Why I Make Art

The conflicts between spirit and body, freedom and censorship, Old Testament Law and Spiritual Liberty, self-righteousness and selflessness, guilt and redemption are major subjects of my work, because they are major parts of my existence. The spiritual war I experience, living by faith and not by works of the Law, has produced in me an acute awareness of the preciousness of my freedom in Christ. Freedom from fear (so often based upon man-made judgmental constraints) is critical in the process of inspiration, conceptualization and creation of art. Fear stifles creation, and the struggle to be loosed from fear has helped me to create artwork that I enjoy. For me, to live out my freedom is manifested in the act of creating. The expression of ideas concerning issues that may descent from conventional or traditional precepts or dogmas is a glorification of the freedom bestowed upon us by God, through his only begotten Son.

In my daily life, I try to stick closely to the principles taught by Jesus and the Apostles, and those principles are summed up in one sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no one wrong, and thus fulfills the Law. A key to this commandment is to love others as “yourself”, which I have come to realize means to love others as whom you are. Preconceptions can get in the way of knowing how to love others, as well as understanding how much we’re loved.

Expressing love is a deed of communication, it takes infinite forms, and this includes making art. This being said, I have tried to simply let my art reflect who I am as a person, which is my major goal. I realize that that is a simple goal, because artwork will naturally reflect its maker in some way, however I see a correlation between my everyday life and my production of artwork. Art does not mimic life, but it is an integral part of life. How I live and think is essential to the work I end up producing, and since I want to reflect God’s character, so too His work in me will be present in my work. By pressing forward to become a more spiritually aware person, my artwork should naturally conform to what I want it to be. As God’s fingerprint is in me (because I am a new-creation born of Him), so too some of Christ’s fingerprints will exist in what I make. As my father taught me, there should be hope in what is made, for God’s love to us, especially in our darkest trials, will ultimately produce hope within our hearts, if we so allow.

I see life as a plethoric interaction between the spiritual and the physical worlds. This interaction is subtle and overt; simple and complex; beautiful and repulsive, so for my art production I have utilized a wide variety of materials and techniques to accomplish my artistic goals. My work varies from representational to abstract imagery, yet in concept each piece still contains the essence of my struggle to develop into that which I am becoming. The process of creating is, in many ways, the most important part of being an artist. Each piece of work is not merely an ‘end’ product, but rather it is a representation of the process.

One discipline (in any given medium) or technique interacts with every other discipline or technique. The lessons I’ve learned as a painter have effected my way of making pottery, and my experiences with clay and fire influence my expressions in video or film. Art is art, no matter what medium is used, and each medium contains strengths and weaknesses that support every other medium. That has been my perspective and experience, as I strive to become a better artist.

The struggle to create artwork has fed my spiritual life in so many ways. Just as each aspect of making specific pieces influences other kinds of artwork, so too making art influences my perception of the reality around me. Creating artwork has brought me closer to understanding God’s touch upon the physical world. The act of making something both physical and conceptual that reflects heart, soul, mind and body has helped me to glimpse the relationship between the spiritual and physical planes of existence. The artist has a unique opportunity to see God’s love for us, because his/her ability to create peeks into the world of The Creator. Contained within the creative mind is a spark of God’s perspective.

For example, my work in clay has given me practical meaning to the symbolic language of the Bible, where God is called the Potter and we are called the Clay. Immersing myself in ceramics: digging up clay, throwing forms, firing, glazing and re-firing has shown me what that symbol really means. I know from experience the spiritual connection between my hands and the clay as it spins on the wheel. I know how the image and idea in my mind for a vessel is transformed by my interaction with the clay lump. The laboring over each vessel gives me a personal connection to them, and that creates in me affection for each pot.
As they’re fired, I control the flames carefully. I labor over the kiln for hours and hours, trying to produce an atmosphere for the final forms to become as beautiful and unique as possible. That effort fosters anticipation, like an expectant parent’s, to see what’s been made. As I slowly open the kiln, sometimes a day or more after the firing, I can hardly wait to see what the fire has done to each vessel. In the end, to me, they are beautiful in their imperfections, simple and ancient in their basic forms, complex in their meaning. I am saddened when some have broken, and I want to hold on to the pieces that survived the harshness of the firing as precious things. I am edified in my soul through the process, and new art is born out of dust and lumps of clay.

