Check out our artist interview!
What made you want to become an artist?
I was always drawing as a child, and I was encouraged by my parents to draw and use my imagination. One of the stories I tell on my website is that when I was four years old I took a permanent black magic marker and scribbled drawings on the wall. Redwood paneling to be exact, and the drawings stayed there for many years.
My father was a gifted ceramic artist, and I would watch him work in the “ceramic room” downstairs in the house where I grew up. He was really great at it, applying glazes to achieve different textures and effects, and he often let me paint some coasters and vases. I was blessed with a vivid imagination, and creativity, so being an artist was something I always wanted to be.
I went to college and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Graphic Design Management, which was more about the graphic design, print production, and business management side of the art world. This has really helped me throughout my career. Before I started my own graphic design and illustration company in the early 1990’s, I worked as a graphic designer and art director for two companies here in Connecticut. As my business evolved I began doing mostly illustration work, and in 1999 I began licensing my artwork, which has been a really amazing experience.
How would you describe your art to someone who is unfamiliar with it?
The scenic artwork that I am known for is realistic, colorful, peaceful, and full of life. I like to try and give the viewer an inviting place where they can escape reality for a few moments. Even with the winter and Christmas scenes I do, I try to convey a sense of warmth. My Christmas paintings are among my most popular and I am able to get a little whimsical at times with the animals and birds I put into the scenes. Seagulls helping to decorate a dock, or chickadees ready to open Christmas presents, for example.
Who / What has been the biggest influence on your artwork?
Influences come from many areas – your parents, your life experiences and interests, your education and teachers, and other artists’ work that you admired growing up. All of this plays a part in influencing the work an artist does and it makes them who they are. This is true with me as well. But, my biggest influence was my late Wife, Pam, who passed away in November of 2017. Her love and support over the 32 years we shared together helped me grow as a person, and together we made a wonderful life and business together. She had a great eye and decorating sense, so I knew that if Pam liked the painting, then the majority of people would like it as well. Pam also had a great appreciation for nature, which is something we both shared. I am able to translate this appreciation of nature into the worlds I create.
What is your personal motto?
Try to be the best person I can be, utilize the God-given talents I have been blessed with to make this world a better place, and brighten someone’s day with my art.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned since becoming an artist?
To be patient and to handle rejection. Not all of your work can appeal to everyone or be used on every product. You need to realize that the timing just may not be right, or your style and/or subject matter may not be what a certain manufacturer is looking for to go on their products. You need to keep positive, be persistent, and most of all, do the only thing that you can really control… and that is doing the best art you can do. The rest will fall into place.
Who / What inspires you?
I am inspired by everything and anything. From the birds I feed on our deck, to the beautiful plants and flowers that Pam planted in our gardens, the clouds in the sky, a beautiful sunset… you name it. Inspiration is all around us, you just have to notice it and appreciate it. Inspiration for new concepts may come from all of the above that I just mentioned, but also from day trips we have taken to the beach, or out to the country, or while we were traveling. One painting I did years ago was inspired while I was looking out the window of our hotel while on a business trip to New York City, others while on trips to California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, and throughout New England. I continue to travel and find inspiration in all of the places I visit. Sometimes a company will request a certain concept or theme they are looking for, and you have the basic inspiration for the piece. Then it’s time for you to put your own spin on it and make the idea a reality.
What is your favorite work of art (done by you)?
My favorite work of art is a painting I created to honor our country and the victims of the attacks of September 11, 2001. The painting is titled “Silent Wings of Freedom”, and it depicts a patriotic red, white, and blue-themed garden by the sea, with an American flag, a lighthouse in the background, one seagull flying free in the sky, and another seagull in the process of taking off. This painting has appeared on many different licensed products over the years, including a beautiful ceramic tile and wooden music box that played “America the Beautiful.”
What is your creative workspace like?
My creative workspace is filled with all of the tools I need to create my artwork, and run the art licensing business. There are a few art pieces on the walls that we have collected over the years, some family photos and mementos, and an airbrushed painting I did back in the 1980’s of an Orca (Killer Whale) that helped propel my art career. I enjoy listening to all types of music while I paint.
What is your creative process like?
The creative process is pure magic! It is really amazing how things fall into place. For me, once I get an idea for a painting, I might do some doodles and quick sketches, or I would try to convey my idea to Pam with words (and talking with my hands, hey I am half Italian). I will then think about the scene in my head, often painting mentally, and trying to layout out how the scene will look. Once I start painting things just happen – imagination, divine intervention, inspiration, whatever you want to call it. My paintings and creativity take on a life of their own. I will see things as the painting progresses and I will get new ideas to enhance the scene. Pam would often see the paintings as I was working on them and give me an idea, or a critique (I got better at handling those over the years – smile). She may say maybe you might want to put a bird over there, or maybe brighten that area up a bit. It was nice to have another set of eyes looking at your work. Sometimes you get too close to your art and often miss some obvious things that may not be working.
If you could spend a day with one artist, living or dead, who would it be and what would you do?
I would spend the day with Michelangelo watching him paint the Sistine Chapel, help him clean his brushes, get him water (or a cannoli), anything to be there and witness the creation of that masterpiece.
What art projects are you currently working on and how are they different from past projects?
I am currently working on a series of paintings for jigsaw puzzles, and a few Christmas scenes for lighted canvas prints, which will then also be available for Christmas cards, and other products. Every painting is different and unique in its own way, but these current paintings fall in line within the style and creativity I always strive to achieve in my work. The type of artwork that companies have come to expect from me.
What do you feel makes your artwork unique?
My paintings are very detailed, realistic, and colorful. My ability to paint light and shadows the way I do plays an important part in the unique look of my paintings.
What stands out to you as one of your favorite professional highlights so far?
I would have to say seeing my artwork on products being sold on the QVC television network, and seeing thousands of them sell out within minutes. That was amazing to watch! What better example of instant and personal artistic gratification knowing that the public loves the work you have done, and that they would want to have it for themselves.
What is your favorite part about being an artist?
The best thing about doing what I do now is that this does not seem like a job. Doing paintings, licensing them for products, and making a living from it, is really a dream come true. I get to paint what I want (typically), and when I want. Doing something that you love does not seem like work. Again, I am truly blessed to be able to do what do, and to be able to share it with the world.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Again, the work I do does not seem like a job, but I would have to say the most challenging times are when I get many requests for custom commissioned artwork and projects coming in all at the same time. I pride myself on customer service and making sure the manufacturers I work with are happy is my number one priority. I love to rise to the challenge and create great artwork within the deadlines I am sometimes given. This is where my years of working as a freelance illustrator for advertising agencies comes in handy. In that world, everything needed to be done yesterday, so I was used to working long hours in a short time frame to finish a piece.
What are your plans for the future?
My plans are to keep painting, and to honor Pam in all of the new artwork I create. I want to reach as many people as I can with my art by continuing to build upon the relationships I have established over the years with the manufacturers I work with.
I would like to thank Crown Point Graphics for the opportunity to answer these questions, and to share a little bit more of who I am, and what I do. I really appreciate all of the years we have been able to work together, and I look forward to what lies ahead in the years to come.