My work is about translating beautiful moments from my life into paintings. I capture these moments by taking photos with my phone. Photography is akin to sketching for me, as I’m able to quickly reference moments that might become paintings. I take hundreds of reference photos, and out of those, select the few that will become paintings.
My paintings come together over many weeks and months, with each painting consisting of many layers. The bottom layers often contain thick, opaque applications of paint, with the final layers being thin, transparent glazes. I spend a lot of time mixing paint, as color is one of the most important elements of my work. I use color to convey the emotions I felt when I saw the image, and the passion I feel when I paint. The process itself becomes about push and pull, emotional fatigue, late nights in the studio, and eventually, the sense of fulfillment of seeing the completed works. My goal is not to replicate a photo, but to reproduce the emotional experience that I felt in the moment that inspired me.
The paintings in this body of work are based on reference photos I took while on a helicopter ride over Los Angeles. I’ve had this idea of painting aerial images from a helicopter for many years, probably from the first time I saw LA from above in a plane. I was finally able to turn this idea into reality, and I took a couple of helicopter rides in 2020 to take reference photos. This was a thrilling experience, and provided me with a new way to see Los Angeles.
Most of my work references natural light. I’m used to looking up – my paintings have always involved a lot of sky, with sunsets taking center stage in my recent work. With this series, I was in the sky looking down, and instead of finding color in the sky, I found it in the city lights. This is all about the artificial lights of the city, and the colors and patterns that it creates on the ground.
The aerial perspective was challenging. Back in the studio, I realized I needed to create a new system of drawing for myself, to keep track of all of the perspective lines. I used different colored chalks to make sense of all of the lines of the detailed drawings before beginning the painting process. I also went in a slightly different direction with the painting. Generally, my work tends to be tight, with architectural elements represented with crisp lines. These paintings became looser, with painterly brush strokes and blurred lines.
The title of the series is borrowed from a recent painting of mine, which originated from a trip I took to Africa. Returning home after spending a month in Tanzania, I was full of mixed emotions; I was devastated to be leaving my new friends and family, but also excited to be coming home to my family in Los Angeles. When we got closer to the city, the familiar city lights spread out below me, and felt familiar and welcoming, like a warm hug. Or perhaps an Electric Embrace.