I probably started working towards becoming an artist in middle school in Charlottesville. I made little comics to sell to my friends and I’d fill up my homework and test sheets with doodles in the margins. I always had a macabre sense of humor.
(Camels usually carry water in their humps. These carry clocks. A pun, silly joke.)
As an artist, I’m not sure what draws me specifically to bizarre and fantastic subjects. I was brought up either outside around nature or inside reading or watching classic and cult science fiction and horror books and movies. I figured my style was a natural combination of both.
I don’t have any formal art education or training. My mother paints abstracts and my father plays the piano. For a few years in the early twenty-teens however I was part of an art and music collective called Gone Studios in Staunton VA.
(I like fish, ocean animals, and started with the octopus tentacles filling the space. Over multiple sessions, I added small details like clockworks.)
We specialized in underground and D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) art and music. D.I.Y. was kind of an underground community following the ethos of doing things yourself without the ultimate goal being mainstream or corporate materialism. I first started playing Punk actively in bands but I’d make art when I wasn’t around the band or had time to kill at a concert. I did small acrylic paintings and pen and ink drawings.
My mentor was John Griffin, the owner/manager and ‘fearless leader’ of Gone Studios. Griffin eventually approached me about putting my artwork out there. We vended a lot of Virginia music festivals and concerts as well as local art and craft events. Griffin was very supportive, and taught me silkscreen printing, to branch out into different mediums and to take my time when learning something new. Along with a few others, I made a lot of artwork for the bands—tee shirt designs, stickers, magnets and patches.
This doodle began with various random shapes and ended up as a sticker design.
I used to play mostly heavy metal and punk, but when I wanted to relax and make art, I listened to softer instrumental ‘art rock.’ I use painting to let myself rest from the intensity of the music. As I’ve gotten older, I mainly play the softer instrumental, artsy music and I don’t often play with bands. Last year, I wrote an album of instrumental music inspired by the music that I usually make art to.
Artists I really admire and am influenced by are Stephen Gammell, illustrator of the Scary Stories to tell in the Dark books, as well as illustrators Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, and offbeat cartoonists like Robert Crumb and Jhonen Vasquez. The pressed bee, left above, was inspired by a children’s book of ‘pressed’ fairies as if they were flowers. I borrowed the idea. Fish are a hobby. I have a fish tank which likely inspired the fish above.
I still like to experiment with different stuff. In this abstract, I mixed acrylic and charcoal to get a grey gesso effect. Sometimes, as in the dried dandelions, I smear the paint with a piece of plastic or cardboard to layer the background.
I go back and forth between my art and composing and performing. I’m now playing more folky, melodic stuff. My wife and I just had a baby girl and she seems to enjoy the music. Maybe with the baby, I’ll finally get my butt moving and make some children’s books.
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