Tell us about your artwork, medium, style, subject matter, etc.
I work mainly in oils, with occasional bouts of diorama and installation. I see my work as sort of a parallel world, where bits and pieces of this one recombine into scenes that are both familiar and strange. My work combines still life, landscape and figure painting into these surreal narrative vignettes. I pull my subject matter from my neighborhood walks and my hikes, from found objects and from the people around me. I work from life and from my own photo references and imagination. Some of my favorite themes are contrast, tension, negative space, depth and atmosphere. Stylistically I prefer to work alla prima (wet into wet, done all in one sitting when possible) using mostly flat brushes for deliberate mark making and brushy strokes that show the process and the beauty of the medium. My color palette has evolved over the years, to embrace a range from olives and earth tones to soft pastels and bits of brilliant color. I’m currently very into periwinkle blues and hot pinks. I strive to maintain a balance between warm and cool within my compositions. I enjoy finding new shapes and color combinations to create dynamic compositions.
What are your biggest challenges in creating art?
Time! If I could stop time and just paint pictures, I don’t know if I would ever start it back up again. But bills must be paid and I really can’t complain about the other work that I do outside of my oil work, as I get to paint and sculpt and create through that as well. (Commercial work has a way of giving me new skills and opportunities to work on larger scale projects than I would be able to finance myself. And it all makes its way back into my own paintings eventually.
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”?
I like to drink tea in the mornings and beers the rest of the time. I light incense and listen to a lot of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Before I begin, I set out all of the colors I plan to use on my palette and I may pre mix a few of the colors I want to use with my palette knife. I spend around 30 minutes or so just setting up my palette, but it is time well spent. I usually begin with either a few photo references, an object set up on my studio table and lit, or a thumbnail sketch of the idea I have in mind. Once in awhile I work en plien aire, in which case, I start by finding a scene outside to look at. Lately I like to work on a middle gray toned ground. I work directly in paint, blocking in dark shapes to mid tones to light, while also changing color temperatures to create depth as well as interest in the forms. Every mark counts. I like to create contrast with thick and thin areas of paint. I leave some parts of a piece rough to show process and brushwork while creating focus by working in high detail in key areas. Painting is a lot like sculpting if you think about it in terms of light and shadow.
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 a large collection of art books (currently on loan at Local Color in San Jose if you would like to browse) that I look through when I’m feeling uninspired. I go for a hike or a walk around my neighborhood and just look at things and see what attracts my eyes. I read about random things that I find interesting from bugs to constellations to history and myths and fairy tales. Talking to an artist friend, or working on a collaboration with them is also really helpful. So is working in a different medium. Sometimes, I just need a break from paint, I feel like I can’t get anything to work and then I pick up some clay or yarn and everything’s groovy!
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I’m painfully shy even though people usually find me friendly when they meet me. I did children’s theatre growing up and had no problem at all being onstage in over 30 musicals. Go figure!
What advice would you give others just beginning their creative careers?
Get set for the long haul. It takes a long time to develop your skills and your voice and these are things that will continue to evolve throughout your career (if you’re doing it right). Give yourself room to experiment and room to fail. You do not have to share every piece. In fact, you shouldn’t. Learn to edit yourself. This means that you have to make a lot of work. You should never see a piece as a failure because it is all building miles on your paintbrush (or pencil or chisel or whatever) Ask yourself questions. Think about what makes your most successful pieces work and what makes the ones you are unhappy with not work. Look at art! Lots of it, things that are similar to your work, and things that are a million miles away from it.