Although I have not always seen myself as an artist, I feel comfortable with the label now. I didn’t have a great childhood but, as a kid, I enjoyed art. Most of my work was pen–and–ink or pencil, and not very much color. In the early 1990s, I looked at art more seriously and began dabbling with both charcoal and watercolor.
I enjoy how easy it is to blend charcoal and add even the tiniest of details to produce pieces rich with dramatic contrast or subtle softness. On the other hand, watercolor is not an easy medium to work with. Through books, patience, trial — and a lot of error — I learned how to use it with some success. I also tried acrylic but didn’t like how fast it dried. Traditional oils require chemicals that are harsh on the environment — and on people too — but I wanted to try them out anyhow. I chose water–soluble oils that don’t need the heavy, destructive chemicals. I learned how to use oils and like working with them now.
So yes, I am self-taught and my work is eclectic in style and media. In 1994, I worked alongside a very talented artist, Mr. Herschell Turner, who preferred pastel for his creations.
Curious about his work, I watched him for months and was impressed with how easily he turned out dramatic paintings with “chalk.” I tried the medium — but succeeded only in getting colored dust all over the walls, floor, clothes, my face, and my hair. I blamed the pastels for my failure and quickly left them alone. I kept watching though, and asked a lot of questions. After getting the nerve to try again, I managed to produce dull, muddy pieces that were nowhere near the luxuriant and vibrant ones Herschell created. However, the pastel stayed where it was supposed to — and that was progress! Now pastel is one of my preferred media, especially for portraits.
My subject matter runs the gamut from wildlife to social issues, to portraits of both pets and people, a little bit of abstraction and, of course, my Pudgies.
SO WHAT ARE PUDGIES
Pudgies are a signature style of art I received as a result of a donation.
In 1998, a hurricane relief organization requested a donation of art to help with a fundraising event. Ironically, this came at the heels of a friend’s encouraging suggestion that I strive to develop a personal style. She told me that my work was good, but it was all over the place. She suggested that I try painting a series of pieces that weren’t so diverse.
I thought about that but didn’t quite understand what she meant. When I was asked to donate some art to help victims of Hurricane Mitch, I thought quantity, not quality. I worked furiously for a month to complete as many pieces as I could.
My sketches were just that, rudimentary works meant to give an idea of where to begin the pieces chosen for completion, which I would eventually donate. Instead, those fun sketches were warmly received. The organization asked me if I would donate them!
I agreed, and everyone was happy. Those sketches became so popular that I had to name them so people could refer to them by something other than just “those fat people you paint.” This encouraged me to paint more, which brought more positive comments, and still more of the primitive looking beings. Pudgies evolved in name and in shape as a result.
Devoid of racial, ethnic, religious, political, or sexual orientation, these universal figures convey basic human feelings and actions common to us all. I believe that’s what makes them so popular.
HOW I PAINT
Spontaneous creations, like the Pudgies, flow freely. But more complicated pieces, like portraits, require detailed sketches and even the grid method if they’re really technical.
For a complex painting, I start by sketching it on the painting surface. I then block in larger areas (like backgrounds) with quick patches of color. These are like a primer for surface colors to sit on, so they do not appear flat. I usually paint shadows first, in purple, then I go to the details. Highlights always come last. If I’m working with pastel, I use a workable fixative after each layer. This helps form a bond with the pastel so it doesn’t fall off the painting or become muddy.This is necessary because in the end, I’m literally painting on the pastel itself, not the paper I started on.
Portraits are more complex. There are so many surface details that if any one of them is wrong, especially the eyes or skin tone, it throws off the entire painting. I usually start with the eyes because if they’re done correctly, the rest flows more easily. I’ve found that if I paint the eyes last, I worried that the eyes would come out wrong — and I might have to start the portrait all over again. That was way too stressful.
When it comes to skin tones, they are as diverse and individual as people. If the underpainting is not right, then the surface color may not be correct either. Because not many people have the time or energy to sit for hours to have their portrait painted, I rely on good, detailed, photographs. I also have discussions with the person who commissions the piece. To paint a good portrait, you must pay attention to details. What is not in a photo is just as important as what is. I try to capture the personality of the subject, not just the eyes and physical appearance.
WHY I PAINT
I create art for several reasons. First of all, it is very therapeutic. For as long as it takes me to complete a piece, my environment is psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally stress–free and pleasing.
When communicating with someone about a commissioned piece, I am connecting with parts of the population I would probably not meet. Sometimes these connections do not end when the piece is completed. As a result I am not only blessed with sincere and caring friends, but am also rewarded with an awareness of career success. To know that my work is displayed as far away as Israel, Germany, Canada, Mexico, and China; or, as close by as nearby homes, universities, courtrooms, offices, churches, and hospitals is a very humbling acknowledgement of Self worth. However, the main reason I paint is a lot more personal than that.
When someone buys an original, or print of my work, I am contributing to the world with my own individuality and self-worth — and to know that I belong to the world, through the spirit and energy of my art, is a most wonderful feeling of acceptance.