STYLE & AESTHETICS
I never realized that I even had a style of my own until I hung several of my paintings together on the wall of my Art classroom one Fall. Looking at nineteen years of paintings I’d done with classes or as examples for classes, it finally manifest itself to me. My work seems to be very passionate, expressive and maybe just a little rough-hewn. I’d like to think that I’m a shaggy lummox like a bison or a bear. Unkempt yet majestic. Simultaneously humble yet proud. Inglorious with dignity. In other words, quintessentially American.
Art History students and aficionados can probably recognize the influence of the neoexpressionism of the 1970’s and 80’s. I’m not sure if this is because that was the era in which I grew up or if its because of the strong German expressionist influence on my professors at Concordia College in Seward, Nebraska. I suspect I've ended up something of a neo-expressionsit.
If I had to name my favorite painters, I’d probably rattle off names of pop artists like Wayne Thiebaud and Jasper Johns; the venerable regionalist Grant Wood, and Native American master John Nieto. But my work doesn’t really seem to look like any of theirs. Frankly I think my paintings remind me more of Jules Feiffer, Johnny Hart and Bill Mauldin. That’s probably because from ages 12-thirtysomething it was my dream to someday make it as a professional cartoonist.
PROCESS TECHNIQUE & RATIONALE
Students who watch me painting often say something like “how do you DO that?!!”
Inevitably the teacher in me wants to either painstakingly explain to them the process of observing, analyzing, comparing and contrasting visual-spatial placement and proportions and then recording those observations and analysis. But I know it would bore them to death. So I encourage them by offering that “you can do it too, you just have to keep practicing and listen to what I try to teach you."
Ultimately it is a sort of alchemy. Certainly there’s the trained artist’s way of perceiving and translating those perceptions into visual language, but there’s also a great deal of responding to and expressing about the subject matter. What they mean to me and how I feel about them. What I admire or disdain.
HAVING STUDENTS WRITE ARTIST STATEMENTS
I've had Painting students prepare artist statements as a formal writing assignment.
Short documents which provides insight into an artist’s thinking on about a single piece, or about an entire body of work. Unbeknownst to them they still have to critically analyze an artwork, its just that they're analyzing their own artwork. Much to my surprise and my relief, so far they're all pretty excited about it.
Writing a couple of examples for them about my own work has been a good exercise for me too. I don't think I've ever thought about my own painting this much ever.
Here is a blog post which includes two artist statements about my own work