+1 ::: How
did you first become an artist and why
do you continue to be one now?
aware of art when I was about four.
My mother and father encouraged me,
featured me. All through school and
high school I was the "best"
artist. Then I went to Art Center School
in Los Angeles, California, and I soon
realized I was the "worst"
artist in my class. I had to buckle
down to get good. When I did that I
got hooked. I fell in love with art.
I've been in love ever since.
::: Could you tell me more about your
lots of different subjects. I have "periods."
Right now I'm painting patterny subjects-mountain
backdrops, wood patterns, complex weavings
of foliage. I try to paint in a broad
stroke, keep it simple, and right now
I'm looking for the "big picture"-even
though I'm hung up on 11" x 14"s.
+3 ::: How
important is it for you to know your
subject? You seem to paint a lot in
the landscape, how does this influence
the finished painting?
matter is a jumping-off point. Basically
it's possible to make art out of anything.
I follow my nose until I lose interest
in a subject-then I move on. In a way
I like the physical painting as object,
as treasure. With subject matter such
as landscape I like my surfaces to be
decorative, shiny, well designed, compositionally
sound and with an off-beat colour spin.
I'm a bit "style driven" rather
than "idea driven" these days.
::: I'm a subscriber to your twice weekly
letter (Painters Keys*).
Could you share some more about how
it came about and why you do it?
means a lot-but a lot of us don't have
the time. Playing guru is a tricky business.
I realized that I had an ability to
inspire and help other artists without
influencing their style or hurting their
own personal integrity. The most valuable
thing an artist possesses is his or
her personal integrity. I like to protect
that in others. I don't do much workshopping.
It interferes with my work. So the letter
is my way of making a contribution.
letter came about in response to the
book I had written: "The Painter's
When you see a book like that between
its covers you immediately realize there
were some things you should have included.
I had about twenty emails from artists
praising the book. My family and I were
in an Internet café in a place
called Galaroza in southern Spain and
I wrote all these folks a letter-the
same letter--only it was group-mailed
"Dear Joe, Dear Harry, Dear Mary,"
etc. Before I had finished my espresso
an email came back in that said-"If
you're going to send out another letter
like that one-send one to so-and-so
as well." I thought to myself-"What
a medium!" That's how-friend to
friend--the letter has grown to what
it is now.
live in extraordinary times. With today's
technology I've been able to write and
send the letter from above the Arctic
Circle using my laptop and a satellite
phone. I've sent it from a boat on the
Nile River and the Tate Modern in London.
More than once I've been tapping away
and I realize I have a brush in my mouth.
Wherever I am I try to stick to whatever
is going on that might be of value and
benefit to other creative people. I'm
dead against gobbledegook and "artspeak"
but sometimes I get ahead of myself
and goof up. Then artists delete me.
::: What artists have influenced you
many, many---all. I love all art, all
who try. But of course I've got favorites:
Singer Sargent, Sorolla, Tom Thomson;
some I've known during my life, some
I've only wished I'd known. Lawren Harris,
Monet, Cezanne, Alma Tadema, Tissot,
Georgia O'Keeffe, Robert Lenkiewicz,
Richard Schmid. Ones you wouldn't think
of too, like Joseph Beuys and Mark Rothko.
And friends who struggle nearby. We
all stand on one another's shoulders.
Also, it's been important to have a
supportive family; my wife Carol and
my kids Sara, James and David. They're
all in the arts, which adds to the excitement.
Sara's a painter*.
James is a filmmaker. David's a musician.
::: What do you do for fun (besides
antique cars, stamps, junk, books, old
photos, cameras. I watch birds. I love
boats. I have a lovely old 1921 rumrunner
launch and other boats for various purposes.
And of course travel. Practically all
artists love to travel. Grist for the
::: What inspires you to paint?
of look for things that I can get my
brush around. I call it 'inflicting
my style.' Having said that, my style
is always changing-modifying-and subject
matter follows with it-or perhaps vice
versa. I work from three basics-paintings
that I start on location, paintings
I do from reference that I get myself,
and paintings that I make up out of
my head. It's these third-generation
paintings that I think are often my
I think the main thing that inspires
is the constant and nagging wish to
do better. This is what really keeps
an artist going.
::: How have you handled the business
side of being an artist?
terrific dealers. I leave it to them
and let them do their thing. It's like
running a mutual fund. Sometimes a dealer
will be pulling for you and others will
be laying back on the oars. It all works
out. It's important for an artist to
be free and wealthy enough to be able
to do his or her thing. I have an assistant
in the studio who shops, banks, keeps
the books, does the shipping and all
the other things that artists need not
be concerned with.
::: Where do you see yourself in 10
see myself stopping what I'm doing now.
Golf and bridge are not my game. The
twice-weekly letter will seriously have
more than two million subscribers by
then. I hope I can continue to give
value to my readers.
::: Tell me more about your latest series
of paintings and where you are going
mountains and finding "alpine meadows."
I'm retracing the steps of artists whose
works or attitudes I love. Next month
I'm going to Morocco to paint in the
same place as Winston Churchill. Marrakesh.
Then I'm painting in Tunis. Never been
+11 ::: What
advice would you give to an artist just
your craft in private with the assistance
of books and nature. Learn to trust
your instincts. Take the time to get
good. Learn to love the process. And
never forget that quality is always