Tell me about yourself! Where are you from? Interests? Likes?
I was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin but I moved a lot while I was growing up, so sometimes I consider the Midwest my home. I did however move back to Wisconsin to a city just outside of Madison and following high school graduation, I chose to study graphic design and earned an Associates Degree in Commercial Art. With my parents again on the move, this time to Utah, I was really at a crossroads about what I was going to do with my life. I had a piece of paper and some newly learned skills, but sadly, I realized advertising wasn’t my passion. As my parents moved West, I stayed in Madison to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I spent the next year working various jobs, trying to get my rock band out of the garage and basically having fun. Then one day I knew, college was the answer. I gave up everything and put all my energy and resources into putting myself through college and proudly walked away with a BA in Art Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and walked straight into a school art room and have enjoyed every second of that decision! I passionately believe in the arts and it’s really an honor to spend time working with young artists as they discover the joy of creativity.
My other great passion is music. As a songwriter, combining words and music allows me the opportunity to express myself differently and though it’s now just a hobby, I do spend quite a bit of time writing and recording my songs. Sometimes when my love of music diverts my attention from my art, I think of Vincent Van Gogh’s short, but productive art life that lasted just over 10 years. He amazingly created something like 2,100 pieces of artworks, 860 were oil paintings and the rest were watercolors, drawings, sketches and prints, which is pretty prolific. I whole-heartedly blame music for the reason why I probably won’t reach half of Van Gogh’s creative output in my lifetime… but I’m ok with that.
Did you always know you were going to be an artist?
Yes, without a doubt. Although I have at different stages in my life pondered other career possibilities… fireman, zookeeper, comedian, football player, guitar player, full-time college student…just to name a few. But the truth is being an artist and a teacher was always my true calling. Even though I gave other careers some thought, deep down I’ve always known that art was going to play a role in my daily life. I vividly remember in second grade when my classroom teacher announced, matter-of-factly, we would not be able to have our normally scheduled art day and that art class was cancelled. After giving this quite a bit of thought, I knew what to do. I opened up the 1st – floor window, climbed out, and headed for home. Now this was going to be a bit of a problem since I took the bus to school! I didn’t get very far before I was escorted back to the school building. I knew then how powerful art was to me and the real reason I went to school.
What inspires you as an artist?
Some one said, “Creativity and love come from the same source, and both have no boundaries. It all depends on how we use them.” Whether I’m writing a song, a poem or creating a piece of art, my art is just an extension of my heart and soul. The goal always is to honestly express and convey that particular thought or feeling that is within me. Fine art gives me the opportunity to express my thoughts and feelings when there are no words available to do otherwise.
“Creativity and love come from the same source, and both have no boundaries. It all depends on how we use them.”
My inspiration is really shaped by the way I see the world. I can get easily lost in the details of objects, like the veins of a leaf or the texture of an old barn. In my Sharpie permanent marker drawings I’ve been specifically inspired by people and more specifically the face. I’m drawn to the eyes and have been for most of my creative life. You can gain a lot of insight into a person by reading their eyes. It’s the eyes that reveal truth, joy, love, fear, sadness, and heartache. Because of my limited vision, I’ve always had a special appreciation for sight and the single eye has been a recurring motif that appears in all my Sharpie permanent marker drawings. It’s the eye shape in each work that gives my art its emotional focus.
How would you describe your style?
My art moves between Abstraction and Non-Objective. Although I have the ability to create realistic works of art and have done so on and off my whole life, there is something about abstraction that sparks my creative energy.
I find beauty in line, shape, texture and color. Each of these elements is like separate instruments. But, when you put them together in a pleasing way you create beautiful music. I love spiral shapes and twisting, overlapping shapes and lines and use them a lot to create rhythm and to suggest movement and to express emotion. If you look at a work like Bowl of Notes (above), you can see the kinetic energy that’s created by overlapping lines, shapes and colors.
I also really strive to create an illusion of space in my work. This is achieved by the way I draw and color the shapes. Making the shapes appear to be 3-dimensional is a very central part to my style. In Guardian (below), you can see a culmination of all these components.
How did you get started working as an artist? How do you get the creative juices flowing?
