Can you describe your work for us in 7 words or less?
Colorful and crowded: life though my eyes.
Being an artist can be a challenging profession, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Try everything. When you’re young and you like to draw, you think you can only focus on being a drawer, when you like to paint you believe that you should only focus on being a painter. No! I very much regret not learning a million things when I was young sponge and could have soaked up everything. Craft work, fabric work, printing, glass, photography are all things I learned a little bit in college but could have been introduced to sooner if I showed more interest. Being a master of one thing is nice, but having the ability to dip in all trades, and overall become a more skilled and versatile artist matters even when creating personal work—and even when in the professional art world. If I could go back, I’d yell, “pick up that linocut block and don’t put it down.”
What are you listening to at the moment?
Currently, Childish Gambino (his commentary on race-related struggles in America is always a mood), lots of Janelle Monae, always Nicki Minaj, but what surprises people is that when I paint, I prefer to listen to nothing. The sound of the area, the train, the cars that pass by, and the birds chirping (and jasper Studios’ infamous rooster I have affectionately named Seth) is more interesting to listen to than any other song or artist.
What do you look at for inspiration?
For inspiration, I look at street fashion for one. People in cities, and especially Philadelphia, look and dress in a way that is only unique to their areas. I love the big shiny coats, the real fur mink jackets, matched with eccentric neon shoes. All of it is a look.
My process seems to follow a very specific algorithm; clothes, plants, and well— trash. I watch and paint these clothes of the very subjects of the painting (I always sit and chat with them as well before asking for a picture), the plants and specifically the weeds in the area (I love the strange grass and fruits that pop up all over the city) and lastly, the cool colorful stuff I find on the ground. It’s a nuisance for some people, a treasure chest for me.
What artists inspire you most?
I have a couple of artists that are currently just killing the game, but also inspire me greatly with their boldness of color, beauty in blackness, such as Teresa Chromatic (please go check out their stuff, the color detail in the work will knock you out), Nina Chanel Abney’s work has always inspired me as well, but someone who pretty much influenced me to be the painter I am today is Kerry James Marshall. I attended his retrospective in New York last year and nearly had a heart attack.
Who would be a dream artist to collaborate with?
If Kerry James Marshall every talked to me, let alone collaborated with me I think I could die happy. He experiments a lot with concepts that I want to work toward, and I think a collaboration with him would be a life-changing experience.
What’s something that you learned early in your career that you feel made you a better artist?I had an art teacher in high school briefly, and he once told me that there is no part of a piece that is more important than another. Each corner should be equally loved. Even a small detail in pencil is just as substantial as a well depicted oil-paint detail. I took that to heart, and made sure everything in my work equally matters. I think repeating that little bit of advice to myself has made me a significantly better painter.
Why did you apply to become a resident at Jasper Studios? And what do you hope to achieve during the residency program?
The area was very enticing to me, and not in the traditional way. I paint people, and the more interesting and mysterious the people the better. In a neighborhood that has already been typecast as a poor, drug-infested area, I was aware that they still have a lot stories to tell, and it would be my honor to paint them. It was my goal to go out into the neighborhood prior to painting, and interview different people before asking for a video or picture, then paint a series of portraits of these people.
I hoped to get a plethora of these paintings complete, but, with time I lowered my ambition and decided to make just about 7 or 8 large paintings and a couple of portraits, and a handful of small paintings. My goal was to create a cohesive body of work that represents Kensington through my eyes. They look incredible, and I’m learning more about others and myself in the process. I’m absolutely loving the process of the creation of the work.