Our lives are not defined by what we gain, but by what we give. I am a man of very strong convictions, and I believe that personal gain should always be coupled with improving community and cultural development—a model that has great influence over my artistic ideology. The result is that my message and cultural analysis are of much greater importance to me than monetary advancement. I care more about a painting making the viewer think than making the viewer buy. I want my artwork to be universally accessible and socially responsible.
I understand that without supplement this method is not sustainable and that in most cases giving artwork away for free undercuts other working artists and art institutions. Instead, I wish to establish myself as a functioning non-profit artist. I have been to several fundraising events where art is auctioned for charity. The art is often of a second-rate quality, and understandably so. Artists give the leftovers in their studios to charity because they cannot afford to re-purpose their best and current work. One of my goals is to build relationships with organizations where I am able to sell my best work in support of social causes. The result is that funds are raised to support community development, patrons are able to buy high quality, original artwork while also donating to a cause, and the gallery gets the added benefit of publicly supporting a charity without any financial burden. It is a win-win-win. At the same time, the artwork is not given away and therefore does not reduce its value or unfairly take business away from other artists. How can I do this? It is possible because my goal is not to be a professional artist. I wish to employ genius and innovation as an artist, but as a profession, I am an art instructor. I love the time I spend in the classroom, but I dedicate my life to serving others, and that is my sole artistic purpose. This method ensures that my art is always pure and from my heart.
My desire for artistic purity and purpose carries over from my content into my technique and working method. I respect the raw materials that I find around me as the primary tools of my craft. I like to know what my supplies are and where they come from. I have studied traditional painting techniques extensively, so I choose not to buy paint from a store when it is literally made out of the same dirt as my backyard and oil from a local farmer. While art stores often import this dirty oil from Europe, cutting out our local farming and mining industries, I enjoy making my own paints from the most pure and raw materials that can be found locally. This is why I love traditional media like egg tempera and encaustic, but shy away from synthetic materials like acrylics. I know what my supplies are and where they originated. I know what minerals give them color, and what chemical processes make them stable. When I use Jan Van Eyck’s 550-year-old recipe to oxidize a metal in my studio, dissolve it in varnish, grind it into a pigment, and mix it with organic oil and beeswax from local farmers, I own that color. The end result is that I have a strong personal relationship with every color on my palette.
I own the entire process of my paintings. My first step for any project is to develop a clear idea and objective. I spend countless hours in study and reflection. As a painter, I cannot limit my education to only one field; art is too intertwined with the other humanities. I am well versed in religion, philosophy, ethics, science, history, and sociology. Artists have the unique ability to communicate to a large audience. By casting a large net of interests, I am able to ensure that when I gather viewers I have something worthwhile and informed to show them. I do not paint an image until I know its subject matter inside and out. To do otherwise would be irresponsible.
Before I begin a painting, I know what my purpose and goals are for the image. I know who I want my audience to be and what I want them to take away from the experience. I am an obsessive planner, and it increases my productivity as an artist. By developing my idea and project framework far in advance, I am able to reduce wasted time in the studio. Setting strict deadlines for myself helps me to stay focused and to accomplish meaningful tasks in a timely manner. At the same time, I plan in pencil. An idea can change or develop into something new and unexpected, and I am always prepared to let a series take its own direction.