Featured Artist: Gordon Studer – Reigniting a Love for Painting

Featured Artist: Gordon Studer – Reigniting a Love for Painting

Gordon Studer

Featured Artist: Gordon Studer – Reigniting a Love for Painting


Every month we ask an artist to share an impact maker.

This month we feature longtime Emeryville-based painter, designer, and award-winning illustrator, Gordon Studer.

Can you briefly share a key moment in your education or career that pushed your work to another level?

I moved out to California from the East Coast to try and get work in the newspaper business as an illustrator – that was one of the few places an illustrator could get an actual salaried job.

While at the San Francisco Examiner, now the Chronicle, the introduction of the Apple computer and the first computer drawing programs came along, and I started to use it as a drawing tool.

I was one of the first illustrators to have digital illustrations published – this was during the late 80’s early 90’s. It catapulted my illustration career and soon I went out on my own as a freelancer.

SF Studer Illustration 2

Digital Illustration © Gordon Studer

Twenty-five years later the illustration market has taken a big hit with the decline of publications. My solution was to diversify, and now I’m a painter, designer, and illustrator.

Each informs the other creatively and I gather three sources of income to make it all work. It keeps me very, very busy!

There are so many technical aspects to drawing and art. Are there any primary skills that you’d recommend as an early focus to someone starting off?

I look at a lot of art and go to museums. Design and value are the most important elements in a work of art. Color and texture come next, but the first two will make or break a piece.

I think there is a tendency to try and save a painting with color and textures when what really needs to be addressed is the design and overall values. When I say values I’m referring to darks and lights.

I think this has been ingrained in me over years of trial and error and illustration work, but was made clear in my fine art work while working with painter and teacher, Nicholas Wilton.

Your career has shifted from an illustration focus in editorial and advertising to include more of a fine art aspect. Have you always painted?

I was a Fine Arts major at Penn State University, so I was painting in college. Once I hit the real world I needed to find work, so I took the path of commercial art – illustration and design.

It wasn’t until recently, over the past several years, that I started painting seriously again.

SF Studer Painting 1

Who are some of the schools or organizations where you’ve taught? Can you share what it is that draws you to teach and share your experiences with aspiring artists and designers?

I taught Digital Illustration at California College of Arts (CCA), where I enjoyed teaching the basics of design, composition and developing metaphors for editorial illustration solutions. But, I didn’t really enjoy the technical part of teaching computer programs.

Today, I enjoy teaching painting to kids and adults. It’s rewarding to help guide students work, but I really try and stay clear to let them find their own artistic voice.

Showing techniques always gets the biggest reaction from students, but what’s great is when I start to see them get the principles of composition and individual creativity.

Do you passionately follow the art world either in the Bay Area or beyond, following new and emerging artists and trends? Or is the fine art aspect of your work a release from the more rigid world of client directed work?

I use Facebook as a way of following current artists whose work I love, and I try to make it to as many art openings around the Bay Area as I can.

I keep folders of inspirational art I see out there and refer to it from time to time. I will also include my own work in these folders. It gives me perspective on how my work relates to others.

It’s funny, but just reviewing past work of my own helps inspire me and provides direction for what’s next.SF Studer Painting 3

Do you have any plans for an upcoming gallery show? What’s next?

I paint abstractly and figuratively, but the two seem unrelated sometimes. I’m in the process of working on a series of paintings combining the two – abstract figurative work.

I’m very excited about what’s developing and hope to present the series in the near future.

I will also be teaching kids art summer camp, and I have plans for an adult weekend painting workshop this fall.

Who is your impact maker, and why?

Recently, it’s been Northern California painter, Nicholas Wilton. His simple message of how to create art really resonates with me.

Three years ago I took one of his workshops and it really reignited my love for painting.

Umlaut Creative is led by Gordon Studer, a successful fine artist, designer and illustrator for over 30 years. His work has illuminated the pages of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, TIME, Adobe, Apple and U.S. Postal Service, as well as countless websites and magazines. Gordon brings humor and depth to his wildly creative solutions. In step with him are the friends he’s made along the way, whose combined efforts encompass all aspects of the design and advertising world.

Photos and illustrations courtesy Gordon Studer and Umlaut Creative.