I was able to convince the incredibly busy John Gascot to sit down with me and talk about how he prepares for a solo show, how he chooses which pieces to merchandise, and his latest endeavor- buying out the city-owned art studios and converting it into a hub for art education for generations to come.
- Music by Old Romans: https://www.instagram.com/old_romans
You can listen to the episode here (or wherever you listen to podcasts) or read the transcript below:
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A Conversation with John Gascot
Chain Assembly: Today on the show, I am lucky enough to have John Gascot, Queen of the Universe. John is someone I first met, I feel like maybe three years ago. I don't know. I think it was before the pandemic we probably met.
John Gascot: Oh, definitely.
CA: Yeah. So it was some. Yeah, it was some show that you were looking for pieces for. I forget what the show was, but I remember I had this just this illustration I had done inspired by the show Sense8 that I brought to you.
CA: Yeah. And that was at the studios at 5663, right?
JG: All right.
CA: No, I brought it to you there.
JG: I don't know if that's what it was. Yeah, I think it was even before. I think I was curating cider press and a bunch of.
CA: Yes, that's right. It was. Yeah, but I gave you a bunch of stuff.
JG: So yeah, it was probably a pride show or something like that. Probably. Yeah, because I think that was to do with gender.
CA: That was definitely the first thing I had connected with you through. And then I kept hanging up pieces at cider press and you were curating at cider press and like one other location, right?
JG: I was curating at one point at cider press at pom poms when that was still open. I've done stuff for Emerald. I forget. I was curating, uh, Charlie Christ's offices. Okay, I remember a couple of a number places, but eventually that that just gets Yeah, to be a lot. There's other people doing it. Yeah. All that now, which is nice. Yeah.
CA: Well, I know. Speaking of curating, you have a show coming up. That is it. It's gonna be a solo show in January, right?
JG: December. December. Yeah, that's okay. It opens the first uh, Saturday, no, first Friday in December. And then, um, it will run through that month. And it's called Categorias. Okay. Okay. So, well, tell me a bit about your art, what you're doing now, and kind of like what, what, describe that theme for the show you have coming up. So my art, I call it Latin Pop. It's a mixture of pop, cubism, it's got global influences, always a lot of dots. You can see I love Aboriginal art. And I like to create stuff that's accessible, but that starts conversations and promotes diversity. Sometimes it's just on purpose, a little bit obnoxious. And...in the way I portray things that I think are unjust or wrong with the world. And that gets me in hot water sometimes. And I welcome that because it gets me in hot water with the people who I could care less what they think, you know. And yeah, so this show is I do a lot about work about gender and inclusion and sort of blurring the lines of gender because I have different gender expressions depending on the day. And so I was like, why have I, I'm like, I'm gonna make a voguing painting. And then I started thinking about it. I'm like, why have I never made a body of work that deals with the ballroom culture? Because, and I don't know many people who are or have, I'm sure there are out there but at least not around here. And I wanted to really explore, I was like, this can definitely, this is a meaty subject that can give me a lot to work with. And I'm working a little bit more with bodies and positions, but obviously I don't paint in a realistic manner. So it's me trying to figure out how to convey these poses and sort of body movements within my style.
CA: Well, that's interesting of a challenge, because I know most of your work is like waist up generally, right?
JG: Waist up portraits. Right. A lot of faces. I mean, like, this is very much in line with... So these include more sort of movements, because for people who don't know about ballroom culture, it is something that started, it can be traced back to the 20s, but it really kind of blew up in the 60s and 70s. And it was started by brown and black people in Harlem. And basically, it's composed of houses and what a house is, is basically a family. And they've got mothers and fathers. And the mother of the house is that usually an elder person who this is all within the queer culture for the most part you know, these are people who take in children who have been kicked out of their homes for their sexuality or gender expression, and they're on the streets. And so they're sort of welcomed by these mothers and the houses. So the members of the house are her children or their children. And what they do is this is where voguing came from. There are elements performance and what they do is as a creative outlet instead of almost like you would have gangs fighting, but this is all friendly. You have competitions, you have balls where there are different categories, where they have a panel of judges and they go and they present and they have face, they have different hands. These are all different forms of dances and movements. A lot of them are very athletic. But there's also the element of outer, your expression and how they present in the opulence that they come with to compete. So it's very fascinating. Anybody who's not familiar should definitely watch Paris is Burning. It's kind of required watching on the subject. Mm-hmm. It really breaks it down and it gets you.
CA: I just put that on my watch list a few days ago because I heard someone say that using the term yas queen is cultural appropriation and it's racist. But then I had also heard that the term originally came from Paris is burning. And so I was just, I put that on my watch list just to, I guess, do my own research.
JG: Right. appropriated in many ways in popular culture and most famously probably by Madonna when she came out with Vogue. She not that she hasn't been an ally, but she really capitalized on a subculture and it was kind of like an accessory for her performance. She's not from that culture. She's not from, but she made millions and millions of dollars off of it with the permission of probably most of the culture. Sure. I still think it was appropriate. It was kind of like they were there as an accessory and then what, you know? But that's just my personal opinion on that. But it all started also because I was recently asked, I'm gonna be in this show that I should have the name for. This one is in November and depending when this is released, it's an Afrofuturism show at Studio 620 that I was asked to be a part of because of my Latino heritage. And it's called Bridges, Future Present, Future Past. And it explores Afrofuturism is basically about...sort of cultures of color that have been purposely erased or people have attempted to erase them, but have come through and thrived within popular culture. Like they use Black Panther as an example you know of such a success or and I was like I had just started doing the the ballroom paintings and I was like Vogueing would be perfect, because it's something that was started by black and brown people who are trying to be erased, but later appropriated by pop culture. And so I'm doing a piece for them, and then that's how the whole concept to do a bigger show began. And that's going to be at the Werk Gallery on 1st, 7th of South, and 22nd.
