Meet Aaron Grayum

Meet Aaron Grayum

Aaron Grayum - Artist

Painter / Writer / Graphic Designer

Aaron Grayum has lived in Middle Tennessee his entire life, moving to Fairview with his family in 2018. He met his wife Michelle, also an artist, at MTSU where he graduated with a BFA in 1999 and has worked as a graphic designer ever since — winning multiple Addy awards and appearing in Print Magazine. In 2005 Aaron began consistently showing his paintings in galleries and art fairs, in a style inspired by his own childhood art.

Currently represented in downtown Nashville by The Studio 208, Aaron was a 2018 participant in the Nashville Arts and Business Council’s Periscope cohort and won the Pitch Competition in September 2018, and was recently runner up in both the Fairview Mainstreet Awards and the Nashville Lifestyles Art Creator of the Year Awards. His short stories have been published in The Saturday Evening Post and The Colored Lens. In 2010 he and his wife formed The Gray Umbrella, LLC, their creative arts company under which they operate all their creative endeavors.

“I make art as a way to connect to people who feel unseen, in a way that shows them that they matter and are not alone. Using acrylic on canvas, I create images inspired by drawings I made when I was a kid – like birds, umbrellas, and jelly bean trees – speaking a language familiar to both children and adults. Words and poetry are integral to much of my work, allowing me to explore the tension between the playful innocence of childhood and the vulnerable truths of a grown-up world that doesn’t always understand.”

How long have you been painting? 
I’ve made art my entire life, but I’ve worked consistently in my current style/path since 2005. What’s kept me going is curiosity, a desire to connect with people, and pure love of the painting process. 

What was the pivotal moment that made you decide to follow your path as an artist?
Listening to my wife’s idea that I should take my art style from my childhood and incorporate that into my art. Once I tried it, and it seemed to resonate with people, I knew I had something special. 

What can you tell us about your process?
When I approach the canvas I often have the whole image mapped out, either in my sketchbook or just in my head (that’s the graphic designer in me). But as I begin to work I try to stay in the moment and let things happen on the canvas. I often describe my painting process as creating a big mess and then deciding which parts to clean up. 

What are some of your favorite places where your work has been displayed?
Vanderbilt Hospital, The Studio 208, Nashville Ballet, Customs House Museum, Frist Art Museum, the tv show “Nashville,” Art & Invention, Shimai Gallery, Style House Salon, Crema Coffee, Fairview Arts Council, The Harding Art Show, Artclectic, JDRF Promise Gala, Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, Nashville’s Smallest Art Gallery, and others.

Who are some of your favorite artists?
Basquiat, Cy Twombly, Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg, Sabrina Ward Harrison, Shepard Fairey, Jae Lee, Sam Kieth, Todd McFarlane, David Carson, Andy Warhol, and many, many more. 

What work that you’ve done are you most proud of?
I’ve been fortunate to work on some great projects that are very meaningful – more than I can list here. My wife and I illustrated a children’s book for singer Mark Schultz (“Remember Me”). I painted an Art Piano for Vanderbilt Hospital ICU and created a Welcome Wall at the Metro Family Safety Center. I’ve worked with kids for years creating the Youth Ambassador art for the annual JDRF Promise Gala. In 2018 I won first place in the highly competitive Periscope Pitch competition by the Nashville Arts and Business Council, which further solidified my career as an artist. 

Is there a single painting that you would like to be remembered for? 
If I had to pick one, then maybe “The Blue Heron and the Elephant.” (pictured below) I feel like it represents all the wonder and possibility of childhood while at the same time presenting an adult sense of uncertainty.  

TheBlueHeronAndTheElephant by Aaron Grayum

Where do you find your inspiration? 
My childhood. Reading books. Visiting galleries. Nature. My son, my wife, my friends. 

What have you found to be your biggest challenge in making your art?  Finding a consistent work schedule. I tend to create a ton of work at a time until I’m exhausted, and then nothing for awhile. Rinse and repeat. I’d much prefer to be more consistent. Additionally, overcoming my imposter syndrome and living up to my own potential.

What would you say your future goals include? 
Writing novels. Illustrating more children’s books and painting more murals.

Do you have any shows on the horizon? 
Two, actually, both in November. The first one will be a duo show with my wife Michelle in Bowling Green at the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center (SKyPAC) – titled The Biggest And Most Important Things. And the second will be the MBA Art Show on November 12-15, which is going to be all online this year, so you don’t even have to leave the couch 🙂

What would you like to see happen in Fairview to build a better art community? 
I want to see and participate in some Public Art Projects, murals (we have one of those happening in Fairview very soon, believe it or not), and (eventually) an art crawl.

Is there anything else you’d like to share? 
Be kind to others, stay true to yourself, stay focused on the things you’re passionate about, STAY CURIOUS, and don’t give up on yourself so easily. 

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