Circle of Inspiration // Gabe Bonfili
Gabe Bonfili is a multi talented artist; professional drummer and painter, he executes both like a boss. Finding balance between the two has been part of Gabe's unique journey since he was a kid.
When did you start drawing?
I started scribbling at a young age on anything I could get my hands on. Luckily, my parents let us do that. They encouraged us, man. They let us think it was a legitimate thing and let us get as good as we wanted to. Drawing was super organic for me - I really didn't have a lot of direction. I never took art classes. You know, school was hard for me. It was difficult for me to keep still, but teachers started to notice that I was decent at drawing. I was good at copying and sketching really technical things.
Most of your art is heavily influenced by musicians. Is that a theme you feel most creative with?
Yeah for sure. It's like which came first the chicken or the egg? (laughs) I need both in my life. I want to paint my favorite musicians because they inspire me so much. The paintings I do of musicians turn out the best and are the most lively.
It’s kind of directly inspired by improvisation. It's like when you hear someone improvise a jazz solo. I’ll totally just riff on a certain color or pattern and let it do it’s own thing. That is probably 50% of the whole project for me.
What made you pick the drums? Did you grow up playing any other instrument?
I liked the way drums sounded. I was always tapping on the desk in school! I was so full of energy as a kid; I tried piano and guitar, but I needed to bang on stuff and move around a lot. For a hyperactive kid, drums were perfect! (laughs)
The painting that stood out to me was of 5 school-age kids sitting down and smiling, and was titled: UNITY & DIVERSITY. What message did you want to convey with that painting?
I love that children don’t seem to see differences in each other. It’s a blessing to think about. They just wanna play and be friends.
I love that whole rainbow of diversity, man... that was a really special piece. It went to the founder of that language arts school in the Grove here in St. Louis. I put so much of myself into that painting - to get that response really lit a fire in me.
What’s your process when starting a painting?
The way to keep it interesting for me is to keep it playful!
Actually, I can’t even paint on a white canvas it’s gotta have splashes of color and chaos on the canvas before I can even start. Then the challenge is trying to get it to look like a real person. I don't know (laughs) that’s just my process. It does start off messy... kind of like a kid would start off. I like keeping that energy in my paintings.
Was there a time when you wanted to focus on art more than music, or are you able to give your energy to both?
It’s a really tough balance, because both take a really long time for practice. I was technically good at drawing stuff when I was younger. I actually completely quit drawing and art when I was in my 20’s for 6 years. I never wanted to do it again. I was trying for photo-quality realism and I was trying for perfection. But, the cool thing that happened is, that I really got to focus on music and get good at that. Then the art chased me down and I couldn’t resist it. It was weird! (laughs)
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a piece for a podcast. It has a female face, and a butterfly wing in there, and then it’s kind of all the shapes of the African continents. So that’s been fun and creative. What else... I’m working on some nature pieces; like the juxtaposition between a face and plant life, how they can live together. I've been looking for new patterns within portraits.
How does it feel when people recognize your art and know that it's a Gabe piece?
I’ve had people reach out - even people that I don’t know - and say "I saw your art work". That’s always amazing, it’s a really big compliment. I don’t wanna do the same stuff every time, I wanna push myself and I wanna grow.
Love the journey of following your heart and pursuing your passion. Find out more about Gabe's work and commissions at https://gabrielbonfili.weebly.com/ and follow on Instagram @gabriel_bonfili .
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Artist photos sourced from LadueNews. All artwork copyright Gabriel Bonfilil.