Monday, January 30, 2012


Blue Streak, oil on linen, 24 x 24", 2011

What are you working on in the studio right now?

Currently I’m working in a small-scale with black and white (and grayed color) in something I’m tentatively calling “Milk-Paint Drawings”. I’m combining drawing techniques and process with painting media and attempting to blend the two.

Can you describe your working routine?

Ideally, a daily routine means I wake early, meditate, get to the studio, put on wordless music or a song in a foreign language I don’t understand ( ex: Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn, Philip Glass, Virginia Rodriguez, or experimental sound works by my friend, Daniel Hill, etc…)If I’m working large I’m often on the floor (pouring paint, etc.) or if small-scale I work on a shelf – always mindful to step back and see the work in a fresh way.
At noon, I break for lunch and have time to just sit still and really look at what was done, scrutinize it. Recently, I found a small trampoline by the dumpster and brought it in my studio – I’m experimenting now with bouncing as I look – especially if I’m feeling restless. Sometimes I write notes – almost like poems in a sketchbook – but this is something only for me – it’s very personal, open-ended, associative kind of thinking, like a dream diary.

Can you describe your studio space, and how if at all, that affects your work?

My studio has a wall of windows facing north, with good, even light. The view is of another Pencil Factory building,-- not very spectacular or distracting. I have a decent amount of floor space and a large palette on wheels. I want to keep everything is easily moveable.  One wall is for storage of paintings and supplies. The other two walls are devoted for making and viewing paintings. I keep a full-length mirror to view my work backwards – a trick I use to surprise my view of the work and keep it vital. Also, my husband has the studio next to mine – (his sculptures and method are quite different from my work) during breaks, we’ll take a peek at one another’s studio --offer observations and encouragement. However, we try not to critique when either of us is “in process”. 

Silverpoint styllus, vine charcoal
& graphite on paper, 8 x 6 ", 2012

Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve, etc…

I tend to create work in series, though not necessarily on purpose – by this I mean, I don’t wake up one day and set out to make a body of work, on “plant life”, but I actively invite and pursue inspiration by noticing what’s around me/ available. – I “trust my muse” and I keep working. Then, one day, looking back, I’ll say “Oh, this appears to make a group of a sort” --It happens organically. Often one series bleeds into another. I try not to worry over this anymore (as I used to)  – it’s how creativity evolves.

My latest work began during this past summer in France, with a pocket sketchbook. I had been intensely involved with color before my trip, but travel made me limit what I could carry and reduce my media to a silverpoint stylus, charcoal, graphite stick and eraser. The black and white became an interesting limitation. Thinking about it now, it also seems to signify the “memory of a time” to me.

These drawing-paintings I’m making in my studio now, come out of looking back on those sketches, but they are also their own things. Recently, I saw a terrific print show in Baltimore and I think this has been an influence on me as well, especially the lithographs by Odilon Redon. In some of my new work, I’m using birch panels so I can really wrestle with surface, etch into it, do some mono printing and even a bit of carving!

What are you having the most trouble resolving?

Initially, I had a hard time acknowledging this new shift --I thought: “OK, I’m working in black and white while looking at seed pods or drawings of plants.”—It felt like a big departure because I view of myself as a colorist who makes abstract paintings. Allowing a touch of muted color has helped. Still, I wonder how long I will continue in this vein. I’m itching to move into larger scale paintings and suspect I will want to involve more color (perhaps indigo dye) – and I want to continue to explore drawing space as well as light and value range. Additionally, I’m coming to terms with the jumble of re-occurring themes: Nature; landscape; pattern and abstraction. Sometimes my paintings may appear to the viewer as completely non-objective and at other times quite specific. Then I’ll think of those exquisite botanical drawings by Ellsworth Kelly and it brings confidence. In any case, I believe the debate of figuration vs. abstraction is a non-issue.

Duo, oil on birch panel, 14 x 11", 2012

Do you experiment with materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?

