What was your first paid painting job?

In the fifth grade. I had a thriving business and actually earned "real money" — nickels and dimes — drawing an assortment of creatures for other students.

Where did you go to art school?

My college education began at Southern Oregon University, principally as a member of the wrestling team. That was hell! I challenge anyone to be an artist in a wrestling room. Eventually I ended up at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena CA.

How did you start painting?

At the Art Center I was the only person in my class who had absolutely no painting experience and as hard as I tried I just couldn't grasp the basics. I was so frustrated that one Friday afternoon I locked myself in a room and swore not to come out until I'd mastered it. Monday morning, I emerged after finding an eccentric technique that worked; and that's when the rest began to make sense.

What do art schools NOT teach that you think they should?

You must remember that I went to school at time when the earth had just cooled and strange creatures roamed freely on the plains. Looking back, I could have used a few more business related classes because I left school with a certain amount of technical skill that enabled me to produce a marketable product but had to play catch up in the basics of running my own business and properly marketing and accounting for that product. My final two terms at the Art Center were particularly busy as I had been fortunate enough to garner some freelance illustration work. However after graduation my Cinderfella dreams of ample freelance work vanished and I turned to construction and concrete work to make ends meet.

How did you get a job at Willardson & White?

The primary reason that I was hired was my ability to be a tenacious pest which was much more important than any of my artistic abilities. Six months earlier, I'd graduated with honors from the Art Center. I'd done magazine illustrations in my final terms and felt that I could have a promising career after I graduated only to find that I couldn't get a job doing anything for anyone. So to support my family I worked in concrete construction pouring foundations, driveways, side walks and doing concrete finishing work. When I got wind of a studio that was being established by two legendary illustrators, I became relentless in my harassment because I saw this as my final chance.

Have any of your paintings become famous?

I don't believe that I have painted anything particularly famous but I still receive email and other correspondence about the Styx "Paradise Theater" album cover art and cover art for Oingo Boingo's album "Only A Lad." I find this both funny and disturbing since I painted both of those 27 years ago and I hope that I have improved since then. However, lovers of old theatres and Styx fans really aren't interested in anything else that I've painted. I also did the theme art for Super Bowls 20, 21, and 23, and the movie marquee art for "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" and they're really well known.

Have you ever had writer's block (should we call it painter's block?) and how do you get through it?

Once in a great while this happens to me but not often. When you do this for a living you have no choice but work through it. Deadlines are not about to change because of the artist's mood swings and clients don't care about your block, nor should they. I find that a ball hammer to the head usually does the trick.

Do you approach painting any differently now then when you began?

I am pretty much a dinosaur in my approach. I have always drawn my pieces first and then executed the painting except in the case of plein air painting where I skip the drawing stage and am consumed by manipulating the paint in the spirit of painting. The only thing that has changed in my narrative art is the final medium that I use. I no longer use acrylics. I prefer to instead paint in oils.

What is your preferred medium?

In the 80s, I worked in acrylics but these days I work mostly in oils. To be honest, I like to work in most any medium. I also paint in resin and encaustic, which I find to be weirdly fun.

Not everyone can paint like you the first time they pick up a brush. What should people focus on?

Since drawing is the foundation, I advise every one to carry a sketchbook. Sketch from observation, imagination, photographs, everything around you. Just draw. Then paint in values not color. When using oils, olive green and white are a good combination to create a value scale. When moving forward to color it's important to have an understanding of the color wheel, a basic knowledge of the Golden Section, then paint as though you were stuck in practice mode for a while. Don't try to paint masterpieces yet, just paint to refine your skills and make paintings to throw away or give away. These paintings will serve as your foundation for more sophisticated art. Always think of yourself as a lifetime student. I do.

Has your wife's sculpture and style influenced you, and what have you taken away from her work that has helped your own?

Jan is a tremendous talent, and lately she and I have been collaborating on artwork, which has pumped new energy in my solo work. The one really striking aspect about Jan's work is her ability to think outside of the box, which takes her art in many different directions. She is also a superb craftsman who has invented and established many of her own techniques and processes.

Who are some of your favorite artists, living or dead?

Brangwyn, Dean Cornwell, Thomas Clement Coll, Thomas Moran. John Singer Sargent, J.w. Waterhouse, Cowper Herbert Draper, J.C. Leyendecker, C.W. Mundy, Norman Rockwell, Mick McGinty, David Darrow, Dan Gerhartz, Michael Dudash, Philip Howe, Maxfield Parrish, George Bellows, John Henry Twatchman, Max Ernst, Mian Situ, Illia Repin, Valentin Serov, Nicolai Fechin, The list goes on and on...

What inspires you?

Inspiration is simple — I have always loved to draw and when I learned to paint that was every bit as addictive as drawing. I like the idea of being a lifetime student.

What is your favorite painting you have done?

That painting is probably somewhere in the future.