How did you get started doing what you do?
Well, I was a graphic designer for a long while and I always wanted to paint, I would procrastinate about this all the time. The times when I did try to paint, I didn’t stick with it for too long, I’d get frustrated and the work was not very good. Then my wife and I moved to an apartment in Hoboken- a duplex with a backyard and a koi pond. I love koi and I started to take pictures of them. Well one month in, 9/11 happens and we were right across the Hudson River from it, we had ringside seats. This totally flipped my wig. So I started to do paintings of the koi fish as a way to get my mind off of seeing that and all the baggage that went with it. It made me think that life is fragile and if I wanted to give painting a go I’d better start cracking.
How would you describe your creative style?
Some of the words that I would use to define my work would be naturalistic, atmospheric, ethereal and realistic. I would not exactly define my work as full blown realism, I don’t go all the way on the details, life is too short.
What does your typical day look like?
My cat wakes me up at 6:15 to get fed, then I get some coffee and try to get an hour of painting in. Then I go to my job (two trains) as a digital retoucher for an advertising agency in Manhattan, come back home, hang out with the family, then get another hour of painting in before I go to sleep.
How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
It takes a long time to finish a painting, like 3 months at 2 hours a day. I wish this wasn’t so, but I am getting a little faster. I always end up doing these compositions with a lot of details so that always slows things down. I have learned to be very patient with these things to get the desired effect.
How do you keep motivated?
That is a tough one, I realized a while back that painting everyday makes me less crazy! But the main thing it is that when I am painting I am in total control of one thing in this life, we live in uncertain times and painting is my anchor to cling to something. Also, I always need something to look forward to, so no matter how tough my day is I know that I can at least look forward to working on a painting and make it look better.
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
I just want people to get a kick out my paintings. I want them to like them and to talk about them. Maybe blow a mind or two. I want to create something that I will be proud of when I am older. Also, I want to leave some kind of legacy behind, some proof that I was here and I was alive.
How have others reacted to your work?
I have always gotten very positive reactions to my work, which I greatly appreciate. No one has ever come up to me and said “that sucks” or “meh” or anything like that, so I feel fortunate.
What do you want others to take away from your work?
I just want to take people to a pleasant place really. I just want to get people’s attention for a brief moment. Take them away from their technology, take them away from hearing about the war on terror, take them away from worrying about paying their health insurance for a moment. Give their brains a little pit stop.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
My grandfather used to always tell me “Don’t let them get your goat.” I think about that all the time.
Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
Be very careful who you share your dreams with. Keep them very close to the vest, guard them like pearls, there are a lot more people out there who will try to crush them than there are ones who will nurture them. Hmm, sorry if that sounds a bit Debby Downer, but in this way, if in the future things don’t go as planned for you, no one will know you came up short and you won’t have to ‘eat crow” as they say.
What’s your process like?
Well all my images start out from pictures I take on my iPhone which I then manipulate in Adobe Photoshop. The things that I look for in a painting before I choose to paint it are subject matter, and it has to have a strong composition. Also if I think that I can add some kind of emotional impact to the image by painting it then I am good to go. I run 2 exact-size color prints of the image, one print is to use as a reference the other is to use to trace the image to the canvas. I paint in the mornings and at night since I have a day job, so I begin and end each day by painting. I like to use acrylics because they dry fast which means I can rest the edge of my hand on the canvas for better support for my brushstrokes. With oils you have to do all that cleanup afterwards, and the turpentine, that isn’t for me. I use one of those butcher trays with a lid as a palette, just have a little water in there to mix, I use cheap brushes that I don’t bother cleaning just leave them in the tray with the water and the lid and I am good to go for the next day. I like to listen to a lot of music (headphones) when I paint (no music from this century!) to get in the groove and I drink a lot of coffee.