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On 10 huge personal influences on my art

Because it's always time to show a picture of Patty


Mrs. Brown: my Miss Jean Brody-ish high school art teacher, who told me it was time to stop drawing comic books and to start ‘expressing yourself through REAL drawing.’ She was right.

Barry Lewis: my high school friend, whom I met when we were 11 years old. We both applied for and got into Cambridge University at the same time, so our conversations and arguments about everything and anything started in pre-adolescence, continued through our teenage years, and went on through innumerable alcohol-fuelled all-night discussions at university.

Katayoun Dowlatshahi: one of my peers when I studied for my art MA in Barcelona. She was the real thing (and her post-MA career has borne this out): an extremely talented person who provided an example of how to become completely immersed in materials and ideas.

Richard Wentworth: celebrated conceptual artist who was one of the visiting tutors on my MA. He turned out to be extremely open-minded about art (I was a painter at the time) and very generous in his opinions.

Christian Boltanski: I only had one brief conversation with him, and it was only years later that I started to like his work. But I now count him as one of the keystones of my own current work.

Thomas Gosebruch: a German artist living in London with whom I studied printmaking. He had an old school teaching method, which meant 90% belittling criticism to 10% praise, but I learned so much about printmaking from him that I can’t even begin to summarise it all.

Stephen Westfall: New York-based abstract painter who I met at the Vermont Studio Center in 2000. We hit it off straight away, and ended up swapping guitar arrangements of Beatles songs while sitting on the steps of an old wooden church in Johnson, Vermont.

Carrie Iverson: a printmaker who I met while working at the Chicago Printmakers’ Collaborative, and with whom I had a two-person show in 2003. We sort of fell out after that, but I still acknowledge the benefit of working closely with someone of her talent and dedication.

Deborah Doering: artist and owner of the Finestra Art Space in Chicago’s Fine Arts Building. I’ve had two shows in her space, but it’s been equally beneficial to me in the last few years to discuss the state of art and the art world with someone of her rigorous conceptual frame of mind (something which I lack these days).

Patricia Ann McNair: finally, and most of all, this writer of short stories, and creative non-fiction, who happens also to be my wife of the past eight years. Being with Patty, and having her as my sounding board and first pair of eyes, has dramatically transformed the way I make art. She’s changed so many things for me: because of her, I’ve read more contemporary American literature than ever before; I’ve personally met many writers of all stripes (Hubert Selby, Richard Ford, Irvine Welsh, for example); I’ve seen what it is to teach students in a way that draws them out rather than tears them down or lectures at them; and in 2006, it was Patty who urged me to turn more towards the personal narrative as a subject of art, material that I am still working with today. If I think back ten years, to the time just before I met her, I’m amazed at how different I was, and how different the art I make would have been if hadn’t met her.

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