Above all else, I am a mark maker. Much of what I do depends on the materials. The grain of a paper’s surface rubbed with charcoal and erasers, the aroma of linseed oil in paint and printer’s ink, color laid on color with brushes, fingers, hands… these things, which ignite the senses, inform my work.
Living in the Pacific Northwest, I am surrounded by water. From the horizontal flow of the Salish Sea, the rivers, and the pond in my back yard, to the vertical energy of waterfalls and the many forms of rain in the PNW, there is ample source material for my images. But these are secondary to the way my work develops; a single mark, or a combination of colors, can hold meaning and emotion for me, without being anything more than the marks and materials that make up the final resolution. For this reason, especially at this stage of my career, I don’t hold myself to a specific direction in my art, be it abstract or referential.
I am also somewhat of a restless artist. While my primary medium is oils, and thematically I return to water as my touchstone, I often explore other ideas. When I am not working in the familiar territory of large oils on linen, I shift from large, abstract drawings, to small, detailed representational work and images that hold a stronger reference to the natural world. One portfolio example is a set of hand-colored botanical etchings in keeping with the style of traditional botanical illustrations of the 18th century. They represent a catalogue of my garden flora (I have many more etchings to make to complete this series) (View Botanical etchings). I created a set of alphabet blocks for a show I was invited to participate in at OSU’s College of Agriculture. The theme was “Food and People”; I believe the jurors made their decision to invite me based on their having seen the botanical etchings. I felt my work was not really related to their theme, but was curious to take on the challenge and decided to create a set of agrarian alphabet blocks of Pacific Northwest products. There are two images/letters per block, thus the two images represented in the slide samples show the opposite sides of each block. (View Agrarian Alphabet blocks.) Currently I am working on a series of very small paintings of hands, referencing art history and people I have encountered during and since my recent artist residency in Italy. These can be viewed in the 2010-2015 Paintings portfolio.
These shifts in theme and style started with the botanical etchings, and made me somewhat uncomfortable at first, having worked as an abstract artist for more than two decades now. Although I have always, theoretically, held with the concept that to have a particular “style” is an unhealthy attitude for an artist, making such rugged shifts in focus left me wondering how it all fits together. But these are all an integral part of who I am as an artist, and if I don’t explore all the avenues that intrigued me, and instead hold myself to some image others might have of my work, I would really be missing the point. Being able to walk into my studio and go down any rabbit hole I choose is the work of ecstasy, and the integrity that defines being an artist.