My earliest introduction to art was around the age of six when after drawing a picture of a horse I received praise and encouragement. If people were happy at something that I had drawn then that was exciting for me. From that moment on I was hooked on art and continued to draw through my early years.
I was born in Tacoma Washington to a French mother and a father who served as an officer in the Air Force. We moved with his assignments around the country, and eventually to France where he was stationed as an American liaison officer. My mother immediately set out to immerse her children in French culture, so we lived in the city of Nancy, went to French schools, I was in the French cub scouts, and had only French friends. In school I grew to love European history and architecture – after all it was all around me, and I drew pictures of buildings and historic events. Our family spoke only French and I began thinking in French as I acquired a love for the Old World that never left me.
In 1963 my family moved back to the US and settled in Charleston SC, a beautiful old city rich with its own history and architecture. After graduating high school I attended College and majored in Architectural History, and also took art classes. I soon realized that my interest was in fine art and I graduated with a degree in art in 1980 from the College of Charleston.
After graduating I worked for the US Post Office as a rural mail carrier and continued to draw and paint and participated in a College of Charleston Alumni show and a Gibes Art gallery show in Charleston. While on a visit to Philadelphia I was introduced to ceramics by my former wife’s grandmother. She had been working in ceramics for some years and the colors I saw in her work were so intense and rich that I was captivated. She then made one of the most generous gifts I have ever received in supplying me with a small kiln, clay, glazes and tools – everything that I needed to start making clay art! I began experimenting (almost burning my apartment down) and learning what I could about clay.
In 1986 I transferred my Post Office job and family to Portland Oregon. My young entrepreneur daughter Josie began a project making Christmas angel ornaments which got the kiln fired up again and eventually led us to sell our ware at Portland Saturday Market, which I continued for seventeen years. My evolution in crafts went from Christmas ornaments to clay jewelry to hand made ceramic tile to switch plate covers, but I wanted to get back to something more basic and expressive of me, and so I began a long course back toward painting… but I wanted to keep working with clay.
Terra Cotta Painting
In 1998 my Father offered me the tools that he had been using for making marquetry, an old art form which uses inlaid wood to make art in picture form and in furniture. This led me to thinking of making woodcuts that could be used to make impressions in clay. My first attempts produced a nice result and I knew that I was on to something. I began making more and more detailed woodcuts and the pressings I made in clay got better and better. I started adding more detail to the clay slab by making impressions with rocks, pieces of wood and other found objects. I also fabricated tools that helped shape the clay into the objects I was representing, and as time went on I sculpted leaves, trees and other shapes onto my clay canvas. The textural and sculptural elements of clay were exciting and added a new dimension to my work but this of course is only half of the evolution that makes up my “clay paintings”.
They need color. But I didn’t want to simply ‘paint by number’ because that would make my work look too much like a tile. I wanted to paint like I did on canvas but instead of watercolor, oils and acrylic I was now using underglazes and engobes. This proved to be challenging because these colors changed when fired in my kiln and I had to develop a sensitivity and style to match the materials I was working with. I use brushes, sponges, palette knives, my fingers, air brushes – anything that works to get what I want, including rubbing particles of clay into the color to create different tones, and leaving areas free of any color to expose the beautiful color of the clay. I fire my pieces to 1940 degrees Fahrenheit and I do so without the use of a shiny glaze because this gives my work a unique earthy, matte and natural look unlike any other media. People have responded to this style by saying that my paintings make them feel relaxed and more composed.
My larger desire is to give relief to our busy contemporary lives by representing, in some way, the slow timeless beauty of old, so that we make our own subtle connections as to how the past influences our present.
Recently I have created a more contemporary line of work. I still work with bas relief and have incorporated carving into the pressed slab as a way of enhancing the image. I will also sometimes draw directly into the clay making intricate linear patterns. My designs feature abstractly shaped people and upended scenes that can sometimes be whimsical or beautiful and other times unsettling.The colors I use are matt and create a calm feeling or mood that are not jarring to the eye. Leaves are prominently featured in many of my paintings and are a reminder to me to let go of the detritus in my life so as to enjoy it more fully.
I feel that I have returned to my roots as a two dimensional fine artist with the added bonus of using the unique properties of clay. I honor the interests that I developed as a young boy in France and the influence of my parents and daughters, as I continue to work and explore my talent in art.
I would like to thank everyone who has appreciated and bought my art. It is in part because of you that I find joy in what I do.