My Life As An Artist

It might have been my grandmother’s art studio filled with the scent of turpentine and paint. Maybe it was my fascination with the colors of trees or clouds as they past by my window. With my first oil paint set at age 8 I embarked on a journey that has taken me to some beautiful locations around the world. In the early days of my art expression it became a way to escape the world around me however.

Throughout grade school I was always in trouble with my teachers for drawing in class during Math & English assignments. High school offered a little art study and a chance to exhibit my paintings. Selling my artwork to teachers and students provided a way to purchase my first automobile. During my college years at the Universities of Chico and Stanislaus, (California), I decided to attend a few art classes. I remember coming into the classroom with a portfolio of my work to show the Art Profesior. The instructor looked over my art and exclaimed that he couldn’t teach me anything new for I was advanced way beyond his top students. Because of this situation with my art I majored in Public Administration instead and went to work with the United States Forest Service.

In the summer of 1984 it came to me. I call it the gift to see things and capture them in art. I was employed as a fire lookout and lived and worked a 100 feet off the ground. That job gave me a lot of freedom to paint in between my fire searches. My Osborne Fire-finder doubled as a perfect easel in the middle of the tower. Within five months my art skills increased like never before, capturing every cloud and light movement. At this time of my life I became very passionate about Plein Air Painting. I had Kings Canyon on my left and the High Sierra right in front of me to paint as much as I wanted!

The jobs and locations with the forest service changed over the years, but the art continued. Finding art galleries that were interested in my work was never a problem. As time went on I became so passionate about oil painting that it was not uncommon for me to spend 16 hours in the studio. Today I paint when I feel the spirit move me. Having become a prolific songwriter and musician with the Black Irish band, I now give equal time to explore both art forms.

My art subjects:

I paint what I know, it’s that simple. Having been raised around my father’s interests of railroads, aircraft, and history, it was not a stretch that I would pursue these subjects. My father George would take me around some of the last steam railroads in California. It made a big impression on me. I always enjoyed the way steam and smoke would rise in the sky from these large machines. To me the steam engine is the closest thing made by humans that seems alive. When you stand next to one it seems to breathe and talk. There was always a sense of romance with railroads. They always seem to be going somewhere that I am not. It feels strange to me to be left alone in a field after the train has past. To date I have captured over 500 portraits of the iron horse. Western Railroads are my favorites to paint because I have explored many of the abandoned right-a- ways. The most important aspect of painting old rail lines is in the fact that many were never captured on film and in color. That is one benefit to being an artist of this subject matter.

Firefighting as subject comes from me working as a firefighter. My second year out of high school I found myself on the fire line. In my 13 years with the forest service I served on many fire hand-crews, fire engines, and as a fire patrolman. They say that nothing beats first hand experience. Having witnessed 150 foot flame walls and major fire tanker drops I ended up with a lifetime of memories. It was however the government that got me to take fire fighting serious as an art subject. Because of my art background the forest service sought me out to develop a series of paintings to be used for posters. From there I continued in my personal goals of highlighting the work of fire fighters. In the process of painting the subject, I realized that maybe I might be one of the few artists in the world that create Fire Art.

The most rewarding thing about the painting process in the subject of fire is in the creation of light. With smoke you have many opportunities to have light playing from different locations. I also like to compose my subjects to create action and drama. Creating scenes that could never be captured by a camera gives the painter a real challenge. Overall I think that firefighters are heroes and deserve acknowledgment in art. My mission is to take the skills I have developed in painting portraits, trains, and landscapes, and use them to showcase America’s Angels of the Forest. I have such a strong love for trees and the wilderness that any defenders of that beauty should be highlighted. The Great Painters of the West like, Remington & Russell had their cowboy heroes, I have my fire fighters.

My other main subject would be Irish Landscape Painting. Having paid many visits to Ireland in the 1980s I found myself facing the challenge of changing light & weather. Old Erin proved to be a good way of making enough money to live there. I was blessed with a simple job of teaching oil painting in 1986. Twice a week I would take students into the field and teach them the basics. The rule about painting in Ireland is that the weather can change at any minute. Because of this I got quite skilled in adapting to rain by just continuing the process. When my body temperature would drop from the cold I would place the canvas on the dashboard of my car and finish. With the heater running and wiper blades moving back-and-forth it made for an interesting time!

My life as an artist has been a lasting passion that gives great meaning. To sit for countless hours and capture the beauty of the Irish Landscape or the majesty of Yosemite Valley, I feel that God has given me a gift. To see the afternoon light fade into darkness and to hear the ever changing birdsong is heaven to me. My world is full of strong colors and intense contrast. When I paint I see my art as a moment captured in time. I let the moment take over my hand and enjoy every part of the creation. Many times I paint for the sole purpose of holding that feeling forever on my wall. To me the artwork is a window to my memories.

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