CA: Yeah. And for the keen-eared listeners, we had Fritz and Matthew on the podcast, owners of the Werk Gallery a few weeks ago.
JG: Yeah, they're great.
CA: So the theme that you brought up, it reminds me of, so I'm Cuban-American. It reminds me of the art of, okay, her name escapes me right now. I want to say it was Maria Fernandez, but that's probably not right. She was a woman who did a lot of art in regards to the like, Babalu, the mythical creature of Cuba, as well as the a lot of the people who the indigenous people who were murdered by Cabeza de Vaca when the when the when he landed there. And so she did a lot of like recreations of cave paintings that were popular or like that were known about around Cuba. And I also remember she was murdered by her boyfriend when she was like 26, pushed out a window.
CA: I just can't remember her name, but I'll try and look it up. But anyways, short career.
CA: But I do remember she was in the Paris Biennale before she died. So powerful career.
JG: Yeah. Well, I'm just going to look her up.
CA: Yeah, I'm sure I can dig up her name later. But the point is, I remember that is her doing art that brings to the forefront people who have been completely erased by history. The the indigenous people of Cuba.
JG: So when it came to that, no, after you know, I was just going to say when you're talking about being erased and stuff, I also like to paint like the people that society wants to ignore, like the person who's asking for change in front of the grocery store. You know, if they have a look to me that's eye-catching in some way, I like to sort of honor those people. Like, one of my favorites is still, I did a painting of this lady. Oh my God, why can't I think of her name now that I'm bringing her up? I'm looking at the print right now. Shirley, Shirley. It's called Shirley on Central. And it's just this lady who was hanging out by like an air pump at a gas station. And she was all like, everything on her was all the same color. And I remember going up to her and I was like, I'm not a weirdo, but can I take a picture of you so I can, you know, paint you? And she was like, give me $5, can I have that? Shirley, the one that says air, yeah. And she was like, give me $5 for a sandwich. I think I've seen that. Yeah, the original was really big. The original's in New York now. And she was just amazing. Like, she asked you. But I know she was somebody that most people just pass by. And I like to take a moment and just kind of notice and acknowledge those people hopefully, you know, they can live on in art, even if nobody knows who they were, but they're there.
CA: So the artist's name is Anna Mendieta. In 1948. But anyways, so regarding this theme that you've been working on now, that so this started as a couple pieces for the Afrofuturism thing and then it expanded to a full show that's taking place at the work?
JG: Yeah. I was like, there's enough here for a whole series and I wanna delve into that because I'm doing paintings on the different categories. So like, you know, face, or I'm doing dip, which is the kids now call it death drop. It's when they sort of bend one knee backwards. If I did it, I'd never get back up. But like I said, they're very athletic or mother is going to be one category is another one. So I can go into all these different categories that exist and let my mind go wild and try to bring them to life in my style.
CA: So would it be incorrect of me to say that you typically don't work in a series structure?
JG: So this might be a little different view to have kind of like a thematic element that you're approaching right one of these pieces Yeah, I would say I mean I only really do a series when I'm Doing a show I mean, I guess you could argue that some of my work would go together as a series, but I never think of them in terms of okay. I'm gonna show all of these works as one collection, unless I have a show coming up or I get this urge. Like this came to me and I was like, well, let me ask Matthew and Fritz if they'd be interested in this concept. Plus the gallery is called werk and it just all kind of goes together. And we want to have voguing performers there and, and do a whole opulent thing out of it.
CA: It's a great space for that. Which I think will be really cool.
JG: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, because it feels very boutique and salon. And I think it'll fit. Yeah, it's going to be great.
CA: So how do you know when you have enough pieces for the series? Are you just going to keep working up until it's hung?
JG: I probably will just keep working up until it's hot. I always feel you need at least 10.
CA: Oh, yeah.
JG: Depending on the space, you know, to present a show. So I'm just gonna, right now they're all pretty big. The smallest size would be 24 by 24. I'm looking at one over there that's like 36 by 48 or something like that. So I'm doing bigger pieces for this and then I'm gonna maybe do some prints of some of them and maybe a couple of small pieces like right now this one I I'm almost done with this is for the arts annual at Creative Pinellas and it's gonna go along with another devil piece and then I'm doing like these little six by six where it's just close up of the eyes as like a, I don't know, it's like the jewelry on it. And to give people options that, you know, maybe they're like, they're not going to get the $1,500 painting, but maybe they'll be like, oh, I'll take a little one for $100.
CA: You've always been very accessible with the options in your studio. Maybe that's because you produce so much work, but you definitely make it available for anyone to go in, buy a piece, and head out.
