Collaboration with Jil Sander on fall / winter 2015 men’s collection

January 30th, 2015 | No Comments

I recently had the profound pleasure of traveling to Milan as a guest of luxury fashion house Jil Sander, to view its Fall / Winter 2015 men’s collection — from a front-row seat.

Graphic motifs from several of my minimal paintings will have a presence in the sportswear and casual range of Jil Sander’s fall collection for men, which will be available in some of the world’s finest stores starting in September.

What’s more, invitations to the runway show featured a reimagined version of my minimal, 70s-inspired painting Blactan.

Blactan by Grant Wiggins with invitations to the runway presentation of Jil Sander's fall 2015 men's collection
Above: The study for my 2007 painting Blactan among invitations to the runway show for Jil Sander’s Fall / Winter 2015 men’s runway show, held January 17, 2015, as a part of Milan Men’s Fashion Week.


I was contacted by Jil Sander in December, out of the blue, to my great surprise. Quite simply, the brand’s design team had found my work online, and wished to license selections from my catalogue.

Naturally, I didn’t say no.

All the same, I have said “thank you” to the Internet a few times.

Nearly 6,000 miles (9400 km) separate my studio in Tempe, Arizona and Milan. Traveling between the two points takes nearly one full day.

But it’s particularly fascinating to me that, despite this distance, my work might resonate with, and possibly inspire, a highly accomplished designer and his team — one that’s virtually on the other side of the world from where I paint.

The world is even smaller than I once imagined.

I have long believed that my paintings could have a parallel life in fashion. Friends and family have asked me this repeatedly, “Why don’t you make clothes? Your paintings would look fantastic on shirts!” However, I never imagined that a global luxury brand like Jil Sander would get the process started before me.

Led by creative director Rodolfo Paglialunga, Jil Sander’s fall/winter 2015 runway collection for men was impeccably presented. I was immensely impressed by the overcoats, which balanced angularity and structure with luxuriousness and comfort. I can also appreciate how the collection’s palette was accented by punches of bold hues, such as vivid red-orange, which blazed down the runway more than once.

It was a thrill to have the opportunity to meet Jil Sander staff in person. The fashion house has been perfectly generous with me.

Once images of garments featuring my work become available, I will certainly share them with you in this space. There’s more to come this fall.

No excuses — there’s plenty of time to set aside some of your wardrobe budget for a Jil Sander / Grant Wiggins sweater!

Until next time, ciao ciaoooo!

— Grant Wiggins


Celebrating 20 years of painting

December 26th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Well you’re in your little room, and you’re working on something good.
But if it’s really good, you’re gonna need a bigger room.
And when you’re in the bigger room, you might not know what to do.
You might have to think of how you got started, sitting in your little room.

— The White Stripes, “Little Room”

Twenty years ago this week, I painted my first painting. The experience of making that first work is something that I shall vividly remember. While I have made hundreds of paintings in the decades since, no other artistic experience I’ve had can quite match the feeling of adventure and freedom I felt when I was first starting out.

scramp king by grant wiggins
Scramp King, my first painting, which I painted in late December 1994.

Back then, I was a senior-year English major who wrote poetry and considering a career as an English teacher. Despite my stated ambitions, I found myself spending countless hours in the art section of my school’s library, transfixed by one art history book after another.

One title stood out: Andy Warhol: A Retrospective. I couldn’t put that book down! I had fallen in love with Warhol’s early advertising paintings — of household appliances of vacuums, drills, and refrigerators depicted in newspaper ads. In these seemingly unfinished portraits on canvas, everyday products were exalted.

Before returning home for Christmas break, I took out a loan for the Warhol retrospective catalog. I consulted that book continuously throughout vacation, each time feeling emboldened to start my own journey as a painter.

One night following Christmas, I took the plunge into making art. With images of Warhol’s paintings and a painting idea of my own glowing in my brain, I wandered into my mom’s art studio, tore the shrinkwrap from a pre-stretched canvas, grabbed some tubes of acrylic paint and a brush, and embarked upon realizing an idea for a painting that I had carried with me for more than a year: the wrapper of a 3M Scotch Brite sponge. Thing is, this new painting wouldn’t say Scotch Brite. I wanted it to say Scramp King! This was to be a portrait of a product that could exist only in a parallel universe!

scotch brite scouring pad by 3m
In the mid-1990s, Scotch Brite scouring sponges looked something like this. A wrapper that looked similar to this provided the source of inspiration for Scramp King.

Where did Scramp King come from? In the summer of 1993, I worked as a groundskeeper at an apartment complex. One project was to wash tenants’ front doors with Scotch Brite scouring sponges. (Man, were they abrasive! I scratched the heck out of quite a few doors!) In the process of removing dirt (and paint), the word “scramp king” jumped from a sponge’s wrapper into my brain, after I misread the packaging out of the corner of my eye.

