Artist Spotlight: Full-Time Artist and Full-Time Teacher

There are some individuals who know right out of college that they want to become an art teacher. This happened for Garrett Luczak, who balances being both a visual artist and a full-time elementary school art teacher. Having a supportive family goes a long way in one’s life and having that came to Garrett’s advantage when deciding whether to pursue art. Growing up just outside of Chicago in the area of Elk Grove Village, Garrett knew he wanted to be in Chicago either way. The beauty of living in a large metropolitan city is that there’s always something going on, and that’s the kind of environment Garrett wanted to be in, or in his words, “to be where the action was.”



Visual Artist

Early on in high school, he was inspired by his art teacher, Justin Bickus. Knowing Mr. Bickus prompted a breakthrough for Garrett, it got him thinking that being both a practicing artist and an art teacher was possible. After high school, Garrett attended Illinois State University for Art Education and Lithography. Once college was done, student teaching in the Chicago suburbs was the next move. After a year of substitute teaching, Garrett got a summer school art position in his current school district. This led to a part-time role the next year, later adding subbing opportunities, which finally became a full-time job a few years later.


Once graduated from college, Garrett thought he wanted to be a high school teacher but he said, “teaching elementary is actually where I was always meant to be!” This comes to show that sometimes, what’s meant to be is meant to be!

Living a life that feels like a repeating lull is not everyone's cup of tea. You know, daily routine type of things. When it comes to his art, Garrett wants to strive to always be working on something new. Since the world shut down in 2020, Garrett has found that he has a passion for ceramics. This newfound passion has been enjoyable for Garrett. "[It's] been fun trying new things", he says. It's been particularly enjoyable for him to try to find connections between his painting and ceramic work and figuring out how to treat these materials differently.


Along with creating new things, I asked Garrett what mediums and types of art he enjoyed making. Garrett revealed, “I think I am always open to learning a new skill or medium – I would really like to start making some larger scale paintings, because I would say I typically work on a smaller scale with my painting.” In the future there may be the possibility of playing with textiles and fibers, but as Garrett said, there are still things he has to learn. Overall, making new things ensures he has fun with his work.


Inspiration Within the Chicago Scene and Beyond

What’s great about the interweb is that there’s non-stop inspiration when it comes to finding artists. For Garrett, one of those people is Ed Templeton, professional skateboarder and artist. He mentioned “I think my first serious artistic inspiration came through skateboarding, finding the artwork of professional skateboarder Ed Templeton.” Garrett stumbled upon Ed’s art blog around 2004/2005 and admired his artistic life. It was a way to “peek into the artistic life of a skateboarder”. The admiration for Ed along with the many art classes Garrett took in high school (nine in total) helped him in knowing he wanted to pursue art going into college.


Once he moved to the city after college, Garrett found himself within the garage rock music community. As he continued to participate within the community designing artwork for his band and even making their concert posters, the community he was in wasn’t really part of the art scene. He didn’t feel connected, but it was technically “some of the first artistic connections” Garrett made in Chicago.


Fast forward to the pandemic, where periods of isolation happened for those around the world. The spark of hope that helped bring people together was social media. Utilizing Instagram was a space where Garrett could not only meet other amazing visual artists, but also a place where he could share his work. Garrett shared, “I really couldn’t hold a conversation with someone about sports for more than a minute, but being able to talk to other artists about their process or how they go about framing their paintings or any other art related business, I could do that all day.” Through sharing work with other artists, something that was gained was the meaningful convos on sharing each other’s processes. Another topic discussed was art-related business which is important to share to help build other people up, which can give a push in building an even stronger community.


Garrett's Favorite Pieces He's Created:

" I have had the chance to design 3 different skateboard graphics for my friend's shop, FA Skates, in Mt. Prospect Illinois. It’s hard to pick a favorite out of the 3 graphics I’ve designed so far, but as a skateboarding artist, there is nothing cooler than seeing people skate and eventually destroy your art through the act of their skateboarding." - Garrett L.



"I’ve gotten to paint the garage door and a few random satellite dishes at the apartment building I live in thanks to having a cool friend/landlord (He even will drag in canvases he finds in the alley for me to paint on). Having the opportunity to paint things on a large scale, out in the elements or in public spaces is something I would love to do more of." - Garrett L.



"And whatever painting I’m currently painting is usually my favorite for a brief moment. I am always getting psyched on trying something new or making a new discovery from the creation of an artwork. I don’t really like focusing on my past artwork, it's all about staying busy and making my next favorite." - Garrett L.



Garrett mentioned, “Chicago has so many awesome artists and many of the ones that inspire me, I even consider friends.” Some of those artists that spark inspiration are Kevin Kujawa and Zack Goulet. Garrett mentioned that both Kevin and Zack are always blowing his mind, and “making me want to keep on pushing my own paintings.” Other artists like Noel Mercado and Kyle Riley use repurposed objects in their art, which is another source of inspiration when checking “the alley for something to make art out of.”


Hannah Sellers, who is an artist and organizes art communities with the Palmer Square Art Fair, is another inspiration for Garrett. He mentioned Hannah’s wide range of talents whether it be visuals, photos, or event planning. Palmer Square Art Fair has given him the ability to “meet so many fellow artists as well as appreciators of art” which has been special. The artistic connections that have been made in the six years Garrett’s lived in Chicago have been fulfilling.

Artist and Teacher

When you get older, it becomes difficult to balance work and being creative but for Garrett, both are running simultaneously. This is his eighth year teaching. What he loves about teaching art is that, “creativity and art making never has to turn off from being in the classroom or at home.” When teaching his students, he gets to see firsthand when students “figure out new artistic discoveries,” which also helps Garrett look for new territories in his work. Also, sharing his artwork with his students acts as a “way to model how to keep an artistic practice beyond the art room”, to show that you can still make art wherever you are, even if not in a studio or art setting.



Mindfully so, I asked if Garrett’s students are able to sense his passion for art. His response was, “I think because I share a lot of my own personal artwork with my students, they see I am passionate about making art, not just creating a demonstration for a project in class, which I also do.” He added that he’d “feel like a phony art teacher” if he wasn’t making art for himself. “The students pick up on that”, he added. I understand what Garrett is saying. When someone puts their heart and energy into something – it shows they are really passionate versus when you can tell there wasn’t much care put in.


As someone who considers themselves a forever student (because my curiosity is always getting the best of me as I continue through adulthood), I feel that there’s always something to take away from every experience. Since Garrett teaches elementary school students, it’s “often the last time students are required to take an art class.” This is true in my case, considering that yes, fifth grade was the last time art was required. Even if his students don’t choose to further pursue art, Garrett hopes that they get a sense and feel that art is for everyone. He says, “it doesn’t matter if you are extremely gifted or can hardly hold a pencil – you can get the same enjoyment and release from getting to create art.” At the very least, there’s the hope that students are able to appreciate art.



I wanted to end on a high-note by finding out what Garrett finds most rewarding about the art he has created thus far. His response was, “I feel like I wouldn't be living a full life if I wasn’t getting to express myself through my artwork – making art is energy well spent, the process and the end product are all satisfying for me.” When in a rut, he finds the fun in the challenge itself to “overcome” through his art making.


Through sharing his art with other artists and appreciators of art, getting it out into the world is part of the journey that brings Garrett joy. He’s extremely grateful to anyone else that enjoys his art or who has supported him by collecting one or many of his pieces. I will remember these beautiful words Garrett said and I hope you, reader, do too: “Creating artwork keeps life exciting and worth living.”




You can find Garrett and see more of his work here:

Instagram

Website








Edited by: Jhana Jenkins






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