This project started as a whisper of an idea influenced by my living and working in downtown OKC for over 5 years. During that time, I grew very close to the diversity of the population. I located there just after the 2008 economic crash and was witness to the opposite ends of the financial spectrum, OccupyWallstreetmovement in OKC, as well asthe welcoming of the Thunder Basketball team, and the resurgence of downtown and Midtown. After taking on the job as Chair of the Art Department at Oklahoma City University and getting married, I moved to Edmond, where my wife attained a position as AP Art Teacher at Edmond Memorial High School. During that time it became apparent that I had sorelymissed the energyanddiversity that downtown had to offer and wanted to return as an artist, educator and witness to the people who live, work and visit Oklahoma City by including them in my newest personal project. As an artist and Illustrator,I am a recorder and visual storyteller of the human experience.I am also an educator who has taught workshops around theUnited States and am currently teaching as Professor of Illustration at the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah, GA and just completed a one-year residency at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel in Oklahoma City while also serving as “Distinguished Visiting Artist and Gallery Director” at Oklahoma City University within thePetreeCollege of Arts and Sciences’ School of Visual Arts for the last 6 years. I had recently stepped down from the responsibilities of “Chair” so that I would have more time to dedicate to the “Will work For” project; because. As a portrait artist, I am a natural observer of people and all of the differences that make us unique. It was this diversity that I wished to portray in my newest personal project. We have all observed themany people who feel that theironlyway to make ends meet is by standing on street corners while holding signs that state that they “Will work for Food”, etc. I was inspired to ask myself,and then later others, what they would work for. What inspires them as individuals to sacrifice their lives, their labor, and their love enough that they will work for it? Sometimes, it is their children, sometimes an idea and sometimes a dream. I wanted to use the public window, and thecentral location of theSkirvinHotel as the base of operations for gathering myinspiration, my research and my audiencefrom the populace around me,while also creating and displaying the work for that very same audience. It was and still is my desire to help bring a visual display of answers to questions that we are all asking, “What gives life purpose?”.I want tocontributeas muchprominenceto each model and each voice as I do to the corporate captains of industry, politicians and noted celebrities whose portraits I am commissioned to paint around the U.S. My process was to set up a place where I could have my models sit, be photographed and sketched while I documented, through Social Media, News and Media Outlets, my models“Reasons to Work”. I set up astudio within the hotel on the street level with my paints, pallets, canvases and easel so that people walking by could observethe creation process. And when I wasn’t there, to see the paintings and sketches displayed as they are finished, as well as some of the selected cardboard signs created as documentation during the process. My working methods are traditional, drawing in charcoal and other mediums as well as painting, mostly in oils. I wanted to display and capture a wide range of people from local celebrities to the average blue-collar laborer who calls Oklahoma City home, or who happens to be visiting Oklahoma City during this process. Since my move to Savannah, I have continued the project with the diverse population of Savannah. At the conclusion of this project I will display the work in a Gallery Settingas anExhibition andplan toinvite as many of the models that helped to make this project possible. I wanted a reason and a chance to bring all of these divergent voices, faces, points of view together into one place so that everyone present will see themselves and their voices as equal and as worthy as another’s. The greatest enjoyment of being an artist is the extreme inner joy of bringing an idea to life that just 5 minutes before did not exist. It’s almost a God-like feeling and responsibility to be able to share these ideas and opportunities with my audience. My passion for creating and sharing these hard-won abilities with my many students is such a rewarding reason for living and continuing. This project has become such a part of my life now and it is my hope to continue on a national scale. I am extremely grateful that this project is getting a greater chance to be seen and shared with your audience. I would love to be able to continue sharing the progress of this project and am always looking for more inspiration and opportunities. So please feel free to pass along stories of people who you think might be interested in being a part of my project.
Dwayne Johnson, was a carpenter that worked with a crew helping with the remodeling of the home and studio I had recently purchased to facilitate my families move to Edmond, OK. I was taken with his friendliness, his work ethic and his look. We were talking one day during one of their breaks, when the conversation came up about all of the paintings in my home. I informed him that my wife and I were artists, and of our backgrounds, and her recent move to Oklahoma. That prompted him to share how he had made Oklahoma his home. He had been a former gang member in California and had been in a few life-threatening situations, and he had the scars to prove it. He thought it best to move to a safer environment, and moved to Oklahoma where he had family. He faired well in Oklahoma and has since raised his family and extended family where he has worked as a laborer and then acquired the skills of a carpenter. So when we talked of this project I was working on he showed and interest and I reciprocated my interest in capturing his manly good looks and his story in his sign. When asked what he would say, he knew immediately, "Will Work to Build a Better Future for My Family". I really enjoyed painting him with his tool belt, symbols of his trade, along with the blueprints, that served as symbols of the abstract idea and the requirements of making an idea come to life.
