Gordon Wiebe is an illustrator and collage artist based in Toronto, Canada. His style is defined by expressionistic landscapes and figures constructed from collage. His distinctive characters have elongated limbs and bulky patchwork torsos, combining geometric forms with naturalistic curves. Gordon's work is both conceptually driven and capable of evoking emotions as diverse as whimsy, joy, melancholy, and drama.
Gordon's clients include Business Week, Asset International, The Globe and Mail, Harvard Business Review, HOW Magazine, and The Los Angeles Times. His award-winning illustrations have been featured in American Illustration, Society of Illustrators New York, Society of Illustrators Los Angeles, and 3x3 Magazine's Pro Show.
Citing Philip Guston, Donald Judd, and Pierre Bonnard as some of his favorite artists, Gordon admires the cerebral and technically demanding qualities of fine art, but at the same time, sees himself as an artist working in the commercial sphere. He has said that his work "only becomes 'real' when it is printed and in context." Piecing together the components of text, design, and illustration provides Gordon with a challenge that is much like an extension of his collage process - this interaction between forms and voids frames the basis of his personal art and his collaboration with clients.
Gordon's latest personal pieces are collage-based interpretations of two classic films: Nosferatu (1922) and The Hustler (1961). The first film, an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, features a bat-eared vampire villain. Gordon captures Nosferatu's menacing stillness with dark features and an ominous glare. The Hustler, starring Paul Newman, tells the story of a small-time hustler's journey to beating a renowned pool champion. Gordon's use of line and gesture gives the collage a sense of movement that conveys the literal and figurative sentiment of 'hustling.'
Gordon's illustrations always begin with a sketch, but ultimately his work relies on spontaneity and the interaction of forms. His previous actions always inform the decisions to come: "To me, the different scraps and pieces that I bring together to create a collage are like collaborators - their contours and colours influence my decision about how each picture will develop and take shape, and what it will ultimately look like." The medium of collage is crucial to Gordon's creative process because it allows for improvisation within a range of found objects, giving his work an element of structure and of serendipity.
Gordon's work has appeared in a number of media, such as advertising, magazines, newspapers, and books. In 2010, he illustrated the cover of Vivienda social en altura, a book written by author Sergio Ballen Zamora. Published in Mexico, the book deals with sustainable housing and urban development. He has also illustrated the cover of Statistical Panic: Cultural Politics and Poetics of the Emotions, a book published by Duke University and authored by professor Kathleen Woodward. The book delves into the ways that gender, race, and age influence the expression of emotion in American society.
Gordon's advertising campaign work for the pharmaceutical company Merck promotes Gardasil, a new drug that prevents cervical cancer caused by strains of the human papilloma virus. His sensitive rendition targets a demographic of young women using bird imagery and a light colorful palette. The Above the Influence ad campaign, in conjunction with Partnership for a Drug-Free America, targeted a teen demographic and exclusively featured Gordon's illustrations and hand lettering. The campaign aims to help teens stay drug-free by relaying facts and statistics about teen drug usage. In the images, Gordon's use of speech bubbles for text doubles as a metaphor for darkened lungs. His conceptually driven illustrations often pair well with message-oriented advertising campaigns.
In July of this year, the HQ Bank of Taipei chose Gordon as the headlining artist of the annual Fubon Art Festival. His work was featured on a 25-story skyscraper at the center of Taipei's arts district and he flown out to Taipei to attend the unveiling of his work. Dozens of volunteers wearing Wiebe printed t-shirts guided visitors to and from the sights while handing out Wiebe memorabilia such as fans, watches, buttons, and stickers. A tile-painting workshop for kids allowed burgeoning artists to paint their own versions of Gordon's characters onto take-home souvenirs. The widely promoted event introduced Gordon's work to a large international audience of artists, consumers, and art directors, marking an important milestone in Gordon's career. For more information about the annual art fair and its contributors, visit the Fubon Art Festival home page.
