Day jobs: Peter Wowkowych, architect
A week-long series about artists who work day jobs outside of the art world
By Dani Dodge
Although most artists need day jobs to sustain their practice, it is commonly accepted that the best place for artists to work is within the art world. There they build contacts that can propel their careers.
“If you can find an art world job where you have things in common with your co-workers the networking can pay off,” suggested John Seed, a painter, writer, curator and professor of art based in Southern California.
Some artists, though, live a bifurcated life with one foot in a separate professional world and one in art.
“In some ways, having a professional job unrelated to the art world might be refreshing,” Seed said. “Compartmentalizing and dealing with an entirely different context and group of people has its advantages.”
This series looks at how some artists’ work is informed by their day jobs in surprisingly unrelated fields. And how that separation of self has its advantages and disadvantages for each artist’s practice.
Peter Wowkowych, architect
Los Angeles, CA
Upcoming: Open studio during the Santa Fe Art Colony Open Studios weekend, Sept. 30-Oct. 1, 2017.
I am a painter, with a studio in the Santa Fe Art Colony, downtown LA. I work in encaustics and acrylics. My interests lie in the boundaries that separate people, places and cultures. My work explores our experiences in and out of our bodies, how real and imagined places shape who we become. My art references and eschews my education as an architect, growing up as a closeted young gay man, and growing up in immigrant, Catholic household.
My day job is the Campus Architect for Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City. I have been at Sony for 22 years, working on many of the design and construction projects within the 50-acre studio lot campus.
We recently completed several new buildings, complementing the architecture of this nearly 100-year-old, historic original MGM lot. We design our architecture projects to sit at the forefront of the ever-evolving global entertainment and technology industries. Our projects try to create compelling environments that satisfy the requirements of Sony’s creative entities—film, television, animation, music and technology. Clients over the years have included Queen Latifah, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Adam Sandler, Channing Tatum, Sean Connery, Will Smith, and Barbra Streisand, to name only a few.
My day job consumes most of my time during the week, so I spend my weeknights only thinking about painting. Not until the weekend do I get to my art studio to put my thoughts down in paint or encaustics. I do spend most of my generous vacation time traveling for artist residencies and workshops, where I get much-needed uninterrupted painting time.
I recently returned from a painting retreat in the south of France at the Chateau de la Napoule. I am also headed to Anderson Ranch Art Center in Aspen and to the Ogunquit Art Colony in Maine later this year for more uninterrupted painting time. My time at the American Academy in Rome, as a visiting artist, a few years ago was one of the most important artistic experiences I have had, clarifying many of my ideas about the direction of my art, surrounded by a circle of highly accomplished fellow artists, musicians, architects, playwrights and academics. Talking about art is as important in clarifying your ideas as making art.
Impact of day job, positive:
I would say that without my day job I might never have taken up painting. One of my favorite spaces on the studio lot is a large loft space where scenic artists would hand paint huge backdrops for film and television. I would try to visit as often as I could to see what they were working on, to take a break from a stressful day of meetings or deadlines. At one point it hit me that my meditation, my escape, my solace, was watching these painters paint.
Another influencer in my art making, involved sitting in meetings with the creative CEO who talked about capturing the magic of storytelling not only in the movie making business, but also in the architecture we create for the studio. Storytelling is an ancient tradition that clearly resonates today, as important for a filmmaker as it is for a painter.
Impact of day job, negative:
Aside from not being able to devote full time to my art, my day job has not been a negative force in my professional development as an artist. My colleagues have supported my openings, bought my art and been my cheerleaders in the art making process all along the way.
Do you want to quit your day job?
Yes I plan to leave my day job one day. Recently I had my astrological star chart read, it clearly spelled out this date of transition. While I am not a strident believer in astrology, this seemed like as good a date as any to make the next life transition as it was spot on with my last major life transition, coming out, and moving to California from New York City, many years ago. While I am not ready to make this date public, I am working toward getting things in place, preparing to make the great leap of faith in myself, my art and my commitment to a full-time art practice.
Also, a strong passion and influence in my life and my art is my role on the Board of Restoration Works International. We are a small nonprofit that brings cultures together to restore culturally significant buildings, artworks and communities in the developing world. In 2016 we finished the restoration of an ancient Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the Nepali Himalayas.
We brought back to life a community center for an exiled Tibetan community, no longer able to return to their motherland in China occupied Tibet. This July we kicked off the restoration of a Haveli in Udaipur, India.\ This project is focused on educating and employing migrant women laborers who would otherwise have little opportunity to work or gain training in specialty job skills. RWI is providing them this opportunity. I am proud that I am part of these global projects, working toward a global human compassion and understanding.
Tomorrow: Tanya Nolan, interactive marketing