Who or what influenced your art when you were young?
My mother is a painter and she is by far my biggest artistic influence. I remember from really early on in childhood watching her sit at her easel. She worked for an animation company, and later for a wallpaper company, and she would paint these incredibly intricate and tiny patterns by hand. She made egg tempera paints at home in our kitchen, and I found the alchemy and the magic of her mixing paints fascinating.
Do you remember what your first artwork looked like? Do you still have it?
I have been writing and illustrating books since before I was in school, bound with staples and scotch tape, coloured with crayons and fine liners. My favourite one just says, I love books. That thrill of seeing my artwork in print, of actually being able to hold on to something tactile that I’ve made, has never faded.
Did you study art in school?
I went to college for Applied Photography, during the transition from analog to digital, and my favourite places were the darkroom and the computer lab. I hated being stuck in a studio, working with lights and exposure and physical models or products. I was drawn in by the magical aspect of chemical post-processing and digital manipulation. Seeing an image appear in developer is analogous to seeing a piece come together on my computer monitor.
I also studied History in university. I read a lot of art history, and wrote on the history of advertising and images. My illustration work is really influenced by that experience, especially the 20th century tradition of pop art and advertising.
Where does your inspiration come from; your impulse to make art? Do you have a source for your ideas?
I think making art is inevitable. Having taught and made art with hundreds of young people, I am convinced all children are born creative. It’s like a faucet, once you turn off the criticism valve, the creativity flows out.
How would you describe the process of creating art?
I tend to get obsessed or fixated on certain patterns and textures, then I explore them through an iterative process, building up layer upon layer of textures and colours, using trial and error, and subtle variations until I feel that an image clicks. I also always set myself a deadline, then let go, otherwise my art would all just be one ongoing work that would last forever, and nothing would get finished.
Do you have a favourite artist? What is it about that artist’s work you like?
I love so many different artists! Definitely, anyone from the pop art movement: Warhol, Basquiat, Haring, for sure. Kieth Haring’s graffiti and performance painting, and the typology he developed are fantastic. Cindy Sherman is a creative powerhouse and a huge role model. If you haven’t seen her instagram, you are missing out. Obviously, Chuck Close and Gerhard Richter, both pioneers of photorealism. Omar Viktor Diop, Omar Ba, and Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, are all making spectacular work right now.
If you could do something else, other than creating art, what would it be?
I love travelling. That beat generation idea of living like a poet, wandering around the world and sharing your interpretation of what you see. So, I guess, I’d still be an artist in a way, but through a different medium.
If you could give a viewer clues to understanding your art, what would you say?
Please send yourself a link from your phone to your computer, so you can view it on a larger screen. Better yet, cast it to a massive television, project it on a sixty foot wall or broadcast it on a billboard in Times Square.
Why does art matter to you? Why might it matter to the world?
Cave paintings are stunning, incredible examples of art and narrative illustration, that still matter and stay relevant to our shared human history ten thousand years on. I don’t think there could be a human world without art. It’s in our nature to express ourselves to each other, it’s part of our existence as social beings.
If you could look back or forward 100 years, do you think the life of an artist was or will be better than today?
If our history is any indication, in general, our quality of life continues to get better and better. Positivity is exponential.