I love all paint media. – I love the malleability of paint and how its viscosity can go from watery to buttery, and the surface changes from chalky to juicy. I love the range and variety of pigments and their history – all of it is enthralling to me. However, I’m not so much a technician as an alchemist. As a gift, I received a book on paint recipes that I’m eager to try some involve eggs and various oils and vinegar emulsions, lavender spike, and that sort of thing. It may just be art lore, but I’ve heard that de Kooning tried all kinds of things in his paint – even mayonnaise! In fact, working within a narrow color-range has opened me up to even more experimentation with paint-stuff. I’m using milk-paint (which is a wonderful saturated, flat-matte surface made from lye) in combination with high-gloss enamel and graphite powder and even a little silver leaf.

What does the future hold for this work?

Well, I suppose I’ll post some of my new work on my website --and see if anyone salutes.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you Valerie, it's been a pleasure

Hay-maker Moon, oil on linen, 48 x 36", 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012


Untitled, oil paint & rubber foam on board,
5.5 x 7.5", 2011

What are you working on in your studio right now?

I’m really excited about a diptych that I think I’ve recently developed to a point at which I can let it be. The piece is shown in the photo above and I think that it’s a breakthrough of sorts for me. So the story goes: I was in my studio with two blank 4 x 4’ stretched canvases. I began painting one of them (the entirely pink one on your right) and was getting my ass kicked badly. I couldn’t turn it into an interesting painting for the life of me. Well, 3 a.m. rolled around and I could hardly stand any longer so I decided to call it a night and leave tormented with my tail between my legs. I had just turned off the lights and was exiting through my studio door when suddenly I envisioned myself slamming the face of the blank canvas against the face of the painting that had been kicking my ass all night. It seemed like sheer desperation, yet I abided by the impulse.

I walked back into my studio, grabbed the blank canvas and slammed it against the painted one. I then rotated the more recently blank canvas 90 degrees CCW and slammed it against the ass-kicking canvas again. I then rotated the more recently blank canvas yet another 90 degrees CCW and slammed it against the ass-kicking canvas one more time. I then set the more recently painted canvas which now consisted of transferred impressions of the ass-kicking canvas down and became inspired to continue to paint on the ass-kicking canvas some more. At about 5 a.m. I had finally transformed the ass-kicking canvas into a very dark and strangely interesting painting and noticed that while kicking the ass of the ass-kicking canvas I had splattered paint all over the canvas that now consisted of the impressions of a former state-of-being of the ass-kicking canvas. I thought the canvas consisting of impressions of the ass-kicking canvas was beautiful yet need one more thing, so on its right side I added a pink square.

So there I was with two dramatically different looking paintings that were by process entangled. I lived with the paintings for a couple of months enjoying them mostly separately as I was very interested in their relationship yet felt very unfulfilled by the depth of their relationship. I felt that the relationship between the two paintings lacked reciprocation and closure in that the ass-kicking painting seemed to be of enormous influence on the painting consisting of its impression while the painting consisting of the ass-kicking painting’s impression didn’t have much influence over the ass-kicking painting. Anyway, while recently painting the ass-kicking painting pink I accidentally dropped my palette and splattered pink paint on the painting that consists of the impression of the ass-kicking painting.

Other than that, I currently have a variety of different focuses going on in my studio. From aggressively broken paintings on glass and plexi-glass to tight formalist sculptural abstract paintings to minimalist folded paintings on paper to found-object sculpture to collage. I try to maintain a studio environment that is conducive to continual discovery and surprise. I’m having a blast!

Can you describe your work routine?

I work as much as possible, whenever I have time. As a husband, father and artist who works a lot, I’ve managed to become quite good at juggling these three priorities. I usually work at night after the family has gone to sleep. I thrive in the solitude of the night. I am usually a sleep deprived mad man while making things.

Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.?

That depends on what level of process we’re talking about. If I’m looking for a new process through which I can develop a new type of work, I consider everything around me as a potential medium that just needs to be manipulated through a just process. If I’m working on an individual piece, it starts with one decision and then another in response, and so on and so forth until the individual work possesses its own unique logic and enigma. I obsess over my work, so I’m thinking about it constantly. This obsession almost always leads to breakthroughs, as long as I’m on the right path.

work in progress

Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?

I am currently an MFA student at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. My studio is on the 17th floor of a building on Michigan Avenue. The building faces east and has panoramic windows, so the view of Lake Michigan is amazing. My studio is fairly small, maybe 15’ x15’, but I love it. I’m surrounded by very interesting artists with very diverse approaches to making things. I don’t think I’ve ever been so inspired. I’ve only recently moved to Chicago from South Dakota, so living and working within a major urban environment is quite exciting. I’ve made things here that I know I wouldn’t have made back home.

