You were exposed to art at an early age. Do you remember what first sparked your interest in creating it yourself at that time?
I don’t think I really gave it any thought. It was just something I did, for as far back as I can remember. By the time I reached middle school, I thought it was just something everyone did. Later, I recall being deeply inspired by works of old masters I had seen in books. I remember thinking, “This is what I want to do with my life.
Do you happen to remember the first thing you liked to draw most often?
Actually, I drew lots of airplanes, dinosaurs, and super heroes from comic books. Eventually I became fascinated with human faces, so I began drawing celebrities and models from magazines, then people I knew–friends and family.
Did you find artistic things comforting when moving so often while growing up? What was it like to attend 13 schools in 3 different countries before graduating high school?
Well, artistic things were always a constant, as they are to this day. I can take it with me anywhere I go. Though I never really thought about it, there is definitely a certain kind of solace one can take in making art. While it can be a kind of “escape”, for me, it has always been more of an exploration–a journey of self discovery. Regarding your question concerning the schools and frequent moves…I was one of 6 kids in a military family. We moved a lot. Because it is all I knew during my life growing up, I thought it was normal, and that is what everyone did. I learned to make friends very quickly, and got to experience different cultures in other lands. It exposed me to things I would not have experienced had I remained in one town all my life. I value those experiences.
What do you love most about creating your work?
There is so much to love about having the freedom to create art. I get to plumb the depths of my imagination without the pressure of trying to please someone else or the risk of causing harm to anyone. What’s not to love about engaging one’s mind in the process of creating, then sharing the result with the world? If I can make a painting that brings some measure of joy to someone else…that helps to transport them to another realm for a moment, then I have done some good in the world. I never thought I would live long enough to enjoy the journey of self-actualization. But , here I am doing it.
Did you miss the comfort of art when you were in Vietnam? What helped you most get through that time?(if you don’t mind my asking:)
Well, I did not serve in Viet Nam, though I was willing to go had I been called to do so. Instead, during the war, I received orders to Athens, Greece…which was my first assignment! I don’t know how or why that happened, but who am I to question such things? It was an amazing experience. That said, I knew people who were killed or injured during the war, and I hated the way our country treated its returning soldiers when it ended. That affected me deeply. I was instead immersed in a different kind of daily struggle. I was a medic at the time, so I spent much of my working day with sick and injured people. I spent over 8 years of my life working in emergency rooms, where I treated all kinds of injuries and ailments; from simple lacerations, to motorcycle accidents and heart attacks. I have seen enormous amounts of pain and human suffering. I’ve observed death, many times. I always held it together, until I witnessed the life slip away from the battered body of a little 4 year old girl, who had been beaten to death by her own father. I cried that night. Long and hard. Art, music and the love of family were my constant–and still are to this day.
Do you find war tends to make most people more spiritual in some ways?
I think when one is faced with one’s own mortality, and with the prospect of taking the life of another, there is certainly an environment ripe for considering things of a spiritual nature. When facing death, life becomes most poignant, and those things which are outside ourselves and bigger than us take on a significance far beyond the ordinary.
Your works often deal with angelic images. What are your feelings on angels and demons and such?
Actually, I did only one series of works, called “Watchers”, which dealt with the idea of angelic entities. I am finished with that series now, but here are some of my thoughts related to the subject. I considered the idea of angels, and asked myself if they are metaphysical descriptions of the work of a higher power….or, whether they are actual, physical entities. I considered that they have been spoken of throughout history and across many cultures. They have been described as representatives of our highest conception of love, goodwill, and creativity. They’ve been painted, sculpted, dreamed of, sung about, included in prayers and sought out for comfort in times of duress. They have been described as beings of light…as winged creatures who work behind the scenes, unnoticed, serving as ambassadors between earth and eternity. I asked myself, are they here to deliver messages? Are they agents of judgment? Are they observers, watching the affairs of human kind? In that series of work, I strove not to overtly focus upon religious notions about angels. Instead, I extracted them from the sanctuary and presented a glimpse of them as imperfect beings–some adorned with wings, yet somehow close to us. Some appear intensely compassionate, some wounded and scarred as a result of battle; some with female traits–almost to the point of being sensual and provocative. Some appear as they may offer comfort, while others may disturb. My painted angels were not clad like angels of the Renaissance. Some belie the Biblical descriptions of them. Most have their faces obscured in shadow, leaving appearance, identity, and intentions to the viewer. I assumed the role of merely suggesting enough information to ignite the imagination of the viewer regarding these unseen beings. Regarding demons, I see them almost every day when I watch the news.
Did it finally feel good to be able to return painting full time when you retired?
While I served in the military, I frequently created art in my free time. I did portraits, artwork as retirement gifts, drew cartoons for the base newspaper while overseas, designed organizational emblems–always found a way to fulfill my need to create art. Words cannot describe the joy I felt when I was finally able to engage my lifelong passion full time at the age of 43!
Who are some of your favorite artists?
