Written by Elise Olmstead

Gavin and Mike of Hanzo Art

Could you imagine traveling with a person, sharing a bed with that person, working with that person every day on the same project?  Mike Hancock and Gavin Gonzo Gerundo do just that, sharing almost every minute of the day with each other and co-creating together.  Most couples could not stand to be in such close quarters for this long, but Mike and Gavin share the closes of quarters every day – a canvas.  It takes a really special pair to not only be able to share this much time together but also something as intimate as creating art together.  The artists are very talented by themselves- but when they collaborate on the same painting, magic happens.  The magic for Gavin and Mike was obvious to them from the very start and they have been thriving ever since, ever challenging themselves on their deeper depths themed artworks, having gallery shows, going on live painting tours, an taking part in festival galleries.  I talked to both them to gain insight into their captivating life and art.

Elise: First, tell me the basics about yourselves. What are your names and where are you from?   My name is Mike Hancock and I am from Chicago, IL.
My name’s Gavin Gonzo Gerundo, and I’m originally from Cincinnati, OH.

We have interviewed Gavin before, but not Mike, so let’s give Mike some attention for a minute!  Mike, where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?  When did you start creating and when did you know that you wanted to be an artist? I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago in a town called Western Springs. I spent a lot of time outside with friends and did a lot of traveling with my family.  I started creating art when I was about 6 years old.  I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember.  I remember in second grade our teacher asking us what we wanted to be, and I knew I wanted to be an artist.  I’ve had very supportive parents that have nurtured my passion throughout my life.

Mike, who were your influences and inspirations as your passion for art grew? When I was in junior high, I remember being very inspired by some of the people that were in the grades above me.  Once I entered college, I started being inspired by some of the other live painters who have been jamming in the scene for a while now like Morgan Mandala, Randal Roberts, and Autumn Skye Morrison.  In college, I had some amazing painting professors that also influenced me in a huge way.

Beautiful by Hanzo Art

What subject and medium are you most passionate about?  I am most passionate about acrylic painting.  In college, I explored almost all mediums; they’re all amazing, but once I picked up a brush and started going, I was hooked.  For subjects in my personal work, I am very inspired by art styles from around the world and folklore.

Ok – now back to Hanzo.  How did you two meet?  When did you start feeling some romantic chemistry between each other?  What came first, working together in art or dating romantically? We originally met at the Werk Out festival during the building of the archway. Our friend Vince Dibiaso was our mutual friend who thought we’d get along and sure enough we did, maybe better than he expected. Our connection was pretty immediate after getting to know each other that weekend, and it became a sort of long distance festival romance. After collabing and hanging out a few times, we painted our breakthrough piece “No Brainer” and from there knew we had to make our relationship come to fruition. As far as timing, we were working together and dating from the beginning, sharing our passion for art and collaboration.

No Brainer by Hanzo Art

When did you first paint together?  Tell me about that experience? What was the first painting that you did together from start to finish? Our first experience painting together was creating the Scorpio painting of the “GonZodiac” series, “Scorpion Rain” which we started at Hyperion and later finished at Resonance in 2016. The experience of collaboration was at first relatively cut and dry due to our contrasting styles and approaches to art but we were pretty quickly and seamlessly able to smush our styles together in a fun way.

Scorpion Rain by Hanzo Art


Where did you get the idea for the “Deeper Depths” theme and the subject of sea creatures?  The idea for the DD series arose after/during the creation of our painting “No Brainer” which was an abstract painting at first that began to look like a jellyfish. Upon exploring this piece and the swooshy ethereal nature of oceanic life, we talked about how interesting the ocean is and how varied the life forms can be. It’s the perfect blend of reality and surreality for us.

How is that theme evolving over time?  Especially with the ocean being a place that is so close and so unexplored by mankind, it has held our interest for a very long time and continues to do so. We started with some of our favorite or most interesting creatures but have swayed in curious directions from the obvious whale, dolphin, coral direction. We’ve done pieces with humans underwater, abstractions of ocean life, and all sorts of themes riding around the central idea of the oceanic cosmos

What is your favorite piece to date that you’ve created together? Our favorite piece that we’ve created together is “Grace.” This piece was created over the winter of 2017-18 through many travels and countless studio hours. The process was at times strenuous and tedious through the 140+ hours it took to complete, but the final result resonates so much with us visually and conceptually through the idea of the subject of the painting, the pearl, created from dirt under pressure over time.

Grace by Hanzo Art

Tell me a little bit about the tour you did.  What bands did you tour with?  What was your favorite band to paint live to?  What was one of your favorite moments of the tour?  We’ve done a number of tours together as Hanzo in the time since we coined “Hanzo” in 2017. We started with a nationwide tour with Papadosio, one of our favorite bands. This tour took us across the country to the south, west coast, Colorado, and everywhere in between. We like doing a lot of events with them because they’re great as people and musicians and their crowd is hugely receptive to and supportive of visual arts. We’ve also had the pleasure of tour with musicians like Random Rab, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Aqueous and a few others in the last year of touring. One of our favorite memories from touring is a particularly late night with the Papadosio boys sitting around a grand piano doing singalongs and silly songs.

