"When I was 19 years old, I told myself that I would make art for a living, regardless of how hard it was. I was driven to do so by an inner desire and need to communicate with others visually, through the medium of paint. Ever since that day, 30 years ago, I have never looked back or doubted my direction. To me, aside from my family, making art is everything. My passion for it never subsides."
What themes does your work involve?Well, I have always been fascinated with human behavior, whether in isolation or in groups, and this fascination has fueled my work for many, many years. As a figure painter, there is an endless stream of ideas stemming from these behaviors. My last exhibition, though, was more introspective, focusing on the conundrum of being a creative person in a corporate society (USA). In a society that really doesn't appropriately respect the arts, being an artist is quite the challenge. One could pursue the "traditional" track: stable job, 9-5 living, suburbia... leading to a financially structured life. Or one (me) could choose the harder track: being a creative person, facing constant financial instability, betting on yourself... leading to a fulfilled life and freedom to create expressively.
Describe your creative process.Ideas rain down on me constantly. I am never without them. Since I was a young child, my imagination has always been so vivid and clear. The creative process to me is a lifestyle. I have formed my life around this process. I allow myself to have the space to access this process easily and without any speed bumps. When these ideas start to form into a more cohesive series, I begin to do a lot of writing about it and carry a notebook with me to do some very basic and simple sketches, working out compositions. I try not to force the ideas, I let them come naturally. Once I see a vivid image in my head, I begin to gather models, work out lighting and poses and then take pictures of them. With all of this photographic material, I use my computer to work out the final compositions.
What influences your work? What inspires you? Why do you make art?People influence my work. When I was a very young child, I started learning and reading philosophy. I wanted to be a philosopher. When I first went to college, I studied philosophy, but it was there that I realized that words did not fully express my ideas. These ideas were all images and I had difficulty translating them into words. I had to paint them in order to describe them. Thus began my journey as a visual artist. You see, the ideas are what inspire me, they have always inspired me. As I get older, I no longer care about the accomplishments and accolades as much, I just love making art for me and the people who collect my work. When I make that connection with people through my art, it is so satisfying and creates an indescribable bond which propels me forward to make more.
What are your goals and plans as an artist in 2023?I have been making art full-time since 1999. In 2023, I just hope to continue that practice. I hope to keep getting better at my craft and continue my gallery relationships. I have been doing quite a few commissioned pieces these days, which I've always done, but these latest ones are done in this manner: the client gives me a topic... say, fear and pain, and then they allow me to paint whatever I want within that framework... I deliver the pieces without them seeing it until it is finished. these are something I love to do, so I hope to keep doing those as the years go on.
How do recent advancements in technology affect your art practice? How may recent developments in Artificial Intelligence (image generator software) affect the definition of fine art?For me, photoshop really streamlined my work process. I have always used photography as a tool for my work because most of my pieces are dreamlike and surreal and require a lot of photographic layering to create the composition. Back in the 90's, this was very difficult to do, so my work was way more simplified. I started using photoshop in the early 2000's, so now that I can take my photographs and stitch them together to create vivid compositions that I see in my head. It's a great tool for someone like me. I haven't thought much about how AI might affect fine art. I think humans will always crave the human creation. That's what will always separate us from machines. Our personal explorations, struggles, conflicts define who we are and others will always crave to see that.
What is the role of the artist today?I think the role of the artist is to be as honest as possible within the framework of their ideas. Honesty is key because our peers, neighbors, friends and others need to hear it, see it, etc. as truth. If we, as artists, are not honest, others can't have the proper perspective of how things really are. An artist is a lens, a filter, a refractor of reality, a seer of visions. So, because of this, a dishonest artist is similar to a swindler, in that they are selling an idea that is flawed, known to be broken or comes from a false pretense. Why is this done? Well, greed, fear, insecurity and ego are a part of this... as well as bad advice, bad handlers, inexperience, etc. The main point is that artists are needed, maybe more now that ever in recent memory and we must maintain honesty.
What is good art? What makes a piece of art great?My idea about good art has changed dramatically over the years. When I was studying classical painting, I had a pretty snobby idea about what good art was and I think that was an insecure way of thinking. There isn't one proper way of doing anything. Everyone comes from different places, backgrounds and periods of time. So why is one way better than another? Like religion, isn't the practice all that matters and not the subject. When it comes to art, it just boils down to personal reflection, so how can another deny the goodness of it? There are varying degrees of goodness, but who is to say what is good or bad? When it comes to greatness, that is also formed in the eye of the beholder. Greatness is fluid and ever-changing. This is a good thing. It means we are constantly changing.
This interview was published by Circle Foundation of the Arts. © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist