The following is an interview I did for a French Art magazine. I hope some of you might find this interesting.
1 Adolescence and Childhood are a basic period of the life during which everybody built its own foundation. What kind of teenager were you ?
RS: I was a sullen and angry teenager. I was overcome with hormonal activity which made me insane. Unfortunately I acted out quite a bit, making it very miserable for my parents. I thought school had nothing to offer me. So I stopped attending school and dropped out at the age of 16. I began to take drugs including marijuana, alcohol, meth-amphetamines, (speed) and eventually heroin. This was a terrible time. I was very depressed. I was a depressed child, and a very depressed teen. I contemplated suicide, but never had the courage to carry it out. I slept in my bedroom closet because it felt safe. I used to cut my skin, but never very deep.
My parents had no idea what to do with a teenage drug using high school dropout. However, throughout all this I did continue to draw and love my artwork. This was something that was not encouraged. However, I continued with my drawings, and even a few paintings here and there. I have none of it today. I dreamed of being an artist, but it seems only a dream, an unattainable fantasy.
Eventually I made the decision to leave home. I was brought up in San Francisco, California. I fled to Reno Nevada. There I worked as a busboy and waiter at one of the gambling casinos. (Harra's club.) I lived alone in a small apartment. I had no friends. I was alone for two years. I was able to get away from the drugs. Eventually I became healthy again. I was young and I was able to spring back from the effects of the drugs. When I returned to home to San Francisco, I was no longer an "adolescent".
2 You had an amazing prime life time
Please, tell us more about it
RS: A unique life you mean? Yes. As is everyone's. I probably do not understand this question, but I will endeavor to answer it anyway.
I strive to understand what I'm doing here, (a thinking, living thing on a planet in the universe). I wonder not only how life was formed, but why. Many people will think this a waste of time. I think it's a terrible waste of time NOT to consider these questions.
So far, the only purpose I can imagine for life is to search and increase knowledge and spread intelligence throughout the universe. Perhaps our purpose as an intelligent species is to "wake up" the universe. To make it intelligent. However, before I can help with that, I've got to make myself intelligent by making full use of my brain. The only way I can see to do that is by merging with technology. Anyone who has read the books of Ray Kurzweil, ([link]
) knows that my outlook is influenced by him. In his predictions, (and those of like minded individuals), I believe I see a way for our race to survive and flourish. Until i was introduced to these ideas, I saw the human race as doomed, without hope of survival beyond our current problems of overpopulation and global pollution.
I have thought for many years that the biggest problem humans have is overpopulation. All the other difficulties are born from that. We did not threaten the planet when we were a few hundred million people. Now that we have hit seven billion, we are a threat to everything, including ourselves!
It's amazing to me how few people care. Apathy is our potential downfall.
It's my hope that we can turn this around through technology, because I don't think we can turn our problems around using current methods. Hell, I can't seem to separate my garbage properly. I think it's too late for that to matter. Our savior may be science.
Some of you are thinking, "What about God?"
I say; If there was a GOD to come and save us, I think he would have done so by now
Or "smote" us , or something! The concept of GOD is mostly (or possibly completely) obsolete. Perhaps in another time, long ago, religion served an important purpose in our developing civilizations. Now, I believe, it is an enemy of our survival.
The people who hide behind religion scare me. They say "GOD will save us!" and when he doesn't, it's because he "Works in mysterious ways!" It's time that we recognize how dangerous this thinking is. This is the kind of thinking that will prevent us from saving ourselves from the catastrophes we have created. We can turn these things around, but not if religious zealots succeed in halting progress because it's against their "beliefs". Next time someone tries to sell you on why it's "okay" to be religious, because it's "not hurting anybody" remember that it's these religious people that try and stop scientific research.
I am also influenced by the British biologist of Richard Dawkins, ([link]
) and especially his book, "THE GOD DELUSION"(link: [link]
) He is much more eloquent than I in explaining the pitfalls of religion in our times. Of course, most religious people would burn this book before they read the first page. That's part of the problem with "blind faith".
