lgbt art watch - Paul Richmond

Page 1


by Kurt Schmierer


Special thanks to Nathan Cole for editing this publication.


ART is something that is created with imagination, skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings created by artists such as paintings, sculptures, etc. Mirriam-Webster Dictionary

“Twilight is a portrait of my beloved teacher and friend, Linda Regula, from my War Paint series. Linda was a warrior who overcame tremendous obstacles in her early years to become a shining light for so many of us. Her favorite color was purple, and it was rare to see her without a smear of it somewhere on her face or hands. Her family has this painting now, and my hope is that it will be passed on through the generations so that everyone will know that a heroic person came before them.� - Paul Richmond


Twilight Teacher, Mentor & Friend - Linda Regula

Paul Richmond is an internatio and museums throughout the U collected by individuals around adult imprint, Harmony Ink Pre Will Rise Project, an organizati art. He lives with his husband D California, and is represented b


onally recognized visual artist and activist whose career has included exhibitions in galleries United States as well as publication in numerous art journals and anthologies. His work is d the globe. In his role as the Associate Art Director for Dreamspinner Press and their young ess, he has created over four hundred novel cover illustrations. He is a co-founder of the You ion that empowers those who have experienced bullying to speak out creatively through Dennis in Monterey, California. He works and teaches at Open Ground Studios in Seaside, by Not Sheep Gallery in Columbus, Ohio.


TheArtist & C How has COVID-19 and “Stay Home Stay Safe” affected you and your art? As an artist, I’m used to spending long hours alone in my studio painting, so it wasn’t a huge adjustment for me. My sister’s girlfriend is a nurse on the Covid-19 floor of a hospital. She shared with me how isolated and lonely the patients were, and I wanted to do something. With the help of Aaron Anderson and Angela Wilson from the You Will Rise Project, we started #GetWellWorld, a project designed to collect and share Get Well art from people all over the world. We received hundreds of submissions and sent books and prints to hospital patients, as well as displaying all the work on our website (youwillriseproject. com/GetWellWorld). It helped give me a purpose during a very unsettling time and was incredibly uplifting to see so many positive messages of hope, especially from young people. Another project I took on during quarantine was a


commissioned painting for singer Troye Sivan. He wanted a painting to help promote his new single “Take Yourself Home.” So I painted him with an image that represented “home” superimposed on his chest, because I believe home is not just a place, it’s something you carry with you wherever you go. What changes have you made in quarantine that you may keep permanently in how you show and sell art? As a queer person, the internet has always played a big role in the way I market my work because for many years, especially early on, mainstream art galleries thought it was too controversial and unsellable. The internet allowed me to connect directly with collectors without any geographic limitations. There are more varieties of online opportunities opening up in the art world as a result of the pandemic—group exhibitions, studio tours, and interviews all being held virtually—and

I have enjoyed taking part in those. I have also greatly enjoyed the opportunity to start teaching art lessons for adults and kids online during this time. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while and this gave me a chance to finally give it a try. I’m teaching a weekly drawing and painting class for adults, and I’ve also taught several figure drawing workshops. I even pose as a model myself for some of them! That’s a fun new experience. I’ve found that one of my favorite new projects is making art lesson videos for kids. The Arts Council for Monterey County hired me to create weekly ten minute art videos, and they are so much fun to make. I call them Art With Mister Paul and I go allout making them colorful and entertaining. I even installed a green screen in my studio! You can see my videos along with those of other local artists at Every Friday, I do a livestream art lesson as well for a community arts organization called Palenke Arts through Facebook Live. At first, it felt awkward sitting and

COVID -19 talking to my camera, but as soon as the video was finished, kids from all over started posting pictures of the artwork they made along with me on social media. And then it clicked - I’m not talking to a camera. I’m talking to all of these beautiful young people and helping them learn to be creative and love art. From then on, filming Mister Paul videos has felt like the most natural thing in the world. I grew up watching Bob Ross and Mister Rogers, and I think I channel a little bit of both of them. My new dream is to find a way to create a series for tv or for online that can reach even more kids all over. So many young people no longer have art class in school, and I want to help teach them that everyone is an artist.


Photo by Nic Coury

Karen Richmond


Paul as seen through the eyes of friends and family.


Briden Schueren

Christian Cimoroni

Artist & Friend

Artist & Friend


Linda Regula

Dennis Niekro

Laura Richmond




Jason Elizondo

Melissa Forman

Aaron Anderson

rtist & Friend

Artist & Friend

Artist & Friend


Karen Richmond

Mother Paul painted this portrait of me after I lost my husband, which was a very tough time. He went suddenly. Paul had just moved to California in August and I was very depressed about that. My husband died of unusual circumstances in March the following year. That was a lot to deal with in a short period of time. Shortly after he passed, I went to visit Paul and Dennis with my best friend Suzanne. We had such a relaxing time. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed my son and his husband more. Then Paul had me pose for that picture. I realized during that visit how happy my son was and the opportunities he experienced far exceeded anything here in Ohio. I realized he was going to be okay, and I would be too, because we all had each other. Now I have a great spot to go on vacation and truly relax and enjoy myself. The necklace I am wearing in Paul’s painting has my husband’s ashes in it. He always hated to fly and would not go on an airplane. Every time I go to California I make sure he flies with me.


The Story

The Kid’s Mother First, I am a 71 year old woman and have had a very fulfilling life. I was president of a mortgage company for 45 years. The owner of the company supported my decisions and elected me president at a time when women simply were not involved in management of a financing company. Our company had many successes over the years and some failures. We always worked our way out of any obstacles and were very close personally as well. The company eventually closed, not due to Coronavirus, but because I had a health issue that required major surgery and 6 to 8 months recovery. At this time the interest rate market was increasing and our business was down for quite awhile. Anyway, that is another story. I just wanted to give you a little background. Over all these years that I worked, my husband Paul was a Railroad Engineer. When our son was born, he was the highlight of our life. We were older (in our thirties) and we were super over-protective. We never used babysitters, and I took a year off work to take care of our baby. The owner of the mortgage company called me continually throughout that year and wanted me to come back to work. Things were falling apart in the mortgage business and rates were in the teens. Business was bad, and in his mind, it was because I wasn’t there. My husband and I still did not want babysitters, and so we negotiated with the owner that I would come back and work all day until 3:00. Then I had I to leave so Paul could work at the railroad at 4:00, and he worked the night shift until midnight. This went on for a couple of years. Then the railroad merged with another railroad and didn’t need as many local engineers, so Paul was going to have to go on the road and would be gone for several days in a row, or he could take a buyout of his job. He would get a monthly check from the railroad and would still get his retirement. Hence, Mr. Mom took over, long before Michael Keaton became Mr. Mom in the movie version. Let’s move on to the main subject, Paul the artist. Sorry, just realized you said tell us a little about yourself. Just imagine what you are in for when I start talking about my super-talented son.


so we decided to find an art teacher that could help him. This led us to Linda Regula. She had to be convinced to work with someone so young but eventually she just fell in love with him. She has been his mentor since he was four and still is at forty. She is amazing. She called Paul her Golden Child. You might say Paul was raised by three Moms: Mr. Mom, me, and Linda. She gets all the credit for developing his creative

You asked me to share funny stories about Paul. I think the most amazing thing about Paul was that as an infant and until he was about 4 years old, he was very shy around other kids, if you can imagine a shy Paul. We would have to force him to go outside and play with neighbor kids. To him this was like a punishment. He got along better with adults and his personality blossomed when adults came around.