What are you having the most trouble resolving?


Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?

I work with many different materials and am very particular about materials and the context in which they are used. In my mixed-media practice, material and process are inseparable in that a process is birthed from a material. In any case, this whole consisting of both material and process, must lend itself to a number of process/outcome-based experiential qualities such as, and in no particular order: immediacy, economy, uniqueness and believability, just to name a few. The process is the outcome.

Untitled, oil paint & rubber foam on board,
8.5 x 10.75", 2012

What does the future hold for this work?

I don’t know, that’s part of the fun of it.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thanks for all of your work Valerie. Thanks for having me. This is an honor. It’s been fun.

Untitled, oil paint & plastic frame, 12" tall, 2011

Saturday, January 7, 2012


The Clearing, 2011,
acrylic & wood with canvas, 94 x 90 cm

What are you working on in your studio right now?

Always a number of pieces happening. Varying size, scale and material.  The work is made together and there is a conversation that happens between small drawings, large vibrant acrylic paintings and the sculptures.  I am interested in the making, the interior and exterior structure.  Playing with materiality, color, surface, process. Jumping between loose figuration and abstraction. I am curious how abstraction can be figurative. Old questions about painting! Thinking about talismans and how meaning is made with intention or a side effect.  

Can you describe your working routine?

A friend said it well, “It’s like fishing”… some days waiting and messing about in a small seeking way. Other days or weeks I can get caught up and it feels like a drive, full of purpose, a confident pushing forward.  In that kind of chaos, the walls and floors are filled with paintings, stacked against the wall alternating.  I do a lot of cross-pollination working big and small, 2d and 3d. 
The drive of the work is multifold.  Sometimes color steers the painting.  A slap of yellow violet with grit against a dull black/blue/ grey. The color speaks to me, the texture of the paint, the drip….they are a language. At other times an image or emotional quality will drive the work, beginning with a landscape like space but thinking about interpersonal space and relationships.  This changes when working with the figure, capturing that emotive quality within the known features.

Greenpoint Studio

Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.?

There are a handful of ways I begin:
Sometimes I begin with color, and respond to the color empathically, it feels like a physical response to what I am looking at.
Sometimes I begin with an automatic or gestural painted line….there is a layering within my work, a masking and reiterating. Sometimes like a run on sentence, or a wandering journey, diaristic responsiveness.
Sometimes I begin with a vision of an end, or a scrap of a quality I am going for, inspired by a dream or anotherpainting or an experience or photograph, or emotional quality that somehow seems possible to manifest in color.
Sometimes I just begin a piece by making lines, like knitting or a purposeful quality that is going nowhere but where it is.

Can you describe your studio space and how (if at all) it affects your work?

I am very sensitive to my surroundings, which is one of the reasons I enjoy going to residencies and working in a new environment; both of the studio but also the landscape. The light and terrain, the quality of the space creeps in to the work.

I have been in my studio space in Greenpoint for ten years. It is a long skinny space, 12’ x40’. I have a window at the end and a big metal door that opens out onto the fire escape. I look over the low roofs of the surrounding buildings and purple “Eggs”, ( the waste treatment plant). A big piece of sky is visable from my window. I have seen many a double rainbow and moon rise over the waste treatment plant.

On paper

What are you having the most trouble resolving?

I turn over color and image, seeking something unexpected beautiful and ugly, raw and vulnerable. It is challenging to make work that is vulnerable, but bold and brave, that’s what I hope to do. I love finding the edge of my own sense of permissibility. When I locate it, it can send me into a tizzy, making me question the very act of making and image…. It slows me down and then often in an act of defiance I begin again. Begin again….important!

Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?

Lots of materials

What does the future hold for this work?

The work leads me somewhere new.  Not overly directed or determined.  I want to continue to learn and be surprised and energized.  I want to climb, jump, crawl, and ponder my edges.

 Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for this great opportunity to ask these questions. I have mulled over them for several months, leaving and revisiting....perhaps the way I paint as well! I love your project! I enjoyed the intimacy of the questions and also reading the larger dialogue with other artists on your blog. Fantastic work!

Between, 2011, acrylic & wood on wood panel