I love the balance of painting and the concentration that it requires, and having interesting conversations with visitors to my art studio in Asheville’s River Arts District. I think that the constant conversations with folks keeps me from going to an intensely morose, introverted state of mind. The balance between intense personal creativity and enjoying a great conversation is one of the things that I like best about my job as an oil painter with an open studio here in Asheville, North Carolina.
One of the questions I’m routinely asked can be phrased just like it was this past week: “How did you stumble across this type of artwork?” If I can be really honest, I didn’t like the way that question was phrased, though I believe I understand what they actually meant. Rephrased accurately, I think it would be asked “how did you come up with this?” And that’s a better question because I didn’t “stumble” across anything. It wasn’t by chance or whimsy. It’s like visiting Carlsbad Caverns in southern New Mexico and asking the park ranger how they “stumbled” across all the pathways through the maze of awesome underground chambers. Those pathways we routinely use to see this amazing place were not “stumbled” upon. They were forged. It started with exploring, and then running into dangerous places and remembering to keep clear of them. It was about going down one series of caves and hitting a dead end. Retreating. Continued exploration. Mapping it out.
That is how I “came up with” (not stumbled upon) the type of artwork that I do. There is no one else doing what I do, and while that’s really awesome, it’s equally frustrating, because there is no mentor of mine out there that I can call when something horrible goes wrong. I have to do research and brainstorming and experimenting (I feel like I’m half artist and half mad scientist) and so far (between my wife Joy and I) we’ve figured out the correct answer to every problem we’ve run into (but there may be a brand new issue we encounter tomorrow. You never know!). And to be honest, some of the issues we’ve had to figure out were absolutely critical if I was to keep developing this type of artwork. For instance, did you know that some things make the aluminum I paint on dissolve away? Not immediately, but over several months. Think about that…I paint the entire painting ON TOP of aluminum leaf. If that aluminum dissolves away, there goes my painting. I can’t have that happen (obviously). Only Banksy can get away with that. There are issues with varnish and resin and the way we wash brushes and what we wash them IN, and the paint we use…all of these issues presented challenges that had we not figured out the solution, I would have had to stop painting the way I paint.
So the answer to the question “How did you stumble across this type of artwork?” is: I didn’t stumble across anything. I experimented and explored, found dangerous places and remembered them, found dead ends and retraced my steps. And the “cave” of creativity is something so immensely huge, there’s no way I can explore it all in my lifetime. What fun is this! Every day is a challenge and sometimes a total failure and sometimes a complete victory. I like those “victory” days the best though. But honestly, the whole creative PROCESS is what I’m addicted to. Half artist, half mad scientist. I’m content with that.