That first painting seemed like such a transgressive act. It wasn’t the subject matter that was transgressive. It’s that I was a literature major who had never taken a studio art class — just a few art history classes. To me, painting is what studio art majors did! I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be painting. And yet, there I was, painting (straight out of tubes!) and working my way through a painting. I was taking a step toward becoming who I am.

Back at school, my friends told me they actually thought my painting was cool, and encouraged me to keep painting. Slowly, over time, I did just that. My confidence grew. But I never did take a studio art class. (Perhaps it shows!)

Reflecting upon what I have learned over the past two decades, a few lessons stand out. If I could go back in time and give myself advice, I’d probably tell myself the following five things:

1. If you want to make art, then make art! It’s that simple! You don’t need anyone’s permission or approval. Just make.

2. Never allow anyone talk you out of giving yourself to your art. I can’t tell you how important learning this lesson has been. People very close to me tried to convince me that devoting myself to my art was a kind of a selfish waste of time, that I’d struggle financially if I were to devote my life to making art. I was told I’d never make a living at it, and I’d be better off focusing on a career that made money. Unfortunately, at pivotal times, I listened to these people. But guess what? They were all wrong! The naysayers could never understand the bliss of having a great idea for a new painting, then finding a path to realizing it.

3. Take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Creative successes may come along — especially when you least expect them — and your visual agenda might be validated by a curator, gallery owner, or collector now and then. It’s nice to be recognized. But whatever happens, don’t believe your own hype! Stay humble. You’re only as good as your next painting.

4. Make art for yourself. For me, the true test of a work is whether I’m able to live with it on a daily basis. That said, making art with other people in mind doesn’t work for me. The applause or indifference of others is irrelevant. And don’t hope for others to like your work. If comrades or critics don’t like something you make, so be it. When you make art for yourself, the conversation surrounding the finished work is a separate matter. If something good happens, it’s bonus-round material.

5. Don’t compare yourself to other artists. And don’t compare your situation to that of other artists. As Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” We sometimes read about artists who have ascended to international fame and fortune, or sell their work for ridiculous sums. Don’t let their success discount your self-opinion. Just because another artist seems to be “successful,” that doesn’t mean you can’t be, too. Keep believing in your gift. When in doubt, revisit point #4 above.

But ultimately, when I look back on 20 years of painting, I feel gratitude. I am grateful for having had the time, space, and gift of health to be able to make what I’ve made. I am grateful to my mom for allowing me to “borrow” her art supplies during Christmas break 1994, and to my sister who taught me how to mix paint. I am grateful to all of the fellow artists, friends, loved ones, collectors, and curators who have believed in my talent, and have supported me over time.

Being an artist can be a crazy calling to have. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Here’s to 20 more years!

— Grant Wiggins


New Painting: “A Newness Clean and Pure”

July 25th, 2014 | No Comments

a newness clean and pure by grant wiggins
A Newness Clean and Pure. 2014. Acrylic on canvas. 30 x 24 inches (76 x 61 cm).


This week’s Painting of the Week is A Newness Clean and Pure, which I finished Thursday. It’s an acrylic on canvas piece that measures 30 by 24 inches (76 x 61 cm).

Pure and simple, this painting is a mashup of graphical motifs that have interested me of late. This painting is just me having fun — trying to make something new!

The grid and heraldic vair-en-pointe waves served as the starting point for this composition. The patterns at the top and bottom were added later, in an improvised fashion. A work-in-progress photo shows what the painting looked like before I began to improvise my way toward the finish.

a newness clean and pure by grant wiggins
A Newness Clean and Pure, in progress.


The title comes from a phrase I heard in a Freakonomics podcast about Japanese residential architecture, titled “Why Are Japanese Homes Disposable?” Noting how the all-wood Shinto shrine at Ise is rebuilt every 20 years, architect Alastair Townsend points out that Japanese culture values newness as something “spiritually clean and pure.” This might help to explain why Japanese homes are torn down every 30 years. (A bigger reason, Townsend observes, might be fear of earthquakes, and a perceived need for the latest earthquake-resistant technology.)

a newness clean and pure by grant wiggins
A Newness Clean and Pure nearing completion.


Each painting is a voyage into newness. The act of conceiving a painting feels like tapping into the electricity that permeates everything, that energy that powers the creative act.

I have been putting greater emphasis on improvisation lately, as well. With the recently loss of the late jazz great Charlie Haden, I have had free jazz on my mind lately. Haden said, “The artist is very lucky, because in an art form that’s spontaneous like [jazz], that’s when you really see your true self.”

And so, obsessed with making, I continue to make. It is not a question of good or bad, or of right or wrong. To make, to improvise, this is a way of connecting with newness and seeing one’s true self.


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