This is Who I AM
I’m an equal opportunity mark maker, rarely sticking with one medium as I work on any given piece. What begins as a blank canvas or wood panel quickly becomes a series of layers, most of which will be painted over as the work proceeds. But even though you might not see those layers they’re there, adding weight and depth and richness to the finished piece.
The final layers may appear to be oil and cold wax but if you give it a closer look you might see graphite or charcoal or colored pencil, not to mention plaster, acrylic or collage.
I suppose I could call everything Mixed Media but that conjures up other images in my head. And so I label most paintings by what went into the final layers.
This is Where I Work
At least I like to think it does.
Wildlife is just one of many perks of living where I do, the Sierra foothills of Northern California. We’re surrounded by the Tahoe National Forest, a never ending source of creative inspiration with its rivers, forests, meadows and rugged natural beauty. A five minute drive from home takes me to Nevada City, another source of inspiration with its gold rush architecture and thriving arts community.
I often paint outside when the weather is good, sometimes when it’s not. I set up a table and paint under the trees on a patio covered with fine crushed rock. Working outdoors inspires me to experiment with what’s at hand. Pieces of bark, twigs, pine needles, even pine cones dipped in paint create interesting marks. And always, I’m inspired by the play of light as shadows move across the paper or canvas.
This is Why I Paint
This is a true story. As right and true as all those years of remembering can make it.
The only thing I recall about that day, that year, that godawful time in my life, was the portrait of the old man. He was a refugee from a war or famine, maybe a flood… I don’t recall. I guess you could say it was a godawful time in his life too. Anyway, I found his photo in the newspaper and knew I NEEDED to sketch it, because that was what I did back then. I sketched. I drew. I made art whenever I could. Which wasn’t too often.
Because I was in school, taking classes that sucked me dry like bones left out too long in the sun. Sensible classes. Mandatory classes. And when I wasn’t in school I was studying or waiting tables at a diner in the mall. Working late into the night, telling men twice my age I wasn’t interested. Then going home and doing the same thing the next day. School. Work. Assignments. And when I was lucky, when I could fit it in, the occasional soul liberating drawing.
But not often enough.
Pause here for the violins.
The portrait of the old man was pinned to the wall by the front door of the crappy duplex in the crappier neighborhood. A pencil sketch really, on cheap paper. I was on my way out to work one day, maybe school, but I stopped and studied it. And then I surprised myself and said with my real voice, not the voice inside my head that was always telling me bad things, “This is good. This really is good.”
And the boy slouched on the sofa, the handsome boy who spent his hours, his days smoking dope and not doing much else said, “Yes it is.”
The light went on inside my head, sparks, and I said, “I could be an art major.”
The boy who’d been sucking the life out of me for way too long sucked the weed deep into his lungs, holding it there and saying in a strangled voice as he tried not to exhale, “Yes you can.”
And I KNEW I was right. And he was right. And that was HUGE because we never agreed about anything.
So I became an art major. The joy came back into my life.
And the boy went out of it. Eventually.
As near as I remember that’s the way it went. Except I left out the drama. Because I was twenty years old, there was plenty of drama.
Until I learned to exhale.