Here are some answers to frequently asked questions… ask new ones in a comment and I promise to add as time allows~
I use liquitex gloss medium for my glue, but elmers or mod podge or other things work too. I varnish when all done with a golden UV gloss varnish.
When I teach this, I have one rule– you can’t use pictures of the actual object when making that object– so for example, no hair to make hair. no eyes to make eyes, etc. Makes you think of other more wild solutions. You have to see beyond the actual literal texture, or words, on the magazine page to see them as tones. Don’t just let the students look for the flat value… have them squint and look from far away.
Here’s my biggest secret: looking for pieces of paper that can do 2 things at once… maybe a piece with a dark area and a light can create 2 parts of the picture. When you do this, it starts to create an ambiguity, a double reading of the space in the picture… that I think is what people enjoy most in mine.
I mostly rip, not much cutting. I like the ripping because it is faster and it keeps me from being too precise. Plus the images in the pieces have enough clean edges that I prefer the ripped edges to add something else to the result.
I use magazines, maps, schematics, cd jackets, handwritten notes and digital textures.
I try to make all the ‘edges’ in the piece out of a line or transition within the piece of paper I find, rather than by putting two pieces of paper edge to edge. This is what creates the spatial ambiguity that is fun to look at.
I squint alot.
I let the shapes run together and let things disappear. I thank egon schiele and franz kline and maybe barry moser for that stuff. And david and goliath.
My favorite size is 48″ x 48″. I do love squares. I’ve done lots at 24″ x 24″, and the shoes and drinks series I do at 12″ x 12″ usually.
I start with a photoshoot which is essential to getting in touch with the subject, the actual physical space and mood… I do play with photoshop to try out color directions and moods etc. I can also use photoshop or illustrator to create digital textures in a particular color. Song lyrics for example I use alot and can make them any color or shape I wish and then print on photo paper. You bet I use technology.
Regarding the wrinkles: The wrinkles are going to happen no matter the glue… I just don’t worry about them and enjoy that they are there. ‘Fragility’ and all that. But, if you really wanted to, you could experiment with pre-moistening the paper, for example with a little spray mister before you glue each piece. That would make the paper expand a bit before you place it on the canvas. That would be far too slow for my sensibilities.
On the mixed media work:
For the mixed media pieces, the tools I use most of all are charcoal and water. I pour a bunch of water on my paper, or canvas, and additionally play with dipping the charcoal into a cup of water before drawing with it. This makes for a barely-controlled drawing tool, and that is the point. I was very tight as a younger artist, and learned that by making the process faster and larger than I could control, I would let go of that worry. Interestingly, after a while the mind speeds up and you do gain a heightened sense of control of the picture. I also usually draw with both hands at the same time, for the same reasons.
For some reason, I haven’t really every kept track of how different papers react, so I recommend trying all kinds. Some will fall apart, some won’t. Some will repel, some will absorb. But all that can be useful. Some of the pieces you see on my website are actually several layers of tattered newsprint. The art only exists in the photo… the paper was too tattered to last. Ah but the fun…
When drawing with the charcoal, I work flat some of the time, or vertically some times. I let drips be part of it. You can also play with drawing more dry, and then using a spray bottle to wet parts of the drawing and then dragging into it with your wet fingers. (the sense of touch is a huge part of the appeal to me.)
The charcoal leaves your hands dirty for a few days, but … worth it I think.
Later, add color to your exercises by using soft pastels. But I highly recommend getting the most out of simple black charcoal for quite a while first. :
I use my fingers, some brushes, scraps of rag and cardboard, the back end of paint tubes, – whatever it takes to get an interesting array of marks to help me explore the picture. It can be useful to play abstractly, as well as in pursuit of a real image from life.
I like telling students: We can all agree that it takes a verbal vocabulary of maybe 15,000 words to hold a good conversation or tell a compelling story. Well, it takes just as many ways of touching the canvas, making a mark… your visual vocabulary… to make a compelling painting or drawing.
Some general recommendations:
I started with lots of drawing, including from real life and things made up from my head. I explored painting (both realism and then abstraction which really made a difference), sculpture, studied a little architecture, followed my interests in nature, being outside, a bit of history, cultures, lots of listening to the inspirations behind a wide range of music… all that stuff added up to my knowledge.
