I grew up in Easthampton, Massachusetts, a small town in the western part of the state. Obsessed with drawing at an early age, I redrew my coloring books using a #2 pencil and yellow-lined paper (crayons were for losers). Eventually I began drawing everything and anything around the house. I nagged my parents regularly (“What should I draw today?”) and was disappointed if they ran out of ideas. Art wasn’t their thing but it kept me out of their hair so they made sure I had supplies. I’d usually come up with something to draw — a lamp, a vase, Ginger the family dog or my goldfish Fluffy. I started painting eventually, acrylics and watercolor. A total introvert, I avoided the world by immersing myself in art. Lessons weren’t necessary. I knew how to entertain myself and was happy.
In school I was mainly interested in art and sports but generally did well in all of my classes. I worked extremely hard, achieving good grades and eventually earned merit and financial aid scholarships for college.
My parents were busy, hardworking people. Both originally from Easthampton, they met while employed in a factory. My father worked most of his adult life in that factory; my mother in a local clothing store. They didn’t go to fancy colleges but managed to send me to one. They chose Smith College for me (in nearby Northampton) due to its stellar reputation and to keep an eye on me. Back then Smith was able to make a 4-year degree affordable even for families like mine. I helped pay my Smith tuition by working summers in factories, a typical situation for local kids. We had tuitions to pay, were happy to get full-time employment, worked alongside very nice people who didn’t get to go to college, and we didn’t dare complain.
While at Smith I majored in studio art, fell in love with oil painting as well as graphic art (the latter through a local internship). I also played sports while at Smith but mostly hurt myself, and briefly considered a career as an athletic trainer after spending considerable time draped in ice packs. (On the plus side I was able to keep up with my reading classes since I was rarely out on the field.)
I did well academically at Smith and looked forward to graduation and earning a living. With my liberal arts bachelor’s degree in hand, I began a career as a graphic designer. During the following decades as a publications designer for educational institutions (including many years as an in-house designer at Smith), I painted part time. Although immersed in commercial work, I never let go of fine art.
I love working with type, image and concept, creatively solving problems and clarifying information. Each design is a puzzle involving small pieces and big ideas. I use InDesign and Photoshop primarily, as well as Illustrator and Dreamweaver and various miscellaneous pieces of software. There is typically a team: client, writer, proofreader, editor, photographer and/or illustrator … and me, the designer. Sometimes I’m also the illustrator, editor and proofreader. My clients often have an existing brand, and part of my job is to apply their brand guidelines consistently and creatively.
Over the years I’ve created annual reports, magazines, brochures, newsletters, ads, posters, product manuals, and catalogues. Most projects are designed to be printed; some are needed only as pdfs for online use. I have limited experience designing web pages, but often create graphics for web use. I have years of experience working directly with printers, shepherding projects through that process.
I paint in oils—on cotton duck canvas or on cradled panels—focusing on semi-abstract landscapes and realistic birds. There’s a general sense of hope that lives in my imagination and that hope also resides in my paintings; hope, along with turmoil, the fracturing of trees, land and sky. Peace and struggle.
I’m inspired by the land around me in western Mass., as well as Cape Cod and by a visit a few years ago to New Mexico. I haven’t traveled lately, but no matter where I am, I see color and composition with every turn of my head.
I use traditional, linseed oil-based, professional-grade oil paints. Without adding solvents, I paint in layers, working on three or four paintings at a time. Layering requires me to consider “fat over lean” which means the artist adds a bit more oil to later layers to increase the flexibility of the paint film. The oil (in my case linseed or walnut) is added either separately by me, or by my choice to use colors in later layers that inherently have more oil in them.
I show my paintings publicly, love talking about art at receptions, and I share my method of painting without solvents by teaching beginners who can’t draw. (Who needs that pressure?)
I’ve had solo and group shows over the years in Western Massachusetts, as well as a few in Connecticut and New York City. More recently my work is available through Cottage Street Studios in Easthampton, MA and Paradise City Arts Festival in nearby Northampton. My work can also be seen by appointment in my studio (#508) at 1 Cottage Street in Easthampton.
Located in my residence in Hadley, Massachusetts, my design studio is a lovely space with large windows that oversee my trees and gardens. It often doubles as a painting and drawing studio. My primary painting studio is in nearby Easthampton, ironically in one of the factory buildings that employed me so long ago. The building is full of artists these days. When I commute to this studio, I drive past my parents’ old neighborhood, their first apartment, the factories they worked in, and their cemetery. From inside my building I can still see my old factory entrance, that summer job from years ago. One hundred yards away. A lifetime ago.