Interview & Story by Keisha Blenman
“The idea of the human mind and how we work on a basic level fascinates me. Human instincts and our natural desires and emotions have filled my head with questions for a long period of my life”
At what age did you start painting?
I have been doing art for as long as I can remember but serious oil painting did not become my life until my last year of college.
What school did you attend for Art?
I attended Parsons School of Design for illustration. I wasn’t the best art student though; actually I failed for rarely attending class for painting one semester. I was coming out of a long-term relationship and was very depressed for my senior year there and I didn’t leave my studio much at all that year. During my depression I met a well known French photographer, Francois Rousseau (www.francoisrousseau.com) and began working with him on a museum exhibit in Paris which turned into a large book called “Atelier”. Francois helped give me some purpose at a very dark time in my life and that was probably the turning point for me. I was also pushed to begin shooting photos as well and since then have pursued photography.
Has painting presented better opportunities for you than photography has?
Paintings are the roots of photographs so I think both are important for me as an artist; my paintings led me into photography. I think being a painter has definitely helped give me some integrity as a photographer. I use photos for my reference in my paintings as well so I like to shoot my subjects if it is possible. I think both painting and photography go hand in hand but photography now a day is a more commercial platform than painting. I am lucky to have a lot of opportunities and support in both art forms right now.
Who would you cite as your overall biggest influences and/or inspirations?
I have had terrible dreams/nightmares all my life. They have inspired a lot of the closely cropped portraits early on which led me to become fascinated by the human mind, human nature and how we think and act on a psychological level. I think human feelings are a huge source of power for me, though it’s a very fine line between inspiration and depression. I have a dark side that can easily take control of me while I work; I’m still learning to channel it into my art and not my personal life.
I love classic art; Rembrandt is probably still the painter I look at most to be inspired by.
Certain people in my life also have had a huge impact on me. A close friend, Kelley Sane (Rendition) who is a screenwriter, constantly influences my way of thinking and approaching my work. Someone else that is important to me right now is the interior designer James Andrew (www.whatisjameswearing.com) and of course Francois Rousseau is still a huge inspiration for me. But probably the one thing that I have become completely in love with over the years is horses. I grew up with them and still have one back home. I find their sensitivity to nature about them so amazing and beautiful. I ride bareback (without a saddle) as much as I can and to feel every movement and emotion within the horse to me not only inspire me but brings a peace to my soul. To be in sync with nature even for a moment is truly inspiring.
What is your inspiration behind each piece?
I have a mixture of personal work and commissions right now that are all very different. The commissions of course are more about finding something within the subject to become interested in; I find beauty in imperfections and honesty. I don’t try to create beautiful people in my portraits. I’m more interested in painting feelings, a state of mind. Painting has to be an organic process, natural, I can never force it.
Have you painted anyone famous?
Yes, my close friend Kelley Sane was one of my first commissions. I am just finishing some political figures right now but they won’t be seen until my next show in 2010. I was also commissioned to paint a huge portrait of Madonna for a home in Manhattan. I can’t say I’m doing a lot of famous people right now, more like painting self-portraits and now horses.
What was your most difficult painting?
One of my first self-portraits I did during my depression after my separation from my ex. I painted this huge portrait of my face, very closely cropped which was inspired from a nightmare. I could not stop painting, I remember crying and crying while I painted. During the process I was in a lot of pain emotionally but it is still my favorite painting to this day I have ever done.
What makes your paintings more out of the ordinary than any other painters’?
That is probably not a question that I can honestly answer. I think everything I have said about myself and my paintings is what makes them my own. I don’t really compare myself to other artists too much. I think people can learn from everyone, even in a small way but every artist whether considered good or great has their own way of thinking and working which makes it their art. Let’s leave it at that…
Where do you see yourself in a few years?
Still painting and shooting of course. I am still young and patience is something I have to deal with, I want to grow as an artist, to keep on evolving – I don’t like to be static. I feel like this question is where I say I want to have huge shows and galleries represent me and sell my paintings etc… which of course I am working towards but I want to create work that I feel satisfied about, that reach people on an emotional level and holds some form of timeless power in them.
As for photography I wish to keep growing in that as well and shoot for fashion magazines here and in Europe. I have lots of visions which I have to work towards realizing.
Where would our viewers go to view your work?
My websites are:
You are welcome to contact me through my site and set up an appointment to come by my studio in Manhattan.