Wind Advisory, oil/panel, 6'X4,' 2009
Why I’m a Painter:
1. I’ve painted as long as I’ve been an artist. I like the viscous, substantial qualities of paint but also the drips and smears. I like the buildup, the gloss and enamel-like qualities that paint allows. No coincidence that I like Islamic tile work, as at the Alhambra and the Topkapi and the palaces and mosques of Morocco.
2. As a late generation Bay Area Figurative painter who had the good fortune to study with Elmer Bischoff, Joan Brown, Jay DeFeo, Hassel Smith, how--unless I had gone off in a totally different direction--could I not have become a painter, too?
3. One of my eyes developed better than the other, so I already see things flat.
4. I like the play and tension between painting-as-window and as object. For my taste, a good painting has to have both aspects going for it. To my mind, it’s no accident paintings by Max Beckmann have beautiful surfaces, too.
5. It’s been said before, but paintings are arenas of action, records of struggle and thought. One doesn’t usually see the writer’s manuscript, with coffee stains and cross-outs, but with a painting you have the traces and tracks of the creator.
6. You’re in good company, even if you’ll never be as good as Beckmann, Munch, Picasso, Matisse, Valesquez, or Goya.
7. Painting as I practice it isn’t collaborative or especially expensive. Imagine the nightmare of being an actor without a role, a filmmaker without funds, a dancer without a troupe. We have something in common with writers and poets that way. The materials we use don’t have to be dear and you can do it on a desert island or in a spare bedroom.
8. You get to grow old and still do it. Dancers must accept teaching, actors fade to character parts if they’re lucky. We have plenty of examples of functioning old artists, some even with remarkable final stretches: Guston, Matisse, O’Keefe, Beatrice Wood, Nevelson.
9. I have not evolved beyond liking and needing objects. Maybe in the next life.
When it comes down to it, I have persevered as an artist for some simple, almost selfish reasons:
1. I delight in the surprises that occasionally happen in the studio. More mysteries to unfold...
2. After a break like a trip or an illness that keeps me out of the studio, I come back and am surprised and pleased by the energy of what could almost be someone else’s work.
3. I didn’t want to be 80 and wonder “what if?.”
4. I wanted to keep a diary--mine is a visual one.
5. My mother and her sister both had “talent” and examples to prove it (scenic watercolors by the latter, yearbook drawings by the former) but they didn’t pursue it--I wanted to try.
6. Other, “normal” people can’t figure you out. Maybe that’s why there are so few good movies about artists, writers, other creators....(Except Robert Altman’s Vincent & Theo maybe...)
I don’t have any illusions that my 35 years of work is all stellar, that there haven’t been missteps, avenues pursued that have forced me to backtrack, rare dry spells. No artist doesn’t have ups and owns. But the possible “breakthrough” ahead, the revelations that may await are what keep me going.