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7 years on an off shore oil rig will change a man….and his life.
And so it did mine.
Divorce. Lost job. Three year plunge into a dark place. Actually many places including Rome, Lake Taho, L.A., Miami, Scotland and London. Thanks to friends and family putting up with me, and a new found love, I emerged to find myself living in South Florida.
Just before getting to Miami I had helped my youngest brother Robert make a Windsurfing Video. When it came time to launch it he took a spot at the 1986 Long Beach Action Sports Expo.
Instead of getting t-shirts printed for the sales staff we decided that I’d hand paint a dozen images on some shirts. I’d just got back from England and the oversize thing had just started there. So I painted some big and colorful designs on huge t-shirts and surprise surprise, they were a big hit.
Hey, big enough that a couple of months latter I got a phone call inviting me to New York to meet with the Swatch design people. I thought it was a prank. Anyway, the next day I was hired to produce clothing, watchbands and accessory designs for the most famous watch company on the planet.
Where did that come from? Anyway the big deal is that they need each piece in multiple colorways. So it meant doing each design up to 10 times. Boring! So I went out and bought myself an Amiga computer and learned Delux Paint. Now I could draw in the designs for instant gratification and easy color changes. But not only did the computer make things efficient the Amiga made my creative juices flow big time… What a great machine.
With something like 400 x 320 resolution with a whopping 16 colors to chose from. This was cutting edge stuff. I bought the first ink jet color printer on the market, a Xerox and was one of the original artists to use a computer for fashion design. Not only could I paint on it with almost real brush strokes, but then I would blow up my creations to a working size and wow……. they had pixilated edges. I’d never seen that in art.. nor had anyone else… Swatch loved it!
That same year I got discovered by some of the top sportswear houses in the world. In addition to Swatch I was working for Wilson Tennis on all kinds of clothing, I was the sole designer for Neil Pryde, the world’s largest windsurf company and through them Elho Brunner, The top Sportswear company in Germany. Later I would do art for Reebok and Ellesse.
There were many clothing companies I created art for but I must tell you about Elho Brunner, who at the time were one of the largest sportswear companies in Europe. After Elho’s head guy flew to Florida to meet me I was asked to produce ideas for graphics for Skiwear, Swimwear and Golf clothing. I had 2 weeks to get them the designs as it was already late in the year for the winter season. So I went into overdrive and delivered some very cool stuff. When I got to see the new catalog I was speechless. They had taken my work and made a clothing line out of it that was stunning. I was on the front page and featured as “The New Master of Fashion Design”!
Later that year, Elho asked me to come to the SIA (Ski Industry) show in Las Vegas. And there I was, in the bright lights, my art and designs, not only on all the clothing, but the Elho stand was made of photos of my stuff blown up 20 feet wide and 10 feet high. My name was plastered everywhere!
I believe I cried.
I worked for them for 6 seasons and designed some really groundbreaking stuff. My work was being featured in fashion magazines around the world. What a trip!
By this time I was putting in 15, 18 and more hours a day. My creativity was just running away with me. I was designing for an amazing variety and number of clients. I think I had over 60 active clients at once during this crazy time. I designed the best selling Wilson shirt ever. Through Wilson, tennis legend Chris Evert saw and loved my work. I had a long relationship with Chris, designing everything for her Chris Evert Charities Pro celebrity Tennis Tournament. Chris also commissioned me to paint a large canvas every year that was a feature of her Gala Charity Auction.
Around this time I got the commission to design the cover and poster art for the Palm Beach Grand Prix. I went out on a limb and produced a very abstract piece that was a big hit with the fans. Before I knew it I was designing for multiple teams and drivers in the sport. A sport I really loved.
So it took no pushing to get me to direct all my attention to motor racing. I produced my first limited edition serigraphs. These were of famous Indy Race drivers. The initial edition sold out all 150 prints in a week! I was painting auto inspired art regularly and selling to collectors around the world. Then I decided to expand my horizons and become an Event Merchandiser. I was doing designs for all these races and teams so why not make and sell the stuff =
We started with the 1995 Miami Grand Prix. One of the biggest races on the East Coast. 100,000 spectators, 10 retail booths and a staff of 50 people. What the hell was I doing! Well we sold more stuff at that race than any other Indy Car event other than Indy itself.
Guess what. Within days the Big Boys were on the phone and in my bedroom (where I had my office). That year we became the biggest independant event merchaniser in Indy Car racing. And I was producing more art for races, racers and race fans than any artist on the planet.
The really cool thing about this was that it was a huge learning experience for me as an artist. When designed clothing and other art I did my own thing in my current style. But with all these races and teams I was forced to keep changing and experimenting with very different styles. These guys all wanted Ray Masters but at the same time they needed something fresh and individual.
So one minute I’m doing my very abstract “what the hell is that…a Panda?” stuff. And next I’m going Art Deco. Then Impressionism. Then Expressionism. So I studied and practiced and experimented and grew.