I have learned that honesty is a survival tool. one must be a "courageous self examiner." It's very difficult to know what honesty is. We are 99% chemical reaction, and 1% semi-intelligent free-thinking entity, (or so I hope!) I have learned in 60 years that one must review your life constantly. Look in life's mirror and think honestly about who and what you are. How do you effect others and the world around you? Use your mind! It's not easy!
Do not rely on others. You are in control of your destiny, if you will be! Do not "believe the hype" that those who are in control feed you through the computer, TV, radio and telephone! Be different! Be yourself! (yes, i'm also influenced by Steve Jobs) It's okay to be influenced. It's impossible not to be. Influenced is NOT controlled. You can control your influences.
My life has been no more or less eventful than anyone's. We all go through hardships, some more than others. I have seen many things only because I have lived long enough. There's nothing special about it, nothing unique. If you live long enough you will see many things good and bad. You will become many things. You will change your my mind many times. Don't be afraid to change your mind.
3 / We understood the fact that art "save your life". Please, tell us more about it
RS: When I say that art saved my life, I mean that because I have art I am able to justify my existence. Making art helped me to overcome my difficulties with addictions and depression. When I decided to become a full-time painter and stop wasting my time with other occupations, my life became much brighter. I had a focus, a reason to live, a purpose. Before this I felt I had no purpose, no reason to exist. Before becoming a full time artist, I was very unhappy.
I have been a depressed person all my life, since I was a child. As I grew older this depression became more difficult to deal with. I tried to treat it, (self-medicate) with alcohol and drugs. Finally however, when I took up art on a daily full-time basis, I no longer wanted to take drugs or alcohol because they got in the way of my creativity. I began to think in terms of having a purpose in my life as my paintings became better. I was able to express myself through them more eloquently. This was a huge discovery in my life, and changed everything for me. It took many years to get to this point. I did not start painting full-time until I was 53 years old. Better late than never.
I wasted many decades of my life chasing money and living a life without a purpose. I never wanted to get out of bed in the morning. Now I have my reason. This is why I say "Art saved my life."
4 / You took lots of chemical products (drugs could we say
). How does this past still influence your art ?
RS: Yes, you can say "DRUGS". I began taking drugs when I was a baby. Most of us do! My parents were drug takers. Drugs to cure and treat everything! Not a bad idea! I began taking illegal drugs when I was 13 years old. I was born into this "DRUG CULTURE." We all still live in this culture.
Drugs are reflected in anything I create whether it be painting, writing, the way I live my life and my personality. I am a total product of drug influence. It's obvious that since birth, I have taken drugs prescribed by doctors. I have spent many years searching for illicit drugs, waiting for drug dealers, studying and obsessing about drugs. If I had applied all this energy to something like Painting, I would be a master painter. Instead, I am a master drug addict. I have always gone to great lengths to indulge my addictions to drugs.
Drugs have often been a negative part of my life. However, I also recognize that drugs are necessary and even vital. Can you imagine a world without drugs? Even now, though I am not addicted to illegal drugs like heroin, I am addicted to new drugs. Drugs that are prescribed to me by doctors for different reasons. (I would rather not mention them) Aside from prescription drugs, I am constantly taking over the counter drugs, pain medications and so forth. Not a day goes by when I do not take many drugs. Unfortunately, none of them get me high anymore. If I tried to stop taking the drugs that I'm taking now, it's possible that I would die. I would certainly go into very unpleasant drug withdrawals! So, I am still very much a drug addict! I take drugs for anxiety, I take drugs for depression, I take drugs for my blood and to keep me alive! I even take drugs so that I don't take other drugs!
If you wish to know if I am influenced by drugs like L.S.D., well,
sure. When i was very young I took many LSD trips. However, that was many years ago. I feel that this influence is minimal. At the time I believed I was experiencing a great spiritual and emotional awakening. However, now I think that was due to the euphoric effect of the drugs and the time in my life that I took them. I think these psychedelic drugs had little effect on me. Whatever they tapped into, was already there. And now, it seems irrelevant.
all this drug taking has an influence on my art.
5 / - In all your work, we feel a constant interest, a fascination for the "ugliness", physical and social. Is it a truth ? Your opinion about that
RS: You say ugliness? I'm not sure what ugliness is. Obviously, some things are ugly in our minds, without doubt. However this is subjective. I find some ugliness fascinating and sometimes I find ugliness, well, simply ugly. However I think I see the world differently than many people. I see things differently because I live differently. Many things that are considered ugly by the main population, I see as not ugly but fascinating and complex. We all see things differently and what we consider ugly or beautiful is really due to the customs of our society, there really is no ugliness or beauty.
I only know what I like and what I don't like. The truth is I do not purposely paint anything ugly because it would not give me pleasure to do so. I paint things that fascinate me and I paint because I enjoy seeing the things I paint come to life. These are compelling visions for me. Ugliness is just a word. It exists only in our opinions. The problem is we consider our opinions to be truths, and we refuse to analyze that, or look deeper. (Like a religion!)
I think it is important for people to try to see things in a different way. Try to see the beauty in what we perceive as ugliness. It is important for people to examine these things in themselves. Self-examination is the only way that we can learn. To try to know ourselves, to try to see beyond what society teaches us is vital to individualism.
6 - We feel a powerful energy in your work. What is driving you ? Where does that internal restlessness coming from ?
RS: It's true, I am a driven person. I am driven to do my work, and to do as much of my work as I can because I fear the end. I am afraid that anything could happen to stop me from accomplishing my purpose. At any moment I could lose my abilities through accident or physical ailment. I could die. It's very simple, it happens every day. Many of my friends have died and it's not uncommon at my age.
It's not death that scares me because I don't expect much from death. What I fear is the inability to keep painting. I fear this more because I wasted so many years not doing it! I'm trying to make up for lost time. There is no guarantee of a tomorrow.
It is difficult for a person to conceive of their own demise, their own nonexistence. Yet I think of it, I ponder it often. As I have told you I started very late in life to begin these paintings. I am looking at the end of my life, not the beginning.
I have one hope. That hope is technology. Through science, I might survive, and live a longer productive life. However, there is no guarantee of that. Thus I am driven every day to do as much work as I can and to eliminate as much superficiality in my life that I can.
7 - What's your favorite tool to supply ?
RS: I use acrylics. I prefer board to canvas. My paint brands are 'GOLDENS', 'OLD HOLLAND' and 'HOLBEIN'. Each has is strength and weakness. Overall, I'd have to say 'GOLDENS' acrylic is the best. The others have some unique colors , (this is a luxury, and also an over-complication) however, I am obsessed with color. It's an addiction. So, I have many, many colors from many brands. Primarily, I use inexpensive 'GOLDEN TAKLON' synthetic brushes. Most of my work is done with these small brushes which do not last long. Each one costs a few dollars, and lasts only a few weeks. I also have a collection of very fine brushes. Also a luxury. I use fine water color brushes for highly detailed work, and large natural hair brushes for painting backgrounds. My favorite brands for natural high quality brushes is 'ISABEY' and "DA VINCI'. The cheap brushes that I use are made by 'LOEW-CORNELL', Series 7350 and 7000. I purchase the latter in bulk when I find sales online. Best deals for supplies are at 'BLICK ART SUPPLIES' or 'A.S.W'. buying on the internet is much cheaper than buying in stores in the real world.
8 - In your art, we feel that the past and the future are always in a clash. Right or wrong ? If yes, why ?
RS: It's not so much that the past and the future clash. It's that the future, in my opinion, will be very different than the past ever was. I believe that the exponential evolution of science and technology, mainly robotics, genetics and nano technology, is going to change us forever. I believe that we are at the brink of the next step in human evolution. I believe that we will naturally merge with our inventions and become an entirely new species. I am hopeful for this. Especially because it means radical life extension.
I believe in the predictions of Ray Kurzweil. ([link]
) He has written several books which I find irresistibly fascinating. The most important one in my estimation is his newest book, "THE SINGULARITY IS NEAR", ([link]
) In this book it is logically illuminated how we will begin to merge with our technology. This is very exciting for me on many levels. I think every person reading this will take the time to look into this. It may be one of the most important books of our time.
