What are your earliest memories of art? How did you become an artist yourself?
There was no specific starting point in my life for creating art…it was just always a part of it. As a child my favorite activity was working in my coloring books and the “toy” I coveted the most was the big box of 64 Crayolas.
My father and older siblings were artistic so it was always cultivated and encouraged. When we were young we were taken to weekend classes at the Cincinnati Art Museum among other places. It was never a question that art would be my primary focus – both educationally and otherwise.
All I wanted to do was go to art school but, for better or worse, I was told I had to get a liberal arts education in college. But after spending a semester in New York City on an arts program I was more directed than ever and knew I had to make painting a primary focus. This led to my move to Chicago to get my MFA at Northwestern where I was fortunate to be the assistant to a great mentor, Ed Paschke. It was wonderful to spend 2 years of uninterrupted art making.
What has been your evolution as an artist?
In graduate school and years beyond my work was non-representational – focusing on mark-making and expression of ideas rather than depiction. I was ready for a change and had some ideas percolating for a long time but it was a trip to New Mexico that led me to the landscape, which still influences my current work. My inspiration shifted to the outside world. It was the vast expanse and the colors that I began to assimilate into my work and provided the impetus to look to nature for inspiration – something that is still influencing my current style.
That said, recently I’ve been returning to my abstract roots a bit when I feel a need to mix it up and am experimenting with combining both of these tendencies.
Are there any artists who have inspired and influenced you in your work? If so, who are they?
There are such a variety of artists that inspire me….abstractly I’m drawn to artists like Cy Twombly or Joan Mitchell for their calligraphic quality. Representational artists I look to for inspiration are J.M.W. Turner and the landscapes of Degas for their wonderful way of getting to the essence of a landscape and Whistler, Inness, Twachtman or any of the tonalists. I also love any of the styles of Gerhard Richter and am awed that he can work in so many diverse ways. And I’m drawn to the soft palettes of Milton Avery and Richard Diebenkorn.
Can you describe your process for creating a work of art?
I work in many thin layers of oil paint usually going over the entirety of a painting every time I work on it. I begin with an all-over “sketch” covering the whole canvas and working out the compositional elements. This typically is done in brighter colors that will illuminate the more muted tones as more layers and glazes are applied. As the process continues the colors become more diluted and the edges softened. While the finished work may look simple it is all of these layers that make the paintings appear luminous.
For the first session or so I will focus on the reference material for inspiration but after I decide which elements to include or exclude I usually just look to the work for guidance.
You mostly do work that is largely representational but with some abstract qualities. Is there a reason why you are particularly interested in this type of work?
There is no end to the inspiration outside of our window and while I am always looking to that it is the visceral feeling that I want to communicate. Personally, I would find it tedious to just perfectly render what I see – I find it more engaging to distill the shapes, colors and images into something more interesting. Above and beyond technical skills I believe art is about looking, both in the outside world and inward, and also teaching others how to see.
You paint seascapes, skyscapes and abstracts. Can you talk a little bit about each of these?
Water and sky provide a wealth of ever-changing patterns. More important to me than the land, water, or sky is the light or atmospheric conditions like fog or bright light that blurs objects and allows others to emerge. I purposely keep any man-made objects out of my work so as not to divert the eye and to achieve a sense of timelessness.
While my landscapes are referential my abstract work deals with objects like shapes or letters emerging, being covered up, and being revealed again through the act of painting with many layers.
Where do you see your work going from here?
I do feel that my work is currently evolving as my different interests are beginning to inform each other. My landscape inspired works are becoming more pared down and abstracted. I’m becoming more interested in the surface texture and the color field than the actual objects. While I’m certainly not ready to abandon this line of work I am interested in incorporating some of the abstract elements into it. To this end, I’ve done some experimenting with combining cold wax with my paints which allows me to get more surface to scrape away and paint on top of.
I’m also drawn to painting in a larger format. Technically, I like the looseness and the freedom that a big canvas allows and formally it lends itself to the vast landscapes that inspire me. It allows the image to envelop the viewer.