Just as everything in life ebbs and flows, so does my art practice. Working primarily in a collaboration, the majority of my experience has been drawing, painting, and editing portions of a larger piece of work, which I then pass onto a fellow artist to do the same. Encountering confusion and questioning what my individual art practice should look like, the work I made consisted solely of half-finished drawings and doodles. Lack of control was my dilemma.
After a several year lull from a steady practice of independent art making, I took a day trip last May to Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens in Summerville, Georgia. Seeing a mass of crude portraits throughout the property left me with an admiration for the folk artist and his seemingly neurotic obsession with spreading the Gospel. Leaving a little less inhibited, I had a desire to attempt to paint people. Shortly after, I met another artist, Theron Humphrey, who was about to embark on a year-long adventure to each of the fifty states, photographing everyday people. These two men inspired me. One was fanatical and the other more conventional, but both were passionate and dedicated. I wanted what they had and drew from both for the year to come.
My 29th birthday was approaching. With a new enthusiasm, I committed to a year-long endeavor: to do a portrait for every day leading up to my 30th birthday. With the immediacy of graphite and gouache, I was confident that family, friends, celebrities, musicians, historical figures, animals, artists, critics, and curators would be rendered in a timely manner. A day at a time, I painted.
As life occurred, I encountered ebbs and flows in my practice as before. I began questioning the reality of my commitment and the endurance that this year-long challenge presented. There was one month that I was hospitalized, then bedridden, with an infected intestine and appendix. After recovering, I picked up my pencil and persevered. There were days where I painted multiple portraits to catch up. Unlike my doodles before, I was less concerned with the results. Whether people would like them or not was none of my concern. There was a certainty that the paintings would be shown when the time was right.
Surrendering to the process, fear subsided. I began to crave drawing and painting people. The curves of their noses, the shadows on their cheekbones. The days of contemplating whether or not I would paint became less and less. As days, weeks, and months went by, the end was in sight. An anxiety about what I would do after the portraits arose. I continued to remember that I am not there yet. I am certain that as long as I stay open-minded and willing, more will be revealed. Everything is sure to change.