Around children, he just wasn’t interested. As I look back on that time, I realize this was before we discovered Paul’s artistic talent. He was always coloring in coloring books until he had no more to color, then he started drawing his own pictures from the coloring books so he could color them too. Coloring book pictures were simple and easy for him to draw. He was drawing hundreds of pictures a day at 4 years old,

talents. Since he began art lessons, he blossomed. He was not shy anymore. He loved to share and talk about his art to everyone. Suddenly, a miracle happened and he was a happy little boy. He once won a contest and wrote the Mayor of our town and said he thought they should make a Disney World here in Columbus, using an old closed penitentiary building. The walls were like a castle around it already. The Mayor invited him to his office to discuss his plans for the Disney World.

Paul and Linda immediately went to work and made a Disney World painting to give to the Mayor. Paul was probably about 5 years old but he


acted like an adult when he met with the Mayor. When Paul was about 14 or 15 years old he loved Dolly Parton. She was his hero. Anyway, his dad, trying to get Paul interested in sports (which never happened), was tossing a football in our back yard. Of course Paul would miss catching every time. Dad said, “How can we get you to focus and catch the ball?” My son Paul said, “If I catch the ball, will you take me to Dollywood for her Grand Opening so I can meet her?” His dad, knowing he would never catch it, said, “Okay, deal.” Dad stepped back and threw the football high in the air and Paul ran and caught it for the first time ever. Dad kept his promise and took Paul and the whole family to Dollywood. Again, Paul and Linda went to work on a project to blow Dolly away. He made a painting for her and he was going to give it to her in person. I told Paul, “Don’t expect that this will happen because Dolly is a very busy lady.” But son of a gun, he did it and convinced her manager to let us meet her to give her the painting. The rest is history. When Paul came out, I was the one that was a mess. I cried all day and begged Paul to let me get him a lady of the


night and then see how he felt about it after that (don’t know what I was thinking when I said that). Guess I thought he was a virgin and once he tried it, he would be okay. I was scared of my husband’s reaction. He was always a very conservative man who openly expressed his hatred of gay celebrities on tv. I was petrified what he would do. I certainly didn’t want to be the one to tell him. I loved my son so much and I was worried about how the world would treat him as a gay man. At that time, people were hurting homosexuals, physically and verbally. I did not want that kind of life for my talented, handsome son, let alone what my husband might do. My husband knew I was upset after Paul left and kept after me to tell him what was wrong. Crying my eyes out, I told him, “Our son told me he is gay!” My husband said, “I have known that for quite a while. Get Paul on the phone.” Shaking, scared and worried, I dialed Paul’s number and said, “Your dad wants to talk to you.” Dad said, “Paul, don’t worry, I have known this for a long time and everything is fine. Nothing is any different.” Now I was crying tears of happiness. My husband actually handled it better than I did and I was never more proud of him. I felt so silly

about my reaction. It is definitely easier now. Paul and Dennis are so happy together. You can feel the love and I love them both so much. I always encouraged Paul since he was 4 years old and we recognized his talent. I am confident we did what was best for Paul and his art education. I remember when it was time for college, Paul wanted to go to Columbus College of Art and Design and his Dad wanted him to get a “real education” and profession and let art be his secondary work. No way was Paul interested in that. Linda and I encouraged him to apply for a scholarship and if he got it, his Dad would have to go along with it. He did, he got the scholarship, and his dad agreed it was the best thing for him. If I could do anything differently, it would be to have accepted his coming out better. I have read a lot about gay people coming out and I am actually embarrassed about my reaction. So if I could do it over, I surely would. I am sure Paul understood why I reacted the way I did but it doesn’t excuse my behavior about it. The one word I would use to describe my son Paul would be perfect. He is a perfect son,

a perfect artist, a perfect teacher, a perfect husband, a perfect brother, and just an all around perfect person! My advice to other mothers is to let your children follow their dreams. Help them reach the goals they set for themselves. Don’t try to change them. They will live a happier life doing what they love to do. My advice to parents when their sons and daughters come out to them is to be understanding and love them for who they are. Don’t do what I did, DO WHAT I SAY.

Photo by Amy Snyder Tannenbaum

After Paul and Dennis were married and living in Ohio still, my husband commissioned Paul to do a painting for him. The problem—he wanted a painting of Ronald Reagan who he considered his hero. Paul is a diehard Democrat. His Dad was a diehard Republican, and he was serious. My son reluctantly agreed and did the painting. It hung in our living room for all to see. My son and I tried to convince his Dad to move it to the office as it was more appropriate there. “No way,” said my husband. He was proud of the painting and wanted everyone to see it.


Young Paul at Mayor Rinehart’s office


Linda Regula

Mentor Friend Confidant

In Loving Memory

How do you feel about Paul’s painting of you, “Twilight”? I love it, for it visually displays how he feels about me. I’m honored.


I’ve been an artist since 1975, after falling 40 feet out of a barn. While I was imprisoned in a hospital bed, a pelvic sling, and then leg casts and wheechair for nearly 22 months—and being told I would never walk again—a friend taught me to paint. Since then, I’ve used my paintings as a powerful visual voice to address conditions that adversely affect women and children.

Paul and I also mentor children that have been bullied. We both still teach art, and encourage emerging artists. I felt doing the video illustrated the importance of mentoring/teaching/encouraging young people. Our mentorship/friendship has lasted over 36 years. As a teacher and mentor to Paul, what did you find most interesting in your journeys together? How much we loved each other. He will always be my “Golden Child,” the golden-haired, blue-eyed little boy who appeared on my doorstep, smiling, trusting me to teach him the techniques of drawing and painting. Then the awesome friendship we’ve nurtured for nearly 4 decades.


In the video “The Mentor and the Artist” there are a few strong topics that come up, one being he admits to you that he had thought

about taking his life. How did that make you feel? At first, learning that he’d considered suicide broke my heart, and brought tears to my eyes. Then, he held up his hand and said, “Linda, count my fingers.” I did, and he told me that he’d considered suicide five times. It amazed me that our longterm mentorship/friendship/love had somehow given him the courage to resist hurting himself. In the video “The Mentor and the Artist,” it looks like you both exchanged your portraits of each


other without knowing what the other was creating. Is this true?

answer for several minutes. Then he typed, “I want to tell you something,” but then he didn’t continue. I typed, “What?” Yes that’s true. I am astonished several times and after a few how two people, living such minutes, he typed, “I’m gay.” I different lifestyles, and being so nearly fell off my chair laughing. many generations apart, can Then he typed, “Do you still know each other so well. love me?” I typed, “You can stick any label you want on your We don’t usually see each forehead, Golden Child, but it other’s paintings until they are won’t change how much I love completed and signed. We you. Now, get your butt in the are just faithfully keeping our car and meet me at the coffee promises to each other—to shop so I can hug you.” always paint our TRUTH. Also to use our paintings as Now that Paul is a successful powerful visual voices to help artist does he come to you inspire others to be strong often for advice or to critique and brave enough to honestly any of his works? reveal their truths. Nothing else should matter to a dedicated I taught Paul to trust himself and artist. his creativity—that if he always tells his truth, that’s all I will ever How old was Paul when he ask of him. We always post our came out to you that he was paintings so we can stay aware gay? of what we’re doing. Seeing his work, I honestly believe he is a He told me after he graduated true modern-day master. from college. I can see a style of Can you describe how you storytelling is in every felt when he came out? painting Paul does as well as in yours. Did you influence I knew when he was a child, him or did he influence you? but never pursued the truth. I felt he would tell me when he I taught Paul the techniques of was ready. Then one day, I oil painting (he loved fantasy) was communicating (typing) to from the time he was a 4-year him on the computer, and he old child. When he began was misspelling words. It being sharing his feelings of being so so out of character, I typed, different from other kids who “Are you okay?” He didn’t bullied him by the time he was


twelve, I began teaching him to fearlessly paint very personal, and sometimes ugly images that told his TRUTH.

