Sketchbook: Gerry Simpson


I started painting for one reason, I couldn't afford to buy nobody else's art. So I'd paint my own pictures and put them on the wall.

I wasn't gonna waste any time competing with other people. My competition would become myself. I have been a singer. I've done Off-Broadway in New York. Fashion design, visual art, photography. I'm writing, teaching. I've done acting. I've heard often that if you don't use the talents given, it's a sin. And so I'm trying to get through life without sinning.

My mom always sewed. She made clothes and stuff. So there was always a sewing machine hooked up in my house. When I became a junior in high school, I developed a career as a singer. So I went from there to making the clothes for the guys I sang with.

And like 1982, I won this trip to California, modeling and designing clothes.

And when I got ready to move from The Bay Area to Sacramento, I got this job as a stylist for Nordstrom. Well I was at Nordstrom and I got his phone call. Well I answered the call 'cause they didn't call for me. And this teacher called from America River College. She wanted to know if she could bring her class in for a visual merchandising tour. And I told her, "Yeah, come, bring your class."

About two days later, 35 people showed up at the door, looking for Gerry Simpson. And I took them on this in-depth tour of Nordstrom, and one year later this teacher called back and said to me, "Would you like to teach at America River College?" And so I ended up teaching at America River College for 10 years. Teaching fashion promotion and visual merchandising.

And so it was in the last couple years that I said, "Okay, I'm gonna make this return trip to being a fashion designer."

My attitude is, if you're not hanging my art on your wall, hang in on your back. And I came up with the idea of a show called, "From the Canvas to the Runway." Crazy enough, right after I thought about that, I got a phone call from the Crocker Art Museum asking me would I come and be a part of this event that they were gonna have and would I do fashion? That was like heaven.

What made me do the denim thing was I keep noticing everybody that went passed my studio had on denim. Today's fashion, being the second most highest polluter to the world, next to oil. That's kinda crazy. So where does it end up? In the wastelands. I'm trying to keep some of these stuff from going in there.

If I take your jeans and serve them back to you in a way that you'd not expecting them. It's not always been easy.

Coming to a place where you don't know anybody and you're trying to do something like creative. You know, 'cause then you have to find an audience. Who wants to see you? Who wants to be spending their time looking at what you do?

So that's why I just work as much as I do. And I work in as many different spots as I do. You know, 'cause it might not happen over here this week. It might be over here this week.

So you have to just put yourself out there. And don't be afraid to fail at it. Don't be afraid to make a mistake. 'Cause out of mistakes, comes great things.

If you look at my art there're circles in all of my art. That came about because a mistake. I was working with a pen that exploded on one of my paintings. And so I couldn't get the paint off. So what did I do? Covered it with a circle. So there's been circles in my art ever since. So, you know, you do what you do.

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