I received my bachelor’s degree in studio art at Furman University, and from there began a career not painting. However, I did manage to push my way into museums. I spent a year at the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia, before moving to Chicago. I worked at the Art Institute and the Chicago History Museum as an editor for print and online publications, as well as exhibitions for the latter. Currently I divide my time among painting, light copywriting, and building Hot Wheels tracks with my son.
As I remember, I always enjoyed drawing when I was a child, and my encouraging parents signed me up for classes outside of school. It was at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland, that I first painted, and it was because of my teacher, the talented and chatty Walt Bartman, that I began to take it seriously. He taught AP studio art (in high school!), and by senior year I thought I was legit because I had double-period AP studio art. Bartman’s classes were very popular, and there are quite a few former Vikings from my class who are still legit: Anne (Perkins) Wert, Maura (Collins) Matthews, Gavin Glakas, and Ben Hilts.
One of my favorite memories of Bartman’s class is when he brought in a caged chicken for us to draw. He named it after artist Kurt Schwitters because, “it schwitts all over the place.” I still have my chicken paintings, which are ink and chalk on a heavy, toothy paper. We worked quickly and on big paper because that chicken flapped his feathers the entire time it modeled. At the end of each school year, the art department held a big, well-attended show, and Bartman incentivized us throughout the year to earn a prime location in the gallery (gymnasium). The more art you produced and the harder you worked, the better your ranking when he handed out spaces. It was a big gymnasium ("under the dome") with many rooms--there were bad spots.
Bartman treated us like budding professionals, and we worked like them; at least it felt that way. He taught us everything from stretching our own canvases to putting together a portfolio for college applications. He took us to New York into the studios of his former students (LEGIT!), as well as the many galleries in Washington, DC. He let us scatter around town for plein-air painting field trips. He taught me not only the foundation of how to paint but also joy and satisfaction in the process of making art. Twenty-ish years later, Bartman's teaching, as well as his happiness as a painter, is still an influence.
Some core elements and principles of design have always driven my painting style. I look for positive and negative space, light and dark, moments of bright color, and maybe an unusual point of view. I don't limit my subjects--I'm interested in finding great composition and contrast with the aforementioned elements. That said, boy, do I love a big shadow from anything. I am a realist painter, and I tend to favor large-scale figure painting (rather than traditional portraiture) and landscapes that allow me to be a bit looser with realism. I often think of something said by painter Lucien Freud: “Every painting should have a drop of poison.” That’s how I sum up the importance of balance and the beauty of imperfection.
My blog is an extension of my painting practice, which I started again after a long break due to life events and running errands. Painting led to reading, which led to writing, all with a verve and curiosity I haven’t had before. I decided to document the results from this tingly time to watch my progress and help establish some goals. But first I thought about how I've gotten to this point, and my killer memory took me back to Bartman's class. One of my favorite painters then, and now, was Wayne Thiebaud, who frankly admits how weird it is to insist on painting but how fun it is to try.
I also credit DNA for my interest in art, because my cousin Gena Brodie is a painter, too.
"A clear vocational disaster"