Do you have advice for parents who have children displaying talent? What should they do? Yes, please encourage them, and find a class/mentor, so they can pursue those things that bring them joy. It will prove to be the most precious gift they will ever receive.

If a parent does not know if they have a child who is talented, what signs might they be looking for so they can help the child explore this talent?

and don’t be afraid to suggest hobbies/classes/or private teachers. If you could sum up Paul in one word and only one word,

what would that be? Tell us why you chose that word. Extraordinary! It’s true that Paul is a masterful creative artist, but what makes him so extraordinary is his loving heart, and the way he cares for, and works for, others in his community. But the truth is, it’s the deep respect and lasting love this gay man feels and publicly displays for this ole lady.

Look for subtle signs: Do they like to draw? Do they like to read and tell stories? Do they like to dance or sing along to their favorite music? Are they intrigued by plays, or do they pay close attention to plots of movies? Do they get good grades in art, or when they write a report? Just be aware of what they really like to do, Photo by Eric Albrecht


Dennis Niekro

Friend Partner Muse Husband I’m 51 years old, and I am a nurse practitioner in a private hematology/oncology practice here in Monterey. I grew up in Bridgeport, a small Appalachian town in southeastern Ohio. I am the oldest of three children; my dad is a retired steel worker, and my mom worked first as a homemaker and then later outside of the home doing retail and office work. I moved to Columbus when I was an undergrad student at OSU in the late 1980s and decided to make a permanent life for myself there. I’m not an artist but have always loved the arts, both visual and performing. Several years ago I attended an art opening in Columbus where I met an art dealer by the name of Caren Petersen. It was at this opening that Caren convinced me that original art can and should be accessible to everyone, and I purchased my first piece of original art, a painting by Kirk Hughey. Caren

was in the process of opening up her own art gallery and asked if I would be interested in helping her a couple of days per week. Thus began a long friendship with Caren and the start of my hobby of art appreciation and collecting. Can you tell us how you met Paul? I met Paul on an online gay social networking website on New Years Eve in 2005. His profile pic was adorable, and

Photo by Marci Beighley


when I saw that he was an artist I mustered up the courage to say hello to him. I figured that, if nothing else, I would have an interesting conversation with him about art. As we continued to chat it was clear that there was “interest” on both sides to at least meet in person for dinner. We made arrangements to meet a few days later, and the rest is, as they say, history. Was it love at first sight or did it take a while before you knew he was the one?

Wounded Healer

I’m not sure I would say “love at first sight”, but I will say that I was instantly intrigued by and attracted to Paul. He was (and continues to be) absolutely adorable, so genuine, and easy to talk with about any number of topics. He is so intelligent—so serious and thoughtful—and yet he can laugh easily at himself and find the humor in life. We joke now how we were both so terribly nervous during our first date, each of us thinking “this guy is totally going to excuse himself to the restroom and then sneak out the back door of the restaurant”. He was afraid I thought he was too silly and hyper-focused on his country divas, and I was afraid he was finding me boring and, well, a little too old (I’m nearly 12


years older than Paul). But, after dinner, he came back to my house where we discussed my art collection, listened to music, and then watched a movie together. The following day I told a co-worker that I had been on the best date with an absolutely wonderful man the previous night, and I couldn’t wait to see him again (she convinced me that I must email him). It really was only a matter of a few dates before I knew he was the one I wanted to be “the one.” What is it like living with a very creative and artistic personality? Life with Paul is never dull—it is often wild and wacky and sometimes even magical. A huge part of Paul’s charm and one of the main aspects I love about Paul is his creativity— another is his optimism. He is generous and kind, and he cares about people. His heart is truly golden! I marvel how he is able to express himself creatively in order to demonstrate support for certain causes, raise awareness of important issues, and question social norms. There are times when his “artistic personality” inhibits his ability to focus on details and performing the mundane tasks that living requires, but I guess that’s where I fit in to the “picture”. We are a marvelous balance together. I often refer to myself


as the earth and to Paul as the ether—I work hard to keep him grounded, and he works hard at helping me to dream possibilities that we can then strive together to bring to fruition. Paul’s creativity gives me hope and inspires creativity within myself. Does Paul often come to you asking for input on his artwork? Paul is typically eager to share his artistic process with me and frequently seeks my opinion. There are times when I question, “Did you mean to (fill in the blank) when you painted this?” Or I will engage with the piece and discuss my thoughts or impressions about whatever he has created. He doesn’t always like my questions but admits that, when he thinks it through and then reworks some aspect of his painting or graphic design, my input proved to be a valuable contribution to the execution of his artistic intention. There are other times that the end result of our discussion is not a modification to his work but rather a shift in my own understanding and expansion of my aesthetic.

How does it feel to be immortalized in Paul’s paintings? Generally I am not a willing model for Paul. Even when his powers of persuasion win me over and I pose for a painting, I become embarrassed and more self-conscious of what I perceive as my physical flaws. And then I see what he creates—a representation of some aspect of myself that he wants to capture—and I am humbled. Paul is fascinated with humanity, and his artistic depictions of my humanity become mirrored reflections and affirmations of what he sees in me, and I end up loving him even more for helping me to appreciate myself.

If you could sum up Paul in one word what would that be? Seriously? Trying to capture Paul in one word is like trying to describe the beauty of an entire gemstone by focusing on just one facet of that stone. However, if I were to ponder all of Paul’s facets and cite one characteristic that I particularly love, I would describe Paul as caring. Paul cares about art, about life, about people. He routinely finds ways to utilize his art as a platform for his social action efforts. Just as Paul helps to mirror back particular qualities in myself in his portraits of me, he helps to reflect back those aspects of specific individuals as well as society as a whole that matter to him. His art facilitates dialogue about important human rights issues. And his art gives us a glimpse into his heart which is an endless source of love and laughter.

Photo by Marci Beighley


Photo by Marci Beighley

The Snake Charmer


What is the favorite thing you like doing with Paul? I love traveling with Paul. I enjoy sharing our individual impressions and reactions as we explore the world around us. Watching your lives through videos, articles, and socials, you would make cool parents. What are your thoughts on this? Paul and I contemplated parenthood several years ago.

We even met with an attorney and attended workshops to explore the various options for creating a family. True to our own unique approaches to life, he fantasized about all of the “glamorous” aspects of being a parent, and I focused on all of the “real” implications of the myriad of responsibilities that come with raising a child. We spent several months engaging in what truly can be described as family planning before ultimately determining that parenthood was not for us. We each work very long hours, and the limited time that we do get to spend together we want to spend with each other. We determined that, at the end of our lives, we will honestly be able to say that our lives have been meaningful without having raised children together. Paul gets to work with children all of the time, modeling for them how art can be a vehicle for selfexpression whether we’re telling our own stories, the stories of others, or raising awareness of social issues (especially bullying). He gives much of himself every day. In the work that I do, I am also constantly giving to others, attending to my patients’ physical and emotional needs as they face the challenges of living with cancer. Our life together is full— and fulfilling.


