Will Penny


Savannah, GA 

How did you get your start with Art?

When I was young, I realized I had some proficiency in drawing. I started to get a lot of compliments from teachers and other students, and I think that all of that positive affirmation solidified that art was something I wanted to do. I went through different phases of wanting to be an animator, a filmmaker, and eventually a painter, but when I realized that I could develop a studio practice that wasn't limited to a specific medium or field of study, there was no turning back.

How would you describe your artistic style?

There are some recurring motifs and aesthetics that keep popping up within some of the different mediums I work in, such as polygonal geometry, gradients, and floral motifs. I try my best to let each project evolve in response to the specific mediums being used or the space that the work is being designed for. Since so much of my work starts off in various software programs, I'd say there's an aesthetic throughout that tries to marry my concerns regarding the medium of painting with new digital methods of sculpting, rendering, animating, and creating interactive content.

Where do you draw artistic inspiration?

For me, it all begins with the experience of being captivated by the light, form and space of painting. The authenticity of experience when confronted with something masterful and powerful that transcends its medium is something I always keep in the back of my head. I'm constantly in pursuit of creating something that can go beyond language and communicate across time and place using the experience of observing or interacting with an artwork. When I spend time at a museum, I usually get fixated on little details of paintings, where the rendering of light or suggestion of form seems effortless. I also happen to work in a studio environment, where I'm surrounded by a group of peers who constantly challenge me through their own work and ambitions.

What was the first piece of artwork you sold?

When I was an undergrad, I started getting some small works into various juried exhibitions, but nothing sold. I started receiving various portrait commissions and started making a lot of different odd stuff for charity auctions and small coffee shop shows. It all seemed pretty inconsequential because I kept putting on different hats and trying out different styles. It took a while before I actually sold something that I had confidence in.

On notable projects:

I've had the pleasure of organizing various group exhibitions with some of my studio mates, and I always enjoy developing our ideas in collaboration, even if it's for something small. It's really rewarding to sit down at the conception stage of a project and think as big as you possibly can, and then develop something that fits within the resources you have at your disposal, the timeline, the venue, and sometimes the wants of the client. It all just becomes a series of problems to solve, and when you succeed it's always more rewarding to have someone to share the experience with. There have been a few projects where I've had to learn something new within a short span of time. My first public projections mapping installation involved scaling up something I’d only experimented with in the studio on a massive scale and live operating throughout a heavily choreographed event. I was pretty terrified that the computer would crash or that I'd miss my cues, but it all worked out and ended up being a great learning experience.

What has been the most memorable response to your work?

I teach design, so I constantly try to inspire my students in the classroom, but there have been a couple of instances where a student I've never worked with approaches me about my work and the inspiration it's played within the development of their own portfolio. It's really rewarding to know that your work can have an impact on someone else, in a way that motivates him or her to create something in response to it. You hope that your work will generate discussions or inspire responses without you present to start them, but you never really know if what you're trying to communicate is ever being received in a constructive way. Knowing that your work can play a role in inspiring someone else to pursue their creative vision is about as good as it gets.

What are some of the challenges you have faced as an artist?

I used to suffer from a lot of creative blocks. I spent too much time trying to resolve an idea before making the work. Eventually I let go of the notion of having to have a resolved, succinct explanation for my decisions, and decided to let the process define what comes next. This has allowed me to expand what I allow into the studio and encourages me to learn and generate propositions within the work, rather than try to make definitive assertions. Now, most of my challenges revolve around maintaining a sustainable studio practice. I have to make a lot of practical decisions about where I invest my time and resources, while still allowing room for failure and discovery. Keeping the expectations of others and your own expectations in check can also be tricky. It's easy to lose sight of why you're making the work in the first place.

Who are your favorite artists?

I'm pretty bad at picking favorites because they change day-to-day depending on where my interests lie. James Turrell and Anish Kapoor are always on my mind, because of their abilities to manipulate and transform light and space. At the moment, I've been really interested in Zeitguised, a Berlin based studio have been doing some amazing work with synthetic 3D surfaces and textiles. I've been interested in generative design and dynamic simulations for a while, so when I see anyone creating something that raises the bar for what's possible within computer animation and modeling, I get pretty excited.

On upcoming projects:

I'm currently working on a public projection mapping installation that will feature video content that evolves over time for the duration of the installation. I'm also preparing for a two-person exhibition at the Jepson Center for the Arts with Cameron Allen, who is based in Atlanta. I've also been developing a new series of metal works that I've been experimenting with for the last several months. Aside from that, I spend a lot of time with my face buried in my computer trying to learn some new renderings techniques.

What is your dream job?

To be honest, my biggest dream is just to keep the whole process moving forward. Of course, I'd love to have the opportunity to gain a broader audience and expand the platform that my work could be accessed on, but I'd really like to just look back on all of it in the end, and know that I spent my life dedicated to understanding and exploring things that may inspire others to continue the search.

What is one motto or mantra do you live your life by?

I try to remind myself of Josef Alber's notion of "search versus research", in that what I learn from the process is more important than the final product. I try to apply that to as many aspects of my life as I can, just to keep things in context.


For more on this artist, please visit willpenny.com and follow on social media at @willpennyart