How did you get started doing what you do?
I think I was around five years old when I learned that I could make artwork for a living. I declared that I would be an artist and stuck to it. In my teens, I was swayed by comic art and illustration but gravitated toward fine art just before I entered college. I attended Kendall College of Art and Design’s painting program. My work has always had a slight illustrative quality. At the end of college, I was making very graphic, clean, black-lined portraits utilizing space and design. A few years after school I started messing around with cut paper and layering. From time to time I paint in gouache, but I predominantly draw and cut paper these days.
What’s your inspiration?
I’m finding that most of my inspiration comes from what’s happening around me or to me. For several years, I considered myself strictly a portrait artist, but in the past few years, I’ve been stepping away from the figure. A few years ago my sister was battling for her life in regards to health issues. It wasn’t until then that I really started thinking about death in a different way, a more palpable way. My work since then has been a bit more balls to the wall: I’m stripping away a lot of fear I had about different subjects coming up in my work. The floral elements and explosions represent unbridled energy. The mountains and sculptures that I reference in my new work play into my thoughts about fragility and stability.
What is art to you?
A lens. A mode of meditation.
What does your typical day look like?
A typical (ideal) work day starts with waking up around 9. I take a walk to the cafe down the street, grab a coffee and take care of emails or plot out my day there. I head back home to my studio and start cutting or drawing. It depends on whether or not a project has been started – if I don’t have anything on the docket I tend to meander in the morning, looking at magazines, images of flowers and sculptures until something gets me excited to draw. In the afternoons, I may or may not take a walk in my neighborhood or go get another coffee to get out of the house. I share most of my evenings with my wife or with her and close friends.
How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
It typically takes me 40+ hours to do a piece. The larger the piece, the more time, of course. Some of the large pieces have taken hundreds of hours. I enjoy the process the most; time often melts away when I’m really on a roll.
How do you keep motivated?
A number of factors come into play in keeping me going with the work. One of the biggest things is competition, kind of with myself, but I address every body of work as another chance to come out swinging. I want to knock people’s socks off and sell work. That mindset keeps me hungry, and it can keep me working for a long time. When I feel really good and excited by an idea and start executing it, it can keep my attention for a long time. Looking at other artists’ work motivates me to keep going.
A number of things can stifle my motivation – primarily self-doubt – but I feel like I’m reaching a turning point with my confidence and determination. I’m hungry to be doing the work I love doing.
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
World domination. Ha, not really. I hope to show my work as far and wide as possible and meet new people and keep enriching my life through travel and connection.
What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
“Keep working. Do the work.” Time and time again I find that the most successful artists just keep plugging away and have massive output, releasing what works and shelving what doesn’t.
“Everything will work out, just as you’ve been telling yourself since you were a kid.”
What are your thoughts on art school?
I believe that art school is for people who know they’re going to get out of it what they put into it. I went to a very structured art school that had a huge emphasis on learning the foundations of visual art. The end of the third year was for concept development. The final year was devoted to making a cohesive body of work. I thrived in that environment, but I know it’s not for everyone. On the other hand, I had pretty heavy notions of what I should be doing and how I should be making art that I have moved away from. I’m grateful for learning the rules before starting to break them.
Have any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
My goal is to get representation from a few galleries, do some commercial work, and make better work.
What’s your dream project?
I would love to paint large murals of my cut paperwork. Seeing all the beautiful mural work that is popping up all over the world, I would love to be involved with something like Forest For the Trees NW or Pow Wow Hawaii and translating my work to a flat surface.
What art supplies do you use?
I use X-Acto blades, water-based glue, Stonehenge and Canson papers. I use thicker papers; the colored papers can eat blades like no one’s business. The white Stonehenge paper I use is a dream to cut; it stays together well and is really easy to use. I do most of my sketching with a brush pen.
What’s your process like?
I usually start a piece by looking through my reference photo files. I make a collage out of found images and then draw from the collage I’ve made. After my drawing is complete I start mapping out different sections of pieces, envisioning which elements are going to be closer to the surface and which elements will be receding. I use a copy machine for a lot of this process. Once I have a good idea of how things will be layered, I start cutting. For some objects, I flatten things as I glue them. It is very time-consuming and methodical, but having OCD, I thrive on it.