Art LA Magazine

May 21, 2013 Interview

From an interview between myself and Tim Broughton for an upcoming article in June’s Art LA Magazine:

Can you remember the very first time you discovered that art was a talent for you?

I was 13 years old. For some reason I had the idea to do a pen and ink reproduction of a Grateful Dead album cover that belonged to my big sister. It was of a skeleton playing a violin. My drawing was spot on and pretty sophisticated. When I showed off my work, the first person that saw it said, “Wow, that’s amazing. But why did you draw it backwards?” It was only then that I realized I had drawn the mirror opposite of the image. Shortly afterwards, I read about Da Vinci‘s similar traits and that many great artists struggle with dyslexia. I took this as a sign that perhaps there was something more there.

Did your immersion in a formal art education process work in harmony with your natural abilities or did you evolve a different approach completely?

I feel I took a pretty holistic approach to my education. I grew up in Laguna Beach, CA and our high school team mascot was “The Artists”. It was, and still is, a community entrenched in the arts. So imagining a career as a professional artist was not so far fetched. I studied art in college in San Diego, but focused almost exclusively on drawing classes and techniques before ever attempting to work in color or painting. Thus I had a solid foundation in rendering and observation of subject matter. In a moment of panic and perhaps parental influence, I ended up with a degree in graphic design. Yet it has given me a solid understanding of composition. Fine art became a side hobby for a while.

In my mid twenties I had the inclination to begin painting. Upon moving into a new house, I discovered the previous tenant had left behind a beautiful custom made easel. I took this as a clear sign and began private instruction in oil painting techniques. I learned what I needed to know to get started – including a specific technique for pallet mixing (6 colors + white) that I still use today. The next 20 or so years were trail and error in painting and developing my artistic voice while running my graphic design business. 3 years ago I turned the business over to my partner and am now painting full time.

You display a very vivid imagination, was this always the case, and does it come naturally or do you consciously focus on creating the “extra-ordinary” in your mind?

Yes, I think that this is part of my natural artistic voice. Just like a certain singer may be inclined towards being an operatic tenor for example, I was always inclined to create scenes beyond what I could see without thinking about why. As a young teen I devoured books such as “The Lord of the Rings”, Kurt Vonnegut and science fiction. So those stories were creating visuals in my imagination which further developed my ability to see with my mind’s eye. Being a graphic designer/illustrator has also helped in that you have to bring to life a thought or sometimes abstract concept. So now it comes very naturally to me to see a scene, read a line in a poem or novel, or sit with a metaphysical concept and add to or modify that vision in my mind and end up with scene that is uniquely my own.

The cats and the ocean feature prominently, can you expand upon this?

I live near the ocean and surf regularly. So I am very intimate with the sea. I like to use it in my work as a metaphor for unlimited potential. But also because it constantly changes in colors and mood. So as a backdrop for a scene it also serves me well since it never looks exactly the same.

As for the cats, I currently spend more with my cat, who likes to sleep in my studio while I work, than anyone else. So I guess it’s natural that she would find her way into my art. When I lived in Santa Fe, NM I was surrounded by crows and ravens. So that was the animal presenting itself in my work at the time. I like to use animals both in their natural state and symbolically in place of humans, portraying human characteristics.

Does music influence your creative process at all?

I am always playing music when I paint. Although I occasionally listen to audio books. Mostly classic novels that I probably wouldn’t take the time to read otherwise. I wouldn’t say that music ever dictates anything in particular showing up in my work. However, there is a feeling to my work that I would classify as dreamlike and calming – even when there is underlying tension in the scene. So the music I listen to typically follows the same moods. I like music that is very melodic, such as Brazilian Bossa Nova for example, as it jives with the sense of harmony I strive to convey.

Have you had any deep or traumatic experiences that you feel have had a profound effect upon you as a person and/or an artist?

I had my heart broken not too long ago. I mean really broken for the first time in my life. It was not long after that happened that I met my now wife. And it was she who encouraged me to begin painting again. Entering that depth of sadness allowed me to love and feel more deeply than I ever could have before. A cracking open to a place of vulnerability and sensitivity in my art that I couldn’t have reached otherwise. Trauma of any sort tends to leave us feeling powerless. And when we come out the other side as a grander, wiser version of ourselves, there is usually a corresponding sense of empowerment. A feeling that I have the ability to envision and manifest whatever kind of life I desire. This is much of what my current work is now about. Balance in the face of adversity, envisioning and creating our innermost desires, and cultivating a light-hearted approach to life.

If you didn’t include cats in some of your juxtapositions, what other creature would you present?

I just finished a piece featuring an elephant, which was great fun to paint. And another one where rabbits showed up. I’m currently working on a painting with winged turtles in flight. They will be accompanying a muse on her nightly journey through the skies. I’m sure there will be many creatures coming and going in my art. Although I think I will always be using birds. They add a movement that I like. Plus they symbolize for me the angelic bridge between heaven and earth.

If you had to describe the message you purvey in your works in a single word, what would it be?