I remember meeting the artist Gregory Gillespie and him describing his artistic influences as “affairs”. You become infatuated with someone’s work for a period of time and that begins to fade out when something else comes along. I don’t know that I would consider my artistic heroes “affairs” per se, as I still think their work is pretty amazing. So for my students, or who ever wants to read this, I thought I would write about the evolution of my artistic influences.
The earliest I can remember is a Chinese Dragon that my brother drew in his notebook. When I saw that, I remember wanting to learn how to draw. For while I was into Disney. I remember thinking that cartoons were amazing. I had these drawing books that taught you how to draw Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, etc. I collected Mad Magazine, Cracked and Garbage Pail Kids as I was mesmerized by the artwork. After Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, I became obsessed with horror flicks such as Hellraiser, Night of the Living Dead, Evil Dead and a Nightmare on Elm Street. In middle school, I used to go to Charlie Frye’s house and watch horror flicks and we would draw zombies and monsters. We were both really into that stuff. My mom was concerned (this was during the big devil worship scare of the 80’s). I remember we had Pinhead’s dialogue memorized at one point. Charlie is also the one that introduced to me to Alice in Chains – anyone who really knows me, knows that I am a huge fan. We looked at Spiderman (the Todd MacFarlane issues), X-Men (Jim Lee issues), Faust (Tim Vigil) among other things. This was back when crosshatching still happened in comic books. Charlie was an incredible draftsman and I remember learning a lot just drawing around him. He would later become the guitar player for Louisiana metal band “Choke”.
Before becoming an art major, I remember liking Dali and H.R. Giger. Shortly after declaring my major, I recall Joel Peter Witkin, Caravaggio and Ivan Albright leaving a huge impression on me. As I began to pursue intaglio a few of my print heroes were Durer, Kurt Kemp and Hans Bellmer. I was also inspired by my undergrad professor, Gerry Wubben. It was from him I learned to engrave. At McNeese works on paper, I saw for the first time a print by Oscar Gillespie. He became a huge influence on my work as well. As I began to research more artists, I recall sitting on the floor in the Bradley University Library as I was stunned to see the awesomeness of “Amazon” by Stanley William Hayter. For a while the influence of Hayter and Mauricio Lasansky could be clearly seen in my work. I have a soft spot for intaglio printmaking of that era. Other artists that floored me were Hans Hofman, William Kentridge and Francis Bacon. After arriving at Florida, most of my previous influences would continue to stick with me in my work. I was introduced to Sally Man’s “What Remains” series and Matthew Barney’s “Cremaster Cycle”. Photography and cinema have had a great impact on how I arrange my imagery. Being around other artists at UF was inspiring – particularly in Ceramics (Linda Arbuckle, Matt Shafer, Rene Wirtz, Matt Long, Jeremy Randall). My engraving technique improved through careful study of works by Durer and Hieronymus Wierix. I’m sure I’m leaving some artists out, but these are the ones sticking out at the moment.
As I began the job of engravings arts professor, I began to dig further in learning about engravers in printmaking (Aldegrever, Ruysch, among others) and surface ornamentation (Gianfranco Pedersoli, Sam Alfano, among others). The most recent thing to blow my mind were the Dutch paintings of flowers that I saw at the Nelson Atkins. Being active in the print community has exposed me to some amazing established and up coming printmakers – which are too many to list. As a professor, my colleagues and my students regularly inspire my work.
So when I hear an artist say that no one inspires or influences their work, I can’t really process it. It’s like that annoying Macintosh pinwheel (the hour glass for PC people) of doom pops up and my brain freezes. Ok…mild exaggeration. I just think that there’s entirely too much awesomeness out there to keep your eyes sheltered from it. Go look up some people!