Why clowns are better.
I started out painting a lot of clowns, probably because I didn't have a lot of confidence painting hair and faces. And it really matters to me, whether I'm drawing or painting, that I really be honest. I'm kind of insular, I have a real thin skin, so it's important when I touch something or interact with something that I feel like everything's on the up and up. You can take a few more liberties with clowns than with people.
On pulp addiction.
I am a magazine-oholic. I subscribe to way too many, and a lot of times I'll do that "send me your first issue for free" thing just to get another magazine, and then when I get it, I cut it all up. It's hunting and gathering. There's a little collage piece in my studio that has a magazine photo stuck to a piece of glass, a beautiful photo from the first time the World Trade Center was bombed, of a woman being carried out on a stretcher. I had it for years, and then a couple months ago I saw it in my dog's mouth. I pulled it out of the dog's mouth, and that little bit that's in the collage is all that was left.
What's in a name?
I usually title a painting after it's done. I read a lot of [Pablo] Neruda, I get a lot of titles from him; I get titles from e.e. cummings' poetry, and my kids name them sometimes. This painting I'm doing now has a funny story. I did it as a trade with the guy who made the concrete wall in front of my house. He wanted a painting of everyone screwing everyone, because he said that's what's happening in the world today. I'm like, "Can I do it like how I want to do it?" and he's like, "Yeah! Knock yourself out!" So I'll probably call this one Joe's Everybody's Screwing Everybody Painting. It's very rare that I get a commission that's this specific. He wanted a GTO car; he wanted Stevie Ray Vaughan's guitar in there. I didn't even know what these things looked like. So I'm thinking, "What on Earth is this going to be?"
On the girl with the red skullcap.
She shows up a lot in my paintings, but I don't know why I started painting her. Maybe because hair is hard to paint. Or maybe I started painting her at a time in my life when there was so much going on in the world, I felt like my people needed a helmet to protect them. In one painting, she's putting a helmet on another person. And the red helmet allows me to get some color in, when I need something to bring a focal point.
How painting can make you more visible.
There are times in my life when I've felt invisible, and so as I started painting and coming out of that time, I felt more visible. It was like the paintings were saying, "I was here," like graffiti or any other territory marking. When I paint, I feel like regardless of what I do or what someone else thinks of me, there's a thing, a mark, that can have its own relationship with people. Even if they never meet me, there I am. It's a very egocentric thing: "I am here!"