The name “Gary Sharp” is whispered on the streets as a lot of artists look up to his work and what he does. A soft spoken man, he exists as almost a shadow who fades into the background even at his own shows. Like most artists, he’s bi-vocational and has to make time for his art, but he doesn’t let anything dim his passions or his work.
What got you into art?
Mr. Smock, my first grade art teacher. I saw some of his drawings and it inspired me. He hung up one of the pieces I drew. The students were jealous of it, some threw paint on it. But he encouraged me, told me that I was a good artist and for me to keep up the good work.
What kind of art do you do?
I do any type of art, anything I can put my hands on. Found objects. Wood. Ceramics. Weave. Different media relaxes me in different ways. My favorite thing is to work with clay because I can manipulate it, make it anything I want.
What sort of training did you have?
I went to Herron School of Art. It had its challenges, but they saw my portfolio and let me in. In five years, I took everything they had. I produced a lot of work. I have maybe two years left, mostly academics, to finish out my degrees. It’s just too expensive.
What was that moment when you realized you wanted to be an artist?
I was going through some things and I got into the father resource program, which helped young fathers, and they helped me get into college. A lady named Sarah Meadows took an interest in me and helped me out a lot. I had done a piece for her. Her, this teacher named Mr. Cabeer, and Dr. Wallace, they all took me to the Stutz Building for a First Friday event. And I saw how much some of the pieces were going for. That was the first time I had the idea that living as an artist could be possible.
Who’s your favorite artist?
Leonardo DaVinci because he does everything: sculpture, painting, inventing things, whatever he could think of. I wanted to reach that same level of quality except do something different. I knew I needed to do something different if I want my work to stand next to his. My painting “Mona” is a tribute to his “Mona Lisa” and “Godman” is a tribute to Michelangelo’s “David.”
Alison Saar, she does busts and little sculptures. Jackson Pollack and his drip painting. Picasso.
What’s a typical work day like?
I deliver packages for FedEx, then I come home and be with the kids. The only time I have to do my art starts at about 10 at night until sometimes 3 in the morning. Knowing I have to get up an hour or two later to get to my job. If I want to do something, I have to push myself. I’m tired, but it needs to be done.
Do you have a favorite piece?
My favorite piece my painting “Mona.” It took me five years to do. I always had this vision of doing art that has depth, like 3-D. I was working at Overhead Doors at the time. I’d come home from hanging doors and paint for hours and hours, not getting much sleep. It was something that pushed me and I couldn’t stop until it was done. I kept building up oil, carving it, and something told me that by the time I got done it would be worth it. I was happy with it.
It’s hard working with oil like that, but the second one, “Godman,” only took me two years because I knew what to do. Paintings with a sculpture-like feel.
What was it like growing up as an artist?
My father was an artist. I always heard about him drawing, but he was never around. My mother raised me. I loved drawing and that’s what I did all the time. By second or third grade, I made the school newspaper for drawing Jiminy Cricket. That’s when I knew.
What’s your philosophy? What are you trying to say with your art?
I lived in the neighborhood all of my life. Basically my whole philosophy is “togetherness,” being as one, and love. When you look at my work, you’ll usually see the sun or something that reflects building unity. We all are one and that’s how I see things. We may see things different, but we’re still one. Once we see that and come together, we can fulfill what we need to do.
Do you feel any additional pressure as a black artist?
Yeah, that’s why when people try to put me out front, I try to get back in low. I don’t want people to really see me because once they do, they’ll be like “Ah, he did that.” They won’t appreciate my work but prejudge it based on me. That’s the way the world has taught people to think. They may not even realize it. I want them to see my work, see the value for what it has. Once they do that, then I can come up front. I want to give people a chance to think differently.
What kind of work do you do in the community?
I taught a clay class for kids at Broadway UMC as a summer program for a few years. The Learning Tree connected me to Flanner House, where I worked with kids. We painted on doors, did murals, that sort of thing. We let them draw and then we transferred their drawings to walls and had them color them in.
What’s next for you?
What I want to do is just create. Being able to support my family by doing my art full time. Maybe open centers in different neighborhoods. I would love to do glass blowing. I want to master the basics of it and I can go from there. I love kinetic things, mechanical things like robotics. That’s my passion, that and helping others.