Like many artists, my first taste of acceptance came when my mom hung my coloring book pages on an avocado-colored refrigerator with plastic fruit shaped magnets. Neighbors and relatives came from miles around to see how well I colored within the lines.
I guess you could say, I've been coloring inside the lines ever since.
I graduated from Parsons School of Design as an illustration major in 1983. My first regular portrait commissions came from painting NYS Police Officers upon their retirement. My work in those early years was dedicated to creating highly detailed renderings from photographic references using acrylics and a finely sharpened pencil. I was coloring between the lines and was applauded for it. That's the kind of work that got me my first full-time job as a commercial illustrator at a daily newspaper. I learned to create accurate drawings very quickly. I would get a story in the morning and then have to create a piece of art to accompany it by the end of the day.
While the job was exciting and exhilarating, I was never truly inspired as an artist. I was just coloring between the lines and it was just work. Plus, the salary stunk. And, since I now had a growing family to support, I had to find a job that offered better income opportunities. I didn't know it at the time, but I wouldn't create another piece of art for nearly 15 years. Quite honestly, I didn't miss it because I never felt like an artist anyway.
Then I met Tom Buechner in Corning, NY. Tom was a highly acclaimed artist and he became my mentor. He taught me so much about art and the technical aspects of painting. "Painting is simple," he said, "All you need to do is take the perfect color, put it in the perfect place with the perfect stroke and you have a great painting." I've been trying to do that ever since.
However, I couldn't shake my dependence upon detail. I was over rendering everything. Even though I had a new found passion for art, it was definitely a love/hate relationship.
I decided to apply myself to my art. I sought out artists whose work inspired me and learned from them. I experimented with various techniques and mediums. I painted with my left hand. I did small paintings with a large brush. I drew with my eyes closed. I used a limited color palette. I tried everything I could think of to loosen up. It worked.
Now, for the first time in my life, I feel like I can call myself an artist. Instead of rendering the life out my subjects, I attempt to capture the spirit and soul of whatever I paint.
After decades of soul searching, I did what I thought I could never do...I created my first abstract painting! I am finally coloring OUTSIDE the lines. My artistic life has come full circle.