When did you start drawing?
I have always been a doodler and many people call my work doodling and I have no problem with that. In 1976, when I was at St. Michael's High School in Orange County, CA, a Catholic boarding school with 60 students grades 8-12, I would constantly be drawing in class. Maybe I should have used that time to take notes, to improve my GPA of 2.8, but who knows? One day, one of my fellow students (who is now a brilliant surgeon) asked me could he have some of my doodles and I said wow--you really like them? He responded, "Not really, but I wanted to show these to a shrink, in order to explain some of your erratic behavior." He had me pegged even way back then.
Who inspires your art?
Me, but yes--I do have some artists who have definitely influenced me over the years. I grew up on Disney and I hated Hanna Barbara because I thought the animation was lazy. I also loved comic books and my favorite is Will Eisner and the Spirit. I have always been a Batman fan, primarily because of his great villains, especially the Joker. I also love the works of Vincent Van Gogh, Norman Rockwell, Salvador Dali, Egon Schiele and Keith Haring.
I have some friends who are amazing artists and I get inspiration from them as well. The first one I can think of is Mark Ulriksen, who has done more than 50 New Yorker covers and lives here in SF. Also, Anita Drieseberg, Max Mason, Alex Miller and Chris Tolomei are fellow artists who have influenced me in different ways.
How did you get involved in your Post-It Note art?
I never planned to be an artist and if I never had the stroke, I likely would have never had this career that started when I turned 50. The art is a huge part of my life now and I wish I would have started 30-40 years ago, so when the time travel machine becomes a reality (I am betting Elon Musk will invent it) I want to go back to 1972 to start my art career all over again. The art represents my personal renaissance, because it came along with so many other life changes, including losing 120 lbs., getting sober and swimming one mile daily.
I start working on a project and enjoy seeing it as it comes together. I feel like I always want to have a project in process. I never forget that making the art is a priority, because it is a healing experience and extremely fulfilling. If people like the finished product, that is a big bonus, but in the end I do the art for me.
I submitted my first piece (some call them collages) to a gallery in San Francisco on a whim and was pretty certain it would not even be considered. Little drawings on Post-It Notes in a big downtown gallery? You're dreaming, buddy, my internal little skeptic whispered in my ear.
But, after about the weeks I got a phone message from a woman with the gallery. "We really like your work, it's kind of cool..." and then she hesitated for a second and in her tone I detected that big but. But, the but never came. "We would like to meet with you to discuss your art and find out if it's archival." Archival! I thought in a panic. What does archival mean and is there going to be a problem if it isn't?
Well. it wasn't and it was. Not knowing anything about how to mount my Post-It Notes, I adhered them to foam core with glue stick. I suspected that it might not be the right way of doing things, but at that point I never imagined that any gallery would want to display my art, so it was not a concern of mine at the time.
So, I sat down with the people at the gallery and they asked would I mind if they got someone to remove all of the Post-It Notes (48 total) and then mount them on a matt board that is archival, which would allow them to sell the piece? Of course I said, but I knew it would be an arduous project at best. The Post-It Notes were stuck on that foam core pretty good and had been there for a long time. So, it turned out to be more like an archeological dig and I don't envy the art intern who had to do it, but he did.
Before the art show opened (called the Art of Baseball) the gallery (The George Gallery of Amercian Art in SF) called me and said, "We sold your art!" I was so naive that I responded by saying, "Oh no--I have a lot of people coming to the opening, so why did you sell my piece?" They laughed and explained that my art would be on display during the entire 6-week show and that the new owner would get it once it was over."
Phew, I thought, so I thanked them excitedly and hung up. I called my wife to share the news and she asked me how much did the piece sell for? I was so thrilled I didn't think to ask. So, I called them back and they said $300! I also learned at that time that the galleries get 40-50% of each sale, which of course makes sense and part of the business. I figured I just made $150, which was almost enough to buy a dinner for my wife and I in the very near future.
After a few minutes, the gallery owner called me back and said, "I think you might have misunderstand us earlier. Your piece sold for $3,000, not $300. "What?! Are you punking me?" And that's when my art career began. Since then, I have sold literally 100s of prints and even a few originals along the way.
What is your ultimate goal with your artwork?
I have several. I have been able to use my art to raise money for some of my causes and that is always a great experience. Up until now, the non-profits have been animal-related and I will continue to do those, but I also want to raise money for other things that motivate me, that help seniors and children specifically.
I have done several live art performances for the San Francisco Humane Society, The Humane Society of the North Bay in Vallejo, CA, Milo Foundation in Point Richmond, CA, Martha's Kitchen in San Jose, CA and The March on Elephants.
I believe that artists have an obligation to use their art to do good things for other people and living things. Without a higher cause, my art would just be a hobby and without a purpose, the acclaim that I've received for my work would feel hollow.
I can see old people being treated poorly and marginalized in our society and it eats me up. And when it comes to children, protecting them needs to be the most important thing on the planet, but tragically it is not.
I also want my art to entertain people. With my Post-It creations, there can be as many as 100 different images all in one piece and I have seen people looking at them for an extended time, which is so satisfying. I have witnessed children looking from one Post-It Note image to the next, like cats watching ping pong. I hope that people will look at my work and get lost in it, even if it's for just a very short period of time.
I am also now doing images that have messages, that I want to communicate through my work. I have done a handful of pieces with text and I feel comfortable doing that, because I have been a professional writer for the past 30-plus years. If I can enlighten someone about anything through my art and enable any individual to consider another perspective as a result, that is something I want to achieve as often as I can.
Describe your process
My drawings seem to emerge from my brain in random and unexpected ways. First, I come up with an idea. For instance, I was working recently on a piece called "Win, Place & Show" featuring 24 horses and jockeys. I knew that professional jockeys wear colorful outfits (I think they call them "silks") and I thought I could draw some interesting-looking horses, so I embarked on drawing these characters.
For each Post-It, I usually come up with 3-4 that I reject before finding one I like. Then, I color it in with my colored pencils and put it in a manila envelope that says "Jockeys and Horses". Usually, I am also doing another image at the same time, and in this case it was "Fowl Intentions" my second bird image after the very successful #1 bird image, "Ruffled Feathers."
So, in some cases, I will be thinking about a horse, but I start drawing a bird. So, I go with it. In the process, I am creating two pieces simultaneously as I create a total of 48 characters for two separate collages. Then, I get the image scanned, get numbered prints produced, frame the piece and put it up for sale. Until I sell it, it may appear in art shows all over the Bay Area.