While back in Dallas, I did something I've meant to do for a long time. I went through my really old paintings and culled them. I threw away a lot of old junk and photographed a lot of the junk and the youthful prodigies. This is work mostly made between 1972 and 1982 when I was in high school, and when I went to art school in my teens and early 20s. Seeing all this stuff together for the first time in a long time made me realize that I actually learned quite a lot in art school.
I made my first oil paintings when I was 10 on cheap canvas panels using an oil paint set that my mother bought for me. I was taking off the paint-by-numbers training wheels. This is not my first painting, but it's close. It's a painting of the Maroon Bells outside of Aspen, Colorado based on a photo. Well, we all have to start somewhere.
This is a painting in acrylic paint. I painted it in Silverton, Colorado. I used an old board that I found imitating the local painters for the tourist trade at the time. The painting is based on an old black and white photo of Wilson Peak near Telluride.
I'm trying my hand at Biblical and historical subject matter here. This is Christ and the Woman of Samaria at the Well. Bad Sunday school art.
When I was 16, I painted God. Still the Old Man in the Sky, but what did I know at 16?
When I was 17, I painted Huck Finn. We must have been reading that book in school. This was one of my very first paintings on stretched canvas. I used a colored ground for the first time, a coating of an awful Pthalo Blue, why I don't remember.
When I was 18, I painted Indians. My brother still likes these paintings. They got me into art school.
A painting I made in art school, at the Kansas City Art Institute on my own initiative. It's a picture of a fellow student and friend, Dan Ellis, from life. He was a very patient sitter. This painting has its problems, and is very damaged, but I'm still fond of it.
Another independent painting from art school in Kansas City days, Sandra Smith sews a button on her overcoat while sitting on the floor of her apartment. I'm sorta kinda playing around with something like modern form here.
I made a long series of paintings of vertical fragments of the evening sky that year, trying to mix Friedrich and Rothko (what would be the point?). This is one of my better ones.
I made this small painting from life at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. In that historic center of American modernism, I made the fateful decision to be a figurative painter, and to stop beating around the faux-moderne, juste-milieu bush. I got into a lot of trouble. The president of the college, Roy Slade, was furious. He came into my studio and turned all of my paintings upside down and said that they looked like Norman Rockwell (not a compliment in those days). My prof, George Ortman, backed my decision. Nonetheless, I left after a year.
I moved to St. Louis where I studied art history, earning a Master's degree from Washington University in 1986. I started painting again in 1985, and began exhibiting professionally that same year. In 1991, I moved to New York to finally earn that MFA at the New York Academy of Art (1993).