Questions from students

Do you think that creativity involves putting your heart and soul into your work? Or is it more like letting your mind flow freely to witness the surprising results of your actions?

Wow, that is an interesting question! Here’s the thing. In my mind, They’re not mutually exclusive. Those things that bubble up through my brain while I’m working ARE my heart and soul. Creativity, to me, is having the ability to translate that “heart and soul” into a visual or written piece that can be then seen or read by someone else. It’s communicating something from my mind to the mind of someone else.

Meticulous planning doesn’t mean more heart and soul. Not to me, anyway. I’d say it’s the opposite.

What in your personal life has influenced you to choose your career?

Growing up with a learning disability, I believe, made me gravitate toward more visual expression. I found what worked for me early on, and stuck with it.

Do you strive to be unique in your creative endeavors? Please explain.

Of course all artists want to be unique. The fact is that each one of us IS unique. There has never been another person just like you or just like me.

Having said that, artists have worked out a lot of painting techniques and solutions throughout history. Art history gives us the visual language to start with. Those influences don’t mitigate our own unique voice.

Imagine if I decided to be unique and answer your questions with a language that I made up. It wouldn’t work.

Having said that, what do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?

We don’t have to motivate ourselves to keep breathing. I’ve been breathing for a long time, and I’ve never once gotten tired of it and decided to take a day off from it.

I may go a Day, a week, a month without painting, but I create art every day. Sometimes sketches, sometimes digital art. Or writing. But even when I’m not making art that you can see, my mind is being creative.

My art comes from the core of who I am. It’s always there.

Were you ever discouraged? If so, how did it it affect your creativity?

Yes, I’m often discouraged! It might feel like I’m freezing up. It might feel like a creative block. It might look like a creative block, but when all that stuff inside me is digested, it will come out.

If you had to start over, would you choose a different path in your career?

Would I not be an artist? No. I’m sure I’d do some things differently. I’d avoid some of the pain and difficulty I’ve experienced in life, but then at the end of it, I would be someone else, wouldn’t I?

So, no.

If I were to change things in my past I might make it worse.

If you could become one of your characters/works of art, which one would you choose? Why?

Funny. I did that. Flash Meridian. I created a character and didn’t realize for a while that he was actually me, and I am him.

In thinking about the things that you have created, is there something that you hated but the public may have loved – and perhaps purchased? How do you explain this?

Yes! I hung a painting in a local restaurant. I didn’t like it. I went home and thought about it all night. In the morning, I went to pick it up, but it was already sold.

All I can say is that different things appeal to different people.

Sometimes I create an image that I love, and no one else seems to care for it. That’s when I hang it on my own wall at home.

What is your favorite color? Does this color describe you as a person? Please explain.

I go through phases. Thirty years ago, almost everything I owned was black and white. Then I added red to it for a while. Most recently, I went through a yellow phase.

I’m not sure I have a favorite color right now, but I am being drawn again and again to magenta.

What is the best advice that you have been given?

I found a card in one of my grandfather’s art books that said “Don’t imitate your teacher. Don’t let your teacher make you imitate him. Be yourself.”

How do you define creativity?

Just looking at the word, I would define creativity as creating something. That’s pretty broad, and so is art. So is life, or being a human being.

Do you believe that each person has the capacity to be creative? Why?

I absolutely believe that everyone has the potential to be creative. I think it is born into us like our natural ability to learn language.

I’ve said lately “being you is all the credential you need to be a true artist.”

Finding your artistic voice takes practice, as does refining your mastery of the medium you choose to create within.

Potential and realization are two different things, even though there are some prodigies that just seem to ooze talent effortlessly.

To quote Fred Rogers: “Imagining something may be the first step in making it happen, but it takes real time and real efforts of real people to learn things, Make things, turn thoughts into deeds or visions into inventions”

How did you find your creative niche?

I found my creative niche originally in school, I think. When they first put a crayon in my hand as a child. Maybe it was earlier. Yes, I remember drawing before kindergarten.

It was unintentional. My parents were not creative at that time.

As far as what I’m doing right now, my niche develops organically. I don’t generally try to come up with an idea, they just sort of emerge as I keep hold of the moving paintbrush.

As far as painting fish in trees goes, that came about because I happened to paint a branch that looked kind of like a fish. Little did I know that subject would take on such significance for me.

My creative niche? I kind of fell into it.

Do you think creativity is innate or learned? Explain.

I want to say that creativity is innate. Skills are learned, but that creative urge has to be there driving the learning. Otherwise what is the point?

Who or what experiences have inspired your work?

I’ve been inspired by other artists, for sure. Many of my friends are artists. You don’t have to have your paintings in the Guggenheim to serve as an inspiration.

I’m also very inspired by music and song lyrics.

Have you always wanted to do what you are doing? If not, what made you decide to start?

I don’t really remember a “wanting” to create. I just remember a doing.

Does spirituality and culture play a role in your creativity? Explain.