JG: Yeah. I don't ever want anybody to come into my studio, love my work, and feel like they can't walk out with something of my work. So, and I just think it's smart business too. If you're, if you're an artist, you know, there are certain artists who are fortunate enough to sell, you know, like Stephen Kenny, you know, multi thousand dollar originals over and over again. But most artists, I think, have to hustle. So I offer prints. I offer various sizes. They start at $10. And then go to like 25, 30. I offer magnets, earrings, greeting cards, stickers, earrings, ornaments. So I just feel like if your style lends itself to that sort of thing, it's a wise thing to do business-wise because it's nice to have those sales while you're creating the original work. And it's not just the sales. Someone wearing your art out and about becomes someone marketing your art for you. Absolutely. And, again, it goes back to just being... It makes me feel nice that somebody doesn't feel restricted or like... It's fine. They can just pick up a...four dollars sticker and buy it and have because they like my work. I just don't like the for me personally I'm not saying that other people are wrong if they don't do this but I just that's a feeling I enjoy that it's accessible. So when it comes to organizing the things you're bringing together for this solo show.
CA: Did you start off with like a checklist of like these are the the poses I need to have these things need to have Are you just kind of coming up with it every time you have a blank canvas you're thinking what am I missing?
JG: No, I I definitely once I got the idea. I just made a list of Categories that exist within the ballroom competition world and also of like characters or like for example like there'll be one called mother like m-u-t-h-a uh and it'll be i will imagine this mother of a house um and do a painting of her um i have category s which has a bunch of different like femme queen regular drag queen bearded queen within it, I have one called Pose for Me, which has two figures, voguing, opulence is another one that I'm working on. And I might just, I don't know why I was painting something that I've just repainted, but it was like green and yellow and I was like, and there were these other colors, there's three queens. And at first I was like, oh maybe it should be like the citrus ball, you know, because of the colors I was using. But then the colors changed, because originally it was all about, they all have fans, because the work is gonna order the, you know, the Clack fans, just huge, they're gonna order those with my work on them for the exhibit that they're gonna sell. So, so now I'm like, I'm gonna do a citrus ball painting, you know, and I ordered like, all these like citrus stencils and stuff to play with. So I guess both categories that I knew I wanted to hit and then as I'm working, things are coming to me because my paintings just change as I work on them. Like sometimes I think I know what I'm about to paint. I'm like, no, that arm should go in that direction or I don't like that color anymore or, you know, so they always. I think of painting almost like solving a puzzle, like, OK, I got this works. What goes here now that's going to support that and then what? You know what I mean? Yeah. That's how my head works.
CA: So as you're putting these together, like when you finish a piece, do you stack it up somewhere or do you leave it out so that you can kind of take in the holistic series you've created? and use that to inform the next one?
JG: I don't know if I use it to inform the next one, but I will definitely once that right now they're all over in various stages of, because with acrylic is just layer after layer after layer. And in my style, which is pretty flat and solid, like it just takes a lot of layers, especially some like the reds and stuff take a lot of layers to look solid but I would definitely lay them out to see what the flow is. That's usually how I, even when I'm curating and hanging shows here, I just kind of lay stuff out and be like, you know, I said, easy transition from this piece to that piece, even when it's different artists, you know, what's leading me, is it that it's going black and white and color, is it composition, is it subject matter? So it's different for me. Sure. But I don't know what, my head is so into this one right now that I don't know what, I'm enjoying working within a theme with like asset collection. I'm enjoying that. So I might do more of that instead of one offs. Sure.
CA: So I mean, yeah, like I was saying, I've noticed you regularly do just kind of one offs. So having this thematic grouping has made it easier for you to work through it or you just enjoying kind of being in this new space.
JG: I'm just enjoying the ride, yeah. It's like, it's just a very, it's a different process. Cause you know, you know, we all do a lot of different exhibits throughout the area and usually they're themed. So I think we're used to getting what the theme is and doing that one thing and then, oh, another show comes and it's that other theme. So I'm gonna do that. And so just taking the time to work on this whole series and it's like, it's like a family or something. It's, it's cool.
CA: That's very cool. What kind of research or writing do you do alongside these pieces to like present with the show? Do you have like an artist statement you work on? Do you do some writing on each individual piece? Um, I'm. You're just saving that for the end. Is that like your homework?
JG: Yeah. I didn't think. I didn't think about doing writing for each painting. I did do a press release, and I'm sure I'll have an artist's statement to go with the exhibit about the history and what it's inspiring to me and what I feel is important about it. But I don't know if I'll have individuals other than just the titles. I don't know that each painting will need, you know what, I could be wrong. I was gonna say, I don't know that each painting will need an explanation, but for people who are not familiar with ballroom culture, maybe it would be a good idea to say, like the painting that's dip, which is that certain move, to have something that says like dip is the blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, so that people go, oh That's why that person's bending backwards, or if you're not familiar with it. Yeah, because I mean, I know the work is in a specific area, and you have a specific audience. So a good majority of people who may go to that opening will already be familiar with those things. But even if it's not a majority, there's still plenty of people who love your art and don't know the reasoning behind it. So because you have spent this much time explaining it all to me, I was just wondering if you had already prepared to explain that to other people or... I haven't, but you have inspired me to, because I think that it's not to be self-important, but I think in a way it's kind of an educational series too. Right, yeah. So it would make sense to have a little blurb with each painting explaining what that's about. I usually am the person who's like, if I get like, when I'm cute, because like, But you know, I curate shows also. But if I am making labels and I get like a three paragraph long thing. I get annoyed.
