After receiving my Bachelor of Arts in Painting and Drawing from UW-Milwaukee in 1992, I switched gears and started building a career for myself in graphic design. I worked in Milwaukee, London, and in Chicago before starting my own graphic design company, Andiamo Creative, in 1998. During this time, I spent very little time painting – only working on occasional projects for gifts, or for the walls of my own home.
In 2010, I found my interest in painting reinvigorated by a week-long watercolor workshop I’d taken on a lark. The week flew by. Afterwards, I took stock and realized that the only times I’ve been so engrossed in something that I’ve actually lost time, has been while I am creating art. I think these lost moments are doorways into your true soul, your passion as a human being, and the point of your existence on this earth. Through that door is boundless energy and creative juice. I have come to the realization that if you find this kind of thing in your life, you must go through that door.
Since then I have been painting regularly, showing my work, and pursuing a formal career in fine art.
Developing as an artist
In my journey developing my skills, I find that the main focus of my work has been about storytelling. The graphic designer in me is interested in illustration and I started out in that direction. Also, I have a particular interest in the vintage snapshots that you find for sale in antique stores, and the lost stories of these people’s lives. I can stand for ages sifting through bins full of discarded photos, wondering how these family memories ended up, now for sale. I started working these images into my work, and weaving narratives around them.
The mediums I have been working with – watercolor, encaustic and cold wax, have a commonality in the transparency affects you can achieve. This transparency speaks to the storytelling that so interests me. The layering of color shows a history of the marks that comprise the individual work, which adds to the fabric of the story. In addition, encaustic and cold wax mediums have the unique property of allowing the artist to build up layers and texture, and to scrape back to earlier layers, revealing what had happened before. These techniques add both literal and narrative dimension to the piece, and interest to the stories I’m trying to tell.
While my first instinct has always been to paint recognizable imagery, over the last couple years I’ve also been developing an abstract series of work. Working in oil/cold wax and the techniques I’ve been learning in the workshops, is particularly conducive to abstraction. I don’t use paint brushes. Instead I use paint rollers, color shaping tools, palette knives, and an array of mark-making tools to create these works. I have fallen in love with this medium and the freedom it allows me to break away from the constraints of imagery and create compositions that derive meaning purely from color, composition, line and texture. The building up of layers and then scraping back to reveal earlier layers speaks to my interest in storytelling. Each painting shows a history of what went before, even if in a very subtle way.
My main joy as an artist is the act of creation itself. I find inspiration all around me, every day. I used to say that my day job as a graphic designer sapped all the creativity out of me leaving nothing for painting. I realize now what a cop-out that was. The real reason I hadn’t painted in so long is because I didn’t see a way to build a real career in fine art and I felt I needed to spend my time building a stable income for myself. I learned that I needn’t be so single-minded, and that there are lots of ways to build a thriving career as a fine artist. And, the most important thing I have learned is that the creative juice it takes for me to be a graphic designer is completely different from the juice I have for creating my own art. Happily, the jug overflows.