Ask An Artist-Blog series- Episode 1: The Phantom Fetish

Welcome to the first entry of my new blog series “Ask an Artist“! In this blog I answer questions that fans and aspiring artists send me via facebook and twitter regarding my career, techniques, and opinions about art/being an artist.  Most of my fans know I am pretty candid about things, and they know they can ask me just about anything. So stay tuned to this blog, you might read some “not average” answers to uncommon questions.

Before we start… There isn;t actually any FETISH discussion in this blog, it just sounded funny and I knew it would get some of you fetish people reading:)


My First Question comes from John in Niagra Falls, Ontario (How exotic, my first question is international 🙂

What is your favourite size to work and favourite medium to use?

As the old saying goes, size isn’t everything…well, that is Bullshit. Size is a lot, and sometimes can be close to everything depending on the art your creating. At a young age I was taught to always draw big. At least big enough that I could use my whole body when I work. Okay, sickos, I don’t mean use all PARTS of my body I mean use my whole body like a swimmer uses their whole body to swim. You see, art does not come from your brain then down to you hand, it comes from your core and spreads out all over your body through energy. To get all that energy to come out and flow through your hand, you gotta be able to move your hips, move your shoulders, move your neck, shift your feet. Almost like your one of those labyrinth games when your trying to get that silver ball through the maze. So the bigger you can work the better chances you will be able to TAP as much as that energy as possible. This is why Sketch cards are a challenge for me. It’s not the challenge to create anything, it’s having to constrain my energy down to a 2.5″ X 3.5″ surface. Sketch Cards, as cool as they are  make me feel like a Huge rat in tiny cage after a while, or like my energy is being funneled through a pin whole rather than big pipe.

On the other hand, you don’t want to work too big. If we keep things in terms of energy, working HUGE can pose a lot of problems with controlling that energy.  Working huge is something you need to work up, kind of like an athlete needs to train to compete.  If you just step up and start painting away, your likely to pull a brain cramp and frustrated. Your energy quite literally has so much space that it just shoots every where (okay that does sound kinda dirty).  That can be good, but need to know how to control it so you get the best out of your effort. I LOVE working huge, but only after I do several smaller pieces to hone my energy output skills.

This piece is 20 X 16. A Common size canvas I work on.

Okay, have I lost you yet? Do I sound like an old 80’s NEW AGE dude with a pony tale and Native American Jewelry on? Stay with me because we get more technical here.

My favorite, or most common size to work in between 9 X 12 and 18 X24. I find that I can work comfortably in that size because I can find focus, and looseness at the same time. Generally when I do drawings or marker work I work 9 X12 to 14 X 17.  Anything bigger than that I usually paint with Acrylic and Water Color.  I just find that painting any smaller than 15 X 20 I just can’t get my shoulders into it, and I have no room to make the paint stroke sizes I like. But then I have painted on canvases 3 feet X 5 feet, and then murals that have been 20 feet tall and 50 feet wide. The bigger pieces, especially murals take a lot of planning,preparation, and strategy.
The honest truth is I love working in just about any size. Every size poses it’s own set of challenges which inspires me to create differently with each piece!

My Second and last question for this blog entry comes from Dave in New York.

At what age did you get serious about your art? When did you start planning to make a career out of it?

I often tell the joke that my mother and father were both artists, so when I was a boy and I told my parents I wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer they looked at me and said ” No son, you will be an artist, and make no money the rest of your life”. While they actually never said that to me, their artistic influence definitely directed me into becoming an artist. I cannot remember not painting and drawing. I mean my oldest memories that I can remember are of creating art. Which makes for a very abstract memory system. My memories from early on are a tangled web of brightly colored people with huge heads and then suddenly I see them with dinosaur bodies… or maybe it’s just flash backs from art school🙂 Either way, I have pictures to prove that I have been painting and drawing since I could pick up a brush, so i know I’m not COMPLETELY nuts:)