CA: Well, I'm glad you brought that up, because I hate writing about my stuff. But in an earlier episode, I spoke with Jose Gomez of the House of Shadows. And he was saying that when someone does provide a long description of a piece he'll notice more people will actually sit there and read the whole thing. And the more people who read the whole thing, the more likely that piece is gonna sell. So that got me rethinking how I submit stuff.
JG: Right. See, and I'm the opposite, because I'm like, people wanna see the art. They don't wanna read this whole, you know, a little, a paragraph, maybe two. But sometimes it's just like, if somebody lists 40 materials, and I'm making a label, that's mixed media. Like I'm not listing 40 materials.
CA: I think if it's more than two, it's mixed media.
JG: Yeah, for sure. I'll give you even three if it's like a really quirky material, but if you start to go nuts, no, I don't have that ink. But I think that maybe that's just my cranky self, maybe somewhere in the middle between what he's saying about people enjoying reading about a piece. It may be it just not being, you know, a dissertation just to paragraphs or something. I just, I just think a lot of people don't have really long attention spans. Myself included.
CA: No, I get that.
Yeah, so maybe I'm putting my own Quirks on to you know, I'm projecting
CA: So what kind of relationship has there been with the work in developing the plan for this or is it just like here's your date I'll talk to you to when we're two weeks out.
JG: No, no, no well, I brought up the idea to see if they'd be interested they were interested and we've been going back and forth discussing stuff. I'm getting the images, two images in particular, ready for them so that it can have the fans printed and produced. So those are the first two that need to be done. And like I said, we talked about the press release. So we kind of collaborated on that. Performers, so there's definitely an involvement as we go along, you know, what do we want on the cards, you know, like flyers, things like that. So, no, I find that they're very involved. They're a great addition to the scene, I think, in St. Pete.
CA: Can you tell me more about what the press release entails? Is it like newspapers, Facebook posts?
JG: I don't know. I know water watermark is going to do a feature on it because I sent it to Chen ring who's amazing she I don't know she does she still write for is somebody breaking and entering your home right now. I see you like.
CA: Sorry, no my wife creeped in through the door to grab a hat off the coat rack.
JG: Okay, that's fine.
CA: Well, it's funny is the last few episodes I did I use this thing called Nvidia broadcast. which has a feature that constantly AIs your eyes to look at the camera.
JG: Oh wow, really?
CA: And it's really creepy and doesn't work well with glasses. So I just get it.
JG: Yeah, no, I'd rather see you look around and know if you're okay or not. Then, plus I'm looking around because I'm talking about the work, like I said, I have pieces around so I'm like, oh, okay, let me talk about that.
CA: I'll pretend I'm doing that, I'm looking at the art. Yeah, there you go. I do have one of your pieces in my living room though, I just can't see it from in here.
JG: What were we talking about?
CA: Oh, what a press release entails.
JG: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So I don't know. I've been of two opinions on that because I'm like, are newspapers like done now as far as, you know, promoting stuff since so much stuff went online? But at the same time, they do put out store, like Creative Loafing is still, I think, a popular publication and stuff like that. So, Watermark gets distributed, I think, between like here in Orlando. So some of it is for print or online publications. Some of it, if, you know, I'll send it to some, TV people and see if I could get a spot for it. I know a couple of people who do the man about town things that I've done stuff with for the morning shows and stuff like that. So I'll send it to them to see if they think it's interesting. They'll bring it to their editors or whatever. So it's still, I guess, worth doing. I wasn't doing them for a long time. Just I think especially since COVID and then a lot of newspapers like stop doing actual paper publications and things like that because I think like Creative Loafing only puts out certain editions now. I don't think they put one out every month that you can get at the newsstand. But I mean all in all whether it's a press release or it's just something to tell people who might promote the show. It is good to know that someone as quote unquote established as you doesn't have a definitive answer on the value of being in a newspaper. So no, yeah, no, because I don't know anymore. Like, for example, if as far as advertising or events like our monthly events or even here, like. I hate to say this because I do want to support newspapers, but like I find that like boosting an event on Facebook or making a Facebook ad brings in more people than if I put an ad on the paper, which is not cheap.
JG: Yeah. Most people today.
CA: My wife was looking into getting an ad in Green Bench and it's $750 for a half page. I didn't expect it to be that much.
JG: It's a lot. Yeah. No, it's a lot. I think it's...worth it for certain things and certain industries, certain events that are big, certainly like the pride events or if it's like a whatever festival that's going on. Gasparilla, I'm sure puts stuff on the papers. But say for a monthly art walk or something, I think people, this is what you do when you're like, oh, what do you feel like doing? Let's see what's going on. And they go like on Facebook or Google or whatever. So I don't know. I don't know what the, I don't have an answer. I think the changes with the times to be honest.
CA: Well, speaking of that, if you were to guess to me, what is the average age demographic of the people who buy your paintings?
JG: Um, I would say the people who buy originals tend to be 30s to 60s.
CA: Okay. All right. Well, let's do it even more fun. Describe the person who buys your art. What are they wearing? What do they look like? How did they find you? What are they wearing? What do they look like?
