Fanny Gentle on the 2pm droop, quiet time, and going away to get focused.

Fanny Gentle is a painter and illustrator living in Brooklyn, NY with her husband Bill and son Oscar. Her clients have included Confezioni Crosby, Free People, The Last Magazine, Kiehl’s, and Lucky Magazine, among many others.

Q / Hi Fanny! I hope you’re having a good morning! How do you usually start your day?
A / Well I have three year old, so it keeps me in shape. Oscar wakes around six, we have coffee in bed and then we start our day. I drop Oscar to school around 9ish, then I go for coffee number two and walk over to my studio, it’s only a few blocks from school, so very convenient! I usually have something in mind to do for that day, so I start with that.

Q / You mentioned that you recently moved into a new studio space. Do you feel like this move has changed the way you work? What would your ideal work space be?
A / Majorly! I was working at home on small scale illustrations for the past four years and now I have this large raw space to be messy and free in, I love it! I share my space with a friend and I feel like we feed of each other’s work. It was really great having another person there making work to get me started initially, having been away from it for so long. My ideal work space would be an large converted barn by the sea, perhaps one day it will be so.

Q / How would you say your environment affects the quality and kind of pieces you produce?
A / I think it does…living in New York makes your pieces have a bit of grit, whether you like it or not. I would not be the same artist if I had stayed in Sweden and worked from there. I believe in both nature and nurture.

Q / Is there a place or time of day that allows you to feel most productive?
A / Early in the morning is the best time for me. Ideally, if I could sip a coffee and get to work at 7am, that would be the best time, when I feel the most clear. At 2pm, I start drooping. Then it picks up after sort of five. I can work late but I almost never do, since my son wakes early and I don’t want to be all grumpy because I’m tired.

Q / Where do you go to be quiet and think?
A / In my studio, it’s my haven. We used to have a dog and I loved taking him on walks, good thinking time. I think in New York, it’s almost impossible to get that time for yourself, which for me is crucial if I’m going to function properly., That’s why I think it so important to get out of the city as much as possible, get out of the melting pot. New York for me is a real love/hate relationship.

Q / What would be your ideal work day?
A / 7-2, 6-9.

Q / What do you do when you just cannot focus?
A / I sort of know myself now when things are going south…if I am tired or bored, I just change things up. If it’s not a job that just has to be done, sometimes you just have to push through regardless.

Q / What is your favorite way to disconnect and relax?
A / I grew up by the ocean. It feels like the ultimate luxury, walking on the beach without an agenda, collecting shells and rocks. I think that’s one of my favorite things to do.

Q / What was the last adventure you went on? Did it inspire your work in any way?
A / I went to Jaipur, India for ten days to learn about block printing. It was so fantastic!!! India is inspiring in itself and everything else was just an add on.

Q / You have moved around quite a bit and spent your childhood in Sweden. What led you to NY?
A / I left Sweden right after high school so never really worked there as an artist…traveling was a very important ingredient for me to grow up and become the person I am today. More than anything, accepting who I am and where I came from. It’s a funny thing, how you sometimes have to be away to be able to see things clearly.

Q / Was there anyone in your life who shaped your career in a formative way?
A / I think a lot of people have sort of filtered through me and I’ve picked up bits here and there. Since I’ve had no formal training it’s been very important to me. Now more than anything i’m trying to find my own voice in it all.

Q / Do you have anyone who works with you now?
A / No, at the moment I’m just exploring.

Q / Your paintings and illustrations are so vibrant. Are there any specific references that inspire you?
A / I think that’s my first and foremost passion, color!!! I think that in the end, that’s what I’m good at.

Q / Do you keep any collections?
A / Beach finds. I have jars of rocks, beach glass, shells etc…can’t help but keep picking things up.

Q / How would you define your work?
A / In progress.

Q / Do you have a system for creating or it is more of an organic process?
A / Always organic, trial and error. It can be pretty frustrating at times but still fun. I’m not a person of specific rules, sometimes I try making things definitive but then it’s like my creative juice just dries up. I get bored.

Q / How does social media factor into your career?
A / It’s so hard to do without it in today’s social media craze but at the same time it’s a great way to get things out there, as long as it doesn’t take up all your time. It ain’t real life people!!!

Q / How has the internet changed the way you work?
A / It’s great if I need inspiration pictures for illustrations for example. But more than anything I want things to come out of me, I like working with my hands and keeping things a simple as possible. I’m more of a person turning away from it than embracing but maybe it’s because I’m getting old. I think I was fortunate to not have any of that stuff when I was growing up.

Q / What is your first memory of work? Your proudest moment?
A / I done so many different kinds of jobs, my first solo show in New York was a very proud moment.

Q / Do you ever collaborate with other artists or brands? If so, in what capacity?
A / Sure, I collaborate a lot. Some people hate having other people’s input into what they do but I quite like that challenge. I think sometimes things turn out better than I would have thought. But it’s important for me to have personal work going on at the same time where I can be as free as I want to.

Q / What part does beauty play in your work?
A / It’s almost everything. I’m an extremely visual person and I’m pretty set in my ways. I love when my perception of beauty gets stretched and enlarged. But if something is straight up ugly (in my view) it’s hard for me to care about it.

Q / Do you enjoy the solitary aspect of your career? How does it factor into the rest of your life?
A / I used to hate it because I’m a very social person. But now with my son and all the business of everyday life, I think it balances itself out quite nicely, because I need quiet time too.

Q / What makes you most excited about your work? What gives you the most anxiety?
A / The excitement of experimenting, of trying out new ways, happy accidents. They also give me the most anxiety, because things are never set, they are constantly in flux.

Q / Are there any particular projects you’re looking forward to this year?
A / I’m looking forward to taking part in Textile Art Center’s residency program this year, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

Q / Lastly, ten of your favorite things?
A / Color, licorice, horses, pine trees, sun, beach, hands, coffee, cut grass, and stripes.

Interview & Photography
Catherine Litke

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