That experience helps contribute to my understanding of God’s hand in His creation. Because I have been a potter (and an artist), I have glimpsed God’s point of view concerning His artwork, namely mankind within the universe.

Being an artist is not an easy way of life, but I am blessed to be one, and have been blessed to be around others of like mind. My successes and failures each contribute to my growth as a person and as an artist. I would not have it any other way. I am blessed to be in a country where speech and expression are considered God given freedoms. As a Christian artist, I have struggled against the prejudices from both non-believers and people in the traditional ranks of the ‘church’, but the experiences I face only serve to make me stronger, and I hope that as I grow personally, my artwork will grow in tandem.

My History

As most artists will say, “Ive been making art since I was a child.” I know its a bit of a cliche, but nonetheless its true for me. As far back as I can remember, Ive been solely interested in creating things of color, sound, or shape. I hope not to bore you with a long history of my development as an artist, however where I am now naturally is based upon the family that I come from, for we are all products of environmental experiences and genetics.

I come from a family of teachers and artists. My father taught 7th grade science for over thirty years. My dads brother, my Uncle Laurence, is an acclaimed Education professor, teaching at UCSB for many years. His son Larry is also an acclaimed professor, in Economics. Paul, Laurences second son, was an operatic tenor, and ran the Santa Barbara Civic Light Opera House for many years. I also have a number of cousins who are professors around the county, and so I suppose it was natural that I too teach.

My dad was a very well respected teacher in his school district, and interestingly enough I have met some of his former students as adults, and they all remember his powerful presence in the classroom. He also was a lay-minister for our church, since the 1950s, teaching Bible studies and giving sermons to large and small groups of people all around the country. He was also very active with a group named, Camp Blessing, directing Christian teen camps for over twenty years. I had been a teen at many of those camps and they were great experiences. Finally, when I had grown up and become a Christian as well, I had the opportunity to council teens and teach drama under his direction. I found that he was an amazingly loving and wise leader. There have been so many people that he has positively effected, that still call him”Uncle”. I learned from him the dynamics of love, and gained my talents of ministering and teaching from him, even as he received those things from his father. Up until last year, when I had to move to downstate NY, I served as a lay-minister for the same Church group, holding weekly Bible studies for over three years.

My father and my mother are both inclined towards art, though they hadnt pursued it. Now that dad is retired, he sculpts in wood; something that he had enjoyed and was quite good at when he was younger. My mom was always an excellent singer, and when she was a young girl, she had competed in some singing contests, and had done well. Music and singing were an integral part of my growing up in our family and in our Church, too.

I discovered classical music very early in life, and found it to be a safe haven during some very turbulent times growing up. Things in the neighborhood I grew up in were often quite violent. I had been a pacifist as a child because non-violence was the way of the New Testament, and I had taken the gospel of Jesus very seriously even as a young child. And one who does not fight back is an easy target, especially for kids inclined toward violence. This meant that I spent much of my time alone for safetys sake. So, I began a journey of exploring my own mind and creativity. Listening to Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, and Rachmaninoff had been a saving grace for my sanity. I spent many hours in front of the stereo playing classical albums as loudly as my mother could handle, and I found the musical structures an amazing thing. At some point, I realized that art and emotional expression were integrally linked. We had an old B-flat player piano in the house, and by the age of 8, I was teaching myself to play piano, and began to try to compose music. Often, when no one else was around, I was lost in creating and structuring sounds that fit my emotional state.

By the time I reached High School, I was firmly planted as an artistic person. I got seriously involved in acting and singing on the stage. I loved performing. And by the end of High School, I had been exposed to abstract art, and tried my hand in it, under the encouragement of my art teacher, Mr. Coniglio. As most kids do, when looking at a DeCooning or Kline painting, I had thought, “What a mess…” But once I attempted to do abstraction, I realized there was much more to painting than making something look like a photograph. Instead, I found that concept and expression were integrally linked to color and brush structure, and composition of a frame had to do with leading a viewers eyes to where the artist intended.

