323 Howe Street
Greg Metz is a B.C. artist who loves to build. Known for his stylized, innovative, and often humorous steel sculptures, Greg's one-of-a-kind three-dimensional works are a unique addition to any art collection. Polished figures in flowing lines, dynamic curves, and contemporary subject matter, his sculptures range from elegant to jazzy to dreamlike. Each piece is hand-cut with an oxy-acetylene torch, which is also used to heat, curve and colour his flowing works. His small hand grinder is his paintbrush. It is used to grind "brushstrokes" into the steel. He also loves to draw, and this enables him to see his works before he starts building them. His musical background often surfaces in his work, from actual musicians to the flowing lines he feels are suggested by music. Greg's creative use of whimsy in conjunction with his talent for sculpting has garnered the attention of private, corporate, and public collectors. His original works and commissions are featured in collections around the world. This "Man of Steel" really enjoys his work.
Question and Answer:
Q: What are some of your motivations to creating artworks?
A: I absolutely love building things -- houses, mechanical equipment, etc., but with my sculptures I can include fantasy, which gives me an outlet to dream up anything, and turn it into reality. There are no limitations. I can show people what I see.
Q: When did you decide you wanted to pursue an art career? Were there any instigating factors that led you down this path?
A: I had been an industrial steel fabricator for many years, and I was also designing and building custom homes. But I always dreamed of having my own small shop. So I bought an industrial building and decided I didn't care what I built, I just wanted to do my own thing, whatever that might be (without any employees). The first piece I built on a weekend just for fun. It was a cool table - that did it. I had never seen one like it. So I started making cool functional pieces. A chair, a fantasy table, etc. Then one day I did a fanciful piece of a fellow dancing, all by himself. He looked like I felt. From that day I built my dreams, daydreams, any dreams.
Q: How does creating art fit into your life? (Do you paint for long drawn out periods or for short bursts daily? Does it allow you to travel?)
A: My life IS my art. Let me clarify that. Our life (my wife and I) is about art. We live it, talk it, dream it. We discuss ideas together constantly. And yes, we love to travel, and I draw and design as a part of that travel. Everything we see is inspirational. I'm usually very excited to return to my Studio and create some or all of the drawings. When I'm drawing my designs I usually work in one or two hour 'bursts' throughout the day. When I'm building a sculpture, I work at it all day, every day.
Q: What are some of the biggest benefits to working as an artist? (Is it the people that you meet? The sales of the sculptures? Etc.)
A: Freedom. To do what you want and love to do. It definitely takes discipline, but if you really love it, you can't resist doing it. Meeting people through my art is wonderful. Their enthusiasm for my work is very satisfying, and I enjoy seeing them enjoy it.
Q: What is your studio like? How does it stand out from other artists' studios?
A: I have just completed building a new Studio beside my home, with my office in the mezzanine overlooking Okanagan Lake. Two of the walls open completely, so I am virtually working outside, which I love. Because I work with steel, my Studio work involves a lot of fire, so I have fine gravel surfaces outside the building that I can safely cut steel over. And of course, concrete floors, and high temperature spark screens for grinding. There are also big windows to let lots of light in.
Q: Has there been a single event that stands out as the most proud moment as an artist in your career?
A: Yes. I had made my first pieces, and I took photos of them to a wonderful lady, who was a huge supporter of the arts. She had an upcoming show scheduled, and invited me to participate. I could hardly believe it. It was probably one of the highest levels of excitement in my life.
Q: Do you listen to music while you paint? Are there any musicians or genres that you prefer to listen to while painting? Do you think it has any influence on the final outcome?
A: I definitely like having music on. Rock and roll gets me pumped up, and I like working fast and hard. However, I also like instrumental world music, so I don't get caught up listening to the words, and can concentrate better on what I'm doing. It does influence the work. The happier the environment, the better the process goes.
Q: Are there any specific artists who have had an impact on your art career? (Are there any artists who have influenced your artwork, given you confidence to try something new, given you career advice?)
A: I've tried to avoid being influenced by other work, especially at the beginning. I wanted to be very original, and the only place I could find that was in myself. I do get influenced by artists who can access their imagination, and translate it into something different; this gives me confidence to go with my impulses. A good example of what I mean is Jeff Koon's 12 metre sculpture PUPPY at the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, and Dale Chihuly's amazing projects with glass. Another favourite is Fernando Botero, a Columbian figurative sculptor whose monumental horses are found all around the world.
Q: You've had a history of working with metal on a more industrial scale, what made you decide to change direction from industrial metalwork to sculpture metalwork? Did your history if working with metal give you the understanding of what this material can do on a more creative side?
A: I was an industrial fabricator for many years, and learned so much about steel and other metals. I've worked in the shipyards, oil fields, and built every machine imaginable, including forklifts, skidders, etc. I also worked in the stainless steel industry designing and building restaurants. So with that experience, when I realized I could just dream something up, use those skills, and build it instead of having to follow blueprints or guidelines, I was in heaven.