Phil Cooper, a talented artist I admire and whose blog I enthusiastically follow, has asked me to contribute to the Around the World Blog Hop. (Phil’s superb collage work was definitely a source of inspiration when I was moving in the direction of cut-outs.) Basically, an artist answers four standard questions on a Monday, then nominates another artist to do the same thing the following Monday. The hope is that we can pass the baton all over the planet.
1) What am I working on at the moment?
I have a couple of projects on the stovetop. Firstly, I am painstakingly drawing a second version of Our Lady of Ostrabrama. I describe the process as “painstaking,” because I am including the complex floral pattern on her robes this time. If you view the original Icon, you will see the design I am trying to reproduce. Madness!
I am also sketching out the image of a flower girl for an upcoming painting. This is a figure about whom I have dreamed many times — she sometimes appears as a set of three flower girls. The scene in the painting is from a specific dream in which I am lying on the ground, battered and beaten. The flower girl comes along, looks on me with compassion and mercy, and touches a healing hand to my bruised shoulder.
2) How does my work differ from others in my genre?
I consider myself a Symbolist in that I use imagery from dreams, Classical mythology and Catholic tradition to speak from (and to) a deep part of self. Although there is no “house style” to unite Symbolist artists, the spectrum tends to start at the surreal and end at the expressionistic.
I am unique in that my aesthetic is boldly modern. I was raised on comic books, cartoons and Picasso, and all of these influences show in my work. These elements –coupled with my use of mechanical means in my cut-outs — might align me with Pop Art, except that I look inward for inspiration rather than outward. Popular culture gave me the initial aesthetic, but I am taking it into the realm of ghosts.
3) Why do I create what I do?
I was literally born with the ability to draw. It is the only thing in this world that I find easy. Everything else, and I mean everything, is a struggle. I’ve tried doing other things, shoehorning myself into practical careers, and it doesn’t work. We are at our strongest when we are pulling from whatever wellspring of effortless skill we possess, and there is no substitute for that which one is built to do. This is why I choose to cultivate rather than ignore my gift.
As for why I work with the specific imagery I do, I am part of a long mythopoetic tradition whose purpose is to promote psychic integration and healing. An art-shaman, perhaps. The language of dream and mythology speaks to a deep part of the psyche in its own native tongue. The best way to understand the effect of this subliminal conversation is to consider ritual, which is interactive mythology. Ritual has the power to change the consciousness in ways the rational mind cannot understand. Whereas the rational brain can take years to progress along a linear path, the deeper self can non-sequitur from pain to healing in an instant. My art familiarizes viewers with their wholeness, most of which normally remains below our radars.
4) How does my creative process work?
The vast majority of my ideas come from dreams. If it’s not literally from a dream, it’s an idea that is dreamlike and which resonates with my dream content. After that, I draw. No matter what form a piece will ultimately take, I must begin with a drawing. Sometimes, I use photo reference to make the details believable. Other times, I defy the limits of believability.
If the final form of the piece will be a finished drawing, I will very often ink around my pencil lines. The end-result is white lines on a black background, not unlike ancient Athenian and Corinthian pottery. Other times, I transfer the sketch to a lino-block and generate prints.
My latest and most favorite discovery so far is the cut-out technique. I use software and a machine to physically extract my drawings from multiple kinds of paper. I then connect or layer those papers together — like a quilter attaching swatches of fabric. The interplay of different colors and patterns has been a revelation, and it takes my drawings to a whole new level.
Thank you again, Phil, for nominating me to contribute to this blog series! I now pass the torch to Laura Boswell, a highly skilled artist and printmaker whose work I’ve been following and adoring on Twitter. I just know my readers will find her contribution to this series fascinating and inspiring!