Travis Gillan has no choice but to pursue art. After a mind opening psilocybin experience, he pushed past self imposed limitations and truly became the artist he was always meant to be. His visionary artwork has attracted popular bands such as Phish, 311, and Dirty Heads. Each one of his pieces looks like a trippy and vivid dream full of emotion and spirituality and Gillan says staying true to his vision is a priority in his work and is all part of his evolution as an artist.
Grand Rapids, MI / Been living in Denver for the past 12 years.
What is the first thing you do in the morning?
Drink coffee while I sit and do nothing for about an hour. Maybe there’s music.
Last movie you watched?
The Green Knight.
Salty or sweet?
Salty then sweet. Then salty. Then sweet until I’m in a never ending state of ecstasy …or compulsive death spiral. The outcome is unclear.
I play the djembe when it’s time to get funky.
Best advice you’ve received?
I’m skeptical of the effectiveness of telling someone how to live their life. However, when someone told me that I actually wasn’t thinking my thoughts, that felt like a game changer.
Origin storytime. Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got into this line of work?
I drew often growing up but never saw myself as an artist. I was enrolled at a community college for a couple of years with no clear life direction when I ingested some psilocybin mushrooms. It was shown to me that I had been holding on to a long-standing fear regarding the instability and uncertainty of being a working artist. Once this was seen for what it was, it didn’t feel like a choice any more. It was either: pursue art or run from a real desire.
How would you describe your style of art?
Psychedelic would be the easiest word to grab for. I mainly like to draw, so there’s an emphasis on line quality. My themes often touch on the mystical or spiritual.
What does your creative process typically look like?
I need some sort of intention or emotion to create the impetus for inspiration. Once I find some vague direction, I sketch small until I’m inspired by something on the paper. A small sketch turns into a medium size sketch and then I move onto fleshing out a final image. I find it’s good to develop the skeleton of an image before getting lost in the details.
What are some of the biggest challenges being an artist?
Staying true to your vision or intention for creating art. It can be easy to self-sabotage by comparing yourself with other artists or compromising by seeking work just to pay the bills. A certain degree of compromise seems inevitable, but I think an artist is someone with a personal vision and a message to convey.
You have done some awesome artwork for bands like Phish, 311, Dirty Heads and more- does your approach change at all when you are creating for musicians?
Creating for a band can change things a bit because I like to create something that’s a reflection of their music and maybe the location of the show rather than just my own vision. I like to listen to the band’s music and get an overall feel for the vibe and see if something comes up from that. If nothing happens, I’ll dive deeper into the lyrics for inspiration. Typically, bands are pretty open to my creative direction, and often I find that an image with a looser association with the music can be more successful.
Do you ever run into creative blocks? If so, how do you deal with them?
For sure. It’s good to keep the creative currents flowing by sketching often. If I draw long enough, I’ll exhaust all the bad ideas, and eventually something inspired will arise. I don’t know where the good ideas come from, but eventually they do come.
What has been the most fulfilling part of your career to date?
I don’t think it has been any one thing. Witnessing my evolution through years of uncertainty is surreal, and being able to create art everyday is an amazing gift. The unfoldment of my path due to the daily deliberate choice to continue to create art is fulfillment in itself and seems to be more fulfilling as time goes on.
What do you think you would be doing professionally if you weren’t an artist?
Permaculture farming or maybe a park ranger.
What projects do you have on the horizon in 2023?
Right now it feels like more concert posters are underway. But who knows. I’d like to hike and camp more this year.