Sum up your creative process in one word/phrase, and explain why.
Layers of detail. I create realistic pencil portraits. I select a reference photo with dramatic lighting or an interesting bit of detail that I’ll enjoy drawing and that others will enjoy seeing. Then, as I begin working, my focus turns to achieving an accurate likeness. But once I have the facial features right, I dig deeper into the skin texture, the highlights in the eyes, the flow of the hair. I start with a basic layer of detail and add more layers as I go.
Were you always an artist, even as a child? What was your path to becoming an artist?
I’ve been an artist since I was very young. Two or three years old. I was always drawing in my thick “scribble pad” or using crayons in innumerable coloring books. When my godparents gave me a Jon Gnagy “Learn to Draw” kit for Christmas I learned about shading and was exposed to the idea of realism for the first time. My older brother used to draw during this period too and I followed his lead, whether it was copying daily comics from the newspaper or his “jet birds” creation.
I kept drawing all the time and really fell in love with art in high school, learning about the great masters and experiencing different media, including pottery, sculpture, and oil and acrylic painting. I attended the Art Institute of Boston, which was a basic 3-year school 40 years ago. During the 80s I tried my hand at cartooning, with limited success. I self-published a collection of cartoons entitled “Freaks, Geeks & Chicken Beaks” in 1991. In 2000, Tribune Media Services featured my strip “Scarred for Life” for an entire month. A new daily was posted to their site each day. That pleasant experience, however, was the end of my stint as a cartoonist.
What is your medium of choice and what drew you to this particular medium?
Graphite and smooth Bristol are my world. While at art school I discovered that I not only enjoyed drawing portraits but I loved realism and the details of it all. Preferring to work from photos rather than models, I could look much more closely at the details. When I was 20, my mind was there but my skills had to undergo much more seasoning, which only comes from time and practice and a lot of both. I’ve always loved the feeling of control that a pencil point provides. Having a kneaded eraser at my fingertips helps a lot too—for fixing little mistakes, lifting darks to add details, and drawing white beards.
Is there any particular experience, person, place or thing that inspires you to create? Tell us about that.
When my son was in elementary school, we used to have “drawing lessons” where I’d try to teach him the fundamentals of drawing. One day, after several informal lessons, he seemed to just get it. It all just began to click for him. He really excelled in his high school art classes as a result of that “clicking.” Setting an example to him as an artist and a creative person is what inspires me.
What is it like showing your work to people and what do you hope people take away from it?
It can be stressful because I’m showing a part of myself that is truly me—no hiding behind jokes as a disguise or a distraction. Conversely, it’s also very exhilarating and liberating at the same time. I don’t hesitate to share a finished piece on social media but I tend to be self-conscious about my works-in-progress. I wonder if anyone will see any progress at all since the last time. The tiny circles and subtle layers don’t always look to others the way they look to me while I’m drawing with my face about 6 inches from the drawing. Ultimately, I hope people notice the details in my drawings and it pulls them in closer and they can appreciate the effort and the painstaking craftsmanship involved. There’s a lot of love in all those tiny circles and loops.
What advice do you have for other artists who may be looking to get their work exhibited?
I think it’s important to persevere, most of all. I’ve been drawing for more than 40 years now and exhibiting my work has kind of been elusive for a variety of reasons, some of them self-inflicted. With the pandemic, it’s been nearly impossible to exhibit within the traditional, in-person, face-to-face realm. But there are lots of internet options open to the artist who’s determined, including Instagram. I urge artists to learn the best approaches and strategies to get their art in front of as many eyeballs as they can. Hopefully, those who see your art will become a client and they’ll want to begin collecting what you create.