Sure it takes lots of time and study, trying hard things, and trying fast things. I was a very tight artist when younger, and learned to loosen up while studying abstraction and more raw figurative art. Those things are very useful when I want to make a tighter image too. They help me give the art real form and presence, in a way that I could not have achieved before.
Draw tons. from life and not.
Don’t be a slave to photo reference. Learn to use it if you want, and not. But if you do, be in charge of it instead of vice versa.
Try a series. same subject, same viewpoint. the familiarity will take you new places in each one. see monet’s cathedral series. note the attention to the changing light thru the day.
Self portraits are great because you have a free model in the mirror.
Remember there are infinite art styles out there. Many young people want their art to look like photographs. I say, the world already has photographers, and while there is lots of worthwhile stuff to learn in mastering the touch and control necessary to render a picture like a photograph, not all hands or interests lean that way. Encourage your students to find their own visual language, to explore the marks their hands naturally make and to create things the world has never seen.
I found that along with the results of lots of work and time and study, people became interested in my work as soon as I started making what I really wanted to make. People respond to passion. They can smell a fake. Much better than second guessing what people will buy.
How I achieved my success? Well, years of work, personal artistic exploration… being a student of art history and other history… tying in my very personal interests and things I intuitively know the most about. Tons of drawing and painting and searching and trying assorted mediums… and then definitely I know that people started paying attention as soon as I started making the images I wanted to make.
As for ‘Marketing’, which is simply the flip side or concurrent with all that continuous exploration I just mentioned BEFORE the art: The tireless talking about my art, seeking people/businesses/partners near and far, brick and mortar and online, the individuals and those with media megaphones with whom I can talk about my work and daydream and scheme up the next fun art to be made. That’s a decent answer. Truly, even the ‘Marketing’ can and must be personalized to your own, well, personality. I see it as part of the art, part of the creativity, part of thinking that the inside of the audience’s head is the actual art gallery.. . .
I highly recommend Robert Genn’s twice weekly letters. look that up and tell your students. tons of good stuff to think about… most common theme is individual hard work and exploration.
A few interviews you might enjoy:
Another interview, by Beachside Resident:
Born in NY state, The Young Years were spent in Massachusetts, with little vacations to Cape Cod. The whole ‘roots of the nation’ thing in New England is tangible and a big part of my inspiration… as well as big stuff like how the man made structures harmonize with the woods and the ocean and the seagrass and the slate rock walkways and on and on, for me anyway. BUT at some point Mom and Dad tired of the snowy-ness and we moved to Florida. And here I’ve come to love a different kind of simplicity and minimalism.
Oh, I used to make up my own Star Wars characters sitting on the edge of my bed.
I think it has always been about people. The living moving pulsing energy of the human being. At age 7 it was those made-up fantasy characters and their worlds. Later it fit under the name ‘figure study’ but that somehow limited it to just the physical body. Now I hope I go after the beauty of what it is like to be alive, with all the intuitions and the peripheral vision and distractions and intense passions and butterflies in the stomach that go with really living.
You cite the angular design aesthetics of fashion and machinery as a driving interest. Could you explain a bit more?
In pursuing that living essence I described, I also enjoy the contrast between living beauty and man-made beauty, such as buildings, engines, typography, hard-edged creations. In my collage art, I hand rip recycled magazines, maps, schematics, etc to build the figures. Fashion design utilizes a similar idea, where very angular and sharp compositional shapes are used to accentuate the feminine qualities of the figure. By using fashion magazines in much of my collage artwork, I’ve been able to combine several of my influences and interests in one piece of art.
Tell us about your professional and educational background. What were some of your most rewarding classes?
I went to the Rhode Island School of Design, as an illustration major, and had a healthy inner and outer battle between tight commercial art and dreamy abstract painting. Each helped the other in my case. I came into RISD very precise and controlled, and was introduced to faster and wilder alternatives like drawing with both hands at once or using lots of gushing water to make everything just beyond my control.
I spent more than a decade working in the corporate art world, designing and then art directing eventually, for clients like the NFL, ESPN, Major League Baseball, Reebok. Eventually I went out on my own with the help of family and built things up from there with a mix of music merchandising artwork and my own fine art.
