This is Colossal: 2014
I did an audio podcast with Venison Mag, an online arts journal. If you want to hear my voice, you can find it here: Venison Mag Audio Interview
I did a video interview with Antler Gallery! You can find a video of me talking about my process, medium and content here.
I was lucky enough to do a written interview with the fabulous Birds N Bones jewelry in which we discussed the origins of creativity, my love of birds, and a bit more on my philosophy. Read here.
I get a lot of emails every year about my work, and whether it be about process, inspiration, or materials, I love answering your questions. I’ve included here the answers to a few questions that are the most common, including a bunch from different interviews. I hope this is helpful to all of you curious folk. If you have any other questions not answered here, please email me and I’ll get back with you as soon as I can.
Please tell us more about your background. Where did you get your knowledge as it comes to drawing?
I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember. Since my first box of crayons, the only other career I considered was to be an opera singer, which being a painfully shy kid was never explored. I think drawing always gave me a space of introspection and also kindled learning, as you always need to know about the different things you reference in your work. I think more than being taught (while school was very helpful!) the thing that has helped me improve the most is my dedication to the craft, drawing every day for the past 20 years. I’m a firm believer that love and being kind to yourself are key in developing any passion.
Life and death – it was my first thought, when I saw your works. Is this your way to get familiar with death?
Actually I am quite familiar with death already. A few years ago I had a kind of stomach disease in which I couldn’t digest food nor absorb nutrition. After becoming rail thin and suffering through daily nightmares and being racked with pain for months on end, I became very connected with a deeper part of myself. In the years it took my body to fully heal from this experience, I’ve learned that life is never void of death, that what actually makes each day bright is to find a way to hold hands with fear rather than ignore it. That you are valuable because you exist, not because of anything you accomplish. Becoming so in tune with my body and the process of healing has deeply seeped into my art and my ideas.
What effects you want to achieve in your works? Which aspects are the most important for you? What should see the recipient of your art?
I’m always trying to create images that have a lot of complication yet still hold a quiet stillness. I’ve been having a lot of conversations about liminal spaces, and the elimination of dichotomies. I really hope to make work where things flow in and out of each other, where a piece is just as much about life as it is death, and then can evoke everything that’s in between. I hope the drawing captures a more complex feeling, where there is no hero but rather questions about what events lead to the scenario in place.
I know that is something that you collect. Please tell us about your collections – what fascinates you in these objects?
I love to collect things from my travels, small objects that hold memories of a larger experience. For example, small polished shells from the shore of New Zealand, smooth black jasper stones with electric lines of color from the shores of Maine or small skulls and bones found in the forest behind my farmhouse in Michigan. These objects both act as diary entries reminding me of what my life was like and what I experienced at that moment in time, and simultaneously inspire wonder at how beautiful and delicate everything is. This mixture of wonder and story directly influence my art.
Which part of your work you like the most – preliminary sketch, coloring or maybe the end result?
Each part feels a little different, and rather than having a favorite I find different parts of drawing fit different parts of my personality. For example, starting a sketch is more an act of play, allowing the lines to move around the page and see what comes out of my imagination. It is fun and doesn’t have a lot of pressure because there is no commitment to the idea yet. Putting down the final layout uses more technical skills and it draws out my inner engineer, where I can plan the arrangement. Filling in the piece feels effortless and meditative. I can get lost for hours laying in the color and getting lost in my thoughts; it is the space where I find time to contemplate my life. I think what I love most about drawing is the combination of these different aspects of myself and how they all get pulled to the surface and used.
You have a lot of interest for one person! What is the most important in this moment? What do you like to do when you don’t paint/draw? (Tell us something about yourself that will allow us to know you better. (character traits, weird habits etc.))
Well, I just moved across the country, so right now exploring has been very important! There is so much to learn and see in the pacific north west; exploring the city and seeking out the best doughnut shops, finding new friends that will read to me while working, creating new neighborhood walking paths for moonlit strolls, seeking the hidden whale caves off the coast of the Pacific Ocean. I love to wander with my palms up receiving all the good there is to see and laugh often, so send the funny people to me. When drawing specifically, I love to listen to interesting podcasts, or sing out loud (and sometimes dance too!). I also love working out of my house where I can people watch and draw inspiration from the hustle and bustle of the outside world.