In Undergraduate College, I drove myself to learn as much as I could about art making, and also studied Art Education. I found clay, as a medium, and began to make pottery, ceramic sculptures, and used clay, earth, and organic materials in making paints for my abstract paintings. I graduated with a duel degree in Art Education and Ceramic Design. The process of working with clay, water, fire, and time really effected my art making in a positive way. I leaned toward making art that had as much to do with the nature of the materials as with the idea of the imagery. I continued to work in various mediums equally, for I saw art as a singular entity, with the medium classifications as mere dressing, and I incorporated whatever I learned into each piece I created. This is when I began to explore the idea of making sculptural paintings, and was very interested in the concepts of 2D and 3D artwork, and how they effected the brain.

In Graduate School, I began as a Fine Arts painter, continuing my study of making sculptural paintings, but I soon discovered the mediums of Video and Film. To be honest, I immediately fell in love with cinema. I discovered that the use of light as a medium could achieve what I was after in my study of painting, because what is seen on a screen is truly two dimensional, however the brain sees it as “real,” within the perceived context of three dimensions. Too, I was able to incorporate all of my other skills into making one piece of artwork. In making a video, I could write story, dialogue, and music, make objects props, scenery, and costumes, perform acting and music, and compose frames and shots like I would a painting, all the while serving a single goal of creating a piece of artwork that expressed my ideas and effected the viewer on an emotional level. And in directing a film, I had the wonderful experience of collaborating with other artists. Painting in my studio is lonely thing sometimes, and growing up, Id spent enough time alone. The cinematic arts allowed me to be creative with others, which helped me to grow creatively and personally. My closest friends are still those I initially worked with in on my early videos and films.

The concept that attracted me to film was the idea that I occurred to me early on in Grad School. We view films, very often, in a kind of dream state. I had thought about this: that our dreams are structured like movies, in terms of how we see things in our minds, and so it is easy for us to sit and watch a film, and have it effect us on a similar kind of level as a dream might. However, this kind of dream is a shared dream. It is one where the audience rides along in the film makers dream. The nature of cinematic art is not like static mediums, because it is time based. With painting, for instance, I cannot control how long someone views my painting, but as a film maker I intrinsically am involved in how long a person views every aspect of my artwork. In fact, time is the essence of film making. Time controls the illusion of the medium for a film is only stills that flash at 24 frames per second, which creates the illusion of movement and depth. Timing is crucial to how one edits sequences together, for the length of time an image is shown will effect how one perceives it in importance within the structure of the whole piece. Much of this as well as other parts of cinematic language is viewed on a subconscious level, but it effects the viewer all the same. A film maker must be aware of all the elements he or she has in the cinematic language, in order to create something that is really effective to watch. This sort of control over a medium was what hooked me on film making, because the language used to create films works across the board, whether I made experimental videos, dramatic films, or documentaries. And elements of all three of those genres could be combined to make good and effective art.

Being a video and film maker is a real challenge. The medium is very expensive, time consuming, and labor intensive. Personally, I am attracted to the amount of effort it takes to create a video or film. Although it is sometimes tedious, the vast amount of work involved in making a project from start to finish is very rewarding. Most people not involved in making cinematic art have no idea just how much time and effort goes into even the briefest shot or scene they watch.

Since Grad School, I have tried to produce what artwork I can. One unfortunate aspect of video and film is cost. It is very expensive to produce a piece of work. Much of my videography since graduation has been in the form of corporate industrial work. I have used rented equipment, and so forth, but it is only recently that I have had the ability to edit from my home office. Nonetheless, I have worked on ideas for making new experimental narrative productions, and am currently scripting an idea for a sci-fi/fantasy piece. I have continued to make traditional paintings, photography, sculptures, and such, and have worked in video and computer graphics on a commercial level as well. I have also continued to teach art privately, and have started a small collectable props business online. Currently, I am writing a novel fantasy novel, with the hopes of getting it published by the end of this year or early next year.