Oh, spirituality and culture definitely play a role in my creativity. They are the framework of everything I do. Culture defines us. Gives us a viewpoint.

As for spirituality, it’s more a search for meaning than dogma.

How important is education to your creative process?

Education is important because it is a means to an end. There is formal education which validates us with certificates and degrees, and it teaches us to continue educating ourselves after we leave the formal academic world.

So education continues throughout our lives whether we are in school or not.

How do you deal with creativity blocks?

Creativity blocks are nothing to freak out over. I deal with them by doing something else. Watching tv. Hanging out with friends. Or “painting anyway.”

I read a book about writing that said when you get stuck, you should write anyway. Even if you write “I don’t know what to write” over and over until something else comes. I guess it’s like priming the pump.

What part of you do you share in your creative endeavors?

I can’t really choose what parts of myself I share. Even if I try to hide things, they seem to come out anyway.

I try to share what is meaningful to me.

Have you had to overcome obstacles (physical, financial, social, etc.) in your creative world? Explain.

Everyone has their obstacles to overcome. That’s pretty much automatic. And it’s in working through those challenges that we have anything to say at all.

In my case, I struggled in school. It wasn’t that I was stupid, it was just that I had a different way of learning. When I was a kid, my teachers didn’t recognize that.

Do you believe that it is important to be accepted by others as being creative or is just doing what you love to do enough to justify your work? Explain.

LOL. Yes and no. Not everyone will like everything you do. Maybe no one will like it. But I believe that if you create art from a genuine place in you… create something that you feel is important… beautiful or painful… worthwhile, then it will find an audience.

Maybe it will take a while. I think of Van Gogh, who couldn’t seem to sell a painting. His success came late for him, but it came.

It’s wonderful to be validated for what you do, but I think I would create art whether anyone else accepted it or not.

Important, yes. Necessary, no.

Do you think that creativity is part of human nature or is it something that must be nurtured and learned?

I think creativity is both part of human nature and something to be learned. I believe we are born with the urge to create, much the way we are born with an urge to reproduce.

What you end up doing with that urge is is what will drive or inform your creative endeavors and ultimately your career.

What made you decide to follow a creative career choice (though possibly risky) rather than something more stable?

I actually chose both. After I graduated from high school, I graduated from Bible school, then went on to art school, and then nursing school. I use all of these in my life now for personal and financial reasons. Diversification mitigates that risk.

What is your inspiration? How has personal experience influenced your creativity?

My art is my commentary on my personal experience, thus it has pretty much influenced it 100%. I’m not an artist who is trying to report what the north shore of Lake Superior looks like. I’m trying to show you my inner landscape.

What is your favorite creation? Please explain why you selected this one.

Of all the fish I have painted, swimming amongst the branches of trees, there’s one particular one that I like best. I don’t know why, but it is the fish that I included in the header of my blog. In my eye, that one just looked right. I think that one was probably really easy to paint.

What do you wish to accomplish with your art?

I’d like to make money, of course. But far more than that, I want to connect with people… engage them in conversation, and most preferably, inspire them to find something that they are passionate about, and the confidence to express that in their own way.

How do you know when a piece or project is finished and needs no additonal work?

I never really know that until it sells! At that point, it’s finished. But anything left at my house, or that comes back to my house after being in a show, is subject to change.

Have you ever been faced with negative feedback? How was this reflected in your work, if at all?

Yes, of course I’ve had negative feedback. Lots of it. I have to ask myself if it is constructive, and if it is, it’s an opportunity to improve.

If that feedback is uninformed, then I have a different kind of opportunity… and challenge.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion or preference. That’s why not everything looks alike.

What impact do you think that commercialism and the media has had on your work? Is this good or bad?

Yeah, I like to sell paintings. The thing is, I can’t paint with that thought in mind. It spoils everything. I lose the joy of painting and I make paintings that I dislike. So I do my own thing, and when I have finished paintings, I hang them in public and see if anyone feels the same.

Are you a fan of cartoons? If so, what is your favorite one?

I like some cartoons. Comics. I even took a college class in comics. Comics can make you think… they can make you feel things.

My favorite is Calvin and Hobbes. I relate to it so much, and I know that a lot of people do. I like The Far Side. Another one that I used to read back in the late 1980’s was Ernie Pook’s Comeek by Linda Barry. It ran in the free paper in Charlotte.

What is playing in your CD player/Ipod right now?

I made a new playlist! THIS IS GOSPEL (piano version) by Panic At The Disco. GO TO HELL (piano version) by Go Radio. ALREADY MINE by Us The Duo. PURE WHITE SOUL by Cheralee Dillon. DEMONS by David Ford.

These are the type of songs that inspire and move me. I have a personal story attached to each of them.

If you had to be any of these things, which would you like to be? a) a member of the opposite sex, b) a clock, c) a pair of shoes, d) a duck

A member of the opposite sex. I want to be human!

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