Tell us about your artwork, medium, style, subject matter, etc.
I work in two different mediums, acrylic paint and found objects. I switch back and forth between doing colorful mixed-media acrylic paintings and sculptural assemblages. When I feel blocked or uninspired in one medium, I switch to the other. This makes both of them fun and challenging.–I’m always psyched about eking out some studio time. I think I’m happiest when I start a new piece and I like the direction it’s going. I try to force myself to try new approaches – especially when painting. I feel like I have so much to learn.
I use a different approach to a piece depending on the medium. I don’t know why, but this is what seems to work. With the paintings, I don’t start with a particular idea of what the painting will be. I just start putting down interesting colors, shapes, and swathes of paint. This “background-first” style is something I learned in a class I took from Jesse Reno (Portland outsider artist). This approach takes away my inhibitions about painting and makes it really easy to start. It’s fun to look at an early painting and first see a glimpse of what it’s going to be. Sometimes this only happens when I flip the painting upside down or look at it through squinty eyes (or without my glasses on). I’m inspired by outsider artists such as Jesse Reno, Basquiat, Frances Bacon, Kinki Texas, James Castle, Melissa Monroe, and Fred Stonehouse.
With the assemblages, I often start with an idea first. Maybe this is because I’ve been doing assemblages longer, or maybe it’s about the medium itself. If I find a super cool, unusual thing, it’s often natural to just build up a box around it. On the other hand, sometimes I have an idea and I make the focal point character out of clay. Maybe it boils down to the fact that with assemblage, you don’t have to commit to an idea without getting a pretty good idea of the form it will take. It’s easy to rearrange physical objects, whereas re-painting over false starts is a little more discouraging.
What are your biggest challenges in creating art?
The first challenge is just finding the time. I sometimes ask myself if I should give up the day job and really pursue my art. I have thought about this, but have not been able to bring myself to do it. I’m not even sure it would be the right thing to do. Maybe my art is better because I treasure time I find to pursue it.
Another challenge for me is patience. This is especially true when painting. Any painter knows that you can really mess up good work if you don’t know when to step away for awhile. You have to let the paint dry, and for me, sometimes I just need to stop after doing something “right.” If I don’t, I will try to make that right thing better, and overdo it or ruin it. Also, sometimes a painting that is starting to bother me looks really cool when I come back to it the next day.
What is a day of working like in your studio/creative space? Do you have any rituals that help you get motivated or in “the zone”?
Assuming I have a whole day, I like to do a few things to get into a good space before I start – a quick workout, some chores, a little tidying, stuff like that. On a really good day in the studio, I will work on a piece in progress and start a new one. I like the balance of being in both phases at the same time. For me, starting a new piece is easier and more fun than finishing one, so it’s nice to mix it up. I will work through the morning, stopping for snacks and multiple coffee breaks. If I get stuck (sitting there just staring at something), I try to just leave the studio instead of fighting it for too long. Usually something breaks free when I come back later. A stupid TV break of Law & Order episodes or football is surprising effective at clearing out my head for a reset. I know, who would have thought …
When you are in need of inspiration are there particular things you read, listen to, look at or do to help find that idea or fuel your work?
I have some really good coffee-table books with glossies of my favorite artists. I have Basquiat, collections of Dada artist, books with vintage Japanese monster movie posters, instructional art books, and several collections of outsider art. I also have some great Pinterest boards and image collections that often inspire me. Sometimes, I just let my imagination wander before I fall asleep. It’s surprising to me how my mind will just flip through ideas and come up with images – it feels almost driven from outside of me.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I feel like I’m an open book. I like old scary movies and sci fi, like you would expect. I also collect odd old toys and books. I like Stephen King novels like The Stand, and I like estate sales. No surprises here …
What advice would you give others just beginning their creative career?
There are a lot of nuts-and-bolts things that you can read about in books – get your portfolio out there, create an online presence, get into a gallery, etc. I can’t compete with any of that advice. I think one thing that is important is to keep learning and growing. It sounds corny, but aspiring to always be better and to have that next breakthrough is what I believe results in great art. Another thing is be brave. I find that when I’m painting I get to a point where things are starting to come together, and I become hesitant because I don’t want to ruin it. Because I do abstract paintings, I don’t always know what my next move will be, and I can get frozen and locked down. I think it’s important to risk screwing things up to come up with an interesting move.