Will Day is a Boulder, Colorado-Based artist creating inspiring paintings on a monumental scale.
Struggling with the stresses of everyday life leaves us longing for an escape. Painter Will Day is using his art to combat these societal anxieties as a champion of positivity. His painting practice, existing at the intersection of intuitive abstraction and the calculated nature of architecture, channels our desire to get lost and provides us a path to do so. Through large-scale immersive paintings, Day’s abstraction is inspiring change and building a community of creativity.
Now residing and growing his career as an artist from Boulder, Colorado, Will Day is laying down roots that are only adding to the evocative and experiential nature of his work. Coming off the completion of his largest work to date, a 12 foot by 12 foot piece embodying the transformative motions of the earth, Day shares with us how his practice has evolved and what he hopes to impart to his viewers.
Larger Than Life
One of the most notable features of Day’s work is the sheer size. In a seemingly limitless expanse of canvas and paint, Day invites his viewers on a journey. He connects each individual to the world around them through an intuitive process of painting – a process that is dictated by the canvas, the environment, and the emotions the artist experiences.
TM: To begin, could you share with our readers how you started down this path? What made you want to become a visual artist?
WD: Early on I struggled a lot to find my place. I felt abandoned by my emotions through my experiences as a human being, like coming from a divorced family in the 70s and then my mother passing away. I struggled in school with ADHD, and felt like an outcast. I was failing in the world and it showed through my relationships, my health, both emotionally and mentally.
While that sadness and struggle forced me into the dark, it’s also how I found my light. I connected back to joy and discovered that we are not alone in the universe. Painting has helped me connect with my community and with myself. It wasn’t until I stopped being afraid and started being curious that I was able to discover my connections with painting.
Painting gives me the confidence to get out of my head, be creative, and visually connect with the world.
TM: Your work has become known for its massive scale. What led you to work in such a large-scale format for your paintings?
WD: I’ve always wanted to go big and felt like the paintings needed to be life-size. For me, scale is about being able to encounter a painting and be surprised and not restricted.
I want the viewer to step back and look at the overwhelming emotion of joy and love. To go on a journey with my painting. No limits. To walk into the painting and connect on a large scale and feel something powerful.
TM: Can you tell us more about your artistic process, especially when combating the enormity of these large pieces? Also, how has your working process evolved over the years?
WD: My process is very organic. I come to my studio every day and I sit with an open heart. I look at the walls and at all these raw canvases, which I roll out onto the floor, and I try new things within the parameters of my art. I let go of expectations or preconceived notions, and I react to the canvases.
Sometimes I’ll pray or meditate or listen to music, and then things just start popping. I start painting emotions, poems, and stories with color. And I work on a ton of different pieces all at once; that’s part of my freedom of expression. In the end, the process is different for each painting, each one is unique and saying something different to the viewer. You allow that freedom to happen and to not be afraid to change your process for each painting, each body of work. You learn how to step out of the way and let that creative energy flow out of you.
I’m always trying to discover new things and allow my spirit to fly and I love it. My paintings are monoliths of creative freedom projecting to the world and I think they always have something new to say.
Day’s work is built upon a foundation of abstraction. His work coalesces centuries of artistic creation into an elegant practice. Approaching material like the renaissance masters alongside the gestural techniques engaged by the masters of modern abstraction and then combined with principles of innovative architecture he developed his signature practice. Yet his work speaks to a unique set of trials and tribulations of our contemporary times. He views the entirety of the world through a lens of abstraction, bringing the intangible elements of life and the universe into visual representations.
TM: We can see that your work is based in abstraction. What is the significance, for you, of your distinctive use of color, gesture, and texture?
WD: I see that the world is abstract: it is constantly moving and evolving. Abstraction is normal for me because life is the same way. I am trying to capture these brief moments in time, history, emotion, spirituality, and that comes with abstract shapes, forms, and textures.