Laura Richmond

Friend Confidant Sister I hear you are quite the chef. Can you tell us about your journey to being a chef and a little about Schokko Cafe? It’s actually quite the crazy circular journey. But long story short, I went to college as a pre-med student and when I graduated I was paying for medical school with cooking and I just kind of fell in love with it.


What was it like growing up with Paul, since you both are so creative? Paul and I had a creative childhood for sure. I think all kids have this innate sense of imagination. We spent our days writing and directing movies on the giant camcorder Dad used for family vacation videos. And of course, I posed for him countless times for his paintings. Did Paul come to you with the idea of painting Mise En Face or was that your idea? Honestly, when Paul and I talk about anything creative together, it’s so synergistic that I never remember whose idea was whose and it almost never matters. I think it was his idea? He is by far my favorite person to bounce ideas off of for anything in that realm. How does it feel to be the subject of one of Paul’s paintings? Well I’m honored of course. I’ve also posed for him so many times as a kid that I kind of demanded it from him now. I’ve earned it damnit.

Mise En Face 31

If you had one word to describe Paul what would that be? Kind. All other glitz and glam aside, to me Paul’s most important and most obvious trait is his kindness. There’s a hundred words like “sparkly, glitter, unicorn, fabulous” that definitely fit. But I have the privilege of getting to see beyond all that. And that dude is one genuinely kind-hearted human being. Paul immortalized you in a painting with a face of fruit and vegetables. If you created a dish that had Paul’s name on it, what would that be?


My former pastry chef made a giant unicorn cake once so that comes to mind. But it would definitely be something outrageous like that. Have you ever heard of an avalanche cake? It’s a cake presented under a chocolate dome and you pour a hot chocolate sauce tableside over the dome and it melts to reveal the cake. So what if we did a spin on that but instead of a chocolate cake we have a rainbow cake and instead of a chocolate dome we do a glittery edible disco ball. Then you pour over a hot liquor and BLAMO! Glittery rainbow cake reveal. Has Paul ever come to you for advice or critiquing on a painting before? Well, he used to a lot when we were kids. But honestly that cat’s so good at what he does now, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. It would be like critiquing Stephen Hawkings’ take on quantum physics, ya know? I’m out of my league.


Briden Schueren

Friend Fellow Artist Fellow Activist Fellow Model


Briden Cole Schueren’s artistic exploration began in the rural Pennsylvanian town of Cook Forest, with his grandmother Norma, a painter. From his grandmother, he learned to convey complex emotions through deliberate brushstrokes and color usage. As a child, Briden struggled with a learning disability, resulting in his struggle to connect and socialize with other children. Seemingly, these early adversities are his source of strength. As Briden says, “I am a very tactile person, and as a kid, making art by exploring textures and media allowed me to express my emotions and connect with others.” Being born a female-bodied person, the challenges, obstacles, and personal reformations have been abundant, leading to the happy person he is today. He says “My ability to create and explore through art as a practice has saved my life.” This has led him to finding his purpose in life: to create. Briden sees his work as having the power to help others in a similar way.


Can you tell us how you first met Paul? I first met Paul when he had a tour to be an artist at BrickBox Studios (an artists’ studio rental space here in Columbus). This was maybe 5/6 years ago.

If you could describe Paul in one word what would it be? Tell us why. Inspiring. He is one of the most determined, motivated humans I have ever met and it truly is inspiring.

If you have collaborated with Paul, tell us about the project. Paul and I have collaborated on many different projects before. We continue to find each other a great source of inspiration and collaboration. The first time we collaborated was when there was a magazine in NYC creating a calendar for a fundraiser. The project involved photography and painting, two artists, and a poem. It was a great experience getting to know him and having a man take off his clothing to be our muse.


For more information you can find Briden at: or follow him on Instagram: @briden_schueren


Christian Cimoroni

Friend Fellow Artist Fellow Activist Tell us about yourself. I’m a queer artist from Ohio whose art centers around LGBTQIA+ themes, body positivity, pop culture and fashion. Just like Paul, I am a graduate from the Columbus College of Art and Design. How did you meet Paul? I met Paul at a GSSA (Gay Straight Student Alliance) meeting my first year at Columbus College of Art & Design. He gave a presentation about his art and how he used his art to express his own queerness while he attended CCAD. Hearing his story and seeing the work he created showed me that queer artists could not only exist, but they could treat their art almost as therapy and use it as a medium to process their emotions and queer experiences. I loved seeing the progression of his work as well. Seeing Paul’s queer journey expressed through his beautiful pieces helped illustrate the importance of queer art to me, and the way that queer art can help influence so many others who may be struggling with their own LGBTQIA+ identities. Have you and Paul ever collaborated together? I have collaborated with Paul on an art trade! We both did illustrations of each other in our respective styles. I like to do art trades with different queer artists I’ve found through Instagram. It’s a great way to connect with different artists and help promote their work. It was a dream come true to do a trade with Paul several years after the first time we met at CCAD. He was such an inspiration for me back in college, so it was a full circle moment to do an art trade together and be illustrated by him!


If you could describe Paul in one word what would it be? Tell us why? I would say trailblazing. Thinking back on it, Paul was one of the first openly queer artists whose work primarily centered around LGBTQIA+ themes that I was made aware of. Paul is trailblazing to me because his work inspires so much, and continues to do so today—whether his work is addressing his own queerness, exploring the wide spectrum of gender identity/expression, challenging corrupt politics with bold moving imagery, or showing off his love and passion for the iconic divas in his life. Paul’s work is and will always be expressive, inspirational, powerful and trailblazing.

All That’s Visible 39

Jason Elizondo

Friend Fellow Artist Fellow Activist My name is Jason Elizondo. I am a 24-year-old queer artist living and working in Brooklyn, NY, whose work seduces viewers into visceral confrontations with the queer body. My work is personal and is a celebration of the identifiers that laid the foundation for my desires and personal iconographies from early childhood—love letters to my mother and grandmother, pop culture icons, branding, queer nightlife, and the magic of movies. A deployment of these personal and pop symbols is actually a deployment of the self. I met Paul in 2014 when the nonprofit organization he co-founded, the You Will Rise Project, led a series of workshops that focused on empowering the voices of bullied youth through art-making called Art Against Bullying. I applied to participate in these workshops during my last year of high school. Paul was instantly vulnerable with me and the group of young artists he was mentoring, sharing his own story and experience with bullying. He was kind and inviting and helped all of us feel safe and free to make work


Vast Unseen


about our experiences with bullying. I instantly fell in love with his work and his use of pop culture—naturally gravitating to his painting I Won’t Tell If You Won’t (2011), featuring Lady Gaga and Kathy Griffin as angels, inspired by the U.S. Military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy—and elevating queer bodies using a slow and cared for approach to painting. He used his personal symbols, friends, family, and lover in his work and that inspired me. At this time, I was just starting to take myself seriously as an artist and considering going to college for it. I excelled at art in high school but it was through his programming that I knew I could have a voice and say something important. It was through this workshop that I drew a self-portrait where I am covering my nude body in shame as I stand between an anorexic woman and an obese woman screaming at one another. This work came out of some of the most vulnerable parts of myself


at the time, and Paul helped push that work out of me. I later was asked by Paul to talk about this for 10TV News, and I got to amplify my voice and story to hundreds of people watching at home—families with queer children, little queerdos themselves who may have seen me and felt inspired by my story. I later gave Paul this drawing as a thank you for inspiring me so

much. Paul and I were given the opportunity to collaborate the same year in the fall when I joined The Art Against Bullying team, now as a mentor when I originally started off as a mentee in the previous series

of workshops that spring. It was here that Paul worked with me to develop the bravery and courage to share my story, not just for my own catharsis like before but to help inspire and empower a mentee of my own. Under Paul’s mentorship, I learned the power that being vulnerable and sharing your story really has and how it can open people to feel comfortable

to share their own. Paul and I never worked together on work from our own individual art practices but that experience working with him in the Art Against Bullying workshops changed both myself and my practice. This experience as a mentor felt full circle because

10TV News came to do a piece on the program again and this time, I got to stand beside my mentee as she shared her own story like I once did earlier in the year. In one word, Paul Richmond is conscious. He is conscious of who is around him and how he can help inspire and empower them to share their story with others. He’s conscious of the world and who in it is not receiving the same rights, love, and attention as he knows they should. He’s a conscious artist as he renders portraits of important people every day who are a representation for many that are underrepresented. He’s a conscious artist as he is making activist work when tragedy and trauma strike— to raise money, awareness, and strength for the affected communities. He was conscious when a young artist didn’t know who they were or what they wanted to say, and he helped them believe in themselves, and I couldn’t be more grateful today.