Gordon has also contributed to The Lifted Brow's year-end World Atlas issue. The Lifted Brow is an Australia-based bimonthly journal that publishes art, music, and literature from a variety of sources. Past contributors have included Douglas Coupland, Sage Francis and Bodies of Water. Gordon chose to represent his native Canada in the World Atlas issue and submitted a piece about Canada's diminishing marine populations titled The Last Fish.
In 2006, 2008 and 2010, the Taiwanese design magazine dpi featured Gordon with a interviews and multipage spreads that discussed his unique style and career trajectory. Gordon has also been featured in Juxtapoz Magazine's (issue #48) artist profile section alongside Kime Buzzelli, Insa, Marci Washington, Hanoch Oliven, Chip, Kagan McLeod and Aron Wiesenfeld. Later that year, Blanket Magazine asked Gordon and fellow Magnet Reps artist Ana Bagayan to collaborate with other illustrators on a collector's edition poster. The poster joined several artistic styles into a patchwork quilt. To view and/or purchase the poster, visit Blanket Magazine's online store.
Gordon's work has appeared in art galleries in both the US and Canada. The print he created for the Tiny Showcase online gallery, titled "Oscillators and Insects," sold out within a few hours of its release. A portion of each Tiny Showcase sale goes to the artist's designated charity, and Gordon chose to benefit the Toronto Public Space Committee, a non-profit grassroots organization that advocates for shared spaces and protects them from privatization.
His piece Blue Bird was part of Power in Numbers, an online showcase moderated by the L.A.-based Nucleus gallery. Proceeds from all sales went to benefit the artists' designated charities. Gordon's painting of a weeping caged bird was placed on sale to benefit these various organizations. Originally an annual exhibition, the show has since evolved into an ongoing project. Visit the Power In Numbers website to support the artists and their causes.
Click here for downloadable items - desktop wallpapers and a high-res printable letter sized promo.
Q&A with Gordon Wiebe
What is your creative process? Do you usually begin with a sketch? My process can vary depending on the end result that is needed. For commissioned art I will sketch/write whatever comes to mind, without a critical filter - shapes, colours, words etc... and then I'll try and find the visual connections between these thoughts to produce a workable concept. If I'm not trying to make an image to accompany a text (personal work) I pick a spot on the blank page - glue down that first piece of collage and let the shapes, colours and their inter-personal relationships tell me what to do next.
What do you do when you have a creative block? What are your best sources of inspiration? I wish I knew! When I'm in a tough spot I'll usually got to a coffee shop. The combination of caffeine and the white noise of other people swirling around me usually gets my thoughts flowing. Or, the shower - I do some of my best thinking in the shower.
Who are three artists you admire and why? Number one, for me, has always been Philip Guston. His painting and imagery is quite challenging and difficult for most - but, once you get a feel for what he was trying to accomplish, his work is endlessly rewarding. His brushstrokes didn't just create things - they created and destroyed things, and themselves, all at the same time. That probably doesn't make any sense - but, Guston taught me that that's o.k.
Donald Judd has always been a favourite as well - cerebral and cold yet humane and human scaled work that I just love to be in the same room with.
And, Bonnard - I've been looking at a lot of late Bonnard again after a taking a break from him. In his later years I feel like he was really onto something about the depiction of space, our relation to it/in it, and the objects around us - time and space, memory etc...
A genie grants you three wishes. What do you wish for? I've seen and read enough to know that there is some diabolical twist at the end of each wish - I'd probably spend a bit of time chatting with the genie to get a feel for the situation before I made any poorly thought out, fateful wishes.
In an ideal world, you would have an infinite amount of...? Time? Time I guess. With time anything is possible and everything is.
