Sometime ago, I was approached by a student from a college in southeast Florida who wanted to interview me for an art project, as well as showing examples of my work to his class. This is the transcript.
1. What is your art school background?
I have not attended art school. I am self-taught.
2. Who is your inspiration in the field of painting?
Esteban Vicente, both as a painter and a person.
3. What do you want to achieve from your art?
Powerful, authentic self-expression that will inspire and challenge viewers.
4. Which artist or artists are you currently interested in and why?
I am interested in the Abstract Expressionists because of their willingness to continually break away from the current paradigms and take risks.
5. What shows have you been in current and past?
I have participated in several group shows, most recently for three months at a local gallery. I also exhibit in many online galleries, including my own.
6. How long have you been painting?
22 and 1/2 years.
7. When did you realize that painting was important to you?
About a month after my father died.
8. Do you feel that selling your work takes away from the integrity of your art?
Not for me, because I do not need to sell my work. My desire is to have it seen and experienced.
But it certainly can, depending upon the politics of the particular art market (galleries, shows). Many painters create decorative art because it sells, not because it has integrity and power.
9. What medium do you prefer when painting?
Acrylics — they are the modern equivalent of oils, and much, much less toxic and easier to work with. I mostly use palette knives rather than brushes, and paint on stretched canvas.
10. How do your past experiences affect your paintings?
Since my work is totally inner-directed, it is completely influenced by who I am, what I have and am experiencing, Nature, and the world around me (e.g. current events).
11. Do you paint from a technical point of view or is it based on emotions?
See my last response. Technique is merely a tool for expression, and nothing in and of itself.
12. Have you found it difficult to sell your work?
Yes. The vast majority of people cannot relate to abstract art because they have been taught that the subject matter is the content. This is a failure of our educational system.
I remember reading about a study that concluded that most people liked paintings that were figurative, had animals, a few trees, used a great deal of blue, and did not threaten their world-view or confront them in any way. This does not interest me at all.
13. What challenges have you faced in the art world as well as the business world?
Finding opportunities and venues for exhibiting my work.
14. Is creating art the only career choice you’ve had or is it more of a diversion from a more tasking career?
I have created a lifestyle that supports my creative pursuits, both painting and music. I mainly worked at home as a web designer and computer consultant, and set my own hours.
15. What symbols if any at all are used in your work?
16. What advice do you have for an up and coming artist?
Be true to yourself and your vision, and don’t let them steal your fire!
17. What hardships have you faced being a professional artist?
Finding opportunities for showing and selling my work.
18. Was this your only career choice?
No. I began by teaching English in secondary schools. I left because I could no longer support the values and paradigms of the system and so-called dominant culture.
19. How do you feel about art school or school in general?
It can be a good experience in terms of basic instruction (e.g. learning how to read or draw) and learning to share with others. Mostly it is geared toward simply becoming a cog in the machine. I have thrown out almost everything I learned in school, and replaced it with what I have gained from my experiences, meditation, contemplation, and insights.
20. Do you feel that school was helpful for your career?
No. I am self-taught, both in art and computers.
21. Who inspired you?
The Beat generation and French existentialists, especially Allen Ginsburg and Jack Kerouac, and the abstract expressionist painters, particularly Pollock, Kline, de Kooning, Rothko, Vicente. Also Rembrandt, Goya, El Greco, Van Gogh, Monet, Matisse.
In other areas, Buddhism has been a very important influence, as have the Dalai Lama, Ram Dass, Timothy Leary, Herman Hesse, Aldous Huxley. And certainly Beethoven, Bruckner, and Bach, and the Beatles.
22. What steps do you take in starting a painting?
I simply stand in front of the canvas for awhile, and after several minutes the image of a color to start with comes into my mind. I mix up some paint and begin, without preconceived notions of what strokes, forms, shapes, and so on to use. In other words, the painting creates itself.
I think that too many ideas ruin the whole thing. For me, painting needs to be free, expressive, unlimited. In other words, just paint!
23. Do you prefer painting in color or black and white?
Both. I seem to go through phases where most of the work is mainly b&w, and then at other times I use a profusion of colors.
24. Do you paint on canvas or masonite, etc.?
I paint on stretched canvas, in sizes ranging from 40″x30″ to 78″x66″. My paintings, with very few exceptions, are vertical rather than horizontal.
25. How have Pollock, de Kooning and the Beatles inspired your paintings? What references from them do you put in your work?
They have inspired me by their willingness to go beyond whatever the art forms had been previously, to try new techniques and approaches, and yet be authentic and real, expressing whatever feelings and thoughts were moving through them.
Their influences do not directly affect my work in terms of content.
26. In your paintings “Water” and “Amerika” what feelings are you trying to express, and how does painting such expressive works make you feel?
In the Water Series, I was trying to express the freedom, energies and qualities of flowing water. I used paints mixed with lots of fluid media, and dripped, poured and splashed them on a pre-wetted canvas from varying heights.
I very much enjoyed the process, as it was almost completely uncontrolled. Viewing the results was often astounding, and the work made me laugh and jump with joy, like a small child.
The Amerika series was strongly influenced by current events in this country, especially what I perceive as the rise of fascism, the spreading of fear, the erosion of basic rights, and the absurd attempts to control things, all in the guise of security as a response to 9/11. I used white, red and blue paints in an explosive manner to express my horror and anguish at what has become of this nation.
27. Do you feel that your artwork has a place in what critics call “high art”?
It certainly is not painting in the classical manner, a la Rembrandt, Goya, Velasquez, nor figurative. Obviously it depends upon what a particular critic means by high art. I place little or no value upon such judgments.
28. Your work is as good or better than what I have seen In the Norton Museum of Art and most of the galleries I have seen so far. Why do you think there is so much bad art out there or is all art good art or is it a matter of taste?
Thanks for your feedback! Much appreciated!!
I think that art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. And clearly there is no arguing about taste! One person’s dessert is another’s poison.
But I also believe that education plays a strong part in the appreciation of art. For example, most people have been trained to see subject matter as content, and therefore cannot understand, let alone appreciate and enjoy, most abstract art. So I feel that the educational system has failed badly in this regard.
Also, galleries depend upon sales in order to stay in business, so they will only display what people will buy. And only rarely will they take a chance on unknowns. Decorative art tends to sell well; work that is challenging and confrontative will not.
I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the ratio of galleries to population is the highest in the world. In a town of 85,000, there are more than 300 galleries!
But when I do the rounds, I almost never see work that is fresh, vibrant, authentic and exciting, regardless of genre. Most of the art seems constructed to go with the potential buyer’s interior decor.
On another note, I want to thank you for your interest and questions. The process of answering them has helped me to understand myself and my art in a deeper, more meaningful way.