For a brief bio, go to “About the Artist.”
I have always loved drawing and, to me, it is central to the creative act. I love the raw energy of ancient expressive marks in caves and the preparatory sketches of the old masters and I love to work with bold lines and gestures in my own work. Lines are the architectural skeleton of an image, the framework that supports the visual field. Drawing has often been a preparatory stage in the creation of a painting but, as an expressive medium in itself, it allows so much room for the imagination, and I work with these inherent ambiguities to create a sense of motion and energy in my paintings. While drawing holds a central place in my work, I like to build up a complex surface of collaged antique book pages, sheet music, stenciled images, and paint, creating a background that interacts with my drawings and adds depth to the interpretation of the piece. Over this complex background I draw mostly with watercolor and lithographer’s pencils and then liquify my lines and paint into the drawing, building volume, and creating a sense of motion. I am drawn to subjects that inspire curiosity and tell a story, and I like to juxtapose the scenery of everyday life with unexpected or unusual imagery. I feel that it is important to remind ourselves that we can still find wonder in the world that we experience everyday.
How I make my paintings:
Once I have the subject of a painting determined, I begin by creating the background, layering papers and pages from antique encyclopedia and school books that relate to the theme of the piece and will create an interesting visual texture to interact with the foreground. Over this, I create a field of color with washes and glazes of acrylic paints and then seal the papers with a varnish. Once the background has dried, I begin to draw, paint and stencil imagery onto the surface. With most of my larger pieces, I use watercolor pencils to draw the foreground imagery over the mixed media background. The watercolors allow me to blend paints into the drawing and manipulate the drawing with brushes to create a sense of motion. Especially on smaller surfaces and whenever working with lighter pigments, I find that the details of my drawings are more vibrant using a stencil then when drawing by hand. To stencil my imagery, I hand paint inks and paints through a silkscreen stencil made from one of my drawings onto the surface and blend the stenciled image with paints and watercolor pencils to add depth and a sense of motion to the piece. Often I will paint and draw on top of the stenciled image and sometimes layer multiple stencils on top of one another. Finally, after all the acrylic, ink, and watercolors are dry, I varnish the piece using an acrylic polymer varnish.
How I make the stencils I use in some of my paintings
I begin by creating several sketches of the image I want to create. Once I create a drawing that fits the mood and energy I am looking for, I photograph the drawing and remove all color and grayscale from the photograph, turning it into a true black and white image which I then adjust until the contrast and pigment density are well balanced and then have the image burned into a silkscreen. I then use this stencil to incorporate the image of my drawing in various inks and paints into my works of art.
Thoughts on Original Paintings, Mixed Media, Prints, and Reproductions
One term that is easy to define is “reproductions,” which is something I neither make nor sell, and which I would define as photographic copies of an original work of art. Some artists and museums define them more technically as “photomechanical reproductions.” There are now numerous methods of making reproductions and many of them derive from methods used historically in fine art contexts and the terminology can become quite confusing. Lithography, for example was invented in the 18th century as a way of making subtler variations in tone than was allowed by traditional etching and woodblock techniques. With the invention of photographic techniques, lithography began to be used as a means of mass reproducing images of finished artworks, and offset lithography is still one of the most common means of making cheap reproductions today. Similarly, photography, silkscreens, and even woodcuts all originated as fine art creative printmaking techniques and are now used to create mass-produced imagery from creative works of art along with an entire body of new digital methods such as inkjet (“giclee”) and laser technologies. Regrettably, many artists and galleries mistakenly describe reproductions as prints, which should rightfully be reserved for works of art created by fine art printmaking techniques such as woodcut, etchings, etc. (check out the MOMA website for some great info on this subject).
In the end, many artists turn to reproductions to offer less expensive options to their collectors. Instead of generating reproductions, however, many others turn to traditional printmaking techniques to translate their ideas into new images or to explore similar themes throughout a larger body of work. With traditional fine art printmaking techniques, an artist can create a template for an idea and create multiple versions of the same idea, each of which can vary either subtly or quite drastically depending on how the artist chooses to make each impression. In the 20th century especially, many artists began to incorporate printmaking techniques into their original paintings which allowed them to either reference imagery from pop culture, or to work with ideas of repeated imagery in individual pieces and throughout a body of work. Personally I have always preferred to use traditional printmaking techniques in conjunction with drawing and painting to create smaller mixed media original pieces of art rather than relying on cheap photographic reproductions to generate smaller and less expensive objects. I would be inclined to describe my smaller pieces created through collage, paint, and stencil techniques as monoprints since in traditional monoprint etching technique involves varied inking of a base image and often incorporates Chine-collé collaged elements. But the term is widely misunderstood and my appropriation of Monoprint to describe stencil, collage, and paint wouldn’t be really accurate.