JG: They're so varied, but the majority of the women who buy my art, I would say, are women. Although I have some male collectors. My biggest collector is a man. He's got like 50 something of my power in this house. And if you walk in, it's literally like the Gascot museum or something. It's like they're, they're everywhere. But, okay, what Who's buying my, they're fun. The person that's buying my art is fun. A lot of times it's like a fun couple that comes in maybe in their 30s, 40s, 50s. They might be a little funky. Like the way they're dressed is kind of fun and you know, like they dress like themselves. They're not in.
CA: Probably they're hat people.
JG: Some of them are hat people. They're not they're not wearing a Polo shirt and khakis. Usually, they're like maybe frayed jeans, some funky freely top, you know, funky hair. They're excuse me, they're open minded and liberal usually because my stuff I paint does not appeal to conservative or like bigoted people because it speaks directly against all of that. And they're just people, they like color, because you have to like color to like my work. I very seldom work in anything muted. Although I do every now and then think I should challenge myself to do like some black and white and stuff like that, just for like palate cleansing. You know, it's just as an exercise in between what I normally do. They're...not necessarily rich. They're like working class people, most of them. They just enjoy the work and it speaks to them so they feel like it's a worthwhile investment because they want to live with that piece. My work is not like, I sometimes I'll do some decorative stuff just mostly when I do decorative stuff as if we're having like a workshop and I have to do a sample of something to teach somebody how to make it their own. But it's very stylized. Like my style is my style. It's not art that blends into the backdrop. So it's not like a muted floral or something that just kind of looks pretty above the cow, which you have to really want that in your home. So I would say the people who buy my work are very enthusiastic about my work. They don't buy it as a, Oh yeah, that's cute. We'll just have a specific audience. I guess.
CA: Do you ever find yourself trying to market to that audience or direct, put yourself in front of that audience specifically? Like the more commercial. I guess like what I'm trying to say is like I picture my typical customer as a woman in her early 20s with a messenger bag and a death metal band t-shirt and I will vend at USF
JG: and she's polyamorous.
CA: Yes. Yeah. She has a nose piercing. Yeah. And she's and she's getting into tarot. Yeah. So like but I'll often put myself in situations where those people are. So like I'll vend at USF, or if I see like a college is having a show, or like an art college in Lakeland is having a show, I'm gonna try and get my stuff there because there's a lot of young people studying art in Lakeland. So like I, maybe that's just because my day job is market research and a lot of it is like defining an audience then figuring out how well that audience represents your actual customer base.
JG: But I think that's a very helpful and good skill to have as an artist. I think. Well, I mean, I guess you're doing that through the podcast, but you could teach a seminar on that.
CA: Well, I mean, I don't know if my market research certification, uh, I'd have to revisit my old textbooks to, but anyways, the reason I was bringing it up was because you specifically didn't say people over 60 and I feel like that's the majority of the people who are reading newspapers to figure out what event to go to. So your audience, the 30 to 60 year olds, they are deep in the Facebook game. People under 30, not using Facebook as much. So it is interesting that you are seeing that valuable return from boosting a Facebook post, at least getting those people in the door.
JG: Yeah, yeah, definitely. And then I would say my younger audience tend to buy the stickers, the earrings, those are my like 20 something.
CA: So speaking of that, since you do some of the quote unquote merchandising of some of your pieces, how do you decide which ones you want to recreate?
JG: Theme or just something in the composition of it where I'm like, okay, if you just take the head, that would make a really funky ornament. Like I just did a Prince painting. It's a really simple Prince painting and I just cut out the head and I have like holographic, I'm looking at it, it's on my laptop right now, stickers. I have ornaments. And then I want to make earrings, but big ones, because I think the Prince fan that's going to buy it is going to go to some sort of Prince cover, and they're going to want it like that. They're not going to want this tiny Prince on their ear. And the funny thing about that is I don't put them on Etsy anymore, because I don't know if it's from being a super fan, but...The estate always finds and flags my stuff on Etsy, if it's Prince theme, even though it's just in my style. Meanwhile, there are people who have like literal reproductions of like the purple rain poster on a candle and they're still there, but I'm afraid that they're gonna shut me down cause you get like a warning on Etsy.
CA: Yeah. I got a cease and desist on Etsy from the estate of Shel Silverstein. So. I'm like, oh, I'm fine with this giving tree copy thing related. Right. Fan art. Yeah.
JG: No, they're out there. I'm like, what's my Prince thing going to take from you? Anyway, but usually marketability, I have a piece that looks nothing like the rest of my stuff, that it's literally just a heart with rainbow stripes going through, but it's love outside the line. So it's like, it breaks through the outline and people just love that. Like they buy it as a ornament, they buy it as a print, they buy it as earrings. I just, it has a wide appeal. So that's how I decide. Also funny stuff, like I also do Nasty Kitty on the side, which is collaged. I find like Victorian era Kitty's and collage from flowers and really pretty. And then they have like nasty messages like your whore, get a dick, hit fuck face. So those sell really well. Like the work gallery is always sold out of the prints and the stickers because it's novelty. But that's how I decide. Either the image I just think is cool enough and then I'll get it, mate, and it'll either sell or not. Because that's the only way you can do it. It's not like you can make one magnet. And then I figure out which ones sell more than others. And then I'll discontinue some that don't sell as well, and I'll try something new.
