“This is not a pipe” – René Magritte
Graffiti details have been a part of my work for more than twenty years. As a young urban landscape painter, The Venice Beach Pavilion was among the very first places I focused on. If you are not familiar, this is an abandoned concrete structure, located adjacent the famous boardwalk in Venice Beach, California. Over the years, it has often been featured in film and television, and has even become a tourist destination in Los Angeles. Graffiti artists have routinely practiced their craft here. Layer upon layer of spray painted tags and colorful imagery come together to form a mosaic of expressive textures and patterns. It is a place where different cultures overlap as urban blight meets the serenity of the beach. I was captivated by this place back then. In many ways it actually helped form the path that my work would eventually take. Since then, my painting skills have refined, and the subject matter I now choose to paint has evolved. But overall, my creative vision and ideas about art have remained the same.
Freight trains are my current fascination. I have been exploring this subject almost exclusively for eleven years at this point. My world has become entrenched with these behemoths and my studio and home are quite purposefully located in the vicinity of several major rail yards. Tracks web throughout my neighborhood and I frequently hear the sound of train horns and the squeal of brakes as the freight cars slowly come to a stop. I have written quite a bit about my interest in this subject, as well as being interviewed and written about in magazines and catalogs. I have been fortunate that both the art world and rail communities have taken some notice to my work and I have gained many wonderful friendships along the way. I am lucky. As an artist, I have not only discovered a rich and inspiring muse, but I have gotten some professional recognition in the process. Graffiti is still very much a part of my world, given the great amount of freight trains that bear the marks of ambitious taggers. The railroad companies spend millions on the removal and prevention of this graffiti, but still, it remains an undeniable part of modern railroading, not to mention the streets of my community. In my world, each day brings new rail cars with graffiti wonders to be discovered. Cultural crossover is still very much alive and I remain compelled as ever to include this detail in the overall narrative of my work.
For many reasons, I am drawn to realism in fine art. The artists I admired as a child, and to this day, were extremely skilled at representing the world as they saw it. With remarkable technical precision, these artists painted every conceivable detail, and taught me the best kind of beauty is often within the most ordinary moments of life. The subjects they painted may not be noticed under normal circumstances, but became profoundly sublime when processed through the hands of a skilled artist. Ultimately, this is the primary goal of my work; to represent the world as I see it, just as the artists that came before me did with theirs. I must admit that I have found this prospect challenging. Never mind the many years of hard work and painting know-how required in the crafting of photorealism, but I have found that the idea of representing the outer lying fringes of society to be a difficult concept for some people to appreciate. I suppose that life is hard enough for some people, and they don’t necessarily want a reminder of this when looking at art. That’s OK. Occasionally, people express their discontent with my paintings and can be highly skeptical of my intentions. This goes with the territory of being an artist, and I’m OK with that too. As difficult a pill this is to swallow, such push-back reminds me of the importance of my goals and that I must continue to work very hard to achieve them. Sometimes, despite all considerations, feathers get ruffled by the creative process. Whether or not this is a valid reason to affect my work is arguable, but I think people have every right to react to art, based upon how it makes them feel. Also, this is an incidental occurrence and not all people feel the same way. I find this phenomenon extremely interesting and thick with irony, so I intend to dig a little deeper in order to understand it better -Stay tuned to this bat channel! Regardless, I am not above making improvements in my work, and I do try to carefully consider the constructive messaging within the harsh dialog that can sometimes occur in critical analysis. On the other hand, criticism can sometimes be a compliment in disguise. Photorealism, when done well, can be somewhat illusionary. Especially when seen through the filters of social media platforms. The craft involves the replication of life’s details as convincingly as possible, and I think this can easily lend to certain misunderstandings. I am not the first artist to experience this, and surely won’t be the last. Nonetheless, I remain grateful when my work connects me to people from all walks of life and stirs their emotions.