Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient: Greg Gandy


Photo courtesy of AAU Publications.

When looking at the cityscapes of professional artist Greg Gandy, the smell of mid-afternoon city air fills the room as the warmth of the sun starts to rise and the streets of San Francisco become illuminated. This is the way Gandy’s viewers, instructors and students talk about the realism of his work and his incredible talent. 

“All of my work, whether it’s cityscape, landscape or still life, everything I paint is really close and personal to me,” Gandy said. “I paint San Francisco because I’ve lived here for over 13 years and have watched it change so much.”

It’s been a decade since Gandy graduated with an M.F.A. from the Academy of Art University, but he hasn’t stayed away for long. In 2014, Gandy began instructing part time as a cityscape and still life instructor at the Academy to give back to a university that gave so much to him. 

But it was Gandy’s time as an Academy student that earned him the Distinguished Alumni Award at this year’s Spring 2017 Commencement ceremony on May 10 at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. 

From the sun setting in the Tenderloin, to the morning sun cascading over Tank Hill, Gandy’s, incredibly intricate oil paintings of San Francisco shined across the projection screen at the ceremony as a recording of his voice was heard. 

“If you want to be great, you have to put in the work,” said Gandy in the video. “You have to make it a lifestyle, not just for fun or on the weekends, but the way you live your life.”

Now 36, Gandy does just that. He lives every day to paint, to perfect his craft and be what he calls a “documentarian” of the world around him. From the Principal Gallery in South Carolina, Gallery 1261 in Colorado or The John Pence Gallery in San Francisco, Gandy’s work is displayed throughout the country, a testament he says to being a student at the Academy. 

Although he always had a passion for art, Gandy was initially hesitant to dedicate his life to the industry, afraid a viable career wasn’t possible. That was before being influenced by seeing the success of his Academy instructors who are also professional artists. 

Once he decided to dedicate his life to art, as Gandy put it, “I went head first into the art world.”

It was those instructors, including Dean Larson, a fine art - painting instructor, who mentored Gandy during this time.  

Larson spoke very highly of Gandy, who was a student in the instructor’s cityscape, landscape and directed study courses. Clearly in awe of Gandy’s work, Larson spoke excitedly about the young artist’s dedication, willingness to take on challenges and the overall stunning effects of his work.

“He is the kind of student every teacher wants,” Larson said. “His work was outstanding. It was head and shoulder above a lot of the other work.”


Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Greg Gandy and Dr. Elisa Stephens. Photo by Bob Toy.

Both sharing a love for cityscape, Larson elaborated on Gandy’s perseverance in choosing complicated and highly detailed subjects and taking his paintings to the next level. “The detail in the capture of his paintings is something that is almost never seen. He was able to zero in on certain cityscapes that were extremely detailed and difficult to capture and he would just nail it.” 

The two artists remain friends and keep in touch often. They now talk co-worker to co-worker. For Gandy, becoming an instructor was as he put it, “a breath of fresh air” while being “humbling and motivating.” 

One of Gandy’s students Isabel Emrich, who graduated in 2016 with her B.F.A., said he inspired her. She was inspired watching Gandy paint in class or when hearing his advice when constantly seeking his critiques. 

It was not only the amount of time Gandy dedicated to each of his students, but his welcoming nature and ability to understand a student’s strengths and weaknesses.

“He was an amazing teacher,” Emrich said. “Every time I would ask for his critique, I would be so happy and motivated afterwards to continue painting. He gave me such great perspective and energy and excitement for painting and improving my work.”

Gandy’s ability to inspire other artists comes from his deep love for painting, something that is a lifestyle, a passion, and something he believes is incredibly important. 

“I think it’s just as important to dedicate life to painting something and capturing the way the light falls on an object as it is to be a lawyer or any other job.”