Held Close, 40 x 44", 2012
What are you working on in your studio right now?
I have eleven paintings in process kicking around the studio at the moment, plus a larger 7’ x 5’ painting that is in a holding pattern. I am building and finishing a table to use for one of my tabletop constructions of arranged drawings and found objects. Recently, I completed two prints. One is a woodcut that my friend Justin Quinn helped me print up in St. Cloud, Minnesota. We did four runs on the print and completed it in just two days. The other print was a more experimental print using inkjet and Xerox. It is a “double exposure” of an image of three doves. I think the images and forms from both prints are going to double back into the paintings that are in process in the studio. In February my solo show, “I Always Lie” opened at Jeff Bailey Gallery. The back wall of the gallery features an arrangement of ten paintings. Each painting needed to stand on its own and exist in a larger group. My goal was a sense of compression by hanging several paintings close together on one wall, while the rest of the gallery was relatively spaced out. I find myself thinking about the relationship between that back wall, the arrangements on the tables and my painting practice.
Upon the Sea, installation, 2011
Can you describe your working routine?
I alternate between studio days and teaching days and that really sets the rhythm for each week. On studio days I go into the studio at 8am. It takes me time to warm up to the idea of painting. I will read for twenty minutes or so and then start mixing paint or looking at the decisions I made during my last studio session. Being in the studio on the early side is wonderful. I relish the moment when I look at the clock and it is 10am and I have already made major decisions and progress and I still have a whole day to work. Around 4pm I stop painting to spend time with family, tend to professional and teaching responsibilities and then sometimes sneak in a little more studio time.
Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
Right now I keep two studios here in Knoxville; one is at the University of Tennessee where I am on faculty. I use this space for larger paintings and projects. This is a nice space, high ceilings with windows looking towards the mountains. I am really pushing to do larger more ambitious paintings and this space definitely provides the room to work at a larger scale. I have several completed 7’ x 5’ canvases and an 8’ x 6’. There is also an 8’ x 20’ canvas prepped and ready to go.
My other studio space is at home. A little over a year ago, my wife and I decided to turn our garage into a studio space. We have three little boys and I wanted to be around them as much as possible, but still be able to get time in the studio. It is great. The space has a concrete slab floor, with four windows and about 500 sq ft divided between two rooms. I use the larger front room to work on paintings and larger works on paper. I have three open walls in the studio that I can work on and have paintings hanging around the room. The back space has a long table and it is where I work on small drawings, sort through source material, and store supplies. Having the dedicated space to work at home helps me get a lot accomplished.
Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
In the studio, I do not think about making a series or making a show. There are generally 15-20 paintings in process at any point. I may not touch one of them for several months or even a year or more, but they are waiting around just in case. Paintings usually start from two different places. Some paintings begin with a found image, something like a quilt, gemstone, graffiti, architectural photograph, or child’s drawing. These source materials are starting points for the paintings. I paint from these source materials to find a way to understand the original image or object and my attraction to it.
The other way that paintings start is less structured and often results from taking left over paint and applying it to empty canvases. It is a strange mix of thrift and feeling around in the dark, trying to find a painting. Whether starting from a predetermined image or by “blindly” scrubbing and scrapping at an empty canvas with paint, I find that the two processes often meet somewhere in the middle as paint and image contend with each other on the surface of the canvas. Lately I have been thinking about how these two approaches relate to inductive and deductive reasoning.
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
I have this large canvas around 7 feet tall and I have literally been stuck on it for a year now. It has layers of transparent patterns on it and negative spaces that create four large circles and it needs a seismic change, but I have not found it yet, it is so frustrating but so exciting at the same time, trying to figure out what it needs, but not overdoing it at the same time. These “problems” are some of the most exciting things about painting.
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
Yes and yes. New materials and approaches are great because they get me out of my habits and comfort zone and inform my eye and hand about what I do and do not know. But parameters like paint and canvas can be just as freeing and informative; they force me to imagine the infinite possibilities within a closed set of limitations.
I Always Lie, installation, 2013
What does the future hold for this work?
This summer I am going to be spending two months in residence at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas. I am excited to live and work in west Texas, soaking in the striking, natural environment. I will spend time exploding my practice and pushing boundaries. While I do not know the exact ways the work will be impacted by this experience, I look forward to the twists and turns that wait.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thank you, Valerie, for the opportunity to be part of this project.
Here are some images from my catalog of source material that I use in the studio: