About The Artist
Although I have not always seen myself as an artist, I feel comfortable with the label now. I didn’t have a great childhood and would do almost anything to be accepted; 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 people too — but I wanted to try them anyhow. I chose water–soluble oils that do not require the heavy, destructive chemicals; learned how to use them, and enjoy working with them still.
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. I got the nerve to try again and produced dull, muddy pieces that were nowhere near the luxuriant and vibrant ones Herschell created. But, 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 and 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 asked if I would 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. Annette told me that my work was good but it was just all over the place. She suggested I try painting a series of pieces that weren’t so diverse.
I thought about that but didn’t fully understand what she was saying, or maybe I just didn’t want to. However, when asked to donate some art to help victims of Hurricane Mitch I thought quality, not quantity. Working furiously for a month I produced about forty sketches so as to give the fundraisers several pieces to choose from.
My sketches were rudimentary works. They were meant to give an idea of what the piece chosen for completion would contain. Those fun little sketches were so warmly received that the organization asked if I would donate them instead!
I agreed, and everyone was happy. Those pieces became so popular that I eventually had to name them so people would refer to them by something other than “those fat people you paint.” This encouraged me to play around with more of these sketches, which brought more positive results, and so many 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, Pudgies are universal figures that 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; a primer, for surface colors to sit on so they will not appear flat. I usually paint shadows first, in shades of purple, then I go to the details. Highlights usually come last. If I’m working with pastel, I use a workable fixative after almost each layer. This helps form a bond with the pastel so it doesn’t fall off the painting, or become muddy. I feel this is necessary because, in the end, I’m literally painting on the pastel itself, and not the pastel paper I use.
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. A long tome ago I found that if I wait to paint the eyes last, I will worry throughout the process that they will come out wrong — and I may have to start the portrait all over again. That was way too stressful.
When it comes to skin tones, they are as diverse and unique as people are. 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. To paint a good portrait I have to pay attention to details. I have discussions with people who commission my work because what is not in a photo is just as important as what is. It’s very important to me to capture the personality of the subject, not just the eyes and physical appearance.
WHY I PAINT
I create art for several reasons. First, 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 never 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. 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.