How did you get started doing what you do?
I drew a lot when I was young. In high school, I discovered poetry – it’s been a deep source for me all my life. Three important teachers in high school encouraged me – all three helped in many big and small ways to make sure I would go to college. I was the first person in my family to attend college.
How would you describe your creative style?
My work is grounded in late 20th Century painting movements, including Abstract Expressionism. In addition to my training in art history, I also studied Eastern philosophy and religion from the East. I developed a process in painting that is chance-based and allows me to set my will aside as I work. “Contemporary” covers a lot of turf these days, but that is my aesthetic neighborhood.
What is art to you?
Art is a conversation about the things we all wonder about on the deepest levels.
What’s your inspiration?
The natural world is of paramount importance to me. I think we know very little about it. Our sensual capacities for understanding it are somewhat limited, as is our rational/scientific ability. But our imaginations connect with it in a remarkable way. Imagination opens an understanding of the energy that is everywhere, a continuous fabric that contains us.
How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
Sometimes a work is done as quickly as a few weeks. Sometimes a few years – especially when I have to come to an integrated understanding of what the work is doing. Gilding the surface takes at least 4 or 5 days – there are periods of drying time that each step of the process demands.
What’s your process like?
The first step is to prepare the surface, whether paper or panel. This means sealing it and sanding it. Next, I gild it. There are many steps here (probably dull reading.) Once the surface is gilded, I clean it and seal it. Then I can paint. I use thinned oil paint – it’s very runny. Like watercolor, it is hard to control. I put washes of thin paint into a lake of turpentine. There are a few ways to introduce control, but mostly, the paint cannot be corralled. The washes settle in a variety of ways, depending on the weight of the pigments suspended in the turps. I’m very interested in the pluming, the skeining: the edges of where the pigment stops expanding and settles. This is a particular kind of energy, expressing simple physical relationships between medium, pigment and surface; humidity, gravity, interference. When I work with this process in layers, a sense of control arises, simply because there are always choices to make, at every step of the way. I swing between an abstract vocabulary and work that contains representational information. I find I need both languages to say what I want to say.
How do you keep motivated?
That’s not much of an issue with me. I’m always ready to go to the studio and work.
How would you say your surroundings have influenced your work?
When I was little, I was outside all the time. I didn’t grow up in the city, or in suburbia. I was raised on a dairy farm. All that time spent in the company of trees, critters, farm animals, the weather, the garden, the creek; informed my sense of connectedness. This will never go away. It’s the core of my work, it’s where all my ideas come from, all my motivation, all my desire to say something. When I wonder about something now, I’m quite certain I also wondered about it when I was 6 or 7.
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
I’m interested in being part of that big conversation. Making the work is about half of the equation. The other half is getting it out into the world. It has its own voice but lacks feet, hands. I hope the work makes people slow down, become thoughtful, more observant. I hope it allows people to embrace things in a different way – that it activates a level of energy in them, which might change how they are in the world.
How have others reacted to your work?
Most people comment on it as a beautiful thing. That’s a good place to start. I think the experience of beauty opens us up in ways that make us more vulnerable to subtleties.
What do you want others to take away from your work?
I hope people might feel a reattachment to the idea that the energy of the world is sacred. We are sacred. That’s the root of joy, I think.
Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
Be prepared to work very hard, all the time. Have some strategies for dealing with being disappointed. Develop a strong network of friends who will be willing to help you by sharing their contacts, promoting your work to their friends and listening to you when you need moral support.
What art supplies do you use?
I use a variety of materials. To prepare patterned paper, I use several different kinds of sealers including gelatin and polymer varnishes. The Japanese make a marvelous oil paint, brand name Holbein. I love it. I source gold leaf from Thailand.
How would the art industry become better in your opinion?
There would be no art industry without the producers, the artists. The industry will improve when it stops paying lip service to its producers and starts to honor our work. When the industry becomes really interested in the broader conversation, instead of money, then it will improve.