Many of the problems we face as human beings, and as a planet can be solved through our technologies, if we don't destroy ourselves first. This is one of the many conflicts I see between the present and the future. The future can be a bright shining star, or a black death. We live in a time of crossroads. These are the times that will determine whether or not we will survive and evolve, or perish. Faster and faster our technology evolves (exponential growth) and soon individuals will wield great powers. Will some unhappy individual decide the fate of the human race? It is possible! Or will we evolve from the hairy caterpillars that we are into wonderful mechanized butterflies? The next decades will tell the story.
I can conceive of a wonderful future where we evolve into an super-intelligent race of god like beings who live forever, spreading our intelligence throughout the universe. Or, I see one fool destroying everything for some dogmatic ideology.
I look forward to the future. I hope I will live to see it.
9 - Same thing about humans and animals
Are they fighting or stuck in the same strange area ? How do you explore this theme ?
RS: I think you are referring to my depiction of animals and insects and other lifeforms in my work? My relationship to them is one of the adoration. I look at nature and see something awesome and beautiful. It's a huge gift to me to live in this paradise, Earth. I savor every moment that I can enjoy it. I am absolutely fascinated by the immense infinite intricacy of nature. I love the tiny insects that are so complex. So small and still they live with a consciousness and the ability to roam freely as we do. Incredible when you contemplate it!
We humans have evolved to become the dominant species on the planet. With this comes the responsibility of stewardship for the more fragile species, (from ants to Whales) We must be responsible, but are we? No, of course not. We are garbage making monkeys (no insult intended to monkeys) destroying the planet and her species at a rate almost unprecedented in the history of the planet. Right now the extinction rate of species is higher than any time since the extinction of the dinosaurs. We are doing that! Never before has one species caused such damage to others.
Maybe the destruction we are creating is a necessary step in our evolution. However, it's difficult for me to conceive of this sort of damage being a "good" thing. More likely, our flagrant disregard for the effects of our acts will come back to bite us when we are at our most vulnerable. We have chosen to destroy so many things around us via the avenue of simple greed. Greed is in our nature. Ingrained like an instinct. We can't seem to help ourselves. Does a species as greedy and ruthlessly destructive as us deserve to become beautiful robotic butterflies with the universe at our command? I guess time will tell. After all, "evil" has never been an impediment to success in our history, Why should it impede our future? Maybe some day we will be wealthy enough to give a shit about trifles like the planet and it's living species.
Personally, I have a problem. That is "some" awareness of my actions. I am somewhat tortured by this awareness. I do not kill insects in my home. Not spiders or other things that I find creepy or disturbing. I will capture them and release them because I am convinced that their lives have as much value as mine. Why is your human life worth more than the life of a tiny insect? I used to be a fisherman but I don't fish anymore because I will not hurt the fish OR the bait!
I revere life forms. They (we) might be the rarest things in the universe! As an artist, I love to paint the animals and insects. My canvasses are full of life.
10 - As an artist and a human being, which is your biggest fear and biggest hope ? And your idea of happiness and misery ?
RS:My biggest fear is death. This is the one thing that will eliminate my ability to be anything. Annihilation of my mind and elimination of my spirit, (the "thing" that is speaking to you now) Non-existence is what I fear. I am in a race with time. I have so much more to accomplish! I have so much more to learn! I have so much more to do! Yet my life is laughably finite. The lifetime our bodies allow us to live is absurdly short! What is 60 years? 70 years? Even 80 years? I am 60, and I am like a child just learning to see and talk!
Misery is to watch yourself fall to pieces physically, while you're mind is young and viable and full of wonderful ideas!
I hope for the technologies which may allow us to live longer and to keep our minds sharp. People fear that the world will become even more overpopulated because people will not naturally die. However, the same technologies which will extend our life spans will also answer the questions of population. This planet, and the planets in our solar system can easily and comfortably sustain many times the current population of Earth. With the scientific breakthroughs that are coming we can colonize other worlds in our own system and make enough sustenance on Earth to feed billions of people. We can eliminate the concept of a "third world". Yes, this is utopian thinking. I may be terribly wrong. I hope I am not. Because even with our natural population we are already doomed to a miserable depletion of resources.
I believe that I contribute positively to humanity through the creation of my art. For the first time I feel as though I am a justified life form. I wish to live as long as I can. Of course this is also the simple instinct of selfish survival. I know that. Be it right, wrong, sense or nonsense, this is what I fear, and what I dream of.
