“Smashed Butterfly” is the name of my first original piece of art. I had to be around 3 years old at the time and while most children scribbled images due to lack of motor skills, I distinctly remember being inspired by an actual butterfly that was “smashed” on our sidewalk. It was not the beautiful wings that usually inspire people but the disarray of the body parts and the smudged colors on the concrete “canvas” that drew my attention. Shortly afterwards, my mother asked me to draw in my baby book as a keepsake. I scribbled diligently at the drawing and proudly showed it to mom. When she asked what it was, I told her it was a smashed butterfly. A bit disturbed by my response my family got an early clue that I would grow up to see the world differently. There were a lot of smashed butterfly drawings that year.
I grew up in a small town in Kentucky where there were zero art galleries and even less knowledge of the world of art. Fortunately my high school offered one art class. It was here that I first discovered art and learned of the great masters throughout history. Early on impressionist artist such as Monet and Picasso mesmerized me. They dared to see the art not as a literal translation of the natural world. Instead, they let the natural world inspire new interpretations.
In the early 1990’s I moved to Philadelphia to study photography at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. It did not take long for me to discover that I do not think like a photographer. The idea of doing weddings, portraits, commercial, or journalistic work stifled me. “Conventional wisdom” also said that “I could not support a family as an artist” so moved to Buffalo New York and found a job at a design company. While I’m not an industrial designer, I am surrounded by creative people and enjoyed participating in collaborative processes. However, working in product design does not satisfy my desire to create my own original art.
With the turn of a new century the digital world has opened a medium that finally lets me create the images I have always seen in my photographs. I do not layer images but rather reorient the pixels to distort and create brush like stokes that emulate the movement and emotion that originally inspired me. Using a giclee printing process on thick textured watercolor paper allows me to create depth and richness beyond what I can print on traditional photo paper.
Today I continue to work on my digital technics to create impressionistic abstracts using digital photographic images. I cannot always say why I am drawn to the images I choose whether the subject is a person, place or object. Everything is affected by the multidirectional pull of life. The key is to find focus and not lose you in the process. A smashed butterfly is just part of life. Some see it as sad or gross, but I would rather see the underlying beauty.