As an artist that is self-taught how do you continue to improve and grow your work and not stay stuck?
Well... I'm self taught as a painter only because I'm super stubborn and have resisted taking a painting class, but I've been pretty open to learning when it comes to other things. I studied graphic design in school, and Russian studies briefly, and studied Jewish literature, went back to school for geography and mapmaking, took writing classes, now I'm taking swimming classes, studying how to write a business plan and trying to learn how to power a juicer with a solar panel... for real. I like to think that all of those things inform my painting. I figure if I keep growing as a person then my work will grow too. At least that's a neat little assumption to make, and it helps me sleep at night, so let's go with it.
Little bit of everything. I've got some cool and varied projects to finish, from designing custom fonts for a hand made table of the elements to doing some traditional box lining on a touring bike. My fiance and I are in the midst of starting an organic juice company, thus the mucking about with solar panels and having beet-stained hands all the time. We're also doing a lot of athletic stuff... we're training for an Olympic distance triathlon in June, and looking forward to cyclocross season when our team will be back in the mud, embarrassing ourselves. I'm excited about these more physical, real-world adventures right now... riding bikes, starting seeds for the container garden on my porch, volunteering on a farm in exchange for a CSA. It's good to remember to live in the world sometimes, not JUST in the studio.
Oh yeah, also building a tandem bike for our wedding this fall. Oh man. I keep forgetting that a wedding counts as a project too.
"Dynamic" and "ethic" are generous words! Yeah, I've always been a little frenetic and and-over-the-place... I think that's pretty common when you're young and trying on a lot of hats, but perhaps most people just don't make a lifestyle out of it.Really, though, I think it has a lot to do with where I live, and who I live near. I know a lot of people, and I like a lot of people, and if you know and admire a lot of dynamic people you'll tag along after them, cultivate involvement with them, say yes to their project ideas and, if you're lucky, end up with your fingers in lots of pies. So to speak.
Same thing... by being inspired by the people around me. I've always been curious about crafts that have a lot of history and tradition, and require unthinkable amounts of meticulous detail... processes that promise to completely absorb me into a vortex of concentration. My father was an amazing woodworker who did some sign painting, and I grew up watching him lay gold leaf into sign lettering, wondering if I'd ever have such steady hands. As soon as I found out there WAS such a thing as pinstriping I was curious about that too, and when I met my fiance, who restores classic cars and paints cars and bikes, it was inevitable that I'd weasel my way into trying it.
I'm not entirely sure where I get inspiration or ideas. I sometimes feel like they can only really hit when I have my eyes crossed, or am looking the other way, thinking of something else. But if I had to go looking for an inspiration, a kick in the creative pants or the solution to an artistic dead-end right now I'd probably go to words. The most intense, lasting influences in my life have all come in the form of the just-right phrase, from a novel or from poetry or a quote pulled from in an interview.
Aside from that, I take a lot from old murals and sign painting, the kind of design that's just a part of the human landscape. I really dig the imagery that I find in the city every day, whether it's the texture of generations of paint peeling from an advertising mural, the green light of the sky here on a winter night, or the wheat-pasted image of a squirrel (those have just started turning up in Providence lately.)If you were to meet a younger you, what is the one piece of advice you would give to yourself as an artist?
Get over yourself and crawl outta that scaredy-cave.
I think that most self-employed artists and self-employed anythings are by nature pretty good at staying motivated. It's more of a challenge to control the always growing snowball of things-you-could-and-should-do. When you're running your own show, and working on things you're excited about, it's easy to work 24-7, and obsess about projects everywhere you go... in the shower, on a plane, under water, upside down in a yoga pose. I guess it comes naturally from the anxiety that if you let any slack into your process you might become a self-UNemployed artist.
I think the biggest challenge is to organize a schedule, and learn how to let whatever happens within a given day be for that day. For me, 2010 might actually be the year in which I learn to say "no" to a project or two. We'll see.
What is coming up for you this year?
Well, according to what I've claimed so far today, I guess it's juice, mud, gold leaf, and saying no. All that aside, though, I really am excited to spend a lot of time in the studio. I have a pile of paintings just started, and hope that by the end of the year I'll have a good-sized new collection ready to show. I'd like to install a really dense solo show, integrating all different sizes of paintings from the larger-than-life wildlife to the small, fragmented words. Judging by what I have going right now, there'll be a lot of large, horned animals involved, and the veiny images of roots and medicinal plants.I'll be showing in Boston in April and in London in June, and I've been talking with Thinkspace Gallery in LA about more opportunities to show there so I hope that'll pan out... I'm open to whatever else develops!