Rick Sinnett. is a local artist in Oklahoma with a very colorful story and history. He has travelled the world and worked as an artist most of his adult life, as well as associating with some very famous artists as well. He has worked in many different mediums but made printmaking his primary medium, until he came up with the idea of creating a pictorial legacy for himself and the public at large. He wanted to paint murals. And paint he has certainly done. at the time of this painting, he was working on a short-term mural at the one of Oklahoma City's arts districts, "The Plaza District" where a new mural is created and displayed on a rotating basis to showcase new talent, seasons, and the artistic expression and resurgent growth of a once down-trodden neighborhood. Rick had already completed more than 100 murals by this time and he had been just recently voted Oklahoma's "Artist of the Year". His mission is simply stated, yet no so simps executed. A Couple of his murals have required the mountaineering skills to climb some 100 feet in the air every morning to paint murals on the sides of some very large grain silos, all the while carrying his materials, and lunch along with his courage, to get the job done.
Mike Morgan, is a face that everyone in Oklahoma would recognize. He visits our home every evening as he delivers the weather forecast. Although most of time he reports on weather that can be described as mostly sunny, he is also there during those tumultuous times when Mother Nature demands our utmost attention. Oklahoma is known for its tornadoes and lucky for us, Mike Morgan is there to warn us. Mike has been associated with the National weather service since the age of 13 and his professionalism and passion have earned him many awards and worthy attention, just like the many colorful ties he wears on the air. I became acquainted with Mike through his daughter, who was a student of my wife Jime, while teaching High School Art at Edmond Memorial. I thought her perfect for a painting of a young cow girl that I wanted to paint. We met a number of times through art events at her High School. After garnering the courage to ask if Mike might be interested in being apart of my project his warmth and generosity were made apparent by his invitation to the KFOR studios in Oklahoma City to use his weather station as the background. Mike's dedication to keeping all of us safe was and is his motivating force and I, as an artist, and we as citizens, owe him a debt of gratitude for his passionate service.
Joe Schmoe was one of those people I had the fortune to meet during my tenure as the Artist in Residence at The Skirvin Hilton Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City. I was visiting with another artist friend, Dean Wichita when two young people were passing by with their dog and saw my work through the big picture windows and knocked on the window and gave me the thumbs up. I waved the wayward travellers in and bought them some coffee and asked them about their travels. They had been hitchhiking and train hopping around the United States and looked like they could use some refreshments. Dean and I were enjoying their descriptions of life on the rail when I asked if they might be interested in being a part of my project. They were more than ready, because when I asked the young man, whom I only know by his nickname "Joe Schmoe" to make his sign on a piece of cardboard I had in my studio, he immediately reached inside his guitar bag and pulled out the sign you see represented in the painting. Being a father, I couldn't help but but be a little worried about the troubles that he and his young female friend might find on their travels. I wish them the best and hope that they find that destination that they are seeking.
Mark and Carol Goodwin,
Dr. Bob Blackburn has been one of my greatest resources for the long term and grand representation of Oklahoma history through the more than 40 historical paintings and portraits that now adorn the Oklahoma State Capitol building, not to mention the many other private historical projects I have had the privilege of working on around the state. In that time he has also become a friend. Bob was one of the people I actually reached out to be a part of this project. His dedication to the state of Oklahoma and the accuracy of its history have made a huge impression on me and many others around the state. He is know as Mr. Oklahoma History and he has helped save and highlight that history so that it might not only be remembered but highlighted and celebrated. He now serves as executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society a position that he has held since 1999, and which oversees all of Oklahomas museums. He was instrumental in planning and building the Oklahoma History Center, a 215,000 square foot museum and research center, which I thought to be the perfect background for his portrait. He had and continues to serve on numerous national and regional boards and committees. I am lucky to be able to call him friend and Oklahoma owes him a historic debt of gratitude for his passion to our shared history.