11 - Can you communicate better through song than you can in real life ? And why ?
RS: If you are asking me whether I can communicate better through alternative versions of communication such as song and arts, music, etc. then of course my answer is yes. I think that there is a level of communication that one can employ through song and music and art that cannot be expressed through standard vocalization of invented language. language is very limited. Often I find myself unable to express myself with English. There are many barriers in english. (I only speak English, so I can only comment upon that language, though I suspect it's the same with most human languages.) One can express one's emotions better and be understood in a more "pure" way through art and music. This is why all people should find some sort of alternative expression that they can enjoy. It adds a balance which will enhance your understanding of all modes of expression. The positive effect of artistic expression is the same whether you are good or bad at what you do artistically, so this is a great reason to find an alternative way to externalize yourself.
12 - Are you intersting by music and graphic novels ?
RS: Yes, of course! I would prefer not comment on what music I enjoy. However, I would like to say that my favorite comic book writer and artist is Jim Woodring
13 - What's your idea of an ideal of fine art ?
RS: My idea of fine art is art that requires a commitment of time, skill and craft. I don't think it's enough to point at an object like a filthy toilet and say "This toilet is dirty and represents the ugliness of mankind!" To me that kind of art is a farce. A few brush strokes on a canvas is not art. Anyone can say it is. And plenty of people will agree. And plenty of people will gladly sell you the Golden gate bridge too. If you gullible, you will believe it.
"FINE" art implies that it is "fine". The definition implies talent and craft, hard work and an emotional connection to the work. That's what makes it "FINE."
I think that a person must be committed to learning their art. It does not necessarily need to be school, (I am untrained) but it needs to be diligence. It's like learning a musical instrument. You can't play it very well the first time. You must dedicate many hours of work into learning it. It is the same thing with painting. I have put 10,000 hours into my painting and finally I am beginning to feel that I am getting good. I am not as good as I could be with 20,000 hours! I continue to get better as I work every day. Being technically "adept" is important to me. My definition of fine art is not important. It's an opinion. What is important is that I believe my art must be finely crafted.
In fact I intend to put out a book of my first 10,000 hours of work. This book project is in the works now and I hope to have it completed by early 2012. I intend to use "KICKSTARTER" ([link]
) to help me finance the publishing. It will be a book of fine pictures of my paintings and a story about how I was able to accomplish my first 10,000 hours. How I came to give up everything else to become an artist.
I believe it is imperative to practice one's art form excessively if one intends to be exceptional. I put as many hours in as I can every day. I think, breathe, eat, sleep and bleed paint! I go to bed thinking about it, I wake up thinking about it. I study other artists. I study painting techniques. I do everything I can to make my life "about" my art form of painting. I am highly motivated to do this! My idea of a "vacation" is to do more art! I have no formal training as an artist. This does not matter. I am training myself every day.
14 - Do you have any concluding thoughts that you would like to express ?
RS: I never expected that people would be interested in what I do. I feel that it is a great honor and validation of my work. I hope that people who see this article and see my images will enjoy them. Also, I hope that in some way the pictures I paint will have a lasting impression. It is instinctive for us to recreate ourselves, to leave something of ourselves behind when we die. Most people make children, I make paintings. (no, I have no children) My art is my legacy.
I wasted many years not following my dreams. I hope some of your readers will take note of this. I hope that my example will help others to follow their dreams rather than settling for something less. I don't know what kind of world we would have if everyone was able to live to their fullest potential. Who would dig the holes? Perhaps in some future world, when mankind has evolved into the next stage, a world of free thinkers might be possible. For now, it's up to each individual to take control of their destiny in spite of all the odds against it.
Thank you to all of you who write to me and mark my work as favs, and who watch me.
I most humbly apologize if I can not find the time to respond to you. It's not because I do not want to. I dearly appreciate ALL your comments, notes, letters and ALL of it!
I seldom experience so many intelligent persons in one place, and you deserve answers to your notes and letters. I can't answer you because I receive too many.
If you get the chance, please take a look at my website: [link]
where you can see more of my art, writings and sign up for my personal mailing list. BRAVO to you for being on this Brilliant website, DA!