Artist Interview

 

What’s your artistic background?

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to draw or color. I took all the art classes I could in school. I grew up in Cupertino, California, home of Apple computer and the heart of Silicon Valley. My parents both worked in technology fields. I drew and painted on used punch cards and stacks of green and white striped pin fed computer paper. We had a computer in the house when not very many people had home computers.

As soon as I could get my hands on a way to start drawing on the computer, I did. Growing up with them, there was no barrier to learning about digital art. It was natural, just like learning to draw or paint. I started drawing pixel by pixel in about 1983. At that time tech got better, leapfrogging to color and then high resolution monitors and more powerful processors. Software like Mac Paint was introduced, and then a little later, Photoshop. I worked with all of it, and after high school, I tried to get jobs that would let me be creative. I worked in graphic design, marketing, and technical illustration – I enjoyed the work, but I also wanted to continue to develop skills in digital art.

What are you trying to communicate with your work?

I have a vivid imagination, and I frequently think in pictures. I like to create narratives around emotions or life lessons. My work is about risk, about joy, about loss, about how we choose to see and remember events in our lives. I laugh a lot in my life, I have a tendency to find humor in just about anything, so much of my work has a kind of tongue in cheek humor as well.

What made you choose the medium you work with?

My combination of 3D modeling/rendering and digital painting lets me present imaginary or impossible ideas to my viewers the way I see them in my head: as realistic, almost touchable environments and objects. It's familiar to the eye, but I can push the boundaries of nature and subject matter the same way as a traditional media artist does.

Do you work in a studio?

I work in my home office. It's about 12 feet square, and it's jam packed with art supplies, inventory for galleries, framing equipment, books, and computer hardware and software. As full as it is, I'm a bit obsessive about keeping the space tidy - I can't work in a mess. So everything is organized, which brings me peace and lets me easily work on the computer, or paint, or work on a miniature without having to clear space or find materials. I have artwork on my studio walls from two local art therapy groups, ShortBus Studios and Open Hearts Art. I have two big windows that face the woods, and I almost always work with one or both open, listening to the birds in the forest while I work.

Who are your biggest artistic influences?

I love realists; Hopper, Wyeth, Benton. I also draw a lot of inspiration from surrealists; Magritte, Dali, Sundsten, and Escher. My influences pretty literally translate to my aesthetic now; realism and surrealism.

What is your favourite piece of your own artwork?

When I've been asked this in the past, I've always responded with the name of my most recent work. Because the memory of creation is freshest, it feels the closest to me. That said, I think looking back on my work, my favorite at the moment is “The Introvert”, because I put a lot into the planning of that one. The composition, the color palette, the story it tells. 

How much time (on average) does it take to complete a work?

It really depends on the intention and the complexity of the work. I have some that go into the hundreds of hours, and some that take only about five hours total. But on average, I spend about a week working on an image from beginning to end – somewhere around fifty hours.

How do you know something is 'finished'? Is it easy to walk away?

It's easy now, but it didn't use to be! Over the years I have ruined a lot of images, in all sorts of media, by fiddling with them long after I should have stopped. Part of that was the pursuit of some degree of nebulous perfection. I'm now old enough and experienced enough to know that's a futile and counterproductive pursuit. Imperfection is beauty.

What project are you working on now?

I have about three different digital images in the works at any given time. I flip between them, finishing or abandoning them and starting new ideas. I'm also painting (badly), working in acrylics on miniature canvases. And I have two or three miniature scenes in varying stages of completion.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

Find your voice. Know who you are, and what you have to say with your art.

What was the first piece of art you sold?

I think it was an image called “Lagoon”, that I made in 2001. Cartoon style, inspired by a video game. I've sold quite a few prints of it over the years. A lot has changed about my technique, but I still love making playful images.

Do you find it hard to navigate the professional art world? 

Up until relatively recently, digital art wasn't considered a valid medium by most art venues. There are still many shows that exclude digital as a medium while allowing other types of print work (as opposed to originals). But the proliferation of art online is really having an impact on that. It's given digital artists a platform to show and sell work. I've largely discovered that if you have good technique and high quality presentation, digital art will be judged on the merit of its content and not the medium used to create it.  So barriers that existed in the early 2000s are largely gone. On the internet, the challenge is being seen. The web is a planet full of people standing on chairs holding up what they do or telling others what they think. It's wonderful (and sometimes horrible), and it can be difficult to be seen and build a following.

I work hard to find my audience. Through art shows and social media I've Slowly attracted a group of people who like what I do and I make efforts through email and posting to speak directly to them. Many artists dislike the marketing portion of our jobs. I don't mind it. I feel lucky that people want to see what I do and discuss how it makes them feel. It makes my experience online as a professional artist much more meaningful.

How do you price your work and why do you price it that way?

My pricing online is the same as my gallery pricing for similar products. Because my work is digital, I don't really have "originals" that I can sell. Working with selling prints has significant costs, especially because I want to be sure I'm offering the highest quality possible. Over the years I have gained an understanding of the costs and labor involved in producing ready to hang artwork for galleries. I try to offer products at a wide range of price points. If people love my images, I want it to be easy for them to own one.

What advice would you give new artists?

Practice practice practice. Look at art all the time. Figure out what you like, and why you like it. Figure out what you want to make and why you want to make it. Take classes, online tutorials, read books about art and technique. Then practice some more. Becoming a full time artist can be terrifying and daunting. It's important to understand that being an artist who sells doesn't mean you're a “sell out”. You can make art with integrity and meaning and sell it with the same integrity. There is a path that allows both.