Inside the Studio

Derek Gores balances spontaneity and control in his art

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

I like the first take of looking at my artwork to be a sensory experience. Usually, the first thing someone sees is  a figure, but then she melts into the background as the viewer gets closer to the canvas.

The whole process of creating artwork for me is an exercise in being on the edge of control. I’m able to direct my hands to make pretty much what my brain wants. But I want inspiration to guide me the whole way through, so I make it hard by making it mostly an improvisation. I get a spark for a direction from maybe a color, or a mood, maybe a space or a random hint at a story. I’ll usually start with a photo shoot with a model, and we play with light and strong poses and unlikely hints of a story. The photo will be my reference, the shapes I’ll need for the picture to be legible. Then I rebuild the reference using the magazine scraps, and I do it very quickly. This brings in shards of unexpected color, and unplanned images, text, partial writings. I chase what the story might be.  I sift through magazines and other elements intuitively, whether song lyrics or hand written notes, or even schematics from toys I had as a kid. I like the mix to be somewhat random so I’m surprised at the combination. I use things that cross my path that day, as a bit of a time capsule for myself. It also adds a spatial play, where you see one thing from far away, and then it melts into other spaces when you get close.

And ultimately we get to Feminism. The reasons have grown over time, but I make what is mysterious and compelling to me. While the female subject isn’t new in art, I’m very happy at the time I get to live in. Feminism is strong and loud now, and finally more men are using their voice. In my art, the woman is always a partner in the moment, whether she is a real person or not. I’ve considered my art a ‘study of Fierce.”  

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?  

“Flee Forward.”

Prefer to work with music or in silence?

I usually work with music, although often the music stops and I don’t realize it, especially if things in the artwork are percolating nicely. I’m as influenced by musicians as I am by other artists – people who bring some discord and chaos, expand the genre and the sheer vocabulary of textures and toys that can be played with. I love Brian Eno, Neil Young, and Grimes. I love a yearning and an epic aspect ala Bruce Springsteen and the Waterboys. I also seem to like it all held together with a positive harmony, ala Pink Floyd. A quote that guides me is by Eddie Van Halen: “If it sounds good, it is good.” I apply the visual version to art.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?

Maybe a forest full of trails I can run through. And if I’m carrying a piece of actual fine art, let’s stretch your rules and make it the series of three on Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence painted by Klimt but lost in a fire. No, let’s make it a tag team doodle made with my kids, with lots of space still left on the page.

Who are your favorite writers?

Rube Goldberg’s cartoons have some writing… also Tolkien, Douglas Adams and his Hitchhiker’s Guide, Robert Pirsig for Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and I’m a sucker for Rick Steves’ European Travel books where the smiles are evident.


Now is the time to shop for art gifts for everyone on your list… 

Take advantage of Saatchi Art’s BLACK FRIDAY promotion:
15% off orders of $1000 or more with code Holiday
10% off orders under $1000 with code Gift
Applies to original artwork only
Offer valid Wed, Nov 23 – Mon, Nov 28

If you’re on the look out for print gifts, don’t miss.. .

Our CYBER MONDAY Framed Prints offer:
20% off framed prints with code Cyber
Applies to framed prints only. No returns.
Offer valid Sun, Nov 27 – Mon, Nov 28

To receive your artwork before December 24th, be sure to purchase originals and limited editions by December 6th and prints by December 12th.

About the Author

Katherine Henning is Senior Associate Curator at Saatchi Art. Need help finding art? Contact her via our free Art Advisory service here.