CA: So that brings me to a question that I guess is something I never have to deal with because all my stuff is digital. Do you how much do you document each one of your paintings? and then decide afterwards, okay, I'm gonna start merchandising this because this sold within a week. Or do you kind of make that decision before the sale happens? Or I guess start with the first part. How much do you document?
JG: Oh, I make it before this. I usually take a picture of almost everything just to post on my Instagram and stuff like that. So I'll have the image and then I usually know when I'm painting it if I want to recreate it or not if I want to make a print. And there's different levels, because there are images where I'm like, okay, I want to make a print of this, but not earrings, not a magnet. And then there are others where I'm like, okay, I want to recreate this, but like I said, just the head, because that part will make, and I suck at digital stuff, so they remove everything else for me. I have them, you know. And yeah, I know right away if a piece is going to be produced. So when it comes to the cell phone away, I know. When you're not gonna say sorry, I'm sorry. Go ahead. You go you go you go.
CA: So when you are documenting your pieces, is it just a photo you're taking with your phone? Or do you have like a fancy setup?
JG: Okay, I used to have a camera and the whole fancy thing. But now I'm like, you can get a large enough file from the phone. So That's all I do really. And I either, if I want to try it, if I want to give it a test, I literally get like photos of the work made at like CVS just to have like two or three of that. And I'll math them, sign them. And if they do well, then I'll go to a printer and get like, you know, 200, whatever the minimum is from the actual printer that I get the rest of them from. All right.
CA: So what would that printer be? I like to give them a desk run. Like what printer do you go to, I guess? If you were getting a big run.
JG: I go to the same printer as Gianna.
CA: Okay. Yeah. She said it was a local guy. I don't remember his name.
JG: Yeah. Well, the guy we work with is Greg, but I forget what the printer itself is called. And they're fair and reasonable. So I get like...greeting cards and 8x10s made by her, by that printer. And in the future, maybe some other stuff. Cause I know Gianna gets like her packaging and everything done, like her earring backs and stuff. So I guess you could say she's been inspiring some of your merchandising side. Oh yeah, she's so, she's on it. She's on it. Like, I'm like, whatever you're doing on Etsy, I'm gonna do the same. Like, and I just tell her, I'm like, yeah, I just looked through your Etsy. I saw how you, what are you doing now on Etsy? Are you changing the descriptions? Are you, you know, cause she just, she's very good at Etsy and Shopify. Like she's very good at that. And her stuff has also a wider appeal than mine as far I think, because her work, you know, it's of course art. It's not like it's just, um, commercial but it's accessible enough to be commercial. It's got the vintage appeal. It's got the animal appeal. I think her stuff hits a lot of different markets and mine would not. So we're operating, as far as Etsy type stuff goes, we're operating on different levels or lanes.
CA: So if you have a painting that you like and you decide to get prints made of it, do you find that the existence of that print run increases or decreases the potential value of the original piece?
JG: Oh, I don't subscribe to if there are prints of something that devalues the piece. I think if anything it adds value because more people want it and you have the original.
CA: That's what I was thinking but I feel like I remember months ago I went to this lecture, I guess you can call it on like tips on being a gallerist or an art collector. And they were really poo-pooing the existence of prints and making prints for art.
Yeah, I'm not an art snob. So.
CA: And so I was just wondering if there was any kind of correlation there.
JG: No, I think if anything, it increases if you have prints because that means there's a want for that piece. And now you have the original. It should at least. increase it if not in, I mean, there are prints of almost every masterpiece that you can or what's considered a masterpiece that you can see at museums. And there are people who own like, you know, I believe Madonna owns a Kahlo and a Lampika. And there are prints of that stuff. And to them, I'm sure they're like, That's all you can get. I have the real one. You know, I don't know, to me it...I say Prince.
CA: Okay. Yes. All right. Yes to Prince. So let's transition now into the studios that you're in. Cause I know you, you were, I guess the, the mother of that studio for the longest time, official mother of the studio. So can you, can you explain the process on how it started with Pinellas Park? And I guess all of it just from the beginning.
JG: Yeah. Well, I came here like eight years ago for an event I was doing, some sort of conference, I don't even know who invited me to do this conference at the Vinoy and it was like a Main Street conference and they have it every year in some different city and it was all about revitalizing Main Streets through the arts and stuff like that. So they had local artists vending there and I met this lady, Deborah Rose, who was at the time the CRA person for the city of Pinellas Park. And that's Community Redevelopment Agency. And they were having an event called Better Block, where they brought out like pod containers, and they let artists turn them into either shops or galleries or whatever. And when I was here doing it, she said, just yesterday we decided to turn this spot, which is like an office suite into art studios, which you'd be interested. They're going to be really subsidized and because it's just part of revitalizing the area because Pinellas Park had a little bit of a rocky reputation in the past.
CA: I understand that.
JG: Yeah. And, you know, Pinellas Park doesn't have the beach and it doesn't have a downtown. So there's value in the arts as a way to revitalize it. They're working on a town center now that's going to connect to the arts district. So I came in here, I took a look. I was like, I'm in and they're literally a dollar a square foot. Was what the rent was. Yeah, that's unfortunately that's insane.
CA: Yeah, that's insane. I know someone who has a studio in downtown St. Pete and they had to leave because they raised the price to, I think it was like $3,000 a month.
