I feel like an artist. Kind of for the first time ever. That probably sounds kind of weird if you are aware of the fact that I have two degrees in Fine Arts, have had a number of art shows and am even a member of a collective (the Frost Shield Kerfuffle) with some really really good and successful artists.
But the fact of the matter is, I started taking art classes because I wanted to be a better cartoonist. In my younger days I had never even thought about being a contemporary artist. But something funny happened along the way: I realized that I didn’t enjoy cartooning that much. I had (well have – I may update it again) a webcomic www.gorillainthemidst.com that I think is pretty funny, but I hate drawing the characters over and over again. And I didn’t feel like doing backgrounds. I did get better at cartooning, but I never really got good at it. At least not to my own standards.
In art school I ended up focusing on clunky (on purpose) cut-out animations that were well received and then in grad school I thought I’d keep making them (and I did to a point) but I got diverted into live performance, because weirdly, I started writing songs! That lead to my musical/comedy/performance art alter ego Stan Dickie, the subject of my MFA thesis. But all of my work had one thing in common and that is that it felt to me like it was coming from someone with the sensibilities of a cartoonist, not so much a contemporary artist.
A few years ago I started painting at the urging of a successful painter friend and realized that I finally found the thing I love (besides songwriting and animating – still love that stuff). And I definitely started to feel like an artist, albeit one with a cartoonist’s sensibility.
Cut to last year. I had a thought: what would happen if I made portraits that combine realism with elements of cubism/post cubism a la Picasso and the great George Condo (who’s retrospective I had seen at the New Museum in New York and it had a huge impact on me). So I did one. This portrait of Captain Picard. And I liked it so I did a few more. And then I just kept making them. And now I can’t stop.
So why does this series of paintings make me feel like an artist more than my older work? Well, it’s partly because they definitely and directly engage with Art History, which is very contemporary. But it’s also because, in my older work I always had a point I was trying to get across, or a joke to tell, or an idea to satirize. These works are as much about aesthetics as anything else and are open to interpretation (although much of my older work is too, to be fair). There are also elements of humour and whimsy, so they still feel like me! I’ve been getting lots of good feedback on them, so I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoy making them. Anyway, I guess I was already an artist, but it’s nice to feel like one too!