From creating paintings to building an art practice that I love

About eight years ago I dialed into my painting style. It’s now starting to develop into what feels like an evolving universe of characters. Finishing a painting is a singular thing. Developing an art practice, or the way I make my art, is an investment in years of growth. I hope my growth as a painter never stops. I’ve learned the journey is more important than the destination when you’re talking about art.


     An important shift that has happened with my paintings has been trying to get my thoughts out into words. I’m turning some attention towards my writing and not just my painting to help move my artwork forward. I need to be able to understand what I’m doing and why to be able to share my work with others more clearly. Sharing how my paintings are created is part of the bigger whole of my thoughts and ideas. Overtime as my painting skills are growing, also subjects, symbols, and ideas are growing behind the scenes. The behind the scenes is my art practice. Sharing my practice adds insight, value, and grows the story of my whole body of work, not just one painting.


It’s true a painting isn’t finished from beginning to end with one thought or inspiration. Working the paint, tools, and subjects naturally grows my chosen symbols. It’s mostly on impulse. I have to be there inside of an idea using my tools for it to occur. How I think of a painting practice is a deepening of my always developing personal symbols. My personal symbols come from my life.


      I have a lot of reference photos. I squirrel them away into my collection daily. This gives me the most shots at having a successful, if not a finished painting, at least a move forward towards creating a change or an adaptation of a subject I already use and love. My stumps that I often use are a sort of adaptation of the rocks I was already using. It’s exciting and a mystery what will evolve next. So my photography is important.


     Collage, masking, and stenciling are also important tools I use to make my art. These techniques are how I create many things including silhouettes, landscapes, and skies. My recent paper-cuts are a growth from using paper in a behind the scenes sort of way to having paper take the place of stretched canvas as the foundation of a painting. Also the shapes of the paper-cuts are using my symbols themselves as the groundwork shape to build upon.


     I think an art practice can be as simple or complicated as a person wants to make it. Sharing not only gives people who are interested a deeper understanding of an artist, but I think more importantly the behind the scenes making creates a deeper world for an artist to live in. And when you’re in deep things get cool. 


I also have an overall artist statement here about my painting practice that holds true today.

The evolution of a symbol and a forest pop-up

At some point I punched, hang a show in the forest, into the notes app on my phone.

This later led me to think about what pictures I would hang in such a place. My Burn Scar series of paintings seemed like a good fit. We are at the three year anniversary of the Cornet-Windy Ridge Fire from 2015. This wildfire event was the root of these paintings. Specifically this fire had me thinking at the time, of new ways I would paint the trees around my home.

I would paint them black and there would be lots of stumps.

Of the many photos I took after the fire, many were from four wheeler trips my family and I took through the newly burnt mountains. Of course everything was the same, but different. From up high on switch backing dirt roads we could look across little valleys to the next hills, clearly seeing all the other dirt roads usually hidden by bushy tall trees. Through the tall black trunks left behind, the landscape could be seen. The swells of ground and rock flowed like it always had, but now we knew where it curved.

We weren’t the only people in the woods either. Forest Service crews quickly got to work circling the black trees with red, blue, and white paint lines. Hazard trees were cut and swaths of black stumps took the place of towering pockets of trees. This is where the evolution of how my new trees would look took place. In my way, I cut and sprayed my new trees into my paintings.

So late one recent afternoon, I chose a clump of burnt trees on the edge of our property to hang my backwoods installation. The trees were to come down the next weekend, so now was the time. I carefully hammered nails into the black dead trunks, hung my paintings, stood back and took pictures. It was fun and looked cool, kind of a coming full circle deal.

My series Burn Scar was shown in 2017 at Crossroads Carnegie Art Center in Baker City, Oregon. My statement about the show and detailed pictures of the work are here.