Rooted in the grit of Midwestern manufacturing and the chaotic independence of DIY artist culture, Bryan Kosciolek is a printmaker and painter creating out of Grand Rapids. Focused slightly more on the process than the product, Kosciolek’s spontaneous and playful attitude is highlighted throughout his entire collection of work, which expands across an impressive array of materials and mediums. Kosciolek is a part of the Dinderbeck Studios community of downtown Grand Rapids, but when he’s not there, you can find him screenprinting at CreateMyTee or collaborating with local organizations, such as the DAAC and Experience Live Art.
How has being in Grand Rapids helped you grow as an artist?
There’s just more art here. It’s easier to get to. I grew up in the suburbs about 40 minutes away from Detroit, so living 5 minutes away from downtown Grand Rapids is a little different — just how convenient it is to see art all the time, compared to living in the suburbs where every house looks the same.
You graduated from Kendall College, which is what brought you to Grand Rapids. What did you study?
I studied illustration. Toward the end of the program, I took more of an interest in printmaking because I enjoy the process of making artwork. It’s just a little more hands-on. Printmaking has more of a manufacturing history. The skills I learned as a printmaker allowed me to be a little more nostalgic about what my father and grandfather do, because they work with their hands, and so do I now, just in an adjacent way. I still have a manufacturer’s career path, but I’m connected to the arts.
What has been inspiring you recently?
The most inspiring moment that I’ve had recently was a mural that I did with Josh Solas. There was a sense of energy where it was like, ‘You don’t have time to hesitate, so don’t be self-conscious of anything that you’re working on right now. Just create something.’ That was the first time I felt like I was doing something legitimate. That was eight months ago. That was after I graduated college with an art degree.
Why did that inspire you?
It clicked because I was sharing energy with a fellow creative. I realized then that making artwork on my own is fun, but creating artwork with a community or with another individual is so much more genuine. Doing art for a community or with a community is what really matters to me.
What’s your creative process like?
I like to have a base iconography, and then I like to distort it. I really like Romantic portraiture, like Roman and Greek sculpture. I like that it represents a manufactured perfection of the human body, and then I like to distort it — whether it’s with color or through the process in which I create it.
Tell me about Dinderbeck, the art studio you’re a part of in Grand Rapids.
It’s wonderful. Basically, it is a group of artists who share a community space, and we are all print-based artists. I think the most interesting part of it is that we are all different ages. A few of our older artists are 35 and have children, and then we have someone who’s in their late 20s who is about to get married and just bought a house, and then there’s a young 22-year-old who just graduated college. And there’s me, who’s a goofball floating through life.
Left: Collaboration with Joshua Solas. Middle: Bryan Kosciolek. Right: Powertool print. COURTESY PHOTOS
What’s the studio environment like?
For people who have never worked in a print shop, you can compare it a little bit to working in a kitchen. It’s a lot of team-based work, where someone’s doing one half of a task and I’m immediately taking it and doing another half of it. It’s a similar environment — you’re making a beautiful product for somebody, to be consumed in a different way. We do weird, quirky stuff that we think would be silly just for the sake of making things, not because we’re like, ‘Oh, we’re going to make a ton of money off of this!’ One guy just got a tattoo gun, and he gave me a tattoo yesterday. That’s the kind of the environment — very silly, very spontaneous.
What advice do you have for younger artists?
Expose yourself to as many mediums as possible while you’re young. If you feel in yourself that you are creative and then you bottleneck yourself into just doing dog portraits and then you hate doing dog portraits in like four years but that’s all you can do, you’re going to be really upset with yourself. Do not hesitate to do as many pieces of art as possible, and do not let anyone tell you, ‘Oh, if you’re going to paint with oils, you can only paint with oils.’ Spray paint on your painting, and oil paint on it. Do as many weird things as humanly possible all the time.
See Kosciolek's work at bryankosciolek.com or on Instagram at bryan_kosciolek.