Melissa Forman

Bestie Fellow Artist Fellow Activist My name is Melissa Forman. I’m an Art Director living in Cleveland, Ohio. Paul and I have been friends for over 20 years now. He was my “Man of Honor” at my wedding and I consider him part of my family.




First, Paul says you are a good friend and a great artist. Can you tell us how you first met? I first met Paul in college. We both attended the Columbus College of Art and Design. Paul likes to tell the story of how we met and became friends. He likes to say that he sought me out because I was the overachiever in class, the one that always showed up early and had their homework done on time. He likes to joke about how most people choose to be friends with people who make them feel more talented by comparison, but he chose me because he felt he could ride my coattails. The truth is, I’ve happily been Paul’s sidekick for over 20 years now. He’s the one who has taken me to new places and made me rise to new heights. His coattails have always been longer (and more fabulous) than mine, and he’s happy to make room for everyone. Have you and Paul ever collaborated? Paul and I have been collaborating on projects since we first met. Our first project together was a mural in a local elementary school. We


had so much fun we ended up starting a mural business together, which kept us busy for a few years after our college graduation. Ever since then, and even now while we live on separate sides of the country, we’ve been finding excuses to work on projects together. We’ve traveled to New York, California, even Pigeon Forge, Tennessee for a potential mural at Dollywood. We’ve created countless murals, paintings, and illustrations as well as ridiculous videos, song lyrics, and art installations.

of close friends to try something they’ve never attempted before. Paul is someone who can make anything happen, and others can’t help but recognize that and want to be a part of it. He has no fear to go after something that he truly believes is good and right, and he inspires the same fearless pursuit in others.

If you could describe Paul in one word what would it be? I’ve never thought of Paul as a “one word” kind of guy, so this is challenging, but I’ll give it a shot. One thing that has always been true, as long as I’ve known Paul, is the fact that he’s always been a leader. And, this is a word that is often overused, especially for those who earn it only through a title at work or a chosen profession, but Paul is a real leader in every aspect of his life. He has always been someone who garners a following, whether it’s through leading a campaign for change on a local or global stage, or just by getting a group


Aaron Anderson

Friend Fellow Artist Graphic Designer A little about myself: I am a gay man and a graphic designer who grew up in Columbus. Columbus has been my home for my whole life and I love this city. For the most part, it has been pretty open and amazing for the LGBT and artistic community. Like any other place in the modern world, it could be better, but that’s something I have learned to take into my own hands. In fact, it is something that Paul has imparted on me. I always wanted to be a graphic designer since the 3rd grade after I found out that architecture deals with a lot of math! Art has been a strong passion in my life and it really flourished during and right after attending Columbus College of Art and Design. Being around people like me for the first time was a world changing experience. After college, of course you want to be somewhere super fun and unique (like some rad agency) but sometimes you end up in a place just to gain experience and make rent. That is where I met Paul, at my first big boy


job at McGrawHill Education. He was this loud, obnoxious, and flamboyant gay man—we had to become friends! As far as art and art adventures, we have gotten into a lot! From a photoshoot in a backyard with a couple cute half naked boys to helping run an anti-bullying organization with its various projects, we have run the range of projects and adventures together, which typically always comes back around to art somehow. If you could describe Paul in one word what would it be? This is a hard one because I wanna make up some word combo to help encompass all that is Paul. I think I will go with inspirational.

Paul has inspired me to be a lot of things in my life: a better artist, a better friend, a better slut, a better adventurer. He’s inspired me to be more interesting and lastly to be unapologetically myself—to enjoy this life while trying to make the world a better place. He has inspired me to be more, and I don’t think I can thank him enough for that. But I won’t, because I don’t need to inflate his ego any more. One thing I hope everyone gets from this is that Paul is far from boring and we should all be inspired to live life. Also, go buy his art!

Shades of Strength



Okay, Back to Paul

Photo by Nic Coury




Paul’s paintings are an investigation of identity, vulnerability, and human nature. Reality and abstraction compete within the figurative foundation of each piece to make the subjects’ inner struggles more tangible. He often draws upon personal history to approach universal themes. The expressive application of pigment reduces the literalness of the depiction, engaging with an exploration of color, form, shape, and pattern as windows into the psyche. By deconstructing and rebuilding the figure, his paintings invite understandings that reach beyond the immediate surface and reveal the complexity of the individual.

Photo by Nic Coury


How do you choose a subject? I work with a lot of different styles and subjects, but everything I choose to paint has to make me feel something. That’s the entire reason I make art—to explore and express what is going on in my head. A lot of my paintings deal directly with issues that I have gone through, like coming out of the closet, learning to accept and embrace my identity, sharing my perspective on different social/ political issues, etc. Sometimes I use humor, like with the Cheesecake Boys, but there’s still an underlying exploration of gender and sexuality there too. Sometimes the paintings are very direct, such as I Won’t Tell If You Won’t, which I painted before Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was overturned. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of figurative

work because I am absolutely fascinated with people—from all walks of life, different backgrounds, different stories. I can always find something to connect with in anybody, and also learn from their unique perspective on life. As human beings, we have so much more in common than we often realize, and if there’s one thread that runs through everything I create, I hope it is to help people feel a sense of empathy with the people in my work. What is it about the subject that helps you decide on colors, shapes, and patterns to tell the story? My process has evolved over the years. When I first started out, I would create highly developed reference images for myself in Photoshop, print them out and hang them beside

my canvas, and paint them in meticulous detail to match the picture. I still like using Photoshop to conceptualize my work because it’s an easy way for me to try a lot of different things before deciding what I like best. I can swap out colors, move things around to create different compositions, and even drop in different imagery until it feels right. But in the last five years I have been painting in a more impasto style that relies less on a perfect rendering of the reference image. I still create it and have it nearby for inspiration, but I allow the painting to tell me what it wants. My brushstrokes are less perfect, more expressive. My colors are more exaggerated. This keeps me deeply engaged and emotionally connected with the process from start to finish. My recent painting Big Sky portrays


moments of transition. Life is full of changes—sometimes wonderful, sometimes painful. The way I process that change is always through art. It doesn’t always happen right away— sometimes it takes years before I’m ready to tackle something on canvas. One example of this is a painting called Broken Neverland. It’s the largest oil painting I’ve ever made - three panels with a total width of 180”. I painted it just a couple

