Meet

Will Hutnick

Where are you from and where do you reside?
I grew up on Long Island, NY, in East Islip. Currently I live in Wassaic, NY, in Dutchess County, about two hours north of New York City.
Do you miss the city or do you find yourself more at home in remote environments?
I definitely miss living in the city and being able to walk around everywhere, and constantly explore the city. It took a bit to adjust to my new environment in Wassaic, but now I honestly love being up here full time. I’m only two hours north of the city too, so it’s actually pretty easy to drive or take the train down to see art or friends or both.
Describe a typical day in the studio for you.
I try to get into the studio as early as possible, the morning light is really gorgeous and direct. This is the first studio I’ve ever had that has had such amazing and warm light; it’s kind of intoxicating. I try to be disciplined and get as much computer and admin-related work done throughout the week, so when I have my official studio day on Mondays, I can just be in a making and being mode. I tend to work on numerous things at a time, so currently in the studio I have three 28” x 22” paintings on canvas that are in the works, with another two or three of that size that I have to stretch. I also tend to work quickly with deliberate and spontaneous moves, so that I’m able to accomplish a lot of work in a relative short period of time.
What necessities do you require when making your art?
I’ve had the same paint brushes for quite some time now, maybe some since high school? Although there are only really three to five paint brushes that I tend to use all of the time; they feel like a part of me. I enjoy listening to music while in the studio: I’m a sucker for Troye Sivan’s latest album, and was recently obsessed with listening to Rostam Batmanglij’s 2017 album, Half-Light, on repeat. I sometimes listen to podcasts in the studio, I just need something that can also exist in the background while I work. If it’s too much of a focal point, it distracts from my work and being mindful and present. Silence is also really nice as well, and something that I’ve been gravitating more and more towards while in the studio.
You often work with mixed media, how do you choose your materials?
I’ve been working with acrylic paint for a while now, and thus most of the materials that I currently work with are water-based. I really love working with numerous materials at once like colored pencils, crayons, graphite, markers, mica, and spray paint, because of the varied textures and marks that they create. I think it’s really exciting to have forms and shapes mimic one another but be created with different materials, creating a different language and tone just through their inherent physical properties. Certain materials are obviously suited for different tasks and different marks, but I also like to vary what I’m using pretty consistently so that I’m also varying the supposed functionality of each material. I just bought a new set of wax soluble crayons and they’re my new favorite thing in the world.
Slant
I really love working with numerous materials at once like colored pencils, crayons, graphite, markers, mica, and spray paint, because of the varied textures and marks that they create. I think it’s really exciting to have forms and shapes mimic one another but be created with different materials, creating a different language and tone just through their inherent physical properties. — Will Hutnick
Is the materiality of your practice a specific method, or mostly left to chance?
My most recent paintings are made on the ground using a roller and black gesso on unstretched and unprimed canvas. I like the immediacy with this process, and its relationship to chance as well as print-making. There is a physicality and a performativity that also really excites me through this approach; an idea that I need to work as quick as possible to get the information down or it will be lost forever.
Since your pieces often create visual landscapes, how have cartography and topography influenced your work?
I’ve always been interested in old maps and map-making, but not necessarily from a scientific or an actual research-based point of view; definitely more on a formal level with an appreciation for their concentric and quasi parallel lines. I think it’s the repetition of lines on these maps that delineate and carve out a space that really excites me, and something that I think about in terms of my own work. It’s about carving out a space and working towards a space, and not necessarily or strictly defining one.
What influences the colors you choose for your pieces? How important is white space?
My tendency is to fill, fill, fill a space, I’m a maximalist in that regard. However, it’s become more and more important over the last few years to open up the works and let them breathe more. One of the ways in which I’m attempting to do this is through the use of negative space and its activation; and in particular to the drawings, the use of white space. Through numerous layers and patterns, those white, raw, “negative” spaces usually become “positive” and jump forward. Those moments typically become the central focus parts of the work.
Slant
I’ve always been interested in old maps and map-making, but not necessarily from a scientific or an actual research-based point of view; definitely more on a formal level with an appreciation for their concentric and quasi parallel lines. I think it’s the repetition of lines on these maps that delineate and carve out a space that really excites me, and something that I think about in terms of my own work. — Will Hutnick
How do you typically know when a piece is finished?
A work is finished when there becomes a firmer and more recognizable relationship to space within the work, so that as a viewer there is a place that you could seemingly physically enter. I’m trying to open up that space more and more, so once there is a little resolution, I can stop working on a specific piece.
What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?
I mean, it’s always a struggle, I never quite know what I’m doing. I like that I’m always figuring things out on the spot and inventing things as I go - it would be the worst if that wasn’t the case - but that’s also kinda terrifying at times and anxiety-inducing. Generally I think one of the most difficult parts is being confident: confident that you’re letting the work do the work for you, confident that what you’re doing matters and people want to see it and engage with it, confident that you actually have something to say. There’s a lot of doubt that circulates in the studio and throughout my process, which is something I know will never go away, and something that I also welcome, so I think it’s a matter of harnessing some of those energies and some of that doubt.
Are you formally trained?
I studied art in high school and had an amazing teacher named Mr. Mahler who was very encouraging and supportive, and challenged me to get out of my comfort zone. I also studied painting at Providence College under James Baker, who knew the value of time and just let me work on my own for the most part during undergrad, and at Pratt Institute for grad school. Kit White was one of my painting professors at Pratt, and is a very insightful artist who helped me to look critically, and to look slowly.
How has your work developed in the past few years, and how do you see it evolving in the future?
I think my work has become more specific in the past few years. I don’t really know what it is that I’m specifically driving towards or looking for, but I’m becoming more and more interested in creating a quasi-tangible or physical space that you can venture into and place yourself in. So it’s becoming more and more important that certain elements are fixed: a reciprocal positive and negative relationship, a stronger field of depth perhaps. I also think that I’m limiting my color palette now to a certain extent, that the color within each work is getting more specific and purposeful as well. When I look back to works from a few years ago, I was using a lot of neon and bright, bold colors all of the time, and most of the time in every single work. I want the colors now to be more direct, more purposeful, more integral to the rest of their context. I like using colors that seemingly don’t seem to belong together, so there is a lot of dissonance and vibration, yet maybe something about their relationship and larger context fits. That vibration is KEY.

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