Tell us about your artwork, medium, style, subject matter, etc.
I’m curious about that spark of recognition we feel when there’s some truth we connect to in art. Sometimes I start with a photo or a thing and I learn about it as I go; sometimes I start with a concept and figure out how to find it in the world. Either way, I look for meaning and I aim to make it honest. In the past I did a bit of editorial cartooning, and occasionally return to that practice of creating art as commentary.
Most of my recent work are acrylic paintings, inks, or charcoal illustrations of people or things. I tend toward a representational style with a bit of freedom in the details – my paintings often look like photos from a distance, but get up close and you’ll see unexpected colors in the messy abstractions contrasted with pointillism and hatching.
What are your biggest challenges in creating art?
I’m challenged by the feeling that I ought to specialize. I like to to work in many different styles, and will bounce from one to another for variety’s sake. It means my whole body of work is a bit harder to categorize. The most useful broad-stroke categories I’ve found are “fine art” vs “illustration” vs “opinion/editorial”.
My biggest challenge used to be finding the time for it. I made the choice two years ago to switch from a full-time user experience design to freelancing through contracts & consulting. The natural ebbs and flows of that style of work have made a tremendous impact in my ability to actually get art done. I love designing too, though, and I’ve felt the most productive when I can alternate between the two. They’re two different modes of problem-solving.
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”?
Having a persistent working space lets me glance at paintings in progress when I’m not in the painting mindset. That’s usually how I start a painting session. It’s easy to get overwhelmed visually and stop being able to see a work in the same way. This way, I immediately see what’s not working or needs attention first.
I usually work on ink and charcoal illustrations on the couch instead. Sitting cross-legged just seems to work better for doing that kind of detail work.
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?
The ideas always start simple, hinged on one thing (and a quick sketch) – it’s fleshing out those ideas that takes time. My ideas usually start with a compelling photo, or a thing I want in the painting/illustration and then imagining the environment it’s in. I’m always keeping an eye out for frames that evoke a particular feeling too, and will let my subconscious puzzle through what belongs in it.
Music is always crucial. I’ll usually listen to whatever I’m in the mood for, but if I’m getting stuck on a painting I’ll switch to music that evokes the feeling or timeframe I’m aiming for. Sometimes this happens for the time of day, too. I’ve waited until nighttime to paint night paintings, and vice versa.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I was the lead designer of multiple versions of Adobe Photoshop (CS2-CS4) and Adobe Illustrator (10, CS, CS4). I’ve used them for both art and design…and for designing the designs of themselves, in an oddly self-referential twist. The sheer variety of what people do with pixels and vectors is breathtaking, especially beyond the arts. I could talk all day about that.
I also have a computer science degree and enjoy finding the occasional reason to sneak those concepts into my art.
What advice would you give others just beginning their creative careers?
Doing something is more important than picking something to do. In both art and design, it’s easy to get into “analysis paralysis”. There’s so much out there, and no matter what you pick you’ll find articles out there telling you what other thing you ought to be doing. Don’t waste your time on this flavor of FOMO when you could just do something.
Doing something is what matters because you will have done a thing, and the act of doing it is how you learn if you like it. You’ll learn about yourself, you’ll hopefully end up with something you want to show off, and even if you don’t, you’ll have a story about it.
Besides, you will undoubtedly be working on something different next.