When I went to art school, I already knew how to draw. I did’t know anything about handling paint. The teachers I selected happened to be abstract expressionists and had come up in a time when abstract expressionism WAS American art. To put it mildly, they “encouraged” me to work in an abstract style in their classes. I learned a lot from these teachers about color theory, but I did not learn how to create realistic effects on a canvas, how to replicate colors from life, etc.
This didn’t bother me at first. My canvases after college were somewhere between Andy Warhol’s pop art and Henri Matisse’s bold color collages. The pop paintings fit easily alongside my stark black-and-white drawings. I was doing postcard designs at the time as well, so my overall aesthetic was more in line with graphic design than classical painting.
Eventually, however, I began to wonder what else paint can do. I admired people like Whistler and Dali as much as people like Warhol and Matisse, and I had to wonder how in the world they created such beautiful illusions.
So I taught myself. I used that old system, Trial and Error. For a couple of years, my paintings were rough and loose, but they were still more photographic than anything I had done before. With every new project, I learned more about the medium.
My first big breakthrough came with this portrait of my friend, Jackie.
There are things I would do differently if I were to recreate this painting today. I would go for a more subtle and harmonious color palette a la Whistler. And I would do something less straightforward with the pose. But there are things about it that still please me greatly. I love the light and shadow on the face and the look in the eyes.