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And it has been said, “Je suis artiste naif!”
“Art is unique. Look at what I create. Understand, you are seeing a part of me. Naked. Just as I am. That is art. Artist’s don’t hide when sharing. They sit next to you on the bus. They stand behind you in the market. You don’t see them. Stand before their work. Then, then you see them”
Today, I freely sketch and paint throughout Europe and the United States. It wasn’t always that way. I had very humble beginnings, but those beginnings were the roots that anchor me today. I am a native Washingtonian. Born in old Garfield Hospital. My family lived in a apartment project on Porter Street, just above Rock Creek Parkway. My love for paint came naturally. My mother was a water colorist and my father sketched with charcoal and dabbled in oil. Relatives have traced our family tree back to an art dealer that among others, represented Michelangelo. Pretty cool stuff. At the age of two or three, I discovered a bucket of orange paint and fresh brush. I proceeded to paint as many basement windows as possible. There was no critical acclaim. My father chose to feed the beast and brought me stacks of newsprint and wonderful pencils from his office at the Evening Star.
“Color is a language all it’s own. I use it to communicate. My goal is to reach inside the viewer and touch their heart.”
We moved to a large row house in Adams Morgan. I soon discovered the marvelous berries (pokeberry) that could be used to produce a deep magenta paint. There was red clay that could be mixed with water to create several shades of reddish brown. Cold coffee left behind after breakfast was another source of tan. Although grass stained clothing green, I could not master creating a fluid pigment. My limited palette forced me to paint negative shapes. (Newsprint was plentiful but it was almost impossible to create any fluid detail). If I wanted a bird, I had to paint everything but the bird. It was an early lesson in understanding the importance of what is not there in relation to what is there.
I was sent to Catholic grade school. While many share the horror stories of being taught by nuns, I don’t have any. I was exposed to famous paintings in art class. We never got into technique, but I was captured by the beauty of the art itself. Paintings like “The Angelus” and “The Gleaners” by Millet, “Whistler’s Mother” and “Nocturn Blue and Gold” by Whistler and all the beauty of Monet, VanGogh, etc. I began to hear the sweet sounds of the muse.
Once again, my parents uprooted the family and purchased a brick colonial in Wheaton, Maryland. I entered a new school with new nuns and more fine art education. I was pretty much satisfied with drawing and using crayons. Then in early September of 1956, he took me to a movie opening (He was the Drama Editor of the Evening Star). The movie was “Lust for Life”. It was a typical opening with all the fanfare. Kirk Douglas (or a stand-in) was there is full costume. I was 10 and my eyes were as big as saucers. I stood transfixed while my father and he passed pleasantries. He turned to me, shook my hand and gave me a prop that he was carrying. It was a wooden box with 5 or 6 tubes of acrylic paint and a palette and brush. I don’t recall much of the movie, it think it was mostly dialogue. I still have the box.
“I only have so much time. There is so much to share. Your world, my color. I only ask that you slow down and see what I see.”
That evening I tried using the paint on newsprint. It didn’t work. I painted my father’s windshield. Again, there was no critical acclaim, but he did bring me home a large pile of sheets of white cardboard. I began to paint and paint and then paint some more. It was much more pleasant to sit in my closet and paint. The world outside was not so nice. I was the new kid and I was small in stature. It was easy to bully me. I just went home. At home, I was one of three. Our parents were slaves to alcohol. So I created my own little studio in the closet and painted.
At some point, the land at the corner of Evans Parkway and Georgia Avenue on the southbound side was cleared. A building was constructed. It was a branch of the Maryland School of Art and Design. The area not cleared was wooded and provided a terrific voyeuristic hiding place for a small boy with a large dream. I could sneak across the street, trek through the woods and climb a tree and watch students through the windows. There would be drawing and painting classes. I saw my first naked person and was amazed at how all the people drew the same thing so differently and yet all the same. I wanted to go to a school like that.
I ended up going to Good Counsel High School in Wheaton, Md. I did not fit in. I was small and chubby. Duffy Fletcher, the phys ed teacher, nick named me “Butterball”. After two painful years, I moved on to Northwood High School. My first real art teacher was Mrs. Davila. I was never an official student. My parents would not allow me to waste my precious time taking art. I still spent the majority of my time hanging out in her class. She was an angel. No one else seemed to notice me or the fact that I wore the same clothes everyday. She would talk to me and encourage me. Did I say she was an angel.
After high school, the Viet Nam war was raging. I received a draft notice. I went to sign up with the Air Force, but the USMC recruiter dared me to be a Marine. I took the bait. In boot camp, I sent President Johnson a letter advocating the increased involvement of the Marine Corps in the war. The reaction was swift and long lasting. I had gone outside the chain of command. It was assumed I had been protesting the war. I ended up on the wrong side of every interaction where ever I was stationed. Eventually, I ended up in Camp Pendleton’s Base Brig. My label as a “anti-war” sympathizer led to me spending about 11 months in solitary confinement. The nightmare came to an end when I agreed that I was not fit to be a Marine. I was dropped off outside the Base, made my way to LA and then home. It was 1967 and I was free to be me.
In the late 60’s that I sojourned to New Orleans, Louisiana. $300 was enough to rent a garage for six months. It was my studio and living space. I garnered my eight foot section of fence at Jackson Square and dove into the artist’s community. I sold work by day and painted and replenished my inventory by night. The phrase “starving artist” covered more than the need for food. Artist’s starve for a sense of time, sometimes for heat and always for just the right light.
My life as an artist has been like a carousel ride. In the beginning I expressed myself without thought. Then came criticism, so I altered here and there. Time passed and I began to lose me. I became adept at emulation. At some point, I became them. In desperation I stopped all together. Then after licking my wounds, I would return to my roots and begin again. Critics, change, emulation and desperation again. I have repeated that cycle more times than I care to admit. My head spins with questions that I can not answer. Fear of not really doing anything of merit is second nature. The little voice is forever whispering “You really don’t know what you are doing. You are a fraud.” Then I gather energy and return to my studio in one more attempt to exercise the demons.
Since those early days, I have continued to work and grow within my field. I am no different from my peers. We have all dabbled in many areas. We have all attempted different media. We create and seek to share our personal vision. A great deal of my visual work is here. I hope you enjoy.