How did you get started doing what you do?
I majored in graphic arts in college. I dropped out after 2 years and my first job was drawing ejection seats for a defense contractor. I worked at different scientific firms doing technical illustration, typography, color proofing and layout as well as some catalog design work in NYC and label design in San Francisco. It was production work, not very creative. I wanted to do something different and started working at a neon sign shop. I had gone from working in 2D to 3D. Just for fun around the holidays I started making bomb Christmas ornaments. While making these ornaments my wife Allie was diagnosed with cancer. As a distraction, we came up with themes for bombs and mounted them in boxes. We’d sit and talk about a tiki bomb, a Hello Kitty bomb, or “Everyone hates clowns…why not bomb them!” -the list went on and on. It became something to focus on that took our minds away from the stress and strain of difficult circumstances. That’s how the “Bombardment” series started. After her treatment I kept producing. Pretty soon we were running out of wall space.
How would you describe your creative style?
Colorful and oddly optimistic considering the bleak topics. Someone mentioned that these projects have an old time toy quality, Maybe it’s the bright shiny colors and simple shapes. We started referring to the style as “Playskool Apocalypse” -after the bright primary colored toys that are made by Hasbro mashed up with darker themes.
What’s your inspiration?
My dad was a Nuclear Physicist in the weapons industry and was a member of the Sierra Club, so I had many opposing influences growing up. I was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and I was exposed to a lot of psychedelic art. The art on record album covers were always something to look forward to when bands like Yes, Grateful Dead or The Rolling Stones had a new release hit the shelves. As a kid I loved Peter Max and colorful pop art, as well as underground artists Rick Griffen, R. Crumb, Stanley Mouse, Alton Kelley, and Gilbert Shelton.
How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
Smaller projects take about a week and larger ones can take 3 weeks or longer, it depends on the complexity of the piece. I usually have several pieces going at once.
How do you keep motivated?
When I don’t produce it doesn’t stop the ideas from coming- they keep coming; after a while I just can’t take it and I’m back to making things. It’s kind of like an affliction. I also have different series that I have going on to keep things varied and interesting.
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
I deal with topics about war, violence, environmental degradation, corporate influence, overpopulation, contamination of our air/water/food supply and other problems that exist. I try to package these subjects in a way that is light-hearted and cartoonish. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s when there were big strides in human rights, mending race relations, women’s rights, and environmental awareness. The anti-war movement was happening and many people were optimistic about the future. I’m afraid our daily diet of 24 hour news has made many people numb and pessimistic to the real problems we’re facing that can and need to be changed.
What do you want others to take away from your work?
I try to reflect the conflict, strife and social issues we face daily, but in an approachable, friendly way. Now, more than ever, we need to change how we conduct ourselves, treat the environment, and try to move toward a better sustainable future. I don’t know if people see this in what I make, but whatever the viewer’s interpretation, I always hope they will enjoy it.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Sometimes I think of this quote from artist Chuck Close when I’m staring blankly into space having a hard time getting motivated: “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightening to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.” So, get to it!
Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
You have to keep plugging along, the more you do your art, the better it gets. It takes time to polish skills and find your own unique, distinctive style. Artists that have their own identifiable, easily recognizable style stand out from rest. Also, if you’re going to approach a gallery, do some research to see that your art will fit in with the work they show.
What are your thoughts on art school?
I didn’t take any fine arts classes, but having access to instructors, equipment, classes, resources and the support of your peers would be a huge asset. Exploring different mediums, developing your technique and talking about art with others can only help you in your pursuit. I would imagine it could inspire and motivate anyone. The connections you’d make could also be beneficial to your career.
Have any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
I would love to make large pieces, maybe do a public art piece. I have ideas for collaborations with other artists. I also would like to show my work more.
What art supplies do you use?
Wood, masonite, table saw, glue, lots of primer, sandpaper, spray paint and brushable enamel.
What’s your process like?
I usually jot a few words down on scraps of paper, a sketch follows at some point. It helps me to speak with people about whichever topic I’ve chosen to get a different perspective. Dimensions are decided then it’s time to make sawdust, wood gets cut, primered and sanded. I shoot the final colors then do the detail painting. Then it’s time to put the whole thing together and prep the exterior if it’s a “boxed” item, then shoot and detail the outer surfaces.
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