JG: That's insane. I know somebody, there's a new place too that's very expensive for like teeny tiny spaces are like 600 or more, but like tiny, when I say, actually, I think that was like eight something. Anyway, so which is part of our mission and I'm jumping ahead a little bit is to keep rents affordable for artists. We're looking to bring revenue to the building in other ways so that we can continue that mission. We can't do a dollar a square foot, but because we now own it and we can't afford to subsidize, but we can find other ways to maintain it at a fair or below market rate. So I came in-
CA: Can you go into the process on how you bought it? I guess that's where you're headed now, sorry.
JG: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, no, that's fine. So I've been here eight years and we've had, I've managed the studios, curated, organized events, and we reached a point where the city was like, okay, we've owned all these, cause we're not the only like Donnelly's property and stuff like that. We were all renting from the city. And they're like, okay, the time period for this experiment or whatever you want to call it is up. So we're going to unload. That's not a good word, but it's time for us to sell off the properties, which can be scary, because we're artists. There's certainly developers and people that come in, and they have, and they did, with higher bids. But Pinellas Park, The current council has been amazing in supporting the mission of the arts here at the Arts Village. And so we put in bids and proposals for each of our buildings because it has to, it's government, it has to go to the public, you know, as a public thing. And they honored the work that we've done put in here, the work that I've put into the studios, and awarded us the sale of the buildings for super, super reasonable prices compared to what they have appraised at, because they believe in the mission, and they believe that investing in us is helping the city itself, in the bigger picture. So now that we own, and of course, as soon as we bought it, one of the AC units went and we had like our first $11,000 bill. But again, considering what we got the building, it balances out. We weren't too hurt by it. But in the process, what we're trying to do is, obviously, we can't subsidize because we can't lose money on the building. Rent, we kept our current artists at a lower rate. And for new artists, like we have one studio that's opening up, it's gonna be $3 a square foot, which is still way lower than most places are charging. And what we're trying to do is, You know, we re first of all, we're doing a renovation. The ceilings are going up. It's going to be a more industrial field painted concrete floors, because right now it's still you can tell it. They used to be offices.
CA: It's carpeted.
JG: We're combining a couple. Yeah. Yeah. Beautiful carpet squares. Beautiful. We're combining certain spaces to create larger event spaces and exhibit spaces. We're adding a kitchenette so that if people have catered events, we're activating spaces that normally would sit empty, like say while I'm here painting the front gallery on a Monday through Friday when maybe there's not a lot of foot traffic. It's not really doing anything. So we're looking to rent space for events for people who are teaching classes. The building is now licensed, so we have massage in an artful environment. So you can book a massage here, or if you're a massage therapist and you're looking for space to do your work, you can rent space from us, and again, in a curated, artful environment, which I don't know that anybody really has taken that angle on it, but I think it's pretty cool. So we're looking to bring in money and revenue for the building to support itself in those ways so that we can not charge the artists more money because we've all been there.
CA: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that's kind of the nature of this peninsula. It's like the artists move into an area, then they make that area popular and then the developers build in and kick out all the artists. But I mean, I guess that's just, you know, that's the country in general. We've seen it happen so fast in St. Pete.
JG: Right. Right. Yeah. I mean, the 600 block. Yeah. It just, it's not at all. What I mean, I don't, almost nothing is the same there as when I first came here. And I know even then there had been, but I came here in 2014 and that was already you know, it was like cool and hit, but still affordable.
CA: Blue Lucy Gallery was down there. Yeah. So the actual space that you own is that now when I say you, I mean, it's you and Urban Dog. Me and Laurie Elmer.
JG: Yes, me and Urban Dog purchased it.
CA: So did you, is it like you created an LLC to own it or like a...
JG: Yes. Okay. Yes, so studios at 5663 is an LLC now.
CA: Okay, and you're both co-owners of the LLC company.
JG: Co-owners. I can sign checks. Okay. I have my credit card. It's legit. Okay. Yeah, we're the co-owners of studios at 5663. And so we also have, we LLC'd spa at 5663 for like the massage part of it. Um, and, um, yeah. So we're an entity now and, um, we have, we came up, we made leases and now people come and pay me, which is weird, but it's, you know, cause they used to, everybody just paid the city up until November. I think it's when we purchased, um, no, not November. It's not even November. Um, August? I think August. Yeah. So it's, it's, it's definitely a weird, not in a bad way. It's just a weird feeling that like, oh, now I own this and I can tell you not to do that. I'm not probably going to tell you not to do that. But you know, it's just a different hat.
CA: Well, I mean, you're probably going to have at some point someone like mixing resins in the indoors and you're going to have to.
JG: I've already had to do a couple of things because I'm seeing things through different eyes. They haven't been major things, but somebody asked me if they could do a certain thing and I was like, well, no, because even though we're renovating that wall, it's not going down and we can't just have it messed up. Actually we're repainting some of the empty spaces now for rentals, because we probably won't start construction until about January, but why not rent these spaces in the meantime for short-term use and stuff like that. So I'm like, no, you can't do that, because it's got to look, as you put it, plain and boring, but that's what it has to look like so that it fits whatever is the person who's renting it for a class or something.
CA: So the building that you and Laurie purchased, that is, I guess, what was already known as the Studios of 5663. It's not the space next to it, because I think they're connected, right?
JG: So there's Schwartz Gallery. It's at the very end. He purchased his space and the lot next to him. And that was, I guess, at the same time-
CA: He purchased that from the government, too?