About Monoprints in General:
Monoprints are often described as a painterly form of printmaking. Traditionally they are created by painting directly onto etching plates and often will include collaged elements or changeable aspects of the image so that no two prints are exactly alike. They differ in this from editioned prints in that the goal of editioned prints is specifically to create multiple images where each resembles the next as closely as possible. Also, monoprints are sometimes confused with monotypes but a monotype is typically made without any similarity to proceeding or succeeding images created by the artist whereas the monoprint is created using what is often called a “matrix” (an image, pattern, or design on the plate) which allows the artist to create a series of prints which all resemble each other in concept but wherein each individual print is unique allowing the artist to vary their expression and concept within the series.
Examples of my art based on my drawing of the oldest Ferris Wheel still standing (at the Prater, in Vienna):
In general I describe my works as “Mixed Media” and each is an original work of art. None are reproductions of one of the others nor are any reproductions of any of my other work. Each is unique in composition, coloring, and even materials, and so I cannot really even “edition” them numerically as one might with an etching since editioned works of art are essentially twins of each other and, aside from differences in inking and impression, they are more or less interchangeable. Instead, each of these originals has it’s own unique blend of mood, motion, and concept that makes it worth contemplating in it’s own right. Together, I find that they compliment each other and actually each adds to the concept in it’s own way.
Some of my inspirations:
Schwitters was my first major inspiration in the world of possibility opened up by collage, found materials, and the repetition of themes. Like a musician combining a set of core notes into various new themes and relationships, Schwitters took the material he found in his world and composed visual arrangements that explored the subconscious and conscious way in which we view the everyday world. In these three pieces, he includes the words “and” (“und”) and “him” (“er”) in various contexts that change the way we might think about them. The repetition of ideas throughout his body of work enhances the way in which each piece might be understood so that, while each one stands as an interesting object of contemplation alone, together they begin to ask even more as a set than any one would individually.
Rauschenberg used silkscreen stencils of popular imagery and his own photographs in his paintings. The three paintings below illustrate the complexity of the idea of originals, multiples, and prints in modern art. Both “Retroactive i”, “Buffalo II”, and “Retroactive ii” use silkscreen stencils of JFK, an astronaut, Kennedy’s hand, and other stenciled elements in combination with paint and other media. The Rauschenberg foundation describes this technique as “Silkscreen Painting.” The Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago describes “Retroactive ii” from this same body of work as “Oil, silkscreen, and ink on canvas,” and other museums list similar pieces simply as “painting” or “mixed media.” These pieces are without a doubt originals, as opposed to reproductions, but they use stenciling techniques to replicate imagery similar to printmaking methods. And yet, neither are they are prints since, despite their similarities, there are radical differences of composition, coloring, and mood between each one.
“Retroactive I (1963) belongs to the series of silkscreen paintings that Rauschenberg made between 1962 and 1964. His subject matter and commercial means of reproduction for these works led critics to identify him with Pop art. Unlike the one-to-one ratio he could achieve in the transfer drawings, the mechanically produced screens allowed him to transcribe his own photographs and images taken from the popular press onto a larger scale.” From: http://www.rauschenbergfoundation.org/art/art-in-context
Like Rauschenberg, Warhol used silkscreen techniques in creating original paintings. Sometimes referred to as “Silkscreen Paintings,” they are most often described simply by the materials included in the piece such as “acrylic, silkscreen ink, and pencil on linen” or “Fluorescent paint, silkscreen ink, and pencil on linen” on the Warhol Foundation website. Unlike Rauschenberg, Warhol often focused on one single stencil for each piece, sometimes repeating the stencil in varied colors across the canvas, other times using a single stencil for each canvas but varying the coloration of paints and inks boldly on each unique canvas.