Ten Big Influences

Obviously, like any other artist, I am not someone who operates in a bubble. I have a lot of creative influences. I admire certain artists, listen to music when I work, and use those experiences to tap into feelings. I rarely ever go into a project with a solid idea in mind, except for design and illustration work that ask for specific things. I try to let ideas present themselves, and use whatever skills I have to make them usable (if I'm lucky.) That said, I took an idea that my friend Leah had in her artist blog, and decided to give you some examples of what inspires me when I make things.


1.  DAVID LYNCH.  He's my number-one hero fella.  I was fortunate enough to have parents who allowed me to watch "Twin Peaks" when it came out in 1990 (I was eleven). Lynch had a massive influence on me at that tender age, that has stayed ever since. (I may have been the only sixth grader who had his Time Magazine photo on the wall instead of any of the New Kids.)

As an adult, I really appreciate his approach to art. I also like to work under the assumption that the audience will have their own experiences, drawing from their own backgrounds, when they see your work, so let them have that moment. Lynch's wonderful book, Catching the Big Fish, really changed my life. Lynch sets a better example for you than most of your art professors ever will. 


2. DIANE ARBUS. If I can pinpoint a real influence on my street photography work, it's Diane Arbus. I love her curious, straightforward approach toward people of all types. A lot has been said about her work already that I don't need to reiterate, but I think of her often when I photograph strangers who interest me. I personally believe Arbus was the greatest photographer of the 20th century.


3. FRANCIS BACON.  He is one of those rare painters who directly speak to me. Bacon's work is rife with psychological turmoil, anxiety, and general feelings of unrest. Seeing his work in person really inspired my painting and experimental photography. When I play around with my iPhone self-portraits, I think about his work. Everything he ever made was just fascinating. 



4. SOVIET PROPAGANDA POSTERS. These people were the masters. I loathe poster design that is so abstract or so confusing that the message gets lost - or was too dull to begin with. When I need ideas for poster design, I go straight to the Soviets. Beautiful artwork, bold design, and excellent organizational sense, these never fail to give me inspiration. I never really cared for this current cutesy twee trend in poster design, with its parade of straight-haired-bangs hipster ingenues, curlicues; handwritten, timid fonts; and deer and shit. No. Give me red shouts and pictures of strong Soviet women in babushkas if you to rile me up in inspiration.



5. ANTIQUE MEDICAL BOOKS AND ILLUSTRATIONS.  My grandmother was a nurse in the 1930s-40s, and before she passed away, she gave me her long-loved medical book. It is one of my most precious possessions. I've always been fascinated with medical and anatomy illustrations, and have used facsimiles extensively in my collage work. Also, my parents used to run a small historical museum when I was growing up, and I spent a lot of time reading old books and looking through old magazines from the 19th-early 20th century.


My dad used to run a small historical museum when I was growing up, and I spent hours and hours poring over the collection we had of antique photos and stereoscope cards. I also liked looking through the pictures in antique magazines.  That aesthetic captured my attention very early. I knew as a kid that was what I wanted to draw like. It was eerily familiar. During elementary school, I started my collection of 19th century textbooks and children's books at a small booth at the Dutch Fall Festival. I still have most of them, although they aren't in very good shape. 


I was a silent movie enthusiast from a young age...like, five. I never saw a silent movie until high school, though. Wanna know how I got interested? My parents and their friends had these old movie books. One was nothing but obituaries of dead Hollywood stars - including the salacious ones. I read everything, but I was more interested in the photos accompanying them. Those women with the dark lips and eyes; the men with the Leyendecker chins and sharp suits. Those were my people. I recognized them. I wanted to grow up to look like Clara Bow and Louise Brooks. When I finally did see a silent film, it was...Moroder's version of Metropolis! I was immediately dumbstruck. 


I never knew his name until he did the Mad Men poster for Season 6, but I knew his work. It was everywhere; that splotchy-sketchy-painty style of 1960s and early-70s book covers. 


My dad gave me all his old MADs when I was 8. I read every single one of them over and over and over. By the time I was in college, I knew all about the 60s.

10) TBS IN THE 80S

When we moved to Aaronsburg, I was always watching reruns of 1930s shorts and cartoons on WTBS. Three Stooges, Little Rascals, racist cartoons, dancing animal cartoons, you name it. I learned a lot about my grandparents' and parents' cultures by immersing myself in them, and I have a better understanding of how racism and sexism affected others in previous generations. I'm rather sorry they banned those cartoons. They're important to history, to learn where we've come from and how bad it's been.