It is the creative juxtaposition of warm soft flesh with cold hard steel that intrigues me and drives my work. Add to this varying layers of gritty rust, old worn tools, the alluring curves and intriguing details of vehicles from the 1930’s -50’s, weathered wood that once had a specific purpose but now holds a new strength and beauty gained through the passage of time, the emotional entanglement and physical simplicity of black fetish leather, all mixed up in a sexually charged, sociological, psychological, and cultural barrel of complexity – the foundation for my art.
The creative process is much like a conversation. As I lay down brush strokes, colors, and textures, the piece will respond suggesting my next course of action or, at times, rebel and cry out for drastic change. As this conversation, this debate, takes its course, the painting will emerge, take shape, and ultimately come to completion.
The world continues to show me hints of conversations yet to be had; choosing which to focus on is always my most challenging struggle. My simple wish is for those diverse conversations to never end and for my work to spark even more dynamic and open conversations and exploration amongst those who view it.
Pictured here is my amazing wife Heather, without whose continuous support I could not remain an artist.
During my B.F.A. at Eastern Washington University (2000-2002), an interesting series of events unfolded and drastically changed the direction of my work. I had taken a few figure drawing classes and really enjoyed them. Of course, every time you had some sort of groove going, the class period was over. Or for that matter, the quarter had come to an end. I was also tiring of what seemed to be the same poses over and over again. I wanted to add a little something more to my drawings.
I was quite fortunate one day to have a fellow art student approach me and offer to model in exchange for one of my paintings. She had never modeled nude and I had never worked with my own model. In no small way, she changed my life. We set a date and I decided to go with a photo shoot rather than have her sit for a single piece because I had a variety of ideas I wanted to explore.
As the photo shoot drew near, I became a little bit nervous (ok, a lot really). I was going to be working one-on-one with a naked woman! We would meet in the halls at Eastern and laugh about it until the day was almost upon us. One of us, I can’t remember exactly who, suggested she bring a friend for moral support. Whew! That took the pressure off both of us.
Finally the day arrived. I cleared out the living room of my apartment, rounded up some cheap incandescent lamps for lighting, and lined some wrenches across the heater so they wouldn’t be cold. The model and her friend were at the door. Lots of nervous laughter all around. We experimented with various ideas, mostly the juxtaposition of metal and flesh. At one point the model was laying on her back and I lined the wrenches across her thighs. The shadows created were very intriguing and the painting I made from that shot became one of my first major paintings.
That piece, Torso with Wrenches (shown below), also set in motion a storm of criticism with the idea that I was a misogynist, objectifying women, and was using women as tools. This was a very new experience for me, and difficult to digest. I certainly didn’t feel as “evil” as many people seemed to suggest.
One weekend afternoon, the building was practically deserted, and I was in the studio painting. A man I didn’t know walked in. I said hello and welcomed him to look around. He paused for a moment, said nothing and looked away. Moments later he handed me a card and walked out the door. Puzzled, I examined the card and in bright rainbow colors were written the words “Jesus Loves You.”
My critics and I had very different ways of looking at my paintings, and for that matter, the world.
As for the rest of that shoot, I can barely remember. I was nervous. Everything was a blur. But the experience did create a pattern I follow to this day and it led to a passion for working with the female figure in my paintings. There seem to be so many possibilities. And the things people read into these paintings are just as fascinating to me as my own thoughts in working with the models and subject matter.
Into the studio.
From the photo shoot(s) I have multiple images to choose from. I can’t really say how I choose which photos to turn into paintings. I go through them and consider everything; lighting, pose, composition, visual appeal, and more. I use the photos to help layout the figure, their surroundings, shadows, and such, the basic form. I try to capture something special about that image, that experience during the shoot, that particular model . . .
Once I have begun the painting, the photo reference is placed out of sight unless needed for some crucial detail. That is when I really play with colors, lighting, textures, and more. The reference photo has played its part and now the painting begins to take on a life of its own.
Yikes, a desert alligator is going to eat Heather!
Us, Heather and I. I’m making faces because we just got married and she’s already making a list of chores!