a nude figure standing before an abstract sky, with some of the cloud shapes intersecting with his form. That overlaying of imagery was a decision that happened as the painting progressed. I painted it while we were all sheltering-in-place and I was thinking about the vastness of the world and how much we all longed to soak that up and feel a part of the bigger picture while needing to be physically isolated from many of the people we cared about. I took a walk to the beach one evening as the sun was setting. Unlike my model, I was wearing pants at the time! But I just tried


to absorb everything I saw and felt, including the colors and the ambiance around me and bring all of that to the painting. Describe what parts of your personal history that you draw on the most. What are your favorite colors to paint with? Favorite places to paint? What is your inspiration? Personal history is something that is always expanding with every new experience. I think the most influential parts of my continually developing history are the

years ago but it is inspired by a memory from my childhood. My family took a vacation to Disney World and my dad and I were riding the Peter Pan ride. One minute we were flying over Neverland lost in the world of fantasy. The next minute, the ride broke, everything came to a screeching halt, and they turned on the lights, exposing the wires and gears and machinery that helped create

that fantasy we were just experiencing. They had to hoist up ladders and help each of us down. That memory stuck with me because in one split second, I learned that sometimes things aren’t what they seem. I was disappointed at first because it felt like some of the magic went away. But then I grew to appreciate the fact that artists and creative people had used that technology to create Neverland for us, and it made me appreciate it in a whole new

way. That’s sort of what that painting is about—the moment when fantasy and reality come crashing into each other and even though one illusion may get shattered, if you look closely you can gain an even greater appreciation for the real magic that is still there.


Tell us the different ways you use your creativity for yourself and others? Creativity is what fuels just about everything I do. I would be lost without it. I would rather hang out with my friends working on some over-thetop art collaboration any day than sit in a bar with them. Thankfully, I choose friends who have that same preference. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, creativity is something that you gain the more you give it away. Every time I work with an art student, I come away feeling more inspired to go work on my own paintings. Every time I have a show and get to meet people and hear about the different ways they connect with what I’ve painted, I want to go paint more. Every time I watch another artist on YouTube or discover a new painter whose work speaks to me, it’s like recharging. I try to maintain a range of different projects at all times so that I can keep stretching in new directions and always trying new things. Usually the mix includes personal paintings, commissions, teaching art classes, making videos, collaborations with other artists, and community activism. Tell us about Dreamspinner Press. What drew you to it?


My degree is in Illustration because I have always loved art that tells stories. Early in my career, I was doing a lot of freelance work for different companies and a friend of mine told me she was having a gay romance novel published by a new company called Dreamspinner Press. She asked if I would do the cover for her. That book is called Zero At The Bone (by Jane Seville). It turned out to be a very popular book, and the folks at Dreamspinner invited me to do more because they liked my work. Dreamspinner was started by a small group of friends who saw a real void in the publishing world. At that time, every gay novel ended in tragedy. If it was in the gay book section (that is, if there even WAS a gay book section), someone you loved in that book was going to be beaten to death, die of AIDS, or face some other sad fate. Dreamspinner wanted to offer a happier alternative, and the market was huge because it turned out this appealed not only to gay readers, but also fans of heterosexual romance novels. Love truly is love, and if you like men, two are better than one! They steadily grew and expanded their offerings to include science fiction, fantasy, historical, and more. I joined them as Associate Art Director

and have created over 400 novel covers myself as well as coordinating covers with numerous other amazing artists all over the world. There have been hurdles along the way, as any small business in a sea of giant corporations can attest, but I am really proud of the work we have done and the integrity of this company. In another interview, you said this in regards to Harmony Ink Press - “I can’t imagine how different my life might have been having come across books like these when I was growing up.” Tell us why?

Harmony Ink is our young adult imprint. We publish queer stories across the rainbow spectrum so that all young people can find books that include characters like them. When I was growing up, I didn’t even know what the word “gay” meant. My only understanding of homosexuality came from the very negatively slanted perception I learned in religion class at the catholic school I attended. I didn’t see LGBTQ+ characters on tv, in movies, or in books that were available to me. I grew up thinking that there was something deeply wrong with me, and the only way to survive was to suppress and

deny who I really was. I want to be a part of changing that for the next generation, and I think representation in media is one powerful way to go about it.

many emotions I had been too embarrassed to talk about with anyone helped me in immeasurable ways.

What did help you while you were growing up? Even though I was ashamed of feeling “different,” which was the only way I knew to describe it, I took great pride in my identity as an artist. My parents entered my work in art shows, I was featured on the news with my work, and most of the adults at school gave me some positive reinforcement for my drawings and paintings. The highlight of my week was going to Linda’s class. When I was in middle school, I transitioned from private lessons in her studio to a group class in the back room of a paint store. Every Monday night, I would gather my art supplies and join a group made up mostly of adult women, and we would paint together under Linda’s guidance. I saw these wonderful people as my true friends, much more than my classmates at school. The age/ gender difference hardly even occurred to me. For three hours a week, I could be completely myself and take great joy in the act of being creative. It was also around this time that Linda helped me begin expressing the struggles I went through at school in my paintings. Giving a visual voice to so Photo by Nic Coury


Tell us why the Will Rise Project started.

I experienced a lot of bullying growing up. As I mentioned, I am from the midwest (Ohio) and attended Catholic school. I didn’t know what gay meant in middle school but I knew that I was different. The other kids picked up on that too, and they made my life pretty miserable. I was still taking art classes with Linda once a week and when I told her about what was going on, she encouraged me to make a painting about it. Pouring all those feelings into a creative outlet made


a tremendous difference for me. Seven years ago, I was reading a lot of stories in the news about young people committing suicide because of bullying. I realized that art had prevented me from becoming one of those statistics. Linda and I formed the You Will Rise Project in order to help other young people find their creative voices. We started the project as a website publishing creative works by young people that address their experiences with bullying. There’s no censorship and all forms of art are welcome— visual, writing, performance, video, etc. The project took off, and we started doing workshops and exhibits with groups of

young people around the same theme. The transformations that we witnessed in these incredible young people have been some of the most inspiring moments of my life. Kids who had attempted suicide multiple times, some who had dropped out of school, come into our workshops (reluctantly at first, because social situations can be terrifying for them) and discover that they have a voice. I’m so grateful for the privilege of working with these amazing young artists and paying forward some of the lessons I was fortunate enough to receive at their age.





How many years has it been since you created Cheesecake Boys? I painted the first one in 2008, so twelve years! What was the first image that started Cheesecake Boys? Did you use a model for the first image? The first Cheesecake Boy was a painting of a young professional exiting an elevator, with his shirt getting caught in the door and ripping off. I was inspired by classic pin-up girl art from the 40’s and 50’s, and I thought it would be funny to do a few paintings of men in similar poses. I had no idea it would grow to become such a big part of what I am known for twelve years later. How do you describe the Cheesecake Boys series peronally? I started this series because I was always fascinated with pinup art from the 40’s and 50’s. It was a more innocent time (at least on the surface), and I love the elaborate scenarios that artists like Gil Elvgren and Art Frahm concocted in order to justify disrobing their subjects. It struck me that male models were never portrayed in the same way. While it was considered sexy for a woman’s skirt to be ripped off before a crowd of oglers, male pinups of that era (beefcakes) were generally only exposed by choice. Times certainly have changed! Guys may have had a free pass on wardrobe malfunctions in the good old days, but now the Cheesecake Boys are here to even the score! Where do you get all your creative image ideas you use now? A lot of the Cheesecake Boy concepts come from putting a genderswap on classic pin-up art. For example, Gil Elvgren painted a woman standing at a bus stop holding bags of groceries with her underwear falling down around her ankles. In my version, the Cheesecake Boy is standing in the same pose with his pants plummeting. I have so much fun coming up with these ridiculous concepts. Sometimes I’ll even incorporate things from pop culture or politics. I just did one of Joe Exotic, the “Tiger King,” getting his pants puled off by a tiger (Coppertone Girl-style). I also recently shared one of Mike Pence getting depantsed and spanked by Jesus. Cheesecake Boys give the playful/naughty side of my brain an outlet, and I have no shortage of ideas in that department!


