Currently only one painting from my Chicago days hangs in my Key West gallery: a deep dark blue oil painting I renamed Deep Sea Abstract years after moving here. Several visitors have shown interest in it, which prompted the excavation of another, larger, deep blue abstract titled Vibration, from my storage space (that was once my art studio) in Stock Island.
Along with it, I brought another painting from 2009, City of Passion. There’s only a handful of such paintings remaining in my possession now; my appreciation for them has grown over the years.
Before moving to Key West in 2012, I spent over a decade of my life in Chicago. After I completed my BFA, I sold artwork at local art shows and online, all the while juggling temp jobs in financial firms. I scraped together a living doing just about anything that would pay the bills.
It’s not that I wasn’t selling my artwork. I sold over 300 paintings during those years. Yet, every few years, I’d reach some type of pinnacle, going head-long with one style or subject and then either plateauing or becoming burned out by the creative process. Again and again I would go back to the drawing board, to learn and re-discover the medium of oil painting. The practical voice in my head, from my art school days, said I needed to be known for one style, to, essentially, paint a body of work that would look similar and, in turn, would reflect my “voice.” Well frankly, I had painted several bodies of work, with several styles and the idea of wrapping my identity and livelihood around one of them for (what seemed like) the rest of my life seemed way too limiting, disingenuous, not to mention boring!
During these youthful, impulsive, and passionate years I often abandoned one style track that I’d been on in favor of the new “creative calling du jour.” Sometimes I felt like I was being tossed at sea with nothing to hold onto except the brush in my hand. At times I wondered if I had commitment-phobia, because I refused to settle in a career that would cramp my need to paint and pursue art. The roller-coaster and risks I took where scary at times, but the fear drove me to work harder with greater determination. Eventually, my commitment and dedication to painting shined through.
I dreamed of painting with a seamless fluidity from mental vision to masterful execution, to do that would require a psychological as well as a technical development. Learning to observe reality and paint it was pure torture but so worth the struggle. It would require the humbleness of a beginner but the expressive bravado of a virtuoso artist. As a part of this process I created a series of abstract expressionist paintings which provided an outlet for my free spirited side while I humbly bowed down to the academic rigors of traditional realism. Yet, I became comrades with a whole group of artists who joyously dedicated themselves to their craft and painted for the sake of fun without the urge to intellectualize and explain their work, a far jump to the right of my contemporary art school training which focused more on art theory, conceptual works and the impact art has on social issues. Perhaps it was the two sides of my brain converging. Some mixed impressionist, realism and abstract painting resulted from the tension which culminated into my solo exhibition at the Palette & Chisel in 2009 called Abstract Meets Realism.
Yes, I could “copy” what I observed from life or photos since I was a tween and I’d create hyper-realistic drawings and watercolors, shading and shading and combing over every square inch of my work with an inscrutable eye. But seeing and painting in 3D requires one to see through an object, to have a vision of the total form or shape of it in your mind, the top, the length, the width, the inside, etc. When that happens, you own it, you possess your subject in a way that mere study of the surface details will never give you. You never experience painting the same again.
Like life itself, there is always more to painting; to discover and to express. Perhaps I’ve been looking for salvation from art—from oil painting.
Painting my subjective interior reality
I consider some of my abstract paintings to be realist paintings of an abstract subject matter. In this case Collision refers to the principle of two opposing forces colliding.
In February of 2010, I took a short road-trip to Key West to escape the brutal cold front heading into Chicago. Rainbow Vibration, 2010 was painted immediately after returning from Key West for my next annual show at the Palette & Chisel. It describes the explosive revelation of color and light that would mark the beginning of the end of painting dark mysterious beauties and the beginning of my new future in light and color. The creative and expressive culture of Key West, the illuminating tropical light and romance of the island gave me plenty of inspiration. The next, and current body of works would be tropical impressionist paintings as well as more decorative works that would aim to thrill collectors with the combination of exacting detail, suprising textures and bold and brilliant colors.