By NOAH SONNENBURG, February 2021
Will Day’s art is work of incredible scale. His paintings, which tower above their viewers, are monoliths of creative freedom projecting to the world Day’s belief in the sublime powers of color and form. Inspired by hope and beauty, burgeoned by his own personal struggles, Day is an artist whose eyes are fixed firmly on the horizon.
As a lover of mythology, particularly the work of Joseph Campbell, Day’s art often showcases a subliminal narrative of a hero’s journey. Be it in the rosey abstractions of “In the Woods,” or his aptly named piece “Slay Your Dragon,” Day champions the virtues of perseverance and tenacity in all of his work.
In the seventh grade, Day had a pivotal experience which indicated that he was a born creative spirit. In his school’s art class, one assignment asked students to develop a simple landscape. When Day sat down to begin, a universe of inventiveness opened before him.
“I felt like the world stopped,” Day recalls. “I created this colorful, balanced landscape that was soft, poetic, fun, joyful, timeless, which I still have in my studio to this day. And I remind myself about that emotion. I think that's what keeps me going.”
Life took a number of divergent turns for Day after that influential moment. Embarking on a career journey which took him on volunteer work in Tunisia as a member of the Peace Corps and later through the worlds of finance and architecture, Day’s working life has been marked more by change than consistency. Throughout it all, Day learned how to tackle change and instability, allowing it to unlock that creative spirit within him that first revealed itself to him at a young age.
For this reason, Day has always been well suited to attack the unknown, but when the pandemic came into full swing in March of 2020, he found himself at a loss.
“As I reflect,” Day says, “it was challenging because I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to paint. I didn't know what it meant to shut down and cancel everything.”
It was a moment which impacted the entire globe in comparable ways. With life upended, what laid ahead was uncertain—scary, even. Despite the immediate anxieties, Day was more prepared than most for something so chaotic—he had home court advantage. He had already lived through the Great Recession, when, after losing his job, he decided to pursue art full-time. After grappling with the new normals of a pandemic-riddled world, Day had an epiphany.
“This was a very interesting retrospective for the entire world to stop, to think, to reflect, to understand, to be kind, to learn from, and most importantly, to move away from fear and find the light in the darkness,” Day says. “I shut down emotionally for a couple months, but I came to the studio and I painted, and I didn't know what to paint. I wasn't doing commission work. I wasn't exhibiting work. So I said ‘This is our time to start over.’ I ripped everything off the walls of my studio. All the canvases came down and I wanted to start over like a rebirth.”
For the art historians in the audience, all of this might sound familiar. A devastating pandemic causes an overhaul of thinking, resulting in a tabula rasa of creative thinking? A rebirth? That’s exactly how Day views this. The coronavirus, beyond its devastation, offers itself as a doorway to a new, modern Renaissance. To him, the years of increasing spitefulness in public discourse—exacerbated largely by keyboard warriors brandishing insults of all kinds online—should be retired in favor of a future filled with kindness, beauty, and congeniality.
It’s not a Renaissance simply in only artistic terms. Having thought deeply about the hopeful precedent set in Europe and Asia in the 15th and 16th centuries, Day’s new Renaissance is a movement of mutual respect between all people.
“So once I start tapping into that new energy of hope,” Day says. “I found this place of joy again. And I thought that this is not the end of the world, but this is the end of bad practices, the end of bad thought, the end of negativity, the end of putting people down and the end of bullying and of all the negativity that's happened in the universe.”
This moment of new beginnings has been a prime motivator for Day’s most recent series of works called the Hope Series. Inspired by his belief in an optimistic future, this set of works is intended to help audiences uncover feelings of joy in a time of darkness, pushing them to move forward with great reverence for the past and an understanding of the gravity of our present circumstances.
Wherever Day’s creative urges take him from this point on, his work will always be focused on advancing the new Renaissance, motivating himself and those around him to be agents of change in a world accustomed to negativity. Bridging divides and celebrating individuality, Day envisions a beautiful future for us all.
“It's so amazing to be an artist in this time period,” Day says. “It's overwhelming and exciting, and we're just beginning because 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.”
For more, please visit Will Day’s website: www.willdayart.com
And follow on Instagram: @willdayart. WM
Noah Sonnenburg is a freelance writer based in Pasadena, CA. His work covers automobiles, film, fine art and entertainment.view all articles from this author