professionals from Chicago and abroad. Read it, enjoy it, share it, and get in-sync with Chicago artist Tanya Gadbaw.  Do not miss her personal recommendations at the end of the interview.

I first saw Tanya Gadbaw’s work at the National Wet Paint Exhibition 2011 when she was finishing her MFA at Southern Illinois U. She recently moved to Chicago and has being very active in the art community. Most recently, she participated in a three person exhibition at Union Street Gallery titled “If Life Were Still”.   Thanya’s paintings relate to personal story telling via the “object”. It is that individually unique story behind each work that I find exciting and truthful about her work.  Tanya Gadbaw is also an exhibiting artist at 33 Contemporary Gallery in Chicago.


Sergio: Where did you go to school (college/university) and what degree you received?
Tanya: I went to the State University of New York Potsdam and received my B.F.A. degree.  I then attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale where I graduated with my M.F.A. degree.

Sergio: Do you feel art school prepared you for the art career you have now?
Attending SUNY Potsdam under Amy Swartele taught me a lot about my work and work ethic.  It taught me about expression, to trust my work, my brushstroke, to develop my work and know it, studio time management, and to love oil paint and the process. Southern Illinois University’s art program prepared me in many ways also.  It threw me into teaching and how to become an educator.  I was very dedicated to my work both in Undergraduate and Graduate school and very thankful for the professors and artists that influenced me.

Sergio: What is your website?
Tanya: My website is


Sergio: What are you working on and what inspires you right now?
I am working on painting still lifes incorporating baked pastries, home objects, patterns, and fabric.  To me they are more then still lifes.  They are about memories, family, and the home.  I grew up in a family where hard work, farming, and Mennonite dutch traditions were important.  I love patterns, roosters, apples, deer, quilting, old stories and many other ‘folk’ elements.  These elements all inspire my work as they remind me of home.

Sergio: How does a typical day in your studio/creative space look like?
Pretty busy! Having a full time retail job where I usually close entails that I get up before the break of dawn.  I make coffee or get it and then make some breakfast.  My space is in my Grandmother in-law’s basement which doubles as an office.  Some days I do research on grants, shows, art supplies, art news and stay up to date on my favorite artists and galleries.  Other days, I scrape the old oil paint off my palette mix some new colors and jump right into my work.  I sometimes work on 2-3 paintings at once.

Sergio: Describe your creative process.
My creative process is kind of all over the place. I don’t have a set way, but many things are involved in my process. I usually see a pattern that reminds me of a memory or one I enjoy aesthetically.  I then usually think of a pastry or object that would be fun, conflict, or pair up nicely with it.  My process also involves a lot of listening to stories from my family and others.

Sergio: What type of mental/practical activities do you do when facing a creative block?
Tanya: I usually go running or work on the business side of art when I am not feeling creative.

Sergio: Do you find social media to be a distraction or an asset for you as an artist and how do you deal with it?
I feel it tends to be both.  I am still trying to balance the two.

Sergio: What is your biggest challenge as a contemporary artist?
My biggest challenge is balancing my full time job, creating my work, creating lessons plans for classes I’ll be potentially teaching next year, and doing the business end of art (emails, research, shows, etc).  Fitting all of this in requires so much time management, it’s crazy.

Sergio: How much does the art market influences your art production/output?
Tanya: It really doesn’t.

Sergio: What’s next for you?
Tanya: I just got accepted into “Tales They Told Us” at the Lexington Art League  in Lexington Kentucky.  That will run March 22-May 12, 2013.

I will also be showing at the Laura A. Sprague Art Gallery at the Joliet Junior College in Joliet, IL with the other 33 Contemporary Gallery artists.  That will run January 22nd- February 15th, 2013.

Right now, I am working on some lesson ideas for an art class I will be teaching to 5th and 6th graders in Harvey, IL.

Tanya Gadbaw


Sergio: What excites you about your local art scene?
Living near Chicago has opened a lot of possibilities. It has connected me with the 33 Contemporary Gallery and I am always amazed on how many openings are going on at the same time.  It is always exciting to see some great paintings up close!  I believe even if your in a small town or in a big city you can make the art scene for what you want it to be.

Sergio: What is your take on the current emphasis on contemporary art fairs?
I am not really involved.  I read about them, but think renting a booth is expensive.

Sergio: Do you believe gallery representation today is as important as it has been in the past?
I think it’s still important, it depends on what the artist wants too.   I know it can provide a lot of exposure and press.

Sergio: How do you envision the art world would be different ten years from now?
I have a feeling technology will become much greater than it is today.  I hope though that traditional painters like me will stick around.


Book…  The Omnivore’s Dilemma by author Michael Pollan

Art movie or documentary...How to Draw a Bunny

Art museum… Art Institute of Chicago

Contemporary artist (other than yourself)...Alyssa Monks and Melissa Cooke

Place to be inspired by… The Farm

One sentence advice for an art student… Work hard toward what you want and don’t let negative thoughts and/or negative people get in your way

Chicago cafe/restaurant…Karyn’s Cooked (A gourmet vegan restaurant) 738 N. Wells St. Chicago IL

YouTube video…

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