JG: Yes. This all happened all at once, like our whole block. And we all had to go and do our presentations. And then we had to go back and we were awarded the properties. Then Bottles was already owned by a private owner. Then there's Painting with a Twist and the owner that franchise purchased the building. We purchased our building. And Lori purchased the grass lot that is between us and us the Monster Factory. Okay. And the plan for that is also event space, a food venue that is pet friendly, and artist studios upstairs. That's the plan for that. But we need to do this building first. So as construction, I mean, it's not cheap right now, but it's supposed to come down, but we'll be okay with what we're doing here, but to build something up off the, you know, like just fresh, like it was the quotes that she got were crazy, so she's gonna hold maybe for about a year. It will, yeah. That comes down.
CA: We get a price quote for an ADU in our backyard, it's almost twice as much as what we paid for the house. So, you know.
JG: Yeah, it's crazy. I believe you. It's crazy. And it's like, she wouldn't be able to put a building there and have affordable studio rents. And that kind of goes again. So we're focusing on this space and you know, we have the lot. So we do markets and stuff like that in the meantime.
CA: Well, I know there was a change.
JG: We're very excited.
CA: There was a change in, I don't know if it was St. Pete specifically, my wife's the real estate agent. She would know the details of this. But there was a change somewhere locally that you can now use projected rental income as part of the loan value or something like that. Or I'm terrible about it. Anyways, you could say I'm going to be getting two thousand dollars a month in rent. Right. Yeah. So that will reduce the amount you need to ask for the loan or something. And that was just like a legal change recently in the city for lending. Gotcha. Okay. For new constructions.
JG: That's interesting.
CA: So, uh, I mean, you have a lot of plans in the future. You got a busy time ahead of you. You've got your solo show coming up in December at the work. Yeah. And you have this new building that you are turning into a beautiful Mecca for art and art education. Um, and you have a lot of plans in revolve for that. So where can our listeners go to track all of this stuff?
JG: Okay. As you can go to www.gascot.com, which is G A S C O T and there'll be links to all my social media there, but on Instagram, which I post pretty much daily, it's at Jay Gascot, G J G A S C O T Gascot on Facebook. Gascot everywhere.
CA: And I love your plant videos on TikTok.
JG: I love plant. I'm like, so I'm starting to plant all the... So I... Gianna actually got me into plants because I was trying to do vegetable gardening and it's just, I can't do it down here. And then I got into exotic plants and then I had so many, there's at least 60 in my sunroom. Then I said, okay, well, I'm gonna sell babies on Etsy to make up for the money I've spent on plants. And then, so I started doing that, which surprisingly, I sell a decent amount of stuff that just grows in my yard, because it's exciting to somebody in Brooklyn or something like that. So they'll pay like 20 bucks for a leaf with a little root on it. It's just in my backyard. So of course, if it you know, somebody wants it, I will sell it. I have art materials to buy and stuff like that. So but I'm now starting to plant a bunch of babies because I don't know why I got this wild hair. I want to have like a plant sale in my front yard. And just have it full of I don't know why.
CA: Don't let my wife know because she'll be there. The moment it starts, she'll be there.
JG: Okay. Yeah, I wanna do like a nothing over $15 thing and have like a $5, $10, or $15 table. This is what I do when I'm not painting.
CA: Last year, my wife debuted her propagation business. I created a logo for her. We call it Plant Baby. No, sorry, we call it Dirt Baby. Dirt Baby, sorry. Dirt Baby is the logo. You should come and do a class here. We were talking about that. I know I'm excited for her to meet Knicki because Knicki got the propagation bug too. But...But we've both been over to your place. It was a long time ago for late twill party after everyone was already dry. So for anyone who wants to follow the studios or if they're looking to get a space in the studios, what's the website for the studios at 5663.
JG: All right. We're about to, we're working on it, but it's going to be www.5663.com. No, studios5663.com. It's just not, we're building it now. But on Instagram, we are at studios5663. On Facebook, we're studios at, the word, not the little sign, 5663. And there's also Pinellasartsvillage.com that, that is up that gives you just a pretty kind of a basic, but it gives you a, there's like a page on each venue that's here so you can see what to expect if you come and visit us during an art walk or whenever.
CA: All right, I'll make sure to put all those links in the show notes. So thank you so much, John, for taking some time to talk to me.
JG: Thank you. I really appreciate it. I loved it.
CA: All the things you've been doing to help the arts in St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park and you have definitely become a mother for all of us down here.
JG: Yay, I love that. Okay. All right. So I hope to see you soon.
CA: Yes, definitely. And I'll probably be seeing you at Winter in the Wood. I know you haven't been approved officially yet, but my wife's on the committee, so. I know.
JG: No, actually I was and I paid for it.
CA: Oh, great. Fantastic.
JG: Yeah, I got the payment look.
CA: Okay, good.
JG: Yeah, I'm excited to do that.
CA: Alright, so then I'll definitely be seeing you then, if not sooner.
JG: Okay. Sounds good.
CA: Thank you.
JG: You're welcome.
Chain Assembly: Art for profit sake is recorded through Riverside FM, distributed through Spotify for podcasters, and edited on Adobe Audition. The music is provided by Old Romans. If you learned anything useful or found this podcast helpful, please rate and review us five stars. If you want to learn more about me or my art, head over to ChainAssembly.com.