Oh, and I pranced around the race paddocks on my yellow scooter like some kind of pop star and hung with my racing driver heroes and made lots of money.
So that’s what I did very successfully until 1999, when my Gemini other person thing took over and told me it was time for a change.....
Where did it come from?
Actually the covers of Dave Brubeck’s Time Out and Time Further Out.
My first exposure to the work of Miro and Kandinski took place around 1966.
It was love at first sight.
Twenty years later I put paint to t-shirt and out came a Miro character on a windsurfer.
My original graphic work was always very artistic in style and it was only a matter of time….less than a year….until I painted my first canvas. Back then my style was very graphic and abstract. Uncertainty of materials and method resulted in very simple works. But in no time I loosened up and learned the way of paint.
My backgrounds started to increase in complexity and style. My color use and composition improved. I worked and learned. But fortunately managed to sell while I did so. In fact my second painting was a $2000 commission. 2 months later I painted a large mural for the top night club in Palm Beach.
My new work was more confident and displayed a great sense of humor. It made people smile. The connection to my surrealist heroes was still there but a personal style was starting to creep through. However, for the next few years I was so consumed designing clothing and art for commercial use my paintings happened sporadically. Not good for a novice trying to discover and learn.
But I did both and persevered. I worked through a very Miro inspired period for about 3 years emerging even stronger and more confident. Meanwhile my success still amazed me with a sales rate of over 50% and no gallery representing me.
Much of my painting became directed at sports, motor racing and tennis in particular. I created some very large and bold canvases quite unusual in these sports and met with great success. My art landed in some very cool places including the Jaguar Car Museum, The Japanese National Car Museum, The boardroom of Philip Morris and homes of sports stars such as Don Shula, Chris Evert and Emerson Fittipaldi. President George Bush has a piece as do Ex-State Governors and Fortune 500 executives.
And all this while designing and creating art for scores of commercial clients 15 hours a day.
Just ten years after my first professional painting I was making art for movers and shakers around the world. I had been featured in TV shows and in countless newspaper and magazine articles. A five page pictorial in Americas biggest car journal, Automobile Magazine called me the “Next Big Thing”. The Miami Herald ran a front page story on me. And PBS featured me in a show about my work and life.
And I still could not get a single Art Gallery owner to look at my work!
For another three years I concentrated on developing my own style of surrealism. My pallet changed from the bright solid colors to more discrete and subtle shades. My subjects more personal and less object inspired. I had shows in Palm Beach Airport for 6 months and various one man shows around South Florida. Hell, I even got into a nice gallery in Palm Beach…until it closed down soon after my arrival!
My commercial work was interesting me less and less and my paintings were taking more of my time and effort. A big gallery in Miami was just biting when out of the blue I decided that I’d had enough of the flat Florida landscape.
It was time to move......
Moving to Maui was a big deal.
I was motivated by many reasons but right up front was a need to find a place to paint.
No distractions or commercial motivations.
Just paint what I want, when I want.
What a very exciting thing. Within a year I had my studio built and I was turning out new work. Immediately the subjects changed and became very personal. Then my pallet and style morphed. The most obvious aspect was my use of more shading and detail to give my characters a three dimensional look.
My friends and playmates became my subjects. The greens and blues and reds of my island home became my predominant colors. I had more time to invest in each work and this showed up in more detailed and larger sized canvases.
The early Maui paintings explored the world of Hula, of dance and of the ocean. My cats got into the act many times both as central subjects or support actors. While these changes are part of that period my Surrealistic style of color enclosed in a black line continued. As did my love of continuous line compositions. I reached a pinnacle of that style with my painting “I Dream of Hiding Chicken Bones in Your Hair”. Whenever I look at that I am still not sure how it happened! One continuous pencil line drawn without pausing for an instant. With no preconceived notion of the details of the subject or story.
Good job I was painting so much as all of a sudden I found myself represented in 3 galleries and having shows in Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver and Maui.
Paul Newman and Mario Andretti drove to the opening of my show on Madison Avenue, NYC in a two seat Indy Car!
My One Man Show in Vancouver resulted in several big sales including the sale of my highest priced painting to date.
My fascination with the art of Jackson Pollock and other Abstract Expressionists has pushed me in a new direction in the last 10 years. I have allowed myself to loosen up in a spiritual way while my improved techniques have allowed more control of the chaos. I no longer need the crutch of a subject to hold up a painting. And even when I do feature one, it is another mass of splashes and slashes. Movement has become an important feature.
I have also played with a third dimension recently. A bit tenuously maybe. I am using sheets of high density foam which are painted and then reinforced with glass fiber backing. Finally, resin is applied to coat the object in a glass like case. These pieces are normally floating above a painted background of similar material or just used freeform as in my trophy work.
Maui has been good to me as a person and an artist. I have been honored with many shows and articles in the press. My work has been selected for several juried shows on the island and I am now being represented by Freeborne Fine Art, a fabulous gallery in the snazzy Shops of Wailea. In fact they are selling my work faster than I can create it right now!