At what point in your life did you decide to become a professional artist?
I knew right after graduating college. I was pre-med at the time, taking a lot of art classes alongside my science curriculum and art just felt natural to me. You should have seen my notes pages – so many detailed drawings! One of my former professors was a patron of the arts, he was a patron for several years, buying several pieces every year. I had started teaching art at the time, but this additional financial support really helped me focus on creating.
What’s one of the most special items you’ve ever made for a customer?
Sometime around 2005 or 2006, I created an award for the Cleveland International Film Festival. They commissioned a series of 8-10 pieces to give to filmmakers as their awards. I chose a photo collage and combined it with a short poem I wrote. I started with a large archival photo of an office holiday party sitting in a theater for their yearly photography, it was from the 1950s. That image is in the background. I positioned a small image of canoe on a lake on top of it. Then the poem was about how we shape our own moments in life.
days and hours,
perhaps we shape them.
If we do
it is the way
an oar shapes the lake
or how a wing shapes the sky,
or how our faces shape the screen.
The finished pieces were 12 x 6 and packaged in a keepsake linen box. The award recipients loved it. Two of them emailed to thank me.
If you listen to music while creating, what’s on your playlist?
Music is like fuel for my creative tank. It helps me turn my brain off so I can tap into my subconscious when I work. Then, I get to work a little deeper. Right now, I’m listening to a band named This is the Kit and Minnie Ripperton, I seldom am not listening to Minnie. I also sometimes listen to books on tape, depending on what I’m doing.
Where do you go to find inspiration in and around Cleveland?
My biggest inspiration is when I’m in classrooms and working with kids. Whether it’s background research for my classes or working with my students, I’m always taking something back to the studio with me. I teach K-12, but mostly elementary school. A lot of what we do with art is new to them. I encourage the idea that they have a voice through art. It’s an important concept for all age groups to understand.
When they really get it, their work is raw, honest and sentimental. It’s so authentic. It’s like they’ve harnessed their ability to be heard, but in an all new way. There’s so much untapped creativity around this.
What type of artistic style do you feel best represents your work?
I really like artifacts, ruins and archaeological finds that aren’t obvious about the meaning. I use a lot of symbols that are more texture than symbol. Things are kind of obscured a little bit. I’m inspired by ancient traditional craft. The Cleveland Art Museum has so many incredible pieces like this to explore. There’s a little figurine in the Egyptian section that I need to see every time I go.