As I think about this, my list gets longer and longer. Though I have many favorites, I’ll try to limit myself to 12 dead and 12 living artists. For different reasons, from among those artists who are no longer with us, I appreciate the works of J.M.W. Turner, Zdzislaw Beksinski, Rembrandt, Degas, Velasquez, Sargent, Sorolla, Zorn, Brueghel the Elder, Michelangelo, Van Gogh, and Leonardo. And these 12 living artists, in no particular order, are among my current favorites: Julio Reyes, Jeremy Lipking, Alex Kanevsky, Jeremy Mann, Laurie Lipton, Dan McCaw, Brad Kunkle, Nicola Samori, Steven Assael, Jacob Collins, Sophie Jodoin, and Doug Foyer. I could name 50 more, easily.
Why do you think the human figure has always been so appealing to the art world throughout history?
Well, because we are human beings, we intimately relate to the figure. We can vicariously place ourselves in the artwork containing the figure. It is intrinsically beautiful, offering countless possibilities, not only in form, but in the expression of emotion. The figure has all the ingredients contained within it sufficiently to embody visual poetry.
How did you first get the idea to add metal leaf into your work?
I remember as a young child walking through a park and seeing the fabulous patinas on bronze statues. In an effort to obtain this elusive property in my own work, I set out to capture the color and texture in my paintings about 7 or 8 years ago. Through months of experimentation, and many failures, I began to notice different properties of the materials than for what I was originally striving. I began using metal leaf in the underlying layers of my paintings. On the metal leaf, I selectively apply a chemical preparation to rapidly create patinas of color on the metal. After that is sealed, I begin painting in glazes of oil. I leave some of the metal leaf exposed, and some is painted over, revealing some if it through the layers of paint. As light passes thru the veils of paint, it bounces off the metal and reflects light back in a way that is more intense than simply oil paint on its own. I am certainly not the first artist to use metal leaf–it has been used for centuries. Even today, artists such as Brad Kunkle and Pam Hawkes use metal leaf in their work. I use it in a different manner, but, I think they also exploit the material to wonderful effect. Someday, I will produce a video that outlines the specifics of my process.
Do you enjoy conveying a sense of emotion through the use of light?
Absolutely. Light reveals everything. Taken too far, it obscures. So, for me, the interplay of light and dark moves into the realm of the sublime. There is power in it. The challenge is to orchestrate illusion with paint and materials on a two-dimensional surface in such a way, that the end result can ignite the viewer’s imagination sufficiently to make them “feel” something.
How do you think your style as an artist has evolved over the years?
I haven’t really consciously thought about–I just let it happen. I suppose I have gone from depicting things in the most realistic manner that I am able, to focusing more on the expression of emotion. I’ve also begun over the past 10 years to experiment with non-traditional materials in my process. Over time, I suppose I have become more interested in elements of mystery and the beauty of ethereal light in a work. The sublime has become a frequently recurring theme–contrasting dark against light, calm against chaos, quiet stillness against activity. In so doing, aspects of a “spiritual” nature seem to creep into the work. I leave more to the viewer’s imagination now than I did in my early years.
What advice would you offer the beginning artist?
Do not worry that you don’t have everything all figured out. You never will. Know that art making is a lifelong journey of perpetual learning, and THAT is where the joy lies. I would also like to encourage you to avoid comparing yourself too much with other artists–it is a waste of time. Instead, look at the work you are making today, and compare it against the work you are doing next month…next year. Are you growing? You have a unique voice. Find it and use it. There is no substitute for time in the studio, working. The more you exercise your creative “muscles”, the more they will develop. Do not wait for “inspiration” to come. Sketch, draw, read, listen to music. Look at LOTS of art “in the flesh”–not just online imagery. Don’t be too hard on yourself. For every decent piece I have made, I did 10 that are “turkeys”. Be persistent and learn from those–they are part of your journey. Whatever you lack in knowledge, go out and get it! So long as you are alive, understand that there is no “expiration date” for artists. You can create at ANY age, throughout the course of your life. Finally, please understand that not everyone will “connect” with our work. Accept that, be at peace with it, and create work that YOU are passionate about, without regard to how someone else may or may not respond to it.
Are there any little known things about you that people might be surprised to learn?
I once flew the F-16 fighter jet in South Korea, even though I am not a pilot.
What projects are you currently working on?
I am working on some mixed media pieces on large sheets of encausticboard. I’m in an experimental phase once again, and very excited about the possibilities. I am also working on an homage piece to Bocklin that references his painting, “Isle of the Dead”. I am working on a paper concerning the role of the sublime in 21st Century art as well.
Do you have any exhibits coming up?
I just finished an exhausting schedule of exhibits, and I am taking something of a break to work out issues involving a new process I am experimenting with. I do not plan any major exhibits until Spring of next year. I do, however, have a current exhibition up at the Marshall- LeKAE Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Anything you’d like to say in closing
I’ve probably said too much already. Thank you kindly for your interest.