Where did the idea of Cheesecake Boys Coloring Party come from? How many parties have you had now?

launch, and it was a blast. I blew up giant coloring pages and had them all over the club for people to color together, as well as smaller, individual ones too. We had live Cheesecake Boys dancing (and coloring!) in their undies. And several of the guys who modeled for some of the pages showed up. People really

A few years ago, I started posting Cheesecake Boys coloring pages online for people to download and color. They became really popular, with people all over the world getting involved. That led us to publish our first coloring book, which was a big hit. I had already been seeing people having fun coloring them online, so I thought it would be a blast to get a bunch of people together and color them in person. We did our first coloring party in West Hollywood at the book’s


seemed to enjoy having something different to do on a Saturday night, so we have continued doing them. I don’t even know how many we’ve done now. I’ve also provided materials for other people around the world to host their own coloring parties. Do you use models for all your Cheesecake Boys? I like to work with models, but using photographs rather than posing live. The positions are usually a bit too wacky for someone to be able to hold very long. Using photographs also allows me to incorporate people who don’t live near me. I’ve done a lot of celebrity Cheesecake Boys based on photos they provided me— people like Mike Ruiz, Davey

Wavey, and Perez Hilton. I also use myself as a model sometimes and just change the facial features. You have apparel, coloring books, and calendars. What more do you think can be possible for the Cheesecake Boys? I would love to have my own line of Cheesecake Boys underwear, with fun


patterns like the ones the models in my drawings wear. That’s been a bucket list item for me for a while, and I’m eventually going to make it happen! Have you thought about creating a comic book or storybook based on a few of the characters? I have thought about doing some Cheesecake Boy comic strips. Not necessarily a full book, but some of the scenarios would lend themselves to a three or four panel comic format. Often the ideas come from funny things I see or experience.

Zach Brunner


Christian Cimoroni

A couple years ago, I was taking out the trash and a grasshopper jumped up inside the leg of my pajama pants. I was on the ground wiggling around with my pants around my knees trying to get it out when our new neighbor walked by to introduce himself. Stories like that would be fun to illustrate in a comic strip.



How does it feel to be immortalized by your fans and friends as a Cheesecake model? I am flattered and honored when other artists draw me, especially younger artists who say I’m one of the first queer painters they discovered online. It means so much to know that I’ve inspired them in some way, because these same artists are an inspiration to me too! I am always happy to answer questions from other artists and help out however I can because I’ve had so many wonderful people help guide me along on my own journey. We’re all in this together! Jeffrey Aviles

Dandy Lyonne




Larry Dela Cruz

Robin Goodings


Rachel Corvese


Brittney Barnhart McConnell


Paul, has your art been used without your permission? Please explain how you found out. What was it used for? I’ve had people stealing and selling my work illegally for years. It first started on eBay, and now has spread to Etsy, Amazon, Wish, and many other online retailers. I usually find out because someone will see it, recognize it as mine, and share the link with me. Often the sellers are in another country, which makes it difficult to enforce US copyright laws. There are entire factories in China dedicated to producing rip-off artwork. The sellers steal images from online, list them in their store, and when someone buys them, they have their assembly line of artists reproduce them. I’ve also seen my work sold as prints, blankets, mugs,

paint-by-number kits, diamond-painting kits, and more. It is always heart-breaking to see my work being ripped off like this, and shocking that the various online retailers care so little about the integrity of what is sold on their sites.


Do you think it is from the printing company you use? No, the company I work with is wonderful and would never do that. The images appear to be

lifted from online, and cropped just enough to remove my signature. Since they are low-res images, I am sure whatever reproductions they are selling are terrible quality. But they don’t care about that. All they care about is getting people’s money. Have you gone through the process of sending in your work to be copyrighted? Art is automatically copyrighted the instant it’s completed, and protected by law against acts of infringement. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to enforce when the sellers are not based in the United States. An artist’s only option is to try and go after the platform hosting the work, and independent artists just don’t

have the resources to get into a legal battle with Amazon, eBay, or Etsy.


Do you only sell your work though your website? I work with different galleries that represent my work and I sell my art online through my website. What steps have you had to go through to stop the items from being sold without your consent? Most sites have a copyright infringement form you can file, which I have done as often as possible, but the only result is that the seller may get a warning or possibly that one listing gets pulled. Then the next day, they relist it again under a different name. Thankfully, now I am working with some expert legal professionals who are escalating this to the highest levels of each selling platform and helping to protect my work in a more effective way. Whenever I am informed of a bootleg of my work online, I just forward it to them and they have been taking care of it for me. Which is a huge relief because artists don’t have time to mess with that nonsense.


When putting you work online, what advice do you have for other artists? For me, the pros of online exposure have FAR outweighed any of the cons. When I first started, art galleries did not want to carry the kind of work I was making. Many still don’t. So I knew if I wanted to reach people, I needed to have a presence online. Even as a newbie with very little experience, I had a beautiful website that made me look way more professional than I was. And I networked with as many different blogs and sites as possible. I still do, and I’m happy to allow them to post my work as long as they give me credit.

Do you have tips for uploading images to lessen or eliminate fraud? There are some things that people can do to protect themselves, like using watermarks on their work and only posting low-res images. I have never done watermarks myself because I don’t like disrupting the viewing experience for people. But I definitely only post low-res images online.


As an artist and activist, do you ever think that your activism could affect your career as an international artist? Do you feel it strengthens it? I’ve had various people in the art world suggest to me over the years that my work could have more “mainstream appeal” if I toned some of that down a notch. But I didn’t decide to do this when I was four years old

because I wanted to be some kind of international artist. I just wanted to “make pictures” about the things that were important to me. So I try not to worry about the could-haves and instead focus on being as genuine as I can with my work. Anyone who would be turned off from collecting my paintings because of my queer political outspokenness isn’t someone who I want to own my work anyway. There is always a story behind all those who fight for what they believe in. What is your story and what can others do to help? My story is big and colorful and complicated and crazy— probably a lot like everyone else’s—and I believe that we should all be allowed to live out our truths and be our authentic selves without the pressure to try and conform to antiquated societal expectations. I

Photo by Nic Coury

spent the first part of my life hating who I was and trying desperately to squeeze into a mold that was never going to work for me. What a waste of time! Diversity is the most wonderful thing we have going for us, yet too many political and religious leaders have twisted it into something people think they need to fear. I think the best thing we can all do is to try and appreciate what’s wonderful about the people around us rather than trying to categorize everyone and judge them by made-up standards. That’s one of the reasons I love painting figures, because each piece gives me a little window into the world of someone whose life is totally different from mine, whether it be their ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. Yet through the process of painting them, I can celebrate the qualities that make them unique while finding the spark of common humanity that we share.

