What is most important to me as an artist and as a writer is authenticity of voice. Voice is an intangible but discernible sensibility that threads through and ties together a body of work. It can be loud or quiet, but we always feel it.
The artist’s voice is in everything she does. When I first encountered Flannery O’Connor’s cartoons, what impressed me most was not so much the drawings, although they are extraordinary, but the fact that I could plainly see her writing style in her artwork. I could identify Flannery O’Connor’s voice, the wit and gothic tenor unmistakably hers.
If I had to classify my own voice, I’d call it comic realism. It is a heightened, stylized wryness that often plunges into darkness. It permeates everything I do. In my Gilligan’s Island paintings, I infused the cast of comic, laughable characters with a deep despondency. My portraits are realistic, but I used bold cartoonish colors. In my abstract work, frivolous nonsensical shapes become oddly human. Like my visual work, my fiction is bold and colorful with an undercurrent of darkness.
Authenticity of voice comes from a place of feeling, not from logic or language. Overthinking can destroy it. If Jackson Pollack thought too much about what he was doing, his paintings would lack their authenticity of feeling.
Human beings are surprisingly adept at recognizing authenticity. By all accounts, Bob Dylan’s voice is less than perfect. But the truthfulness in his music transcends its limitations to touch and retouch millions.
My artistic inspiration comes from many places. My fictional characters are often inspired by paintings—Alice Neel’s portraits are my favorites. And the boldness of Lorrie Moore’s characters have inspired my paintings. Both my painting and writing styles are influenced by the campy melodrama of Pop artists such as Roy Litchenstein and Andy Warhol. I also count among my influences the stylized animated drawings of my former clients, DC Comics and Nickelodeon.
Yet what drives my work most is my voice—a dark and light, frivolous and grave, sardonic and serious sensibility that feels imbedded in my DNA. In life, as in art, I cannot see reality without seeing the absurdity of it too.