“WALTER WHITE” – Drawing Walter White from the show Breaking Bad was an extremely frustrating experience because I was attempting to draw in a style similar to scratchboard drawings and it took forever to master the process. I think I redrew his eyes 12 times. I was determined to make it work and I think all of the cursing and sleepless nights paid off. I’ve received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback about this portrait. People seem to really like it. I usually don’t get much feedback from the public about my work but this was a rare piece that seemed to connect with my audience.
I identify myself as a geek and I happily embrace my geekiness. I watch Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, I read comic books, I love drawing zombies and I get upset when I see bad kerning.
I grew up on a healthy diet of television and comic books. I taught myself how to draw by imitating my favorite comic book illustrators. I drew Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Gobots on my homework assignments. I wanted to be a comic book illustrator like Jack Kirby or Todd McFarlane. The concept of being a graphic designer or a painter was completely foreign to me. I wasn’t exposed to much art outside of comic books and Saturday morning cartoons. My family was always extremely supportive of my creative tendencies and they kept me fully stocked with pens and paper. They encouraged my comic book addiction because it gave my art a focus and it kept me out of trouble. I was a fan of traditional superhero comics like Batman, Spider-man, and X-men but even at a young age I followed artists over characters. In high school I discovered the work of Dave Mckean, David Mack and Bill Sienkiewicz and I immediately started painting and experimenting with different illustration styles and mediums. I quickly abandoned the idea of being a comic book illustrator and embraced the idea of being a painter. So my influences quickly shifted from Erik Larsen and Jim Lee to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Francis Bacon.
I think my creative journey is coming full circle. I find myself returning to comic books and pop culture for creative inspiration. I think my work is unique because I have a mixed bag of influences and I’m not afraid to let my audience know who or what has influenced my work.
I would love to illustrate a graphic novel or create an anthology of short comics before I kick the bucket.
“DOUBLE FEATURE” – My early digital art was inspired by Robert Rauschenberg and I would use a combination of found images and my own drawings to create digital collages. “Double Feature” was an attempt to examine that idea in a different way by using more of my own illustrations and design elements to create that haphazard look. I think my work is leaning more and more in this direction. I think this approach allows me to be more experimental and work in multiple styles on the same illustration.
Being creative is an extremely exhausting activity and if you aren’t working on passion projects the engine will run out of fuel and you will crash and burn. Being an illustrator / graphic designer is not always fun or glamorous and sometimes you have to work on a silly side project to keep the engine working. You have to keep that passion burning. Sometimes those silly side projects end up taking you somewhere unexpected and it informs your “serious” work.
“DON’T LET THE DARK OUT” – is about suppressed rage. This old man has buried decades of rage and sorrow and frustration deep inside his gut and that darkness is slowly devouring him. To be a functioning member of society he hides his darkness behind a hallmark version of himself. He wears a fake smile. He goes to church. He has a cute little dog. He can’t be emotionally honest or he would be crucified by his peers and authority figures. He has been compacting all of this rage into his gut and now it is too late. He is a walking time bomb. His only choice is to keep a lid on the darkness and hope that he doesn’t meltdown. Happy stuff.
I would argue that my illustration style has remained consistent over the last 10+ years. I might experiment with different color palettes or I might work in a more painterly style verses a more calligraphic line style, but all of my work has a similar aesthetic. Right now I’m leaning more toward that Calligraphic line style and a more limited or monochromatic color palette. I like to incorporate textures, patterns, shapes and typography into my work. I love expressive brushstrokes and texture and drips and splatters. I like everything to look grungy and dirty. But I might be a little guilty of “overworking” some of my illustrations.
“FACE OFF” – is about a reoccurring dream I had when I was a child. In the dream I surgically remove the skin from my face and proceede to poke at the muscles and examine the skeletal structure of my face. I carefully studied the anatomy of my face with a scientific curiosity. I hear my mother call for me and I quickly discover that I can’t reattach my face. The skin keeps falling off and becoming more and more unrecognizable. I’m more terrified by my Mother catching me without my face than the reality of being horribly disfigured.
Paint vs Digital
While reading a digital comic book, I had an epiphany about my own work. I grew up reading comic books and that experience inspired me to become an artist. I found that reading a comic book on my computer was an extremely rewarding experience and in many ways it was a superior experience. It didn’t matter if the comic book took the form of ink on paper or pixels on a computer screen, the experience remained equally powerful and inspirational. I then realized that 99% of my audience will never see one of my paintings in the flesh. 99% of my audience will see my work on a computer screen or printed in a book. Digital art translate more effectively in those mediums. My paintings don’t photograph well. Something is always lost in the translation. You have to see my paintings up close and personal to get the full effect. I’m killing myself for the 1% that will see it. I would rather focus on creating artwork for the other 99%. I am fully embracing digital art and photoshop has become my weapon of choice.
“SAMO VS WARHOL” – This double portrait is a homage to the Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol two man exhibition poster from the Tony Shafrazi and Bruno Bischofberger gallery exhibit in 1985. The skull sitting on Warhol’s head was inspired by Warhol’s ‘Self-Portrait with Skull, c. 1977’ which was a polaroid photo of Warhol with a plastic skull resting on his head.
Advice to Artists
I believe that the creative process is both an act of creation and destruction. You have to embrace both sides of the creative process and not be afraid to destroy your work in order to make it better. Nothing is sacred. it is just a fucking painting. Who cares if you fuck it up. Paint another one.
Don’t get hung up on being original. All of your work is original because you are presenting your version of the story. Your filter makes it original. Artists have been recycling the same ideas for hundreds of years but what makes those works of art powerful or interesting is the unique perspective of the artist. If you asked 100 artists to paint a portrait of Abraham Lincoln you would get 100 completely unique interpretations of Lincoln. Nobody owns anything. You can paint whatever the fuck you want.
Draw / Paint what makes you happy. Creating art should be fun. Don’t take your work so seriously.
“SUPER SKULL” – I am a huge fan of a design agency in Minneaplis, MN called The Aesthetic Apparatus and their specialty is designing super awesome screen-printed posters. I especially like the test prints they create by overlapping random screens from multiple poster designs. Super Skull is loosely inspired by that aesthetic.
“DON DRAPER” – This one is for the ladies.