Distinctive use of color is extremely important. It elevates the mood, time, and place of how I feel in that period of my life. For example, I love creating black-and-white paintings. I come back to them every year. They ground me because they are so distinct and clear and represent major shifts in my ongoing journey. I love sharing them because they are so rich in obvious emotions. For me, they are very peaceful and very important to let out. My black-and-white series is like unveiling a cloak, peeking through a stage curtain then watching it rise to find clarity. It is a symbol for specific moments in time.
Color raises the vibration of your soul. I am a very impulsive emotional human. Each month, I change. Every month my interactions with the canvases change how I am walking through the universe and it is all a part of the journey of how I am telling my story on the canvas. These emotions are past, present, and future.
TM: You are currently based in Boulder, Colorado. What sort of influence, if any, does this have on the work you are creating?
WD: Being out in Colorado has allowed me to detach from the normal distractions of the city. Our family chose to move here because we wanted to experience a new adventure with our natural surroundings without being taken over by the large structures within a city, which can become hard to tune into and connect with.
Colorado has launched me as a creative spirit and continues to guide me through its amazing presence of nature, mountains, rivers, and lakes. I am amazed every day by how inspired I get with the natural environment. It’s another reason why I paint on a large scale. It gives me the vast openness of hope and freedom that I cannot get enough of.
TM: While your work is painting based, you have a background in architecture. How do you see this influencing your artistic practice?
WD: Architecture is one of the most important elements of my practice. Receiving my Master of Architecture degree from Pratt Institute has influenced everything I do: my tools, the scale, the engineering, the textures, and the visuals. The teachers at Pratt taught me how to think big and solve problems and tell a narrative in a very creative way.
My architectural impulsivity is carried over into my style of painting and expression. I sometimes feel like an architect working on a construction site. I work with huge canvases and manipulate tools, sponges, squeegees.
I think about Leonardo and Michelangelo and their curiosity about creativity, the built environment, architecture, and design, and it’s so inspiring.
Painting New Paths
Standing in front of the enormity of Day’s works cannot help but overwhelm the senses. A multiplicity of energies evoke emotions and experiences unique to each individual and yet he creates a world embodying the symbiotic essence of the natural world. Each work is more than a window for a viewer to peer through. Each work completely envelopes his viewers, confronting them with the challenge of embarking on this new journey.
TM: In your opinion, what is it about your work that so effectively communicates human experience and emotion?
WD: My art often showcases subliminal narratives of a hero’s journey. The hero’s journey (I’m thinking of Joseph Campbell) is a large part of our human experience. My canvases are intended to help audiences strive to discover their own journey. To uncover feelings of joy in a time of darkness, push them to move forward with great reverence for the past and an understanding of the gravity of our present circumstances.
My work will always be focused on advancing a new Renaissance, motivating myself and those around me to be agents of change in a world accustomed to negativity. The world is ready for all of us to be creative, to be empathetic, to be authentic, and to move from the negative to the positive. It’s all part of a dialogue that says, “You know what? Let’s learn how to talk together again, and let’s be with each other again, and let’s embrace each other’s differences.” That to me is so cool. And it’s going to be so fun to experience this dialogue with the world.
TM: These works tower over and envelope all those who stand before them. What exactly do you want a viewer to take away from their experience with your work?
WD: I want the viewers to be able to experience something they have never seen before.
My goal as a painter is to put people in places of curiosity, adventure, and joy. I want the viewer to learn how to be free, non-judgmental, and have a sense of exploration. Each of my paintings are manifestations and stories about healing and love.
I’m not the only artist that talks like this. There are many of us. We all have different sides and stories and experiences to share, but I think when someone really looks at one of my paintings, I want them to feel healed.
TM: As we are looking ahead to a new year, can you share anything about your upcoming or future projects?
WD: I am excited for my first project in 2022 at the Arvada Center for Arts. The exhibit is Art of the State 2022, continuing a legacy showing off the powerful scope of contemporary art from across the state of Colorado.
I am also continuing the art residency program with Bell Projects in my Boulder studio, working in collaboration with other artists to spark conversation and ideas that foster inspiration, expression, and experimentation.