My influences are stained glass windows, graffiti…being intrigued with the movements of the lines, I have always loved color, I have always wanted to have something that represented my joy of color.

Paul Hartwig

Artist/Musician, Hartwig

We chatted with artist and musician Paul Hartwig, we discussed his paintings, influences, process for creation, recurring characters, graffiti art and what’s coming up for this local artist, including a new musical project.


Amy Gabay 00:00
This podcast is brought to you by People’s Food Co Op, a community owned grocery store in downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin and Rochester, Minnesota that promotes local farmers and producers through an emphasis on fresh, healthy, sustainable food. Anyone can shop, everyone is welcome. For more information visit them online at PFC.CoOp. We chatted with artist and musician Paul Hartwig. We discuss his paintings, influences, process for creation, recurring characters, graffiti art, and what’s coming up for this local artist and soon to be released album. You can find more conversations, food reviews, live music and events on our website I’m Amy.

Brent Hanifl 00:44
I’m Brent.

Amy Gabay 00:45
And this is La Crosse Local.

Paul Hartwig 01:09
My name is Paul John Hartwig. I was born in La Crosse at St. Francis Hospital. And I’ve always been into art ever since I was a little kid. I went to Viterbo College for basically the Visual Arts Painting, primarily graduated with a Bachelors of Arts degree there. And then I went to TC for an Associate Degree in Commercial Art.

Brent Hanifl 01:39
You know, looking at your work over the last couple years, and I’ve seen in a different areas everywhere from you know, coffee shops to cafes, what are some of your influences, you know, are there painters or music or anything? Otherwise, what kind of influences?

Paul Hartwig 01:52
Oh just all across the board. I mean, I really do play a lot of music when I’m painting, or I’m watching a documentary, you know. But usually the paintings, my influences are, I would say a stained glass windows, graffiti that’s, you know, just out and about, you know, just walking downtown, taking pictures of the graffiti, being intrigued with the movement of the lines of the graffiti, you know. More or less, you know, basically, I’ve just always loved color. So I’ve always wanted to have something that represented my joy of color. And basically, I get influences from everything from rock music, to pop music, to just punk, you know, the energy, basically, that it gives me to basically just project my own ideas and cartoons, you know?

Brent Hanifl 02:47
Yeah, I mean, just kind of checking out your work. This little bit that I’ve known about you, you know, I definitely see that like 1980s New York graffiti sort of style, but almost more portraiture, you know, to it, as well. So kind of like characters, when you create these pieces, do you work fast? Or is it something that you kind of have a series of them, that takes some time?

Paul Hartwig 03:08
Um, I do work fast. I mean, initially, the start of the, any painting I do is always fast. That’s when I’m getting the bones put down, you know, the skeletal structure, and then the thing slows down. Once I get to the point where I’m filling in the details, like all those cross marks, and patterns, that slows the process down. But the first part of the process is fast, I just tweak it down to where I’m doing more detailed things the slower I get at it, but usually, it’s a quick start to begin. And I don’t really necessarily have any preconceived notions about what I want to do. I might have a loose idea of my head, but I kind of let it just happen. And then I go from there.

Brent Hanifl 04:00
Like you said, so your ideas just kind of come freeform? Do you have like, you know, again, kind of like the faces, you know, some of them are a little bit more abstract than others. Do you have recurring characters or anything like that? Or is it just-

Paul Hartwig 04:13
There might be some shapes or recurring mouth shapes or teeth or eyes, recurring in the sense that I like that feel of a swivel. I might like a gesture or something that I put into a painting that I might want to repeat and explore a little bit more. Sometimes the paintings will give you a suggestion when you’re not really thinking about it and then all sudden you see this and you’re like saying, oh, I like that. I want to do a little bit more of that shape. But explore it a little bit more in the next painting.

Brent Hanifl 04:50
Checking out your page at, I definitely see that sort of stained glass component that you mentioned, you know, and it is definitely full. Do you consider yourself a graffiti artist or just like a painter in some sense?

Paul Hartwig 05:05
I don’t consider myself a graffiti artist, because I’m doing it for the joy of just doing the work. And I just don’t consider myself to be one thing or another, I would rather have the viewer get enjoyment out of making their own stories out of the works. I would just rather have you develop something for yourself as to what you think it’s like, yeah, you know, it’s like clouds. If you’re looking up in the clouds, and you’re seeing all shapes, you know. Just yeah, I want to give a little bit of direction, but I want the viewer to basically just play with it and experiment with ideas that they have

Brent Hanifl 05:46
Got to tell your own story sort of vibes to it, right? I’m sure it’s been, you know, as a painter, as an artist here locally, it’s probably been difficult, you know, over the past 18 months, pretty much for everybody related to COVID.

Paul Hartwig 05:58

Brent Hanifl 05:58
Was there a process or time during that, that maybe gave you some time to work a little bit more? Or was it basically a bummer?

Paul Hartwig 06:06
Well, it was kind of a bummer when it first started, but I got, I’m kind of a recluse in a way. It’s like, I do my work in the morning for the job that I do. And then as soon as I’m done with that job, then I’d just come home, and just paint or sketch, or whatever I feel like doing. So I mean, I basically, kind of, I’ll go out there and do the socializing, but I really am someone that likes to just keep themselves, you know.

Brent Hanifl 06:37
So what are you excited for? You know, over the next year or two, is there anything coming up that you have you know?

Paul Hartwig 06:43
Um, I do have an album coming out May 6th. We’re still working on it. I have a friend that’s over in Europe. He has been a musician for a long time. I just kind of like tinkered with some ideas that I had. And I sent him some music files, and he really got into it. So we wound up making an album.

Brent Hanifl 07:06
What’s that called?

Paul Hartwig 07:07
It’s going to be called Fire Boot Factory.

Brent Hanifl 07:13

Paul Hartwig 07:13
Yeah. And the band is named Hartwig Skellington and it will be out on all the streaming music platforms.

Brent Hanifl 07:23
So do you have pieces of it that you can blast and just paint now? Or is it that far along yet or no?

Paul Hartwig 07:29
They’re still working out some of the kinks on it. We had a little bit of a stop on it for a little bit because there was something that was wrong with the music itself. It sounded tinny, is what I was told from my friend and he said he was not so happy with the sound. So we put it back into the works and trying to get it to sound like it should sound.

Brent Hanifl 07:52
If people want to pick up your work, what’s the best place for them to go to or even find out more?

Paul Hartwig 07:57
Right now it’s that gallery. I mean, I don’t have any website, per se. I just have Facebook.

Brent Hanifl 08:04
So basically people can head down to a City Gallery in downtown La Crosse. Pick up your work. Is there multiple different sizes? Small ones, large ones?

Paul Hartwig 08:13
Oh, yeah, there’s various sizes, various prices.

Amy Gabay 08:21
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