Okay, back on track here. It’s always been a difficult thing for me to explain my relationship with art because it has ALWASY been in my life. While many artists I know had a specific year in high school or something like that where they became obsessed with art, I have always been neck deep in it. In a way, I never got to experience that grand discovery of art that so many artists talk about. I don’t feel cheated of that,  because I’ve had that feeling with other things, but with art it’s just always been something I did or that was there…like a sibling. You love them, they are always around when your growing up, but sometimes you need a break from them. You make your own friends and do your own things. But, when you and your sibs come back home and your at the dinner table your happy to see them.  Art has always kind of been that way for me. As a result, by the time I was 4 years old I was abnormally good with A LOT of different materials and I understood complex things like perspective, and composition balance before I could read or do math. It was a great tool for making friends as I was growing up. I would draw things for my friends, and the other kids just thought all the Jaws and Star Wars art I was creating was pretty cool. By the time I got into Jr High School, I was was rockin comic book superhero’s and obsessed with drawing action. Probably had a lot to do with my obsession with Basketball. At the time I loved basketball  100 times more than I had ever loved art. But like I said, art was always there. It was about that time that the concept of making money entered our minds (kids may age). I noticed kids would go to Smart and final and buy a box of blow pops and then then sell them at lunch time from their back packs for twice what they bough them for. For a Jr. High kid, that was BANK! Personally, I didn’t come from a situation where I could afford to invest in a box of candy. Then it occurred to me, for all these years, kids had dug my drawings and had been having me draw things for them for free. Maybe I can make some money doing my art. So I got a couple of orders to draw spider-man or something for a dollar (that was big money for a 6th grader), but a dollar at a time when I have to spend 5 hours on something… just didn’t make any sense, and I surely couldn’t afford to buy much with a dollar. So how could I get more kids to buy my art? It just so happened that my Dad was doing art work for a copy machine company, and he would take me to the trade shows with him where the sales men would take my superhero drawings and make me HUNDREDS of copies. They were cool with it because they could demo the copies at the shows, I was loving it because I was getting my new product made for free. The next monday my backpack was FILLED with xerox copies of over 20 characters I drew, and I was selling them for a quarter each! It was a success for the next 2-3 months I was taking home at least $10- $20 a day in quarters. Then I started to offer HAND COLORED copies for 50 cents each, and my profits doubled. Things were good! But then the hammer came down. The Schools administrators discovered MANY small businesses it’s students were engaging in on campus, and banned the selling of any goods on campus. Kids were taking their lunch money and were instead spending it on candy and art. I guess it was the right thing for the admins to do, but it effectively put an end to my Business on campus. So I guess you could say, that was the first time I ever looked at my art as a way I could make a career. By that time I was also apprenticing for Dad, helping with illustrations and painting christmas windows with him. In hind sight I didn’t get nearly as much money as I should have, but it was a great way to improve my art skills and learn a lot of do’s and don’ts in the business. MOstly Don’ts, but that is a whole other blog:) The real money for me started coming when I started doing Caricatures at parties with my Dad. I was about 15, maybe younger. I may have mentioned before that my Dad was an illustrator, but the thing he was REALLY good at was doing Caricatures at parties. He was legendary in the field. Quite honestly, I think he was probably the best that there may have ever been. My Dad was a rock star when he did these shows, and was ALWAYS the life of the party. You see, doing caricatures is much more than drawing someone, it’s entertaining them. I got pretty good at this, but I couldn’t touch my Dad’s ability to entertain and have the party in the palm f his hand. I don’t talk about my Dad much, but he truly was the king of Caricature entertainment. He was so good that even when I was little he was getting hired to do  HUGE parties and events, so big that he had to bring 2-3 other artists with him to do caricatures of the people that didn’t want to wait in my Dad’s line, which was ALWAYS, no exaggerating, at least 20 people deep, AT LEAST. So, by the time I was about 15 I had gotten pretty good at doing Caricatures and he started bringing me out to parties with him and for the first time I was getting paid what I should. By the time I was 16 I had gotten so fast and similar to my Dad’s style that most of the time I was the only other artist that my Dad would take out with him. How fast? At my fastest I could get at least 25 GOOD Caricatures drawn per hour. Do the math, that is less than 3 minutes per piece. My Dad then got me a job with one of his old bosses at Six Flags Magic Mountain where I became the youngest artist to ever do Caricatures at Magic Mountain! Pretty cool. So, business wise, I’m sure you can tell I pretty much knew that art would be my career. BUT, I still didn’t have that passion for it, it was still just something that was kind o there all the time. I didn’t take it serious. It wasn’t until I started attending California Lutheran University that began taking my art seriously. It began when I met Dr. Jerry Slattum. Dr. Slattum was one of 2 art teachers at Cal Lu, and also taught art history, which doubled as a philosophy course. I was going to Cal Lutheran to play basketball, at least that is what I thought. All I wanted to be was a ball player.  But Dr. Slattum saw my abilities and potential and immediately began challenging EVERYTHING I did and said. It was SO annoying, but for the first time I began questioning the things I believed and wanted, and ask why I thought or wanted those things. As much as it annoyed me, I loved talking with Dr. Slattum. I don;t think I heard the question,”Why” so many time sin my life, but it was necessary. By the end of my first year in College I had no idea what I thought or felt anymore. All I knew was before Cal Lutheran, I thought I knew it all, and after a year I realized just how closed minded and short sighted I was, especially about myself.

This was one of the Logos I created for the California Lutheran Basketball program that I was part of. Blast from the past, 1992. Apparently they still use this logo.

The next year I began working with Dr. Slattum in a more intense painting class, problem was it conflicted with basketball practice. Now I don;t usually like to say anything negative about anyone, but it’s necessary to here to explain where my motivation came from. My coach was a bit of prick, and would not make any adjustments or exceptions for me so I could take my art classes. Even though I was an ART major, and I had done hundreds of dollars worth of free art work for the basketball program. So for the first time I had to think about my future and choose between basketball and art. The decision was difficult until my coach displayed more of his selfish, shallow, prickness towards me. He began trying to guilt trip me saying how I was letting down the team, and I was failing to understand commitment. He had no interest in trying to understand that I was at a cross roads in my life, and that I was speaking with him about it, looking for some guidance. I looked at him, some of the other coaches and a few of the players and saw they were all turning into the same kind of scheming manipulative shallow human as my coach. Even if I didn’t turn into that  myself, I saw that I would have to walk shoulder to shoulder with people like my coach if I chose basketball and I just couldn’t stomach it. But boy, what a beautiful alternative art was… and unlike my basketball coach, art was always there waiting patiently for me to be ready for IT. So I chose art, hung up my sneakers, and took my first step towards being the artist/person that I am today.  It was like a rebirth. I could not get enough art, and I could not make enough art. For the first time I really LOVED art and I was obsessed. I have to thank Dr. Jerry Slattum for giving me the gift of self discovery and an open mind. He saw my potential, but more important he got me to finally understand that I was capable of so much more than just impressing people with my skills.  He made me see that I had a lot to learn about myself and to be excited about what I still have to learn, even to this day.

So the short answer to your question is I first got serious about art in the fall 1993!