Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I have had art in my blood for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, I couldn’t wait to get up on Saturday morning, turn on the television, (a mew fangled contraption at the time) pull out my box of John Nagy art supplies that I had sent away for, and begin that morning’s art project that John Nagy had prepared for his television audience of young, aspiring artists. That is one of my earliest memories that had me dreaming of becoming an artist some day.
Ever since those Saturday art projects, I have been drawing, painting, and reading about other artists, both past and present, to help me in my quest to become a professional artist. However, my art career went in another direction early on because of some well-meaning people, including my parents, who kept telling me that trying to make a living as an artist was unrealistic. So, I began my thirty-five year career in the engineering field. Although this career did help me to support my wife, and to raise two wonderful children, it did put my full time art career on hold. But, it didn’t stop me from drawing, painting, and studying art history. The years that I spent working in the engineering field allowed me to visit galleries and museums around the world which helped me to learn about art and artists in other countries. It also allowed me to use my spare time to improve my drawing and painting skills, and take painting workshops from a variety of artists in the country.
Fast forward to today, and here I am living my dream as a full time artist. The paintings and drawings I create are a result of all those years spent honing my artistic skills, and studying techniques of past artists, as well as contemporary artists of today. My early paintings were experiments of many different styles from abstract to photorealism. But, I always returned to drawing and painting in a realistic style of which my work is now recognized for. These realistic paintings and drawings are of the architecture, and the people of the city and surrounding small towns that are distinct of Western Pennsylvania. I find these buildings and people are interesting subject matter for my paintings and drawings.
I have also worked on learning all I could about all the materials that I use in my paintings and drawings. Some of the materials I use for these paintings are oil and acrylic paint, pastels, and watercolors. My drawings are done with charcoal and graphite pencils. All the painting, drawing, and reading I did in the past has helped me to not only improve my own art work, but also prepared me for the adult classes and work shops that I teach at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and other organizations in Pittsburgh.
My work follows a process that begins with an emotional connection to whatever I have chosen to paint or draw. My early paintings began mostly as studies of the architecture of Pittsburgh, the old homes and the large buildings that were occupied by many of the businesses and corporations that made Pittsburgh one of our country’s largest corporate headquarters. People were not part of these paintings in the beginning, but as time went on, the figure started to manifest itself gradually into the composition. As my work evolved, I became more and more fascinated with the figure until eventually the figure took over, and the architecture became just a backdrop for the rest of the composition. I now use both the figure and the architecture together to make a statement. I’ll use one figure or a combination of figures in the composition that have a connection to each other, that tells a story, refers to something in the past, or has a connection to a current event that’s associated with a local or national news story.
The technical part of my painting process consists of a pallet with fourteen colors plus titanium white, which I lay out everyday before I begin to paint. The colors are yellow ochre, raw sienna, burnt umber, raw umber, burnt sienna, french ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, alizarin crimson, cadmium red light, sap green, terre verte, viridian, cadmium yellow light, and cadmium lemon yellow. Special colors are mixed during the painting process as needed.
My painting process begins by drawing directly on the canvas with paint and using reference photographs, and/or preliminary sketches as a starting point. The more involved compositions require the use of live models and doing preliminary sketches in order to build the compositional elements in the painting. This approach allows me to resolve problems prior to laying in color. The first layer of paint is put on the canvas in order to cover the white of the canvas and to help establish preliminary colors and values for the painting. As the painting progresses, I am looking at proportions, value, color, and edges in the painting, and making any corrections based on these observations that will help bring the painting to completion. The colors in my paintings are bright, but accurate in order to maintain the realism that I strive for in my work. I also use warm and cool colors and complementary colors in my paintings to give it balance and unity throughout. The painting process can take weeks, or months, depending on the complexity of the composition and the size of the painting.
I have developed this process over the years based on many influences including artists of the past such as John Singer Sargent, Edward Hopper, and Winslow Homer, and contemporary artists Philip Pearlstein, Harvey Dinnerstien, Lucian Freud, and Max Ginsburgh. Although these are artists that I sometimes refer to while working on a painting, I do not limit myself to just those few artists, nor do I try to copy their styles. I have developed a style of my own based on bright colors, realism, and a strong composition that I hope will translate into a strong and moving work of art.
I have been the recipient of several awards for my artwork in both national and regional shows, including a painting for which I received the Purchase Award in the Art of the State Exhibition at The State Museum of Pennsylvania, and is now part of the state’s permanent collection. Many of my paintings and drawings are included in a number of private and corporate collections, and are represented at The Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Gallery Shop, Courtney-Laughlin Gallery in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, and, Panza Gallery and Frame in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
I have found that there are bridges that we artists cross in our work, which take us from one improvement to another. It may be something as simple as figuring out a color combination, or as complicated as a warm and cool color passage that needs to be adjusted, or a compositional problem that needs to be resolved. But, no matter what the roadblock, it is important that, as artists, we continue to build a solid foundation, which includes sharpening our drawing skills, strengthening our knowledge of our materials, and striving to create a strong and balanced composition. All this will turn our passion, persistence, and exploration into inspirational works of art.