‘You know, James,’ she began in true sandwich technique style, ‘Your ideas are wonderful. I’m always excited by where you’re going.’
I could hear the ‘but ‘ . . .
‘Unfortunately, your craftsmanship is horrible. I really don’t think art is for you.’ She paused to watch my Adams apple take a long slow gulp. ‘I think a change of major would be a good idea.’
And she turned and left the room.
I’ve told that story a number of times in workshops and casual gatherings and am always surprised to hear very similar stories from others. We seem to be on a crusade to obliterate the creative in everyone!
I did change my major, kept art as one of my minors and . . . I went underground. I continued to paint, draw and create, albeit at a slower pace, for decades.
That all changed in 2010 when I met Dick Greene. Dick is an architect and artist living in San Diego. We became good friends at the gym and slowly, through many meaningful conversations, he helped me fan the artistic fire smoldering inside. I took up the brush again in earnest and began to work, seriously, with Dick whispering in my ear and pushing, pushing, pushing.
Soon a completely different and somewhat unique style began to emerge. I was working fairly large with layers of transparent color over liquid masking. Many layers later, the shimmering images began to take place.
People seemed to like them, too. I had a number of shows in local galleries and had my work hanging in a couple of nice restaurants for months at a time.
But there was a problem. Though I loved the finished pieces I was creating, the creation process became almost . . . painful. Every day I’d return to a canvas as a problem that had to be solved. Often the solution was days and weeks away and I seemed to be spending more time staring at the canvas than I did interacting with it. Painting had quit being fun.
So I looked for an experience, something to shake things up, set me moving in a new way, blast me out of my un-comfort zone. Dick and I found it together in the form of an ongoing workshop with painter, Theresa Vandenberg Donche. I had met her sometime earlier and loved her work. It was wild and engaging and oddly geometric at the same time.
Theresa shook me, hard. Determined to get me out of my head and into my intuitive heart, she did extraordinary things to short-circuit my deeply ingrained tendency to make an art product rather than have an art experience. She blindfolded me and put a brush in my hand. She taped a brush to the end of a 3 foot long pole and bid me paint. She had me use my non-dominant hand. And if she caught me fixating on some special area on a canvas, some wonderful little space that was developing, she had me paint over it.
Very rapidly I was into a different space, a new attitude and a joyful painting experience. I will try to explain what I do here.
First of all: it’s not about the painting, the product, the thing that gets hung on the wall (or heaven forbid, hidden away in storage!). It is about painting. Painting is a wordless conversation between the canvas and my self, lubricated with pigment and water and shaped by the violence of the knife. I never begin with the end in mind, but when the process works, the end presents itself. I work to become as unconscious as possible – which means I try to shut down my logical, analytical, talking-to-myself mind as I fall into a canvas.
About the most conscious thing I do is select a palate before I begin a piece. I usually choose a limited palate of 5 to 6 colors because I find this pushes the creative process. By the end of the conversation, however, I’ve usually brought in more color.
I think the hardest lesson I learned about painting is that you cannot fall in love with a painting or with any part of a painting in the process of creation. That is the kiss of death to spontaneity and intuitive painting. Let me give you an example. When I embarked on my work with Theresa, I completed a few pieces. People liked them very much. I was getting positive responses from people who hadn’t reacted to my work for a long time. Flattered and excited, I ran to the studio and set about duplicating what I had already done…which was a disaster. My work was strained, contrived, pretentious and frankly, awful. I painted over those pieces, put a bag over my head and took up a brush in my non-dominant hand . . . and everything got better.
In 2015, I relocated to Summerlin, outside Las Vegas and slowly broke into the desert art scene. I exhibited continuously at The Arts Factory 107 East Charleston Blvd, in the heart of the Las Vegas Arts District for about 3 years. In 2019, my spouse was transferred to DFW (me too) and I am once again slowly breaking into a new scene.
I update this website about once a month, but new work is always posted to Instagram first. To stay up-to-date, follow me there.
Shows & Honors
Featured Artist – Artisan Collective, Adams Ave Arts District, San Diego – January 2012
Featured Artist – Pink Noodle Cafe – Hillcrest, San Diego – Dec. 2011 – March 2012
Featured Artist – Pita Jungle – Uptown District San Diego – April 2012 – August 2012
Featured Artist – The Curlew Compound Drive-By Gallery, San Diego – July 2014, December 2014, March 2015, July 2015
First Friday Exhibit – Bravo School of Art, San Diego – November 2015
Featured Artist – Ashton Gallery at Art on 30th, San Diego – May 2016
Participant – Las Vegas Artist Guild Gallery, Las Vegas – June 2016- April 2017
Featured Artist – The Corner Gallery at The Arts Factory, Las Vegas – November 2016, February 2017
Excellence Award – The Las Vegas Contemporary Art Show at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas – November 2016
Red Brush Award – The Las Vegas International Juried Art Competition 2016
Featured Artist – Jana’s RedRoom Gallery in the Arts Factory, LasVegas – April 2017
Jana’s RedRoom ‘Angel’ – May – October, 2017
Resident Artist – Mix It Up Ltd. November-December 2017
Resident Artist – AW Gallery, Las Vegas – February – October 2018