Wednesday, April 8, 2015


alkyd, spray, oil stick, and stir stick on canvas, 12" x 16", 2015

What are you working on in your studio right now?

Right now as I type this, I have a hair dryer blowing hot air on a painting that's face-up on the floor.  I poured some alkyd house paint that skinned over quickly which makes it difficult for the wet paint underneath to dry, so I'm just trying to help that process along.  It also has some old T-shirts of mine attached to the surface which are embedded in the poured paint. I basically have 2 series of paintings going now: one group that maintains the integrity of the picture plane and is painted with paint rollers, spray paint, and oil stick, and another group of paintings that are painted similarly but also incorporate collage materials that come out of my day job: drop cloths, stir sticks, paint skeins, tapes, rags, roller sleeves, etc.
alkyd, spray, oil stick, canvas strips on canvas, 24" x 30", 2015

Can you describe your working routine?

I don't really have a routine.  I'm not a 9 to 5 painter, per se.  I work very hard on my day jobs (house/decorative/scenic painting) but I would never want being in my studio to feel like a job and I don't want my paintings to have a feeling of labor, even if they take a long time.  I know a lot of painters that work this way and they manage to churn out a lot of product and are successful with it.  That's not what I'm interested in.   What I am interested in is doing the very best, most challenging work I can do that is interesting to me, regardless of what the market may think.  This is what's always guided me.  This 'not caring' about what the market thinks may have hurt my career but it's definitely helped my painting and my own development. 

Sometimes the best thing you can do in your studio is just be with your work – it's not always important be doing something.  Just BE with it and let it speak to you.  But when I am working I think it's important to bring a quality of emotion to the work – I love that Matisse talks about going to ride a horse if you're not ready to be in the studio.  Get energized!  Generally I work fast and things happen quickly.  But there are also times when the path is not clear, so I slow down a bit with lots of time between moves.   So it varies.  Hence, no real routine.  



Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?

I'm very lucky to have a nice, big studio which I've had since 1985.  In addition to the sense of continuity the studio has provided, this is the studio where I learned how to make a big painting.  The large size also allows me to work on a bunch of things at once.  Also, I live and work in the same loft, so going to the studio is not an event or an action that requires a decision, as such.  I can wander in any time of the day or night with a cup of coffee or a beer in hand and just look.  The nice thing about living and working in the same space is it allows a more relaxed relationship with one's work - you can see things more unselfconsciously and hopefully, more clearly.  It's all about breaking down the illusions we all tell ourselves about our work.  I love my studio!



Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
Basically, I'm always working out of personal need and want my work to reflect my life.  This has been true of my abstract work as well as the representational work.  Previously with the Painter Man series, I worked in a narrative way because I needed to tell a story.  Once I told that story, the need to make explicitly narrative work went away.  Gradually I returned full circle to my first love of abstract painting.  The newer work draws on my long histories with both abstraction and commercial painting.   A painting can begin anywhere and end anywhere.  For example, a painting could begin or end with the application of the round paint skein that forms in the can of the alkyd house paint that I use.  I can do a large painting in a day and I just recently finished one that took 2 years to complete, so it's always different and it's that lack of a system that fascinates me.  My process asks a lot – both of me and the viewer.    

What are you having the most trouble resolving?

In the past couple of years, I've done a number of paintings where I've intentionally wrinkled the canvas surface during the "stretching" process.  Figuring out how to negotiate these surfaces has been very tricky and it took me a long time to resolve these canvases.  But I did resolve them and that's very satisfying.  I love that kind of challenge and risk.  It's what I'm painting for.  It's the inquiry, the investigation that intrigues me.


For Pete's Sake (Gridiron),
 alkyd and spray on canvas, 66" x 80", 2014

Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?

Yes AND yes, I don't see these as mutually exclusive.  I've always believed that we all need parameters, both so we know what we're doing but also so the viewer knows what variables are in play.  That said, rules are made to be broken and it's important to push ones boundaries all the time.  But if you are just doing anything at all, all the time, you'll surely end up with nothing.  That's not freedom.  When I reviewed Dona Nelson's show, I realized just how much rigor goes into the making of her work - she's not just having a good time making things up.  If you look closely at her work, you'll see slight changes from piece to piece, in other words, parameters!  But that's not what one thinks of when one thinks of her work.  Most of us think of that wonderful freedom she has.  Well, it's a hard-earned freedom accomplished within the parameters of her own personal working history. 
For me, in the 80's I activated the surface of my paintings by attaching small canvases to the surface of bigger paintings and also cut into the surface of the painting and attached canvases to the backside of the canvas creating a niche that accepts paint.  I also attached raw canvas, wood, paint tube tops, tin cans, styrofoam balls, etc.  I've posted some of these pieces on Facebook recently and it's been gratifying to hear people say that the work has a lot of currency now.  The surface attachments are never an end in themselves, but are just another element to consider in the making of a painting.   

 alkyd, spray, oil stick and pencil on canvas, 12" x 16", 2015

What does the future hold for this work?
I'm pretty excited about this new work and think I'll be mining this territory for a very long time.  That said, I can't predict the future of this work and that's what I find interesting.  Painting as adventure!
Is there anything else you would like to add?

Yes, I'd like to invite you, Valerie, to come to my studio.  My website hasn't been updated in a while and besides, I don't think the computer screen is a very good medium by which to view painting – so much is lost.  Thanks for the interview!  See ya soon!

alkyd and spray paint on canvas,  50" x 54", 2014