Wednesday, January 10, 2018

From an interview

Why do you do What you do?

I believe that our brains are wired in certain ways. We each have our our gifts or talents. Some people just seem to know how to play musical instruments. I know several gifted self taught guitar players. So there seems to be something that is born into us. I also believe that we can learn and master new skills. You’re good at what you practice. So from an early age, art was what I did. I’m not saying I’m the world’s greatest artist, but over many years, I have developed a familiarity not only with painting technique, but also with that invisible part of me that wants to communicate something. I’m not so unique, and yet within the human race, which makes us alike, we each have a unique voice. We all experience life on planet Earth in our own individual way... from our own perspective. So I do what I do to show you what is unique about me, but also to relate to you.

Together, my voice joins with your voice, and those of the ancient cave painters... great painters, sculptors, writers that have been celebrated by society, and everyone that has followed through on a creative urge, to express what it feels like to be human.

How do you Work?

Mostly, I paint alone in my studio. I paint quickly, and while I do, my mind is very active. That part is unintentional. Memories come bubbling up from my distant past, or my brain comes up with answers to current questions. That’s why I say painting is meditative. Time in the studio passes very quickly.

The way those thoughts surface is similar to how the paint lays itself onto the canvas.

Sometimes I paint in a social setting. Friends come over and hang out, or I’ll do a demonstration in front of a group. When that happens, I tend to verbalize those thoughts that come with the process.

What’s your Background?

My grandfather was an artist and an art teacher. I didn’t live near him, and didn’t really “discover” his art until after his death.

I was born in Michigan, which is where I later attended art school. I graduated from High School in Liberia, West Africa. These experiences laid the foundation for what I do now, but I really developed as an artist right here in Grand Marais, Minnesota.

This is where I developed confidence and intention as an artist.

What’s Integral to the work of an Artist?

I think it is essential to have a viewpoint. Art is communication. It is language.

The meaning that compels an artist to create is the meaning that will resonate with the viewer. What has a specific meaning to me may strike a chord that is specific in you. Our individual experiences stem from greater themes that run through all of us. That’s why popular music is popular. You sing about your break-up, and I apply your song to my break-up.

What Role does the Artist have in Society?

It is the role of the artist to be the voice of their generation.

What has been a Seminal Experience?

Throughout the first half of my life, I learned the mechanics of drawing. I hadn’t connected drawing with expressing until the Grand Marais Art Colony hosted a show called PROUD FLESH, that I discovered that I could tell personal stories through the images.

Art doesn’t have to be pretty to be beautiful or poignant.

It made me feel vulnerable to tell such personal stories and have them hanging on a wall for everyone to see. But it was liberating.

What’s your Favorite Artwork?

Fearless art appeals to me. Bold, abstract paintings tend to draw me in, maybe with a mid century vibe.

Thanks to successstory

Where do you do your work?

I have a studio in my basement where I have created my paintings for the past 25 years. I like it because I don’t worry so much about getting paint on the floor. I have a big sink and adequate lighting, so it works for me.

What moves you most in life, either to inspire or upset you?

I guess I am moved by my memories and the emotions I find attached to them.

As I have said, my mind wanders when I paint. The recollections influence what flows off the brush, though that information would not be obvious to anyone but me. Still those people, places and times are embedded right in the paint. It’s hidden. Sometimes intentionally cryptic. Or so I tell myself. Once in a while, strangers look at my paintings and then surprise me with what they saw. My daughter, on the other hand, generally knows exactly what I was thinking about at first glance.

Where do you feel art is going?

I believe art is going the easy route. You can “create a painting of your profile picture with just one click.” But that isn’t art, is it? Is it? I’m not sure. The art of a programmer, maybe.

The urge to create is so strong in artists that I think it can go any and every direction.

When all the digital files are erased, and aliens visit our vacant planet, the drawings at Chauvet Cave will still be there. After all the cities topple.

Maybe I missed the point of the question.

What is the role of the artist in society?

How many times have I heard “I don’t know anything about art, but I know what I like when I see it.”?

No you don’t.

The artists inform society about beauty. That is why styles change. And by art, I mean painters, fashion designers, music producers... we don’t know what we like, so we fit in.

What technique do you use?

I paint quickly, usually in bright colors. I use my old worn out or misshapen brushes, and find myself digging through my art box for one with a point on it.

Is that what you mean by technique?

The local newspaper described my style as “casual, creative fearlessness.” That’s at least something to strive for.

Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it is executed?

Oh come on. What’s more important, the meaning in a sentence or the sentence structure? Art is communication. You can learn all the rules of painting, but if you have nothing to say, who cares?

I’ll go with the subject.

Do you prefer a perfect smooth technique or a more energetic expressive technique and why?

I general, I like a more energetic and expressive approach. I like to see the process in the painting. Like showing your work in a math problem.

I like to see the brushstrokes.

Where does your inspiration come from when you are painting?

Inspiration comes from everything I have seen or heard. Everything I have experienced in this world or in dreams.

Does any of your painting have a deeper meaning?


How do you feel when you are letting your emotions loose on the canvas?

I feel like myself. When I am in that mode of focused creativity, I’m free. I’m not thinking about whether anyone will like what I produce. I’m just making decisions. Playing. I don’t have to justify it.

Because I Can

I talk about my paintings being my fingerprints that I will leave on the world after I’m gone. My hope has always been that they will touch someone. Touch their spirit, and maybe inspire them to create something. I hope they at least communicate something from my mind... my imagination. I’m not so unique. The things I think and feel are shared by many, I’m sure. Having said that, I have a unique voice in this sea of unique voices called humanity.

