Q: What is more important to you, the subject of the painting or the way it is executed?
A: In a sense my subject matter – folk art, masks, carved wooden animals, papier mâché figures, toys – chose me. With it I have complete freedom to experiment with color, pattern, design, and other formal properties. In other words, although I am a representational artist, I can do whatever I want since the depicted objects need not look like real things. Execution is everything now.
This was not always the case. I started out in the 1980s as a traditional photorealist, except I worked in pastel on sandpaper. (For example, see the detail in Sam’s sweater above). As I slowly learned and mastered my craft, depicting three-dimensional people and objects hyper-realistically in two dimensions on a piece of sandpaper was thrilling… until one day it wasn’t.
My personal brand of photorealism became too easy, too limiting, too repetitive, and SO boring to execute! In 1989 I had at last extricated myself from a dull career as a Naval officer working in Virginia at the Pentagon. Then after much planning, in 1997 I was a full-time professional artist working in New York.
Certainly I was not going to throw away this opportunity by making boring photorealist art. I wanted to do so much more as an artist: to experiment with techniques, with composition, to see what I could make pastel do, to let my imagination play a larger role in the paintings I made. I was ready to devote the time and do whatever it took to push my art further.
After spending the early creative years perfecting my technical skills, I built on what I had learned. I began breaking rules – slowly at first – in order to push myself onward. And I continue to do so, never knowing what’s next. Hopefully, in 2018 my art is richer for it.
Comments are welcome!
Q: What qualities do you think mark the highest artistic achievement?
A: If I may speak in the most general terms, several qualities come to mind that, for me, mark real artistic achievement:
- firm artistic control that allows the artist to create works that simultaneously demonstrate formal coherence while responding to inner necessity
- the creation of new forms and techniques that are adapted to expressing the artist’s highly personal vision
- an authentic and balanced fusion of form, method, and idea
- using material from one’s own idiosyncratic experiences and subtly transforming it in a personal inimitable way during the creative process
- the meaning of the thing created is rigorously subordinated to its design, which once established, generates its own internal principles of harmony and coherence
Comments are welcome!