In conversation with

In Conversation With: ggggrimes

For today’s “In Conversation With” column, our guest writer Marianna Capelli has the pleasure to share her interview with contemporary American artist Gabriella Grimes (aka ggggrimes).

Read below to discover more about their relationship with art (digital and non-digital), queerness, and finding inspiration.

6th April 2022 | Marianna Capelli

ggggrimes, Untitled. 2022, digital.
Courtesy of the artist.
MARIANNA: You share a lot of your art online on Instagram, that’s how I found you and started following you years ago! What led you to digital art?
GGGGRIMES: Thank you for following me all this time! Before 2018, I actually only did watercolor, ink, and acrylic paintings. I didn’t know anything about digital art before that. My older brother bought me a tablet for my birthday in April of 2018. It was a really wide Huion tablet that I used until it died, then I replaced that with a Wacom tablet, and now I use an iPad. Watercolors used to be my greatest love until I started experimenting digitally. Once I fell in love with digital artwork, it was hard to go back to anything else! Although I do different types of traditional art from time to time to improve my skills.

My artwork has helped people start important dialogues with loved ones, or encouraged people to pursue their artistic dreams.
M: Your work is unapologetically queer, happy and sex-positive, concentrating particularly on people of colour and non-conforming bodies. Seeing that kind of representation is incredibly healing for many people: how do you feel about such power? What is the role of your art in this?
G: I honestly feel incredible about it each and every day. I have people telling me all the time that they see themselves in my artwork, or that my artwork led them to understand their own identity more. My artwork has helped people start important dialogues with loved ones, or encouraged people to pursue their artistic dreams. My artwork empowers people in many different ways. I still can’t really believe that this is the work I get to do in my life and that it means so much to other people around the world.

ggggrimes, Untitled, and Glory. 2022, digital. Courtesy of the artist.
M: As a queer person myself, I’m especially interested in your representations of queer intimacy. It’s so refreshing to see art like this! How did you start exploring such themes? Was it a conscious decision or did it just happen?
G: At first, it just happened. I used to read a lot of yaoi*, so I would paint a lot of sexualized traditionally masculine body types. Then I just decided to practice more erotic poses for people of all genders. Only after I realized the impact I was making on my audience did I decide to actively paint queer bodies in intimate settings. After I made that decision, I began exploring the different ways I could show queer intimacy and how much I could push the bounds of what I saw from other artists who, at the time, displayed a very cishet version of sex. I still spend time reading articles, stories, and posts by queer people about what intimacy feels like for them, and I try to take that with me whenever I create a new painting with a couple.

[*yaoi: also known Boys' Love or BL in Japan, is a genre mostly written by women, for women, that depicts homosexual relationships between men.]
M: What (or who) are your greatest inspirations?
G: I follow a ton of incredible artists of different mediums who all make me feel inspired every single time I go online. Artists like Wednesday Holmes @hellomynameiswednesday, Ashley Lukashevsky @ashluka, Geneva Bowers @gdbee, Emma Wondra @emmawondra, James Falciano @jamesfalciano, Mazahir Hussain @girthofvenus, Coyote Park @coyotepark, and I could just go on and on. I follow incredible artists whose art helps ground me to this planet even while life is so hard. They remind me that beauty exists everywhere in the world and that some of this beauty can be brought to life by our practice.

[...] My style is necessary because it’s like my footprint; it helps me get recognized out in the wild. Everyone's style is something needed in the art world.
M: You have a distinctive personal style: how did you get there? Do you have any advice for younger artists trying to find their unique style?
G: Thank you! My style is something that I struggle with all the time, and I feel like my style is weird a lot of the time. I think my style is necessary because it’s like my footprint; it helps me get recognized out in the wild. Everyone’s style is something needed in the art world. My advice is to spend a lot of time looking at artwork you like, studying art by as many artists as possible. Practice certain techniques you find fascinating, and introduce them at random times into pieces you’re working on. Eventually, you’ll figure out what feels natural to you and what your brain loves to see. your unique style gets developed slowly over time, and as long as you practice, you’ll get there.

ggggrimes, Untitled 1 and 2. 2022, digital. Courtesy of the artist
M: Can you tell us about your creative process? What is your routine like?
G: I used to have a pre-painting routine that helped me during the lockdown. I would wake up and eat breakfast, have a green juice or smoothie, make coffee, and get myself all set up with painting. I don’t really do that anymore because my pandemic routine started to make me feel really trapped and depressed. Instead, I let my morning routine be its own separate part of my day. Then I paint whenever the mood calls to me. Sometimes I paint first thing in the morning and other times in the afternoon or during the night. I still like to paint with my water bottle nearby. My actual painting process usually starts with me looking up a few references, getting inspired by some colorful artwork, then sketching, outlining, coloring, then [doing] shadows and final details. I always paint skin first during my coloring process and then build around those skin tones.
M: Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share with our readers?
G: Yes, the biggest project I have going on right now is Trans Art Mart at Love City Brewing in Philadelphia on Saturday, April 2nd, 2022! My kind amazing artist friend Meg Potoma @megpotoma invited me to help them organize this market for trans vendors! I’m so grateful to be a part of it and excited beyond belief.
M: Where can people buy your art and support you?
G: My artwork is currently available for purchase on Redbubble!

ggggrimes (Gabriella Grimes)
Gabriella Grimes (aka ggggrimes) is a 26-year-old Black non-binary artist from the Bronx (NY) now based in Philadelphia (PA). Their work portrays queer people of colour living happy, beautiful, and sexy lives. ggggrimes’ colourful artwork shows the joyous and free worlds that every queer deserves.

Website | @ggggrimes
About the Writer
Marianna Capelli was born in the middle of nowhere, Northern Italy. She moved to London in 2015 to study Asian Art History and Mandarin Chinese at SOAS University of London and fell in love with the contemporary art world.

Temporarily back to the provincial life, she spends her days burying her nose in a book (or multiple books, mostly). The rest of the time, Marianna likes being opinionated about things and writing about art, culture and everything queer.