How did you discover your style? What draws you to your particular method of illustration? My style, just, is - I don't really try to accomplish anything when I'm working - I don't try anything - it just happens. If the composition calls for a cyan blue square with a little nick out of the top left corner to be placed at the bottom left of the page - who am I to say no?! Maybe I'll challenge that blue square with a little pure red isosceles triangle snuggled up against it - what now? Who knows?! Find out next!!!
What's the last book you read? How was it? I'm reading "The Bicycle Diaries" by David Byrne right now. It's a good, quick, little read about his travels through a variety of international cities - and, the thoughts that careen through his head while he bicycles around them. I'm a dedicated cyclist myself - it's the best way to see and be in the city. I've never driven a car - and never will.
You have 24 hours to live the life of one fictional character. Who do you choose? I haven't read much fiction lately - I'm on a bit of a non-fiction kick. I recently read a book about whales/whalesongs/whale culture and communication. I think I'd like to try being a whale.
What's your guilty pleasure? I've just re-discovered an old friend of mine - Dr. Pepper. Half-flat Dr. Pepper.
Favorite holiday and why. I'd have to go with any civic/non-denominational holiday - no baggage and they are always part of a long weekend.
What deep, dark childhood trauma made you decide to pursue a career as an artist? Here's a childhood story: when I was 6-10 ish (?) I was, like most boys my age, obsessed with Star Wars. I had all the figures and vehicles etc... except I didn't play with them - I would obsessively draw each new toy as I got them and then play with the drawings instead of the toys. This drove my parents, who were spending a lot of money to feed my Star Wars habit, absolutely crazy. As a teen I would do the same thing with records - whenever I got a new record (albums with good covers I would buy on record - average covers on tape, or, eventually cd) I would immediately re-create the cover, at full size, in pencil and stick it to my wall.
What is your ideal assignment? I like jobs where I get to work with the designer - where type is going to be laid over my image or where my image needs to take a strange shape to fit with a design or concept. Growing up in a pop/post-pop world - I find that my work (illustration work anyway) only becomes "real" when it is printed and in context.
What are some sites you have bookmarked in your browser? In my bookmarks you'll find a lot of political blogs + news sites for daily reading (I'm a bit of a political junkie), a bunch of synthesizer forums (skkkrrzzzzowwwwwwww) and a whole bunch of unorganized links to things that I mean to get around to reading but never quite do...
What's the hardest part of being an illustrator? Not having anybody to talk to at the water cooler. Not having a water cooler.
You just got back from Taipei's Fubon Art Festival. What was it like seeing your art displayed on a large corporate skyscraper? What were your impressions of the city and how did you enjoy your trip? Taiwan was a fantastic experience - the best I've had in a while. I've never really travelled alone - especially not to so exotic a locale - and I really enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun negotiating my way through a city, culture and language that I really had no idea about - I guess I like to travel the same way I make pictures - I just let it happen and let the situation dictate what happens next. I had a chance to get to know Taipei City from a variety of angles - the highs and the lows. I was also able to travel outside of the city a little bit - to the coast and into the interior - which was just beautiful. I'm a big plant fan and the tropical mountainous regions had many a fern and flora for me to fawn over.
Seeing my work on the bank building was pretty exciting. I first came across it by accident - I was walking around the city, not quite knowing where I was or where I was going, turned a corner and saw one of my faces poking out between two buildings - 4 blocks away and 25 stories in the sky! I spent a fair bit of time walking around the building and checking it out from different angles (and taking pictures for my mother - like she told me too - I'm not much of a picture taker). Inside the building was a little kiosk with information about the festival. The volunteer running the info desk was wearing a shirt with my image on it, selling buttons and watches and bags etc... with my image on them. Decorating the lobby was an inflatable balloon character of mine - it was all quite surreal. I had brought the original collages of the heads/fireworks/explosions with me to give as gifts to the people I was working on the project with and I wanted to give one to the volunteer but I had left them at the artist residence I was staying at. I returned the next day to give the gift - but the volunteer was gone. Was it all a dream? Or was it just lunch?