I look back and I can’t ever remember a day when I wasn’t creating. It seems I was born with a crayon in my hand. (You mean a Sharpie right. wink wink :) ) It sounds simple, but to be creative you have to give yourself the opportunity to create. You have to exercise that part of your brain. When I’m not creating, I’m still thinking and observing the world around me. My creative energy flows back and forth from one creative discipline to another like water with no beginning or end. I’ve always felt a song is still better than silence, a poem is still better than a blank piece of paper, and a painting is still better than a blank canvas. The expression of creativity starts with a note, a letter or a dot, so start. I did! I’m really grateful I am able to actively express myself in variety of art forms.
How do you use Sharpie markers in your work? Can you explain the process you use to create your artwork?
My work is created entirely with Sharpie Permanent Markers. I free hand all the shapes either with a pencil or a black Sharpie marker. I choose not to use rulers or any other drawing tools to create the shapes. I really like the challenge this creates as I draw each shape. I usually start with the “eye forms.” Once I’m satisfied with them I’ll outline the shapes in black Sharpie and then add any additional details. Next I’ll pick a color scheme and begin coloring. Often times, I’ll be layering different colors to create new colors. Now that Sharpie has expanded their color range, it’s much easier to produce the colors I desire for each artwork, but I still like the challenge of creating new colors. I usually work on several pieces at the same time, so I’m continually rearranging and adding additional shapes together to create the finished design. Once the design is finalized and all the shapes are outlined and colored, I cut them out. The parts are then assembled together with some of the pieces literally raised up from the flat picture surface creating areas of relief, although these raised parts are hard to see in the photos.
Your art seems to resemble a human form, does each piece have a “persona” for you or are they strictly expressions of art?
Yes, my work is based on the human form and more specifically on the face with an emphasis on the eyes. Each portrait is created intuitively, so the persona often doesn’t reveal itself until the piece is finished. Sometimes I get more clarity by talking to people at my art exhibits. They see the work with fresh eyes and they can be quite insightful.
In the end, each work has two layers. The 1st layer is what you physically see and this is the design (line, shape, color, texture and value) and their arrangement. I call this the beauty layer. The second layer is the psychological/emotional layer. This layer gives the work its emotional depth. As in all works of art, the viewer gets to decide how deep they want to understand the idea. As the artist I just give you the opportunity to decide.
How do you decide what to name your pieces?
Since my work is spontaneous, I don’t always know exactly what form the piece will take once I begin. As I work through the process, the picture’s does reveal its true essence to me subconsciously towards the time I begin assembling the pieces. Many times it’s been several weeks before I can fully understand the finished work and title it. Other times the idea reveals itself quickly and the title is quite easy, which happened with Social Anxiety. To most people walking somewhere is pretty easy, but to someone with social anxiety, it literally feels like walking through a thick jungle. The simplest tasks can be overwhelming and I believe the piece’s dense overlapping shapes and the wide-eyed, sad facial expression really captures that anxious feeling.
Favorite Sharpie? Why?
My favorite color is orange and I use it quite a lot in my work, but my favorite sharpie is Marigold because it’s very useful for mixing other colors.
As a teacher you must have some great advice for young artists…
I tell students that you’ll know you’re an artist when you can pick up a rock and you see everything but a rock. Making others feel what you see and see what you feel is a powerful yet wonderful and vital gift to give to the world. So Dream big. Spend time wondering what could be. Then take a risk. Many of the risks I’ve taken have led to some pretty amazing opportunities. When I first started exploring the creative potential of Sharpie markers, I was really just trying to make pleasing artwork to hang on my walls. Little did I know that six years later these works would be exhibited throughout Wisconsin or that I’d have my work in both corporate and private collections, or won a few awards or even gotten to share my work with so many people. I would have never experienced this journey without believing in my self-worth and not settling for less. So I say to my students, believe in yourself and the work you create. Celebrate the joy of creativity and embrace a lifelong appreciation for the arts and if you choose not to make art then remember—the world needs art buyers too!
“Believe in yourself and the work you create”
If you could have one super power what would it be and why?
My super power would be “wish granter.” I’d like the ability to turn sadness, disappointment and heartache into joy, success and love by making other people’s wishes come true. I would do it anonymously… No wish is too big! I’d just leave my calling card in the shape of a hand that read, “A little helping hand.”