While studying fine art at Washington State University, one of my instructors noticed that I had a highly developed sense of line and suggested that I study Chinese painting. After a few years of exposure to the Chinese masters, their influence was evident in my work. Throughout college, and for several years after, I was still creating figurative pieces but I began to focus on line work as a starting point for expressing the figure.
I moved to San Francisco, got a day job near the Civic Center district, and could visit the Museum of Modern Art frequently at lunch—most often its bookstore. One day, I came across a small book about Jackson Pollock’s works on paper (Jackson Pollock: Drawing into Painting, Bernice Rose, 1980). During my early beginnings as an artist, I was profoundly affected by the Abstract Expressionists of the 1950's in New York, and Pollock’s paintings had left an indelible mark. I was mesmerized by his flowing lines that captured the chaos and order of nature. This book included some works on rice paper, which led me to merge my two biggest influences. I began to search out rice paper at the art supply stores, and it was at this time I began painting with ink.
The absorbency of the rice paper and its response to my ink lines was compelling. I found that painting with these materials caused me to be more present and spontaneous. The lines show my pauses and confidence, manifested through a combination of delicate and bold strokes.
Working with these materials keeps me honest, more in the moment, and provides a clear path to my personal expression. I will always look at the Chinese and Japanese master painters and aspire to be as masterly with my brushwork, but I am grateful for what emerged from this alchemy of paper and ink. Through this exploration my own voice surfaced.
It was in San Francisco where I made the change from figurative work to trees. I was first seduced by sycamore trees in the Civic Center and Golden Gate Park. I loved the character of their pollarded branches, like fists raised to the sky. Before I moved to Sonoma County, I visited the area to hike and was drawn to the grape vines. After this trip, I produced a series of paintings featuring the sinewy, twisting vines.
When the trees’ structure becomes exposed, during winter or after a forest fire, I get drunk on the possibilities before me. My imagination is ignited as I begin to translate the branches into line work. More recently, my language of line has expanded to encompass a wider variety of trees. Over the years, I experimented with painting that approached a more abstract bent, but I always return to the trees. In them, I have found a subject matter and approach of which I never tire.