Once in a while, and this is what makes it all relevant and worthwhile, I hear from someone out of the blue, who related to my work. (I call it “work,” but it feels more like play).

Without me there, one of my paintings speaks to someone I’ve never met, and we find that we are made out of the same stuff. We think similar thoughts. And a connection is formed.

Art is a language that can transcend age or gender. What a beautiful thing.

A fish swims up to another fish in the treetops and asks “Why are you swimming way up here?”

“Because I can.”

Monday, January 08, 2018

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Thrift Store Impression

Today I was inspired by a painting I saw in a thrift store. I came home and painted this.

Monday, December 25, 2017

It's Christmas

It's Christmas. This is a bittersweet day for me. A year ago, Maddee, Luuka and Dylan moved out to Colorado. I was devastated by that news, and am still trying to come to terms with it. My knee jerk reaction was to put my house on the market, quit my job and move to North Carolina. I took a job as a spinal cord injury nurse at a large hospital, and it looked like everything was happening according to my plan. But I was miserable. I was so homesick for Grand Marais, and the life I had built here over the last 30 years. Thank God no one bought my house. After less than two months, I came back home.

This is Christmas morning. I don't have to work today. I am all alone, and that is sad. I got a little emotional, laying in my dark bedroom, when Alexa sang "I wish you a merry Christmas" to me. That was sweet.

I am volunteering at work this afternoon, where I am going to read a couple of Christmas stories to the residents. So I am not all alone. Even though it's just Lempi and me at home… Even though I didn't put up my Christmas tree… It's Christmas.

Friday, November 17, 2017


It has been about four months since I have painted, and now I’m going back into the studio.

I’m always trying to think of something new to paint. Some new direction to take my art in...

It doesn’t usually work that way, though. If I just paint, the images evolve. It’s in painting that I learn to paint.

I took a few months off. I bought a house down south and moved away from Grand Marais.

What a silly thing to do. But I didn’t know better. I’ve been here for 30 years. I thought I could go to a new city and that everything I had done here would translate.

I was in the truck heading south, towing my car behind me. By the time I hit Indianapolis, it dawned on me that I was probably making a mistake.

I closed on the house anyway, and took a job at a big hospital. I kept saying “I want to be me again.”

Two months later, I was back in Minnesota trying to put the pieces back together the way they were before.

I’ve said I’m not going to paint fish in trees anymore. But guess what... I am.

Fish in trees. It was my idea, and it was a risky one. I had to explain “Why?”

And so I pointed out that this area was built on fishing and lumber. I referenced many instances where fish find themselves swimming amongst the branches of trees in the real world.

I was drawing and painting from an early age. Before I could read and write, I was drawing pictures. I took every art class available in my high school, so in my senior year, I got to teach a class (with the real art teacher present).

I think art should challenge us. To ask questions. To think about a deeper meaning, not only in art, but in our lives.

So I am not afraid of questions. Or of criticism. I would much rather have someone say they despise my work than shrug and say it’s ok. “Whatever.”

So yes. There will be more fish in treetops. But not only that.

For me, painting is so much more than just creating an image. It is therapy. It is meditation. It is breathing. It is being me.

I am connected to this place.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Collective Unconscious

Before I went to art school, my father admonished me not to make abstract art.  I think it was because he didn't understand it.  I didn't understand it, either.

  When I was in 4th or 5th grade, we took a field trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts.  There was a large canvas by Mark Rothko hanging over the staircase in the museum lobby, and I remember the other kids laughing at it.  A tour guide pointed out that an abstract sculpture was worth just as much as one of the old marble statues.  Our minds were boggled.

At the end of our tour, we went to the gift shop, and I bought several postcards.  All of them were of abstract art.  The other kids couldn't believe that I had chosen those.

Nonetheless, years later when I got to art school (which was right next to the DIA), I had a kind of mental roadblock that kept me from embracing art that was not representational.  In my mind, a drawing was better, the closer it resembled the subject.  I admired abstract art, but found myself unable to create it.

I think my parents thought it was just throwing paint at a canvas and calling it art.  And I guess you can do that.  Of course you can.

You can express a lot with color or lines, even if they don't conjure up objects or landscapes.

A friend of mine was in art school when his father died.  After the funeral, he had to do some paintings for a class, but he didn't feel like painting.  So he told me he painted "nothing".  Just filled four canvases with paint.

I own two of those paintings, along with several other abstract pieces by friends, and I love them.

I love them for the colors, for the shapes, and for the stories they remind me of. The stories my friends told me about creating the images, and stories my mind tells me when I look at them.

I do a lot of abstract paintings now. Bright colors flow out of my thoughts and work their way down my arm, and out of my hand, through the brush and onto the canvas.

My father also makes beautiful little abstract paintings sometimes. My daughter saw some of my dad’s painted blocks, and said, “Now I see where you get it from!”

“No,” I said, “I was doing this before he was.”

Our paintings are similar.

My grandfather was a painter too, and an art teacher. Something from him was passed on to my father, and from my father to me.

We dip our nets into the collective unconscious and we catch similar things.

I think this is how we are reincarnated. The cells of my ancestors live on in me.

I like to think that my brain cells can inspire, and live on in others through my art.

Or better yet, that we can be mutually inspired and changed by each others’ creativity.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017