One of my priorities as an artist is being open to outside influences. Sometimes I’ll be influenced by random things like the color blue. Other times, I find myself influenced by objects: vehicles, airplanes, or musical instruments. At one point, I found myself really getting into old newspapers and publications from the 1920s. I find all these disparate points of influence fascinating. They are rich in creative ingredients that inevitably find their way into my work.
Early in my career as a painter, I was focused on aquatic motifs, particularly fish and ocean life. Eventually, I steered away from those fixations, before arriving at the style that I’m currently known for: airplanes constructed out of musical instruments, “conceptual flora” in urban situations, scenes of people in crowded public places, to name a few.
I am convinced that the people who buy and appreciate my artwork see themselves or something familiar in my pieces. There’s some kind of connection there. The last thing I want do is lock down a “trademark” (i.e. restrictive) style. I never want to be able to say “this is my style forever.”
I was an Illustration major at ArtCenter at a time when the Fine Art discipline was basically relegated to an academic minor. I was majorly into both editorial and entertainment illustration. My mindset was never on fine art. Little did I know that ArtCenter had planted a new skill into my existing artistic tool kit. This is what kick-started a whole new way of thinking about the creative process.
Fine art became my escape. Back in 1999, I was really into designing video games, so coming home and painting became an outlet to express my own ideas without oversight. I cannot stress how important it is for creative people to have an escape. Even now, when I find myself involved with commercial art and the professional management of artists, I have my escape. You cannot rely solely on your full-time commercial endeavors to truly scratch your creative itch. If I feel stress or panic or something chafing at my insides, I unleash it on a canvas. I turn a negative feeling into a positive result.
Back in 2006, I was making a name for myself in the gallery scene in Las Vegas. At a certain point, I found that I was being pigeonholed for painting dynamic crowd portraits. It came time to shift directions and seek new inspiration. I found myself looking at a bouquet of flowers one day and thinking that I wanted to tell a story using a flower as my main character.
I know, I know, just hear me out. The idea was: create a narrative where a flower could endure the struggle and joy and perseverance and success that we, as humans, feel every day. The result became a miniseries, titled “Urban Flora Collection,” about a resilient flower who traverses through fire, endures frostbite, and still makes it out the other end in one piece. All of this was a result of my deep resistance to being categorized.
Throughout my career, I’ve tried to lend my time to worthy organizations and projects. I have works in the permanent collection at Cirque de Soleil. I’ve conceptualized art for a TV show that got greenlit. I’ve lent my time to the St. Jude Heart Sculpture Project.
ArtCenter set me on the path to be able to do these things. I will always have a relationship with the College. Frankly, I consider myself a child of the school. The way I think and see things is ArtCenter. The way I administer critiques to the young artists that I mentor is pure ArtCenter. Even my gallery work, which has been a micro-institution of the Las Vegas arts scene, is uncut ArtCenter.
ArtCenter remains a part of you forever. The “ArtCenter Way” is about sparking the imagination of the youth, and compelling people to look for inspiration in unlikely places.
And that’s the only way I know how to do things.
BFA 98 Illustration
Director, Joseph Watson Collection
Photo by Ruben Martinez