What were some of your first creative outlets as a kid? When did you start to paint?
I know that I started drawing very early on, but I didn’t recall painting as a child until I found a photo of me using watercolors at my grandparents’ house when I must have been about four or five. I was constantly making things using clay and paper and other materials. I loved Legos and I started building plastic models at a pretty young age. I think my obsessive/compulsive tendencies began to kick in with the Universal monster models of Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, The Mummy, etc. I felt a need to collect and build all of them, even the ones I didn’t care about. I drew all the time. I was obsessed with Mad Magazine and wasn’t into traditional comics at all, but I have distinct memories of drawing micro superheroes with colored pencils, depicting them as small as possible while still keeping them recognizable. Later I became fixated on trying to replicate detailed black and white photographs in pencil. Apparently, I was a control freak from the get-go.
What's your goal going into every painting? Is it always the same or does it differ?
It can differ depending on what I’m doing, but there is always an underlying goal to conceive of an idea and a composition that I find interesting enough to keep me as engaged as possible for the duration of the process, which can drag on for many weeks or even months, depending on size and complexity.
What would you say there is a common theme tying your paintings together?
I’d say it’s an exploration and deconstruction of human psychology and perception. That is the general theme and intention in most cases, but I doubt that it communicates to the viewer in a direct way. Hopefully something rubs off on the subconscious…
What do you enjoy more, The process of designing the image or physically painting it? Which one is one more difficult?
Both can be enjoyable and/or agonizing. Overall I’d say I prefer developing a concept or a theme for a painting or a body of work, and the sketching and composing, to the actual act of painting, although when things are flowing well painting can be really fun. Being a perfectionist can be a nightmare, so I’ve made a concerted effort to change up my practice in recent years. For the most part I now typically start with a looser framework in terms of the sketch, so I can get to painting as quickly as possible, as opposed to locking every single element down first. I let things develop much more organically as a general rule now. Any opportunity to force or trick myself into not being quite so perfectionistic is usually a positive.
How closely do you pay attention to light in your paintings?
I pay pretty close attention to it, but I’m certainly no expert. I have a couple friends that are straight prodigies when it comes to technique, and know the terminology regarding the various types of light, how they’re deployed, etc., but as controlling as I am in some ways, I can also be impatient, and I’ve never wanted to get bogged down in the technical and procedural aspects, and so I mostly just wing it. It probably shows…
Who were some artists, that when you discovered them, changed or shaped your tastes?
Being exposed to the massive frieze by Diego Rivera at the Detroit Institute of Arts as a little kid had a huge impact on me. Seeing Dalí at a young age was a game changer. I didn’t know a human was capable of doing that with paint that until I saw his work. He was so free and had and insane ability to manifest the surreal in a seemingly grounded reality, which is something I strive for in my work. Studying art history at RISD opened the floodgates and I became aware of a whole new group of artists that changed my outlook on everything. George Tooker, Peter Blake, Richard Lindner, and Ed Ruscha are some that come to mind. There were many others. I discovered a lot of them while researching a freshman year assignment for a 2-D class where we were instructed to design a deck of 52 playing cards, each representing a different artist. This was pre-internet, so a project like this meant days and hours in the library combing the shelves and poring over artist monographs. It was such an amazing project and I worked really hard on it and learned a hell of a lot. I can still picture myself hunched over my crappy little desk in a shared dorm room with bad lighting and literally working for 24 hours straight to finish them for the final class of the semester. My very first all-nighter. Clearly my bad habits started early.