An Interview With Greg Bleakley, Featured Local Artist
Madison, Georgia, is home to antebellum homes, lush gardens, friendly residents, and a surprising number of local artists, authors, and craftspersons. While the town is small (under 10 square miles) and has under 4,000 residents, it has an impressive amount of art and culture. It contains the Madison Artists Guild and Gallery, the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center, the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art, the Morgan County African American Museum, and several historic homes such as Heritage Hall, which feature the art of those time periods.
Today, I'll be featuring local artist and craftsman Greg Bleakley whose work is featured at the Madison Artists Guild and Gallery (MAGallery). I spoke to Greg about his background, inspiration, and work. Here's what he had to say:
What is your background?
I graduated from Miami University in 1975 and spent 20 years in Retail Management including 4 years as a District Manager with Zales Jewelers. In 1995, my wife and I moved from Maryland to Athens, Georgia, to purchase a kennel. We spent the next 20 years running that business until we sold it and retired to Milledgeville in 2019.
Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
I don’t consider myself an artist as much as I do a craftsman. Those I know would back me up when I say I have little artistic talent. And, no, I have not always known that I wanted to create wood designs. I never knew that I had a “creative streak” until I was diagnosed and began treatment for adult ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). As treatment took affect, I began to have an interest in creating things. I took up the hobby of restoring antique British cars, intricate model ship building and eventually woodworking. This often happens with those who suffer from the disorder and go through treatment. It opened a new world of creativity that I previously would have told you was impossible.
What is your favorite artwork you’ve ever created?
I don’t have a particular piece that I would consider to be a favorite, although I do prefer pieces that are large and made from many segments.
What time of day do you feel most creative?
I feel creative any time of day.
How do you make time for your art, and would you say you have a healthy work/life balance?
I am retired so finding time for my work is not a challenge
Tell us about the space where you create.
I work in a one-car garage that we had built for my workspace. Lots of room for a lathe, tools, flat surfaces, and wood stock.
What inspires your work?
Nothing, in particular, inspires my work. Most ideas come to me during quiet hours when I can think.
Who are your biggest influences?
I was inspired to begin woodturning by a friend named Pat Quinn who has a carpentry business in the Athens area. He does much of the custom cabinetry and architectural woodwork for UGA and upscale homes. I gave a woodworking demonstration at Rotary Club, and I thought that I would like to do that. He gave me a couple of private lessons, and I was then on my own.
Tell us a little about your workday as an artist.
I work when I feel like it, generally a few hours at a time. I tend to do only one project at a time.
As an artist, do you have a favorite tool you use to create?
My favorite tool is a wood lathe.
How do you share or promote your work?
I promote my work strictly by word-of-mouth and through MAGallery. I never had any intentions of selling my pieces until I was encouraged to do so by friends and family.
What is your biggest barrier to being an artist or creating art, and how do you address it?
As with most woodworkers I imagine, I wish I had more/better tools. My current equipment is not an obstacle, however.
How do you determine what you charge for your work?
My prices are primarily based on the cost of materials, the time investment, and the appeal/appearance of the final piece. I like to keep my prices low as I do not do this for the money.
What advice would you give to new artists starting out?
Understand your motivations. Are you in it for the satisfaction? Therapy? Fun? Money? If you plan to do this for the money, you will probably find it is not a profit-making venture unless you are VERY good.
Shopping local and supporting small businesses includes purchasing work from the artists who call our community home. Follow my work for more features on local artists, and be sure to stop into MAGallery to see the art in person. The gallery is located at 125 W. Jefferson Street in historic downtown, Madison, Georgia.
Madison Artists Guild is a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to education and encouragement of artistic endeavor in its members and the community through outreach programs, classes and workshops, social gatherings, and support of local artists through MAGallery. For more information or to become a member, visit www.themadisonartistsguild.org/