“I’m the 3rd of 7 kids in a large Irish Catholic family on the South Side of Chicago. I didn’t know any artists growing up. I doodled just like everyone else. My adolescence were thirsty years. In our neighborhood kids gathered in groups and drank beer. For me that turned out to be a bad idea and I very quickly started getting locked up. If you’ve ever spent any time locked in a cage you know how boring it is. I asked for pen and paper and that’s how I started drawing. Homeless by 1979 I quit drinking but kept drawing.
I am a self-taught artist. I liked to draw giant intricate mazes with hidden images. It was an escape, relaxation whenever I could steal time. For years I was busy with responsibility. When I got sick I was forced to simplify my life dramatically. Suddenly I had an abundance of time and I found myself drawing while trying to decide what to do next.
In 2009 I started experimenting with colorful patterns. At my daughter’s suggestion, I bought a portfolio and stopped giving everything away. When she asked me if I ever thought of just using dots I hadn’t. I didn’t know anything about outsider art or insider art. Then I was in Home Depot, and I noticed you could buy an incandescent black light bulb for $5. When I brought it home, I noticed that half of my pens
glowed. I got excited about the possibilities and started to create these mandalas like abstract glowing images. For me it’s meditative. I decide what to do in advance. I always have several things in progress because I must stop and let the ink dry. Smudges take a long time to fix. I start with an idea; I assemble all of my materials and put the headphones on and just do it. I don’t think about it. I arrange everything in advance so it’s primarily repetitive motion. I associate drawing with an improvement in my health but I can’t explain it.”
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