I need Art, both as an artist and as an art consumer.
I paint to make order out of all the beauty, chaos, and uncertainty coming at me, sometimes all at once. Realistic painting of the past has generally aimed to capture a moment in time, while most of what we see, and experience now seems to be the opposite. We are constantly having our attention pulled one way, then another, being interrupted by traffic, phones, people, Netflix, Amazon, and constant advertising everywhere, all the time, as we batter Earth itself until it no longer feels safe. And that’s just normal life. In order to create that sort of disjunctive experience in my own paintings I use images of contrasting elements in the attempt to get into the subconscious of both me and the audience. I use realistic images in unexpected contexts to move the viewer to shift perspective and make their own associations.
We all need art now.
2015: Don Quixote
I have always considered Miguel de Cervantes’ novel, Don Quixote, to be a great analogy for the principled and unrelenting life of an artist. He continues despite the odds, because it is the journey that gives his life purpose and it is his belief in the importance of his mission that sustains him. A dubiously admirable quality of Don Quixote is that delusional though he may be, and misinterpreting nearly everything he sees, he is never in doubt.
Since 2011 I have explored The Man of LaMancha as inspiration and subject, using Cubism for the method. In 2012 I launched a successful Kickstarter campaign:“Don Quixote: 91 Paintings In 91 Days”. The three-month time period was to force myself to finish work quickly and then move on. I wanted the idea to be paramount to the ability to execute it. The paintings and drawings are based on the Cubist principle of describing an object by seeing it from different angles as you move around it. First finding foms that describe the the object, then distorting and rearranging them to create movement and emotion. As a sort of abandoned language, Cubism offers a great deal of flexibility with color, shape, form, and space while maintaining fidelity to the book's fantastical nature and it's humanity.
What I learned working with a self-imposed deadline and quota is that you get good art from it, and there is a relatively high failure rate. With two days to finish a painting it is do or die; the piece works or it doesn’t but you go on to the next regardless. The works I did just to fulfill the quota, without my mind and heart into it, were not successful. But that’s no surprise and not necessarily failure; it’s part of the process. You show up and do the work even when you’re having a bad day, because some days do get better.
I am a big fan of history and fiction. History shows that no art occurs outside cultural and historical references, for either the artist or the audience. Fiction allows me to think of context as a choice, whether moving a subject to another era, repealing the laws of gravity, or combining styles and images.
I start my paintings with layers of thin acrylic paint, often but not always switching to oil paint (for the flexibility of drying times) to finish the painting. The tools I use illustrate the kind of contrast I seek to create in my paintings: Photoshop, digital cameras, multi-media projectors and the internet are as much a part of my materials as the centuries-old oil paints, paper, wood, canvas, wax, or pencil. The paintings are finished when the contrasts between imagination and skill, humor and drama, belief and skepticism are all in balance.
My paintings of the past ten years or so (2000-2010)have been dedications, of a sort, to the generations of family members that made up my childhood. We were close to my mom's family and as kids we spent a lot of happy times around old people and their old things, listening to their old stories. Paintings that began as my way of trying to touch and hold onto my childhood developed into depictions of icons of the twentieth century: trains, pin-up girls, fast and beautiful autos, influenced by the pop art that by then had permeated everything.
The motivation is still the joys and challenges of painting the things I want to paint, but I suppose the real subject that runs through my paintings is the temporal nature of our lives. Things age and change and the world and the universe go on, and the rest of us are left with memories and art.