I was born on an island called Adak, in the Aleutian chain of Alaska. The only thing there at the time, apart from bald eagles, was a US Navy installation. In fact, it is such a small and barren island that there is a wonderful photograph of my parents standing in front of a dozen pine trees, next to which is a sign that reads, You are now entering and leaving the Adak National Forest. I myself have no memories of the place because, as a Navy family, we moved extensively and often. By the time I was nine years old, we had lived in at least that many different states and countries.
With moving so often, our little family of my parents, my younger sister and brother and our dog was, for the most part all I knew. It was the only constant in a world where everything else shifted around it. Whether I was inherently creative, or that kind of cloistered upbringing sparked it, or both, my earliest memories are of the vast land of imagination in which I lived constantly. Every pile of dirt was a castle, and every stick was a sword. Even after my father left the Navy and life became a bit more stable, that life in my imaginary world remained.
One of the duty stations where we lived during my father’s time in the Navy was Naples, Italy. Being in the heart of so much history and culture, my parents would take us to see everything as often as we could. As I was only seven or eight at the time, many of those memories are hazy. But I clearly remember being in Venice and watching in awe as a potter threw pot after pot on a wheel, and a glass artist who manipulated blobs of molten glass into a small seated cat. I still remember its warmth when he handed it to me to keep.
But the memory that is clearest in my mind is when we visited the Sistine Chapel. For a boy who already lived in a magical world of imagination, those works by Michelangelo were absolutely stunning. This was before their extensive restoration, when the soot from centuries of candle smoke still made them all the moodier and more mystical. While the restored frescoes are wonderous and magical in their own right, I cannot help feeling as if something priceless has been lost.
Being such a visionary person by nature, and one exposed at an early age to great works of art from the past, it was perhaps inevitable that I would feel some desire to create works of my own. Though it has taken years of diligent work to develop, I always seemed to have a modest amount of natural talent. Drawing, painting and sculpting just seemed to make sense to me, and I always felt as if it were right for me to act on those impulses.
Whatever the source of my inspirations might be, and whatever forms they might ultimately take, I was always enamoured of my visions. They would carry me away with a kind of ecstasy, leaving me obsessed with a desire to live in a world where the works I had envisioned actually existed. It seems the root of my inspiration is and always has been a desire to create objects that I myself would like to have around me, and environments in which I would like to live.
The beginning of my journey as a businessman in the arts came when I realised that if I am so drawn to being surrounded by such things that I would devote my life to making them, then there will be others who are equally drawn to having them. The task then became one of being true to my authentic attractions, and of searching for those who are like-minded – members of the same aesthetic tribe, if you will.
That is why I chose to call myself the Gentleman Artist. It is a declaration of intent, a flag on a hill for those who are attracted to the same things that I am. At first, the adoption of that title terrified me. It seemed totally at odds with the way I saw myself, making the crippling sense of self-consciousness I had at the time even worse. And for someone with my background, it seemed ridiculously presumptuous. Yet somehow, it seemed absolutely right. So, in spite of my trepidation, I embraced it as something to aspire to.