Five Questions with Gilles Combet: Artist and Creativity Explored Instructor

Artist, Teacher, and In/Visible Talks speaker Gilles Combet finds creative inspiration in common objects, urban walks, and good conversations.

Posted 09.12.18 invisibletalks

Gilles Combet is a modern-day renaissance man. After studying at Paris’s École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, Gilles learned the trade of roof carpentry, lived in the Sahara with a family of Touareg nomads, danced professionally for 10 years, returned to the world of fine arts, taught high school students with special needs, earned a degree in multimedia and web design, and worked as a graphic designer.

These days Gilles channels all of his skills and experiences into his work as a fine artist and teacher. He works at Creativity Explored in San Francisco, an art center for artists with developmental disabilities. Founded in 1983, Creativity Explored is a nonprofit that provides its artists the power to change lives through the creating, sharing, and selling of their work. More than 15,000 people visit the gallery and studio annually, and locals have consistently proclaimed Creativity Explored as the “Best Art Gallery in the Bay Area.” (Learn more in our earlier posts “In/Visible Talks Founders Announce Exciting Partnership with Creativity Explored”, and “For San Francisco Design Week, Panelists From In/Visible Talks and Creativity Explored Discuss ‘Unexpected Inspiration’”.)

Gilles will be joining us at the In/Visible Talks 2019 in January, leading one of the Lunch+Learn groups.

What is your relationship to the creative process?

“Instinct. There is a sense of not having a choice. I’ve got to keep doing things. I’m interested in what objects can reveal to me and what environments can tell me, things that are not obvious. I find different ways to experience common objects and mundane situations. There is a sense that there is always something to learn, there is meaning behind objects.”

How or where to you find inspiration?

“By sharpening my senses and keeping my eyes open. By taking urban walks and getting lost in nature. Sometimes just in a good conversation.”

What was one of your biggest creative challenges?

“It is difficult to stay with just one conversation or idea. My mind is always rushing around and finding new things. Because of this, it is difficult to pitch my work.”

When did you first realize you needed to be in a creative field?

“Right away. Every time I get away from creativity, it catches up with me.”

Who are some of your heroes and why?

“Jackson Pollock, the author John Berger, and Marcel Duchamp because he was able to do something so simple and yet powerful. He changed the world of artmaking.”

BONUS ROUND: What is your favorite digital or nondigital tool?

“My hands.”