Artist Spotlight

Artist Spotlight: John F. Gerrard

Today, we’ll be sharing our very first artist spotlight! In this series of blog posts, we’ll get to know an artist in the community and learn a little more about them and their work. 

For our first post, we will be featuring John F. Gerrard.  John is sharing his artist statement and a little bit more about him. Take it away, John!

Portrait by Emma Palm at Workshop Studios
Photo by Emma Palm

I am a multidisciplinary artist, with a focus on visual art. In my teens and 20s I was active creatively as a musician, touring across North America and playing locally. During this time I got my feet wet with visual art, doing graphic design work for bands and small businesses. I went to ACAD with the intention to pursue a design degree, but became obsessed with creating with charcoal and paint. I majored in drawing at ACAD and then went to work at a commercial sign company. In 2016 I left to pursue art full-time.

In 2018 I was trained by the Canadian Mental Health Association as a peer support worker. Since then I’ve been developing my art practice with mental health advocacy work.  

A highlight for me has been working with Branch Out Neurological Foundation, making images based on interactions with neuroscientists, and taking part in their charity events for three years in a row now. 

In 2019 I had my first international show in Chicago as a part of the Some People Everybody exhibition. This multidisciplinary project examines the ethics, people, processes, and systems that constitute the maintenance of, and barriers to, health for human beings.

Here is John’s Artist Statement:

As a visual artist I’m currently focused on making drawings that are text based and speculative. The work is meant to be enjoyed for its form and aesthetic quality, but also invites investigations into the strands of literal meaning. The text is readable in linear and non linear ways, and is themed on subjects such as the mind, free will and how that relates to whether we discover or create identities.

Formally, the work usually consists of compositions of multiple panels. I draw each panel by hand and then invert the black and white digitally. After they are inverted and in a grid, I mirror the piece both vertically and horizontally. This symmetry gives order to the disorderly nature of the vast and varied text. It holds the tension of a middle zone. The finished work is presented as an image that is playful with the rational and the chaotic. There is structure and randomness coexisting with design. 

I’m influenced by other artists who approach their work without direct representation of the physical world, as well as makers who could be classified as “outsider” artists. I find myself coming back to the work of Jean Michel Basquiat, Hilma af Klint, and Agnes Martin, and I’m inspired by the way they make images. When I was at art college, I was exposed to the beatniks, as well as the godfather of beatniks, William Burroughs. His non-traditional use of text as well as those of the Dadaists motivate me to create in the way I do. 

Being introspective, it is a very personal project. I think externalizing our inner worlds in this way can be very rewarding, and that so often our thoughts and our guesses at their implications swirl through our heads in an awful repetition. A lot of it I don’t think we’re aware of. By making this work, I continue to learn about myself, making conscious the issues and ideas I’m encountering.

These drawings are so natural and exciting to make. Working on each panel, I feel connected to something beyond, and that my language to do so is developing further with each image. There is a story being built between and within each piece, and it’s an exercise of rationality and intuition to find or make those next steps with it. 

I’m often faced with conflicts that force me to rethink things and consider and reconsider possible end games, of what I could be suggesting or not suggesting inadvertently. I do my best to record that process on the page, as I want to reflect the realities of being conflicted or of not knowing. There is this back and forth, between doubt and feeling sure.  

Art is a great space for us to experiment with hard topics. The drawings serve as a way for me to explore my own beliefs and values, by examining my thoughts through a physical process on the page.

You can check out more about John and his work by visiting his website Here’s a preview of some of John’s work:

Cold Cluster, John F. Gerrard
Crowd Drawing # 15, John F. Gerrard