Areas that inform my work: Doodling and automatic processes, Indonesia, and being a father of triplets. I was almost born in Indonesia. But my family moved back to the US right before I was born. I grew up in a typical suburban home in Bellaire, but surrounded by art work from Singapore. I didn’t know much about the history of these objects I didn’t have any idea what the pieces meant or their cultural significance. They were from some mythical alien place. There were carved wood and bone pieces. Bronze containers, batiks, and ceremonial knives with carved handles. I can remember taking them out of their display case and turning them over in my hands admiring how intricate they were. I was fascinated by how the material is transformed into something else. The curving shapes and teeth, horns, patterns and interesting abstractions. I was also inspired by the batik patterns and paintings of Indonesia. The have a flattened space, a graphic quality. And the way they are concerned with line and pattern.
Another part of my work that is important to understand is the use of what I call doodling. A sort of stream of conscious drawing method. Where I improvise and let my mind wander. “doodleing” can have a negative connotation. Because it appears to be mindless. But that’s why it is important to me.
It is something I have done all my life. I’m always scrawling small drawings on every scrap of paper . When I was a kid I would get in trouble for it in class, because teachers thought I wasn’t paying attention. However I found I could pay attention better while doing it. Doodling keeps me in the moment. Keeps my mind from wandering too much. Keeps me from drumming my fingers and figeting. There was a study at The University of Plymouth where they showed that people who doodled while listening to information on the phone were better able to recall what was said. The study showed that when we are on hold or bored, if we doodle, we don’t daydream so much that we lose touch with where we are. Doodling serves as an idea generating space for me. It seems I do some of my best work when it is on some throwaway piece of paper and my mind is elsewhere. Drawings done in my class notes or on post it notes become the genesis of important work. When I think of the drawing as a doodle not a study I don’t have to worry about it being any good. I can step away from my overly rational brain. And work without overly critical analysis creeping in. I often draw while doing something else : Watching a movie, talking to someone, sitting in a lecture. Often the drawings where I am not paying attention to the drawing seem to be the best. It works as a way of rehearsal for the art making process, so that when I am in my studio I am ready to work in the same state of mind. I tend to make art that is an easy read if I plan it too much. The doodles allow me to be comfortable in that state of mind where I don’t know where the artwork is headed. When creating work it can be detrimental to let critical thinking into the process too early or to think of areas as being too precious. Doodling works to keep me in that detached state of mind .
Through researching this technique, I discovered it is very similar to surrealist techniques.
In 2009. My wife and I became the parents to triplets. They were born early and o tiny. They each weighed under 3 pounds. Abigail here weighed 15 ounces. They were in the hospital for 3 months. The stress was brutal. When they came home the first year was especially hard. They all had oxygen tanks and monitors. We had a 24 hour care and feeding schedule. We had a round the clock schedule of help from grandparents, friends, and nurses. I remember doing the math: It takes an hour and a half to feed them and we did that eight times a day. That’s 12 hours a day of simply feeding them. There was not much time for painting. They are all doing great now at 3 and a half but the stress of those early days still affect me. Our house is happily chaotic and loud. Where every surface is covered with Legos, dolls, and stuffed animals spread evenly across our house. This is a very normal scene in our house. I’m showing this room because it starts to show up in my work, later.
Around this time, I started to think about how my home life might be affecting my art work. Most mornings were spent with the kids and then afternoons and evenings spent in the studio. So I thought I would work directly with images from our home. Sitting on the couch looking out at the back yard became a way to relax while dealing with the chaos of watching toddlers. So I took photos of that tree and window and created acetone transfer prints from the photos. Acetone printing can create a new version of the original photo with a chance for interesting distortions. Here is my living room repeated and distorted.
I started to merge the imagery with my doodle process and views out my window.
Multiple views of our kitchen counter after a particularly busy day.
Our son Isaac superimposed into our kitchen sink holding a wooden knife.
I started drawing and doodling directly on top of the acetone prints. And started painting on top as well. Using the acetone prints as a starting place that I would expand outward with mechanical shapes and patterns. Merging together the too worlds of my home life and my art making process.
I started to notice within these drawings that there were recognizable objects from my house. There are lego blocks and toys mixed together
This started out as an allover black and brown drawing but grew organically into this image.
As usual, after I created it I noticed how much it worked as a painting of parenthood. There is a small cartoon duck emerging out of the figure’s head and there are literally too many mouths to feed. And a sense of constantly moving.
Throughout this process, My graduate committee and I brainstormed over how to add more dimensionality to the pieces. The imagery seemed to hint at something sculptural. Do I add objects to the canvas; create something out of ceramics that resembles the broken mechanical shapes and attach them to the surface? My problem with those processes is that there was an improvisational quality that was missing in those processes. I have several dremels around. Which is a multipurpose tool that can be used for sandin, carving, and engraving. I think I have around 5. They were all gifts. I guess others knew what my paintings needed. Since I was already working on wood panel I thought I could carve directly into the surface. the dremel itself feels similar to a pencil. except I can doodle in 3d and organically draw into the surface. So I started carving smaller very shallow relief drawings.
With this piece “6 infected ears” I started by drawing directly on the surface of the wood. But decided to mix back in the imagery from my home. The windows in the background are the same windows from our living room. It resembles a large abstract form that is spewing on our floor. At the time, I had no finished piece in mind when I started it. But after some time I noticed again how much it resembled my life. At that particular time, everyone in the house was getting sick with sinus and ear infections. The kids would get us sick and we would get them sick. It seemed to last for a several months like that. When you get closer to the carving you can see all the holes that look like they are draining fluids. Kind of like our house its many runny noses.