Age 18 or so. One of my early introductions to the idea that capturing the life might be even more difficult and exciting than capturing a frozen photographic moment. Egon Schiele’s work is more than 100 years old but still looks raw today. Schiele’s mentor was Gustav Klimt, and I try to borrow his romanticism.
I must have found his ideas indirectly. Only recently have I looked deeper into Rauschenberg, but I definitely find my thrills in many of the spots he did. He wanted to work “in the gap between art and life”, questioning the distinction between everyday objects and art which clearly I feed on also. He challenged the role of the observer in defining meaning in art.
People clearly respond to the beauty in your portraits, but there is more to it than that. How do you describe your concept or statement?
I don’t think I make a statement in the way that some artists do. I tend not to enjoy (making myself anyway) what I would consider an intellectual statement, requiring your logic or intellect to ‘get’ the meaning. I prefer a ‘felt’ response that engages the senses freshly at that moment.
Randomness and ambiguity are also facets of your work. Has they always been guiding elements?
The free-association creative thought process has always been there, but I trust it now more than ever before. While I work I incorporate stray thoughts, song lyrics I hear, and references to other half ideas in the art. Sometimes they act like a time capsule for me, or like a public joke for one person.
Only a bit maybe. We already have cameras to capture one particular kind of realism, so why go after it in painting? People can become closed off to other versions of reality. So in one way photography reminds me to veer in another direction. But, I do use photography as a reference for the collages. And then I run fast away from there, haha. Another influence of photography- I remembered recently the first time I saw those great long-exposure photos of Abraham Lincoln. Something in the longer exposure, like a minute or more, combined of course with the weight in his eyes, and those flat 2D photographs seem to truly contain so much more than a typical ‘frozen moment’. I can sense the time elapsing. A good 15 years after seeing those I have found my way of hinting at elapsed time, memories, references… in my collages.
I know you create opportunities for other local artists. How do you do that, and who are some of the artists whose work you follow locally?
I try to be aware of all our artistic resources… just because I love art and I want to see all of it. And then once it is in my head, I do pass on leads to people, such as the Sports and the Arts organization who commissioned me to do several pieces for the new Orlando Magic Arena. I asked to hear their big picture, and then suggested about ten Brevard artists they ought to get involved to fill the particular needs. Locally currently I love seeing the work of Jeff Filipski, SONE, certainly Chris Maslow who is just on fire, also Marg Kuhl, David Burton, Larry Buist. Casey Decotis’ photos. Always Cliff Chandler’s big big plans. Ryan Speer of Speerbot made my website, and he is able to take graphic design to that higher level.
How did you come to amass such an impressive roster of clients? It seems like the dream of every artist to earn your kind of recognition. Does it inspire you further or do you feel it hampers your work at times?
It doesn’t hamper. Maybe when I was younger I couldn’t have handled it, but now I know that when I am hired, it is to be me.
Do you do commissioned pieces?
Oh sure. I don’t pursue them really heavily, but through word of mouth I seem to always have three or so going on locally. The custom collages are unique because not only do I make them look like the person, but for the parts of torn paper I use, I incorporate details from the person’s life… places traveled, favorite foods, song lyrics, family photos, anything that can add to their story. I also have done commissions for advertising firms, plus lots of music merchandising.
Each has its own story, but for example big bands like U2 work through a Merchandising company who play middle man and can source their art as well as produce any goods they need. Apparel, posters, etc. I made myself visible to a few of the big merchandisers out of LA and New England, LiveNation for example, covering most of the big classic bands and bigger pop artists. I love music at least as much as anybody… and it is a thrill to try to create visual art that is a match or a complement to their form of art. I aim to not just be literal but to keep it mysterious and add to the flavor. Sometimes the bands come to the table with ideas, but many trust my process and probably appreciate it from their own creative process. For some reason it is always quick turn around, which always gives me more creative leverage, as long as I deliver stuff that works.
What advice would you give to a young artist just starting out today?
I have some things I like to tell people, and not just the new artists. Whether headed to art school or not, take charge of your own education. Create it and fight for it. And find your thing. Your real thing. Not a gimmick or a second-guessing of the buying public. I only started attracting interest once I trusted my quirks and my passions. I know a few artists who don’t paint the things they love, or in the way they love.
I also remind artists that we bring something to the community that no one else does. Art isn’t just ‘something pretty to look at’.