My first job ever—a face painter at T.G.I. Friday’s—captures a feeling I've always held about painting: it is a means to relate and connect. As a face painter, I was intimately close to people’s faces and skin, transforming babies’ cheeks into butterflies and drunk men’s biceps into the L.A. Dodgers logo (or, occasionally, into an ironic Hello Kitty). As I painted them, these people told me about their lives and I told them about mine. The experience was playful and shamelessly social: exactly how I view my painting practice today.
I have always had a face fixation, and over the years I've painted hundreds of faces in wildly different styles. This fixation has been present ever since I had the first impulse to create; it has transcended my experiences with language and culture. Looking at an empty canvas feels the same as looking at burned toast, a cloud, or a mountain range: I am always seeing faces. Before I pick up a brush, I know I will paint a face — but I never know what it will look like. My faces are sometimes cartoony, more impressionistic, or lean toward realism. They have been inspired by the space between SpongeBob's teeth, the thin dark sharpie eyebrow of a Southern California chola, and the boat-shaped eyes of Picasso’s “Weeping Woman.” To make a portrait is to experiment—to find an identity within the composition, to develop a character with color, shape, and line. Finally, after the painting is done, it’s to meet someone new.