What is beauty to you and how do you define beauty?
Beauty is when our longing for how things should be collides with reality. It is a thing that unfolds, yet simultaneously striking us in the heart.
Who and what inspires you? (artists, photographers, musicians, writers, etc).
I love looking through old illustrations by Arthur Rackham, Kay Neilson and Walter Crane, and the works of early naturalists such as Ernst Haeckel, John James Audobon and Albertus Seba. I an enamored with the photographs of Richard Avedon and Patrick Gries. I eat the words of the poet Ranier Maria Rilke and the novels of John Steinbeck (every sentence he constructs completely sweeps me away). I’m a huge fan of podcasts while I work and devour episodes of On Being with Krista Tippett, WNYC’s Radio Lab, APM’s The Truth (movies for your ears) and anything that involves storytelling. And my all time favorite thing in the history of inspiration are the cabinets of curiosities or Wunderkammers, where vast collections of objects belonging to natural history, geology, ethnography and archaeology were accumulated and organized by taste according to the owner of such a room. I’m in constant collection, building my own.
How do you come up with ideas/plan a new piece?
Usually I come up with my best ideas when I’m tired. So when I have a project I need to brainstorm for, I think about it before I go to bed, and allow myself to dwell in it when I first wake up. I’m not as critical when I’m tired, so creative thoughts enter my mind that I might not otherwise see. Other times ideas strike down from the heavens like lightning, and I’m in the middle of a conversation and someone just says something mundane that summons up a fully rendered piece. There’s not really an entirely consistent pattern to where ideas come from.
Once I have an idea, I put down a couple sketches, and then use my art school super knowledge to see what I can improve. Usually my first sketch is not the best it could be, so I adjust the composition or the color palette to better the piece, even if it doesn’t match what’s in my head. My head is wrong a lot. Whenever I get stuck, it’s good to go do something else. Go to the movies, go for a walk, go hang out with your pals and talk philosophy. Do something that will loosen up the reigns, and allow the ideas to flow back in. And, naps are always helpful.
Your images are incredibly detailed. How long does one piece of work take to complete?
They take quite a while. I regularly spend 80 to 120 hours on a piece. Lately I’ve been trying to do a few pieces that are smaller or have less detail, but even then, 40 hours would be something I consider “fast.”
What are your favorite materials to work with?
I love the simplicity of pen, the beauty of it’s marks and the depth of its black. Plus you can take it anywhere. In addition to pen I use a lot of marker, acrylic paint, and watercolor.
Your images look so realistic, although fantastical. How do you achieve such realism, with such accurate details? (Do you research, go to a local park, etc)
Thank you! I have a couple different approaches to this. Sometimes I entirely make the drawing up. This creates a level of consistency in the oddities, so it looks right. Sometimes I do a lot of research, where I will look up different positions of a wing, or flower, but then put the reference images away, and do it from memory. This allows me to stretch, distort, change colors, and take some artistic license, yet still bring that hint or reality to it. Other times I use a very specific reference photo and draw it verbatim, trying to capture a specific moment that I see happening in the photo. I do go for a lot of walks and try and take photos often enough of different plants and animals, a lot of which I did while recently in Maine. I also like going to the local public museum to draw their taxidermy.
What further advice would you give a young artist?
Just keep making. And don’t quit, even if you just made a hundred things you hate. Even if you make a thousand things you dont like any of them. You have ten thousand bad drawings in you before you even get to the good stuff, so keep at it! You’ll only get better, and drawing is a continual process of self discovery. The better you understand yourself, the better your art will be. Make things that are interesting to you, and they will turn out better. Shy away from doing things you hate, because they never turn out well. Don’t be afraid to try something new, and become okay with failing. Humility makes beautiful work, and it also stretches your knowledge. You should always learn more in making a piece then you were able to draw, because it should be the learning you hunger for. It is why when we finish a drawing, we immediately start the next one.