The Dirty Parts of Heaven,
Oil on canvas, 24″ x 24″ x 4″, 2009-2012
What are you working on in your studio right now?
I just completed another large piece and it feels like I’m figuring things out in this one. I have a show up and with mostly large scale works. One benefit is I have extra work space while the paintings are out. I also have four medium works that are in play but they're in an early stage of the process. They've been showing me new possibilities and I'm spending time with them. I don't want to rush through them because they're making me re-think some things.
Can you describe your working routine?
When I'm in my normal routine I've found that I work best in the early morning. I find that I can get more done in a good five or six hour morning before lunch than I get done in an 8-10 hour day if I start later. There's something nice about working in the early morning hours. There are less interruptions and I listen to the city waking up, people walking to work and leaving my building. My morning work ethic started because I used to get bad insomnia which is debilitating. I'd wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning and not be able to sleep again till well into the day. My final solution was to go into the studio and work. At noon I go to my dojo and work out then come back and sometimes work more, sometimes not. This morning start cured my insomnia, and gave me more focus. Now I generally aim for 6 or 7 AM wake and start time. I wake up and get into my studio and work for a few hours then take a walk to the corner for coffee but not really break, just to get out and walk for five minutes. I usually take weekends off but not always.
Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
I am acutely affected by my work space. Right now I work in at home. I have two 4 x 8 ft. pieces of plywood up to protect my walls, so I'm working on this 8 foot square. It's not really enough space and I'm about to expand it. I get good light which is not so important to making the work but is important to viewing the the paintings. The way my apartment is I get some direct sunlight and it's during these hours that the work takes on different personalities. I am running out of space. Due to this I'm about to restart a series of paper works, I started at Bemis last spring, but didn't get to explore enough. Residencies have been crucial to my work and it's progress. Working in these other spaces has allowed me to grow in unexpected ways and to make work that wouldn't be possible in my current space.
oil on canvas, 48″ x 65″ x4″, 2011
Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
I then do an underpainting and this has been evolving but it's mostly so I don't have any color or white showing through the oil paint. Then I get to the oil and it's almost as if the work has a personality at this point and it kind of guides me. Sometimes it's a little antagonistic and fights me. When I've got good flow it's like the painting is a partner and we're having a discussion. It lets me know what it wants and I try to work with it. Once I apply the paint I have three days, then the paint starts to congeal and dry. When that happens I scrape it off and let it dry, sand it and start again. I never trust it to be done till I've slept on it and can view it with fresh eyes. To get the effect I've been searching for I've had to build my own brushes from already large brushes. I think I may go back to smaller strokes at one point but I'm still having too much fun with this really big motion.
As I've gotten older I've realized how important it is to edit. I don't let a painting get called done till I'm certain it cannot get better. I'm not afraid of scrapping the paint and starting over. In fact I have a number of old works that I continue to fight with. If I really cannot resolve a piece I'll eventually destroy it but only after giving it a worthy effort. That can last for years in on and off struggle. Some of my favorites are the ones that don't work with me at first. Eventually if I figure out what wasn't working, it's an aha moment and I've broken through. These are the ones you really learn something from which can move the work forward.
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
The edge of the canvas! I use black and people sometimes stand looking at these paintings and ask me how many colors I'm using. The reflected light can be very bright and colorful. I have experimented with adding color to the black but in the end that wasn't what I wanted and it wasn't even apparent. Last year I started giving color to the sides of some of these works and it's only happened after a long deliberation with myself. There were some early casualties but also some unexpected and happy surprises. I've gravitated to hot pink on the sides because this color really does make a white wall glow around the work. I still paint some black on the sides and my most recent work has just one of its sides pink. I feel like I'm getting there but am not quite there yet. I think it's important to have unresolved aspects of your work. The unresolved aspects of the work push you to do better, and maybe you'll figure out or maybe not.
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
It was when I set strict parameters that my work became far more interesting to me and in a way opened up a world I hadn't expected. I resolved to stay with black for at least a few years. When I started doing them, they were little meditative side pieces. I'd often wipe them down after the day and start them again the next. It wasn't about finishing a painting but more about seeing what I could get paint to do with the reflected light. I still have most of the early ones. I don't sell those ones. They're the seeds to what I'm doing now.
Jam Exhibit, currently on show at the
Narthex Gallery at Saint Peter's Church
What does the future hold for this work?
I have no idea and I like it that way. OK, maybe smaller for the near term. But, I like that I've been able to be surprised. I hope the work will continue to do that for me. Normally I need to change things up after a few years, but I feel like I'm just scratching the surface of what I'm doing and it's very exciting. I have some large sculpture projects that involved reflected light that I'd like to make, but I need to find a place and funding for them, I think if that happens it will bring change to this work
oil on canvas, 30 x 50 inches approximate 2012
I think it's important to spend as much time looking at our contemporaries and with the internet it's easier than it has ever been. I have found other really great artists through a few blogs like this one and through Facebook. There is no comparable to standing in the room with a painting but you can still get a good sense of work in photo-images. I feel my contemporaries are as important to me as my predecessors.
Some of my favorite living artists today are Susan Carr, Mark Zimmermann, Alex Couwenberg, Wess Dahlberg, Robert Kingston, You – Valerie Brennan, Erin Lawler, Christopher Rico, Brigid Watson, Svenja Deininger, Wendy McWilliams, Mark Hollis, Jason Mones, Hernan Ardila Delgado, Diane Scott, Matthew Dibble, Megan Geckler, Rodger Stevens, Ryan Cobourn, Joanne Mattera, Jerry Thomas, Katie Grauer, Duane Paul Davidson, Kokichi Umezaki, James Little, Julie Mehretu, Ayessha Quraishi, Kevin Finklea, Jason Michael Hackenwerth, Lisa Von Koch, Cristina Popovici. You know, just by making a list I'm already pissing people off who I'm forgetting to include. In fact I'm pretty sure I didn't name half of the artists I admire. The point is, some of these people I know many I do not. Some are friends and other distant acquaintances, all of them influence me in some way. It's very important for us artists in todays world to do exactly what this blog is doing by supporting living artists, and giving us a voice. Thank you for that and the opportunity to be a part of this.