What is it like traveling together and painting together — basically always being together??  What are some things you love about it and hate about it?   It’s been a trial by fire for us in the sense that we started dating and then immediately went on tour for two months. In that way, we’ve gone through a lot and learned so much about each other in what could be seen as a relatively short amount of time. Though like any relationship there are hurdles to overcome, we’ve been able to flourish together and really grow as partners in a way neither of us have experienced. We love the whole adventure of it all and the ability to experience life together. The closest thing to “hate” (strong word) is remembering that because we share most of our time, it’s important to not take things personally sometimes, as we all have our ups and downs emotionally.

Gavin – What is it that inspires you most about Mike?   What inspires me most about Mike is his ability to live in the moment and be free to experience things as they unfold and not freak out about the little things. I have a tendency to overthink, overplan, and get all caught up in my head while MIke is able to open himself up to the experience with a “come what may” attitude. I think this creates a nice balance for us as a couple and allows me to relax a little bit more and allow the experience to unfold rather than trying to control all the elements of every situation.

Hippie Trap by Hanzo Art

Gavin – What is it that inspires you most about Mike?  What inspires me most about Mike is his ability to live in the moment and be free to experience things as they unfold and not freak out about the little things. I have a tendency to overthink, overplan, and get all caught up in my head while MIke is able to open himself up to the experience with a “come what may” attitude. I think this creates a nice balance for us as a couple and allows me to relax a little bit more and allow the experience to unfold rather than trying to control all the elements of every situation.

Mike – What is it that inspires you most about Gavin?  The first thing that inspired me about Gavin was his passion for life; he loves to celebrate and have fun in everything he does.  He brings out the light in me, and everyone else that knows him. He does this in his personality and in his style of art.  His use of bright colors and intense contrasts fills me and others that view his work with excitement. The first time I saw him he was wearing red suspenders, cut off jean shorts, cowboy boots and a Gonzo painted cowboy hat. I fell in love immediately, and every day, he finds a way to fill me with excitement.

What are some things that you would like to do together that you haven’t yet, pertaining to your art career?  What is something that you would like to do together, not pertaining to your art career?  We’d love to start traveling internationally doing live painting and gallery showcases at places like Envision, Rainbow Serpent, and Shambala. We’ve also started dabbling in sharing our skills through workshops and would love to start sharing our knowledge in the way that we’ve learned from some of our own mentoring artists. In addition, we both want to get better at painting and chase the dragon of mastering the craft. Aside from art related things, we both have huge desires to travel more and see the world from the jungles to the urban cores of the world. We’re looking forward to growing together and experiencing all that we can in this world and lifetime. The world is a rabbit hole with endless possibilities to explore, both artistically and through the human experience and we intend to do some ‘sploring!

Mobius Dick by Hanzo Art

There aren’t many couples that are both visual artists, but I am fascinated by those that do exist.  Some notable artist couples are Alex and Alison Grey, Mark Ryden and Marion Peck, and within our little artist circle, Julie Young and Johnny Stinson!  Why do you think that these artist couples are so rare?  What do you think is good about two artists being together? What do you think is not so good?  How do you make it work?  I think it’s a rare thing to have couples as artists because artist can tend to be pretty extreme people, and creating art is the most profound thing each person does with their time and life. It really does take a lot of communication and work to create shared visions in a successful way. It takes a death of the ego as an artist and pushing together towards a shared creation that is beyond either individual artist. What’s really awesome is the ever present introduction of new ideas, or things you wouldn’t have thought of. This can create a really fun call and response pattern. Collabing also teaches you a lot about being in a partnership off the canvas as well. There is always compromise and this makes collaborating a wise teacher for us. Sometimes it’s hard for us to create for whatever reason or we’re working through something that can hinder our practice but as we work through our relationship’s hurdles, we also jump hurdles as collaborating artists. All in all, the biggest things that make it work for us are communication, compromise, trust, and remembering that what we’re doing is pretty damn fun.

Bobby Marlin by Hanzo Art

What is something in the near future that you are excited about? What is something in the more distant future that you are excited for?  We’re looking forward to relocating down to Asheville, NC this winter to become a part of the wonderful music and art scene down there! We have a solo show coming up in Cincinnati on November 30th that’s gonna be bonkers. We’ve started working with Grassroots and look forward to making some cool stuff happen with them. We’ve been working with Gordie Morton of Geographic Designs/Gallery Society on pumping out a nice collection of pins. We’ve got a fun new apparel line coming out in collaboration with Infinite Bit. Also looking forward to lining up next year for Hanzo after we get settled in NC and enjoying a fabulous fall and winter of indoor shows!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Somewhere warm, by the ocean. Puppos, cats, goats running around. A nice little farm to grow some snacks. Ocean view studio with all the paints. Something simple and profound, less stuff, more experience, more creation.