What projects are you currently working on?
I’m working on this mural for the Jewish Community Foundation in Berkeley.
What are your favorite projects from the past?
That’s really hard to say. They’ve all been such an adventure. I don’t really like to categorize what I like the most, since all of the paintings are equally the product of that moment, you know?
However, I do really like projects that are open-ended, so I have the ability to do whatever I want. It’s great when the conditions are really nice and cushy for me, but I do enjoy projects with the many obstacles that mural paintings can present. All of the obstacles and hurdles resolve themselves eventually.
What are your initial thoughts on the importance of creative spaces?
I’ve been in temporary creative spaces, like where we are now with this mural. So I make this temporary space my studio for a short amount of time. It’s not to say that’s better or worse than a more traditional studio, but there are some things that I really like despite the difficulties a temporary space can present. I like being able to work on something, put my all into it and then walk away and wipe my hands clean. Tear the whole thing down like a nomadic approach to painting. It really does become your studio for a week, two weeks or as long as a month.
What are the most important items in your space?
Depends what I’m working on. It depends if I’m using acrylic, spray or another kind of paint. I always have things to mix paint in, little cups, masking tape, painters tape, rollers, as well as drop cloths and floor boards since we always have to cover the floor properly. Hermetically sealing the floor always takes a good chunk of time, but you don’t want to get a drop of paint on someone’s nice floor. Then there are lots of rags and spray bottles. I don’t like to have too much stuff, but just enough. If there’s too much, then I start to get confused.
Do you approach your work with a specific process?
Almost never. That goes back to the earlier answer about the projects I like the most. Those are the ones when the client trusts me to do whatever I want. So, I don’t have to do any preliminary drawings, and I am able to let it go where it wants to go. It’s kind of like the paint takes on a life of its own and the project takes on a life of its own. The quality of the paint, the colors you’re working with, the way you want it blend together, the surroundings with all the sounds and smells come into play. The people coming in and out and wanting to talk to you or having some side conversations; it all comes in. Having a strict agenda can be limiting, and you have to try and fight off all of the other inputs that naturally flow. It’s nice to let it be loose and let it reveal itself over time naturally.
I really don’t have one way of working. There’s a lot of different kinds of approaches. Sometimes I have a general container for what I’m going to do and once that container is there I have a lot of freedom to play within that. Sometimes it’s so open that there’s no container and I can just have pure play. Sometimes I really try to stick to a plan step by step, but I’m not so good at that. Some people are good at that, but it’s not my natural tendency as an artist.
Have you hit any barriers in your career that led you to where you are now?
I’ve just been doing it for a long time one way or another. I never decided one day that I was going to be an artist. I’ve been doing it my whole life. I started selling stuff when I was 12 and, little by little, it became my profession. But I’ve done all kinds of stuff: I’ve been a preschool teacher, bookstore clerk, gardener, waiter; I’ve had all kind of jobs. It’s been in and out of being an artist full-time. Now I’ve had a good stretch of at least 3 years without having any other job. It would be nice to think that this is the way it is now, but nothing lasts forever; maybe I’ll be working at a supermarket when I’m 50 or 32. I’m not sure. I want to keep going and doing it professionally; it’s really nice.
What type of artwork were you selling at 12?
I had an art show in a coffee shop near my house. I sold some stuff there, but that was my first art show. I even had a brief write-up in a blog, which was a pretty new thing since no one really had blogs. I tried to find it the other day, but I never thought about saving and archiving it because the internet can be so ephemeral. Anyways, that’s a tangent, but I had an art show. Then people started commissioning me to do stuff here and there. My first commission was an abstract painting of someone’s dog. It was a pug named Doris and it was a cool painting; I still like the painting.
Was there a time when you felt like your art took off?
I moved to the Bay and that was the beginning of a new era for me. I was living here and meeting a lot of new people, collaborating with clients and did some work at Facebook. San Francisco was a breaking point for me. I was in New York City before that. I was doing cool stuff in New York too, but it felt like a different world. I showed at some galleries in New York and started doing that thing, but I also did odd painting jobs like signs at falafel and pizza shops. But yeah, coming to San Francisco was when my art took off since more people got to know me – and I think my work got better too.
What’s the biggest difference in the art community in San Francisco compared to NYC?
I don’t know because in both places I’ve been doing my own thing. I’ve never really been part of a scene. Not to say I don’t know people in both, but I’m not really in a particular scene in any significant way. There is a lot more hustle in New York City. San Francisco has a much more laid back vibe. There is hustle here that is exemplified by the whole startup thing, but it seems to be more playful and a little bit looser here. There’s a lot more going on in New York art-wise and everyone internationally is trying to be there. So, you’re a smaller drop in a big bucket, but there are also a lot of opportunities that can be really fun, too. NYC was a bit overwhelming for me; I like things a little more laid back.
Is there a space in the world that’s the most inspiring to you?
Not really one most inspiring place. I’ve had a lot of inspiring moments in a lot of different places, so it’s hard to choose one. Right now it’s here working on this mural.
Do you have any words of wisdom or advice to artists?
It’s important to examine one’s motivation constantly. Is it for personal gain or to be famous? I think most people do things more for the fame than even the money. There’s not that much money in it. Is it for money, fame or could you genuinely cultivate the motivation to have your work be beneficial to others? It’s good practice to generate that motivation before starting a project or ending a session. Dedicating it to others and practicing in that way has been nice for me since I continuously monitor my motivation as an artist. It’s easy to be really self-involved as a creative professional. When you get a lot of praise, it’s easy to become really self-involved.