Safe, conventional work is a ticket to oblivion.

I read that in a little book by graphic designer George Lois. I remember it always--especially when my painting falls short of what I think it should be--when all those little "shoulds" and "oughts" crowd out my voice, my colors, my feelings. Art is a house with many mansions, many chambers, many doors, and many windows. We all know that and yet the pressure to conform can be paralyzing. So many times I've finished a painting and wondered why it didn't look the way I thought it "should" be--in other words, with a more conventional, muted, and naturalistic color palette along with Old Master-style lighting. Instead I get something like this:

The painting looks this way because--try as I might--I never really listen to the shoulds and oughts--thank God. No matter how I try I don't feel right without using intense, saturated color--color that reflects my inner truth versus optical reality. This is a painting about death--a mass grave and someone I love whose remains were dumped there like trash. But the color speaks how I feel--not about what happened to her but who she was and how I still feel about her. I could've painted her with a human face--her face---under a sky like the one we know. But then the spiritual quality here would've been diminished. The only rule of perspective you need to know is that you are the horizon between the past and the possible. This is the world of my subjective experience. It is the closest I can get to showing you how I feel, which--to me--is the whole point of art.

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