Friday Feature: Greg Stones August 20, 2010 15:24

I first heard about Rhode Island artist Greg Stones by someone telling me at a craft show, "Did you see that guy down there? The one with the zombie paintings?" After hearing that multiple times, I finally went down to Greg's booth and his paintings were just as great as everyone was saying. I was so excited when Greg applied to Craftland for last year's big holiday show and we were able to start selling his work here, where he's now a part of our year round store. I couldn't wait to interview Greg and learn a little bit more about him and what inspires his work. Happy Friday, everyone! 

When did you start your handmade business?
I started selling my paintings in 1996 right after I graduated from college.  I officially debuted my work to the world at the Scituate Art Festival on Columbus Day Weekend of that year, and though I bombed spectacularly, I somehow convinced myself to continue on, and three years later I was finally doing well enough to buy a car, move out of my parents' barn, and rent an apartment. 

Describe your studio space for us.
My studio is a cramped little room full of hundreds of paintings in progress, mat board, and box upon box of my books "Goodbye, Penguins" and "Zombies Hate Stuff."  Some people might classify it as a disaster area.  And I might agree. 

Your artwork is so hilarious. I always know when people are looking at your pieces because I just hear them giggling to themselves. What is it about zombies and penguins that inspired you to make a whole series of art about them?
I really enjoy using penguins in my work because they are intrinsically funny and innocent, which makes it all the more amusing to pit them against zombies and evil sock monkeys.  Though I accidentally stumbled upon the idea of penguins in 2002 in an attempt to save a winter-themed watercolor that was going nowhere, those goofy birds have completely taken over my work during the course of the past eight years, and people now regularly refer to me as the penguin guy.  I have resigned myself to my fate.
As for the zombies, I saw "Night of the Living Dead" for the first time in 2004, and it occurred to me that zombies needed to start attacking my penguins.  It just made sense somehow. 

How do you balance the creative and business sides of running your own business?
Balancing the creative and business aspects of my work has actually worked itself out nicely.  When I first started out in 1996, I painted what I thought people wanted me to paint, which was essentially photo-realistic landscapes.  This did not make me happy, and it did not make me successful.  In 1998, however, I started adding humor to my watercolors, and not only was I having a lot more fun, but people actually started buying healthy numbers of paintings.  Now it seems that the crazier my work becomes, the more people remember and like what I do.  It is all very gratifying. 

Where do you go or what do you do when you need a shot in the arm of inspiration?
Though much of my inspiration comes from the simple need to amuse myself, I also enjoy making people laugh.  It's a great feeling.  I also tend to watch lots of bad horror movies while signing and numbering prints, and I'm sure that informs many of my paintings.  Then there are periods where I can't even get myself to pick up a watercolor brush because I am fresh out of interesting ideas, so then it's time to either tackle a monumental construction project on my house, or escape on a week-long vacation where I don't have to use a single brain cell. 

What advice would you offer to someone trying to take their art from hobby to business?
My best advice for someone trying to make a living as an artist is to get your work out there as much as you can, and participate in events such as art festivals where you can actually witness how people respond to what you do.  My interaction with the public has sculpted me into the painter that I am today.  It is also important to be yourself. 

How did you first become involved with Craftland?
I heard about Craftland from the woman who eventually became my wife.  She brought me there on our third date and I helped her pick out a belt buckle made from an orange slice. 

Guilty pleasure?
The first four Friday the 13th films.  Just awesome.