Artist Gregory L. Blackstock lives in Seattle. His new book, Blackstock’s Collections: The Drawings of an Artistic Savant (Princeton Architectural Press) contains over 100 vertical scrolls detailing various groups of things—trains, clowns, police dogs, ladies’ and men’s shoes. Blackstock has exhibited at Seattle’s Garde Rail Gallery and is a local celebrity of sorts—though he can play most instruments, he prefers the accordion and regularly performs outside around town. In 2001 he retired from his longtime pot-scrubbing job and devoted himself to art full-time. As Regina Hackett wrote in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer,
When these artists are good, they are very good, and they fit no category other than their own. Blackstock, 58 and autistic, is one. Personally, I heartily dislike the notion that autism gives him a leg up or a taproot to sink in the art version of a collective unconscious. If he weren’t afflicted in this way, I think he’d be an artist anyway, a different kind of artist, one whose focus is not so intensely methodical, but an artist, no doubt. Let’s give Blackstock the credit for his accomplishment, not the neurons misfiring in his brain. His drawings are wonderful.
All artwork appears courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press and the Garde Rail Gallery. The following conversation was conducted recently over the phone.
The Morning News: Gregory, this book is an enormous undertaking. When you’re working on new art, how do you choose what subject you’ll draw next?
Gregory L. Blackstock: My own head. My easiest drawing, sir, I drew eight different axes which I discovered from the old Webster dictionary. There are also the knives; two days ago at the Excalibur Cutlery in the Northgate mall right near my house…I still got a ways to go on those knives. Might get up to 80 or 100 them.
TMN: But is there something about the axes or knives that you’re attracted to, that’s calling you?
GB: Many years ago I discovered quite a few at the Washington Athletic Club where I used to work, and in the Webster’s New International Dictionary, and as well certain swap shops, and more likely the Excalibur Cutlery at the Northgate mall.
TMN: I saw in the book that you’ve got lots of pictures of famous Hollywood actors around your house. Have you ever considered drawing them?
GB: What? No way! Forget it! No way—it would be too hard!
TMN: I heard that you play your accordion a lot around Seattle—is it a good city for performing outdoors?
GB: Oh yeah, I always do. I had a real good time last Saturday at the pre-game for the Seattle Mariners. But when I go to the football games, I know it’s not safe for me during the post-game period. It’s just too wild and too rowdy. They make me just furious and just frustrated when they bang on my accordion keyboard and manhandle my accordion, those scoundrels. I’ll tell you sir, I know what to do with those scoundrels!
TMN: Would you ever take your accordion over to Europe to play?
GB: Nah, forget it! No way! I’ve seen more than enough of ‘em in North America.