You have combined who you are with your art and activism, and created works and projects that break down boundaries. What words of wisdom would you give to those who do not know how to express themselves in a unique and creative way? I teach community art classes and many of my students are adults who haven’t drawn or painted before. They often come into class on the first night feeling apprehensive because most adults get conditioned to think that everything they do has to be perfect. Some have wanted to take an art class for years but couldn’t work up the nerve. Some even wanted to be artists when they were growing up but were discouraged by family members who thought they should do something more practical. My advice for everyone is the same: I can teach anyone to draw and paint if you’re willing to spend

time practicing and if you stay open to what I show you. What I can’t do is make you love it. That’s the part that comes from inside of you. Everyone can tap into their creative side if they have the desire and patience. The best thing you can do is reconnect with your inner child—the one who likely wasn’t afraid to pick up some crayons and scribble on a piece of paper or run around the house singing at the top of your lungs. That child was fearless, and you can be too. One of my studiomates told me an awesome story recently. She has a young daughter who loves to make art. One day, she was telling her daughter about an adult who wanted to take an art class to learn how to draw, and her daughter responded, “Why? Did she forget how?”


You are very close to your mother and sister. Can you tell us how each has impacted your art career? My mom is such a strong yet sensitive person, like me. I always felt so close to her. She nurtured me in so many ways throughout my life and always made me feel loved and accepted. I know she regrets the way she handled my coming out and probably mentioned something about it to you, but she never gives herself credit for how quickly she was willing to work through that. Even her misguided fear about my identity as a gay man came

from a place of love. She was simply misinformed about what being a homosexual meant, and she didn’t want to think that her son was going down a dangerous path that would lead to nothing but heartache and rejection. Once she understood that I could live a happy, healthy life and that, in many ways, being gay is probably at least part of the reason why we have always been so close to begin with, she got onboard fast. My mom has attended drag shows where I danced in high heels and underwear. She loves my husband like he’s her own son. She works for an art museum and recently helped create a



presentation for the education department about the history of the LGBTQ+ movement through art. I couldn’t be more lucky to have such a wonderful mother who is also one of my very best friends. My sister Laura is another of my best friends. She’s four years younger than me and also gay. When we were kids, we could


required sets, costumes, and many rehearsals. We’ve always known that we had each other’s backs, and our relationship has only strengthened as adults. I couldn’t be more proud of her career as the Executive Chef at the Columbus Museum of Art. She is an artist in every sense of the word. Her medium is food, and I am in awe of what she creates. We still have so much fun whenever we’re together. On a recent visit to California, she and I spent an afternoon wearing onesies at Carmel Beach filming a ridiculous music video for a rap song that we made together. That should give you a pretty good sense of what our relationship is like.

practically swap our Christmas presents because she wanted the trucks and I wanted the Barbies. We both have a really over-the-top, eccentric edge to our creativity. Much of our childhood was spent embarking on elaborate creative tasks like making plays, which eventually became movies once Dad got a camcorder. These were elaborate productions that

How has working with Linda affected your art? Linda had an absolutely immeasurable effect on my art. She is the first person who even showed me that being an artist was possible. When I first stepped into her studio at age 3, I was transported to a magical place—like Dorothy traveling to Oz. Linda showed me that art is not simply a series of technical skills that you learn by following a prescribed curriculum. It’s first and foremost a means of self-expression. I learned that through her example. She grew up in poverty in the mountains of West Virginia in an abusive home, and many of her paintings deal directly with those



memories. By creating these paintings and sharing them with others, she found the strength to overcome those dark shadows from the past. And not only overcome them but transform them into beauty and inspiration to create a better life for those around her. Linda always had a special gift for knowing when a young person needed extra support. She made me feel seen, loved, and accepted, and she also took my artwork very seriously. I thought if someone this magnificent could believe in me, then maybe it was worth believing in myself too. Linda is always with me when I am in my studio painting. The impression she has made on my life is so deep that it will be a monumental part of who I am all the days I am here on this earth. This is a hard question but can you speculate what you might have done with your art if you did not meet Linda? A lot of people think that in order to be an artist, you have to be born with some kind of natural talent and only a select few are given that gift. I don’t believe that. I do think some people, like myself, are born with an inexplicable desire to make art. But my three year


old drawings were no different than those of any other three year old. I just made A LOT of them. I imagine I would have always found my way to art in one capacity or another, but I know so many adults with incredible artistic abilities who lack the confidence and motivation to pursue their work on a professional level. Our society is designed to steer young people toward career paths that will be financially rewarding, and art usually isn’t at the top of most parents’ wish lists. But Linda made me believe I was special, and not in a patronizing way. She genuinely believed it too, enough to push me and help me find the motivation to work hard and reach for goals that would seem unattainable to most others my age. Nothing seemed impossible, and I think that’s the greatest gift Linda gave me. I still feel that way to this day. If I can dream it, I can do it. And I hope I can inspire others to believe in themselves that much too. She always called me her Golden Child, but there are a lot of golden children out there—all deserving of love, encouragement, and a mentor to help them believe there are no limits to what they can accomplish. You and Linda shared a very close relationship. Can you

tell us about how she helped you come to terms with your sexuality? Growing up Catholic, I was taught that being gay was evil. And when I started having homosexual urges, I felt so ashamed of myself. I always wanted so desperately to please the people I loved, and I felt this dark secret would ruin everything. I tried to force myself to adhere to societal expectations, but everything about who I was felt like it was in conflict with who I was supposed to be. That’s where the suicidal thoughts originated. I didn’t have the vocabulary to express these feelings, and I didn’t have anyone I could talk to about them. But through art, Linda gave me a pathway toward expressing all that inner turmoil. I also saw through the example of her life how she defied expectations that were placed on her, becoming her own person exactly the way she saw fit. I didn’t come out until many years later, but as a kid, being around someone with that much inner strength rubbed off on me. I started to think that maybe being “different” was ok. Maybe even something to be proud of. Just last week, I sat beside Linda’s hospital bed with her kids as she passed on from this earth. My heart is absolutely broken by this tremendous loss. Since that

time, I have been contacted by countless other artists from all over the country who have had similar experiences with Linda—taking them under her wing at a crucial time when they felt nobody else understood them. She taught them to paint, but more importantly she taught them to live. I’ve told each and every one of them that we are all “golden children,” and it’s now our job to pass on that light to everyone we encounter who seems to be living in darkness. When you’ve been there, you can spot it in others. And Linda made it her life’s work to help us out of those difficult places and learn to love ourselves again. Have you ever had to be the person a young person has come to and said you helped them through their trouble and saved their lives? I have had many young people tell me that being involved with our You Will Rise Project workshops saved their lives. I can’t take all the credit for that—we have a team of the most incredible volunteers you could imagine helping make those workshops happen. I see myself in so many of the young participants. They come into the room on the first day absolutely terrified to be in a social situation because of the abuse


they’ve been dealt at school. Slowly through our various art projects, some collaborative and some independent, they begin to open up and understand that they are in a safe space with other people feeling the exact same way. We’ve had many participants who had dropped out of school because of bullying and been suicidal or caught up in self-harm, and nothing is more rewarding than seeing them emerge with more confidence and love for themselves. Art is healing and art is empowering. Those are the lessons I learned as a kid and what I strive to instill in all the young people I work with. Can you tell us about Open Ground Studios, and what the name means? Open Ground Studios is a wonderful community art studio in Monterey, California, started by a local artist named Denese Sanders. It’s a co-op studio and gallery where artists of all backgrounds and experience levels can work, learn, and grow together. I joined a month after moving to Monterey three and a half years ago. It’s been such a blessing for me because I have


found a wonderful community here, and it has given me an outlet for teaching too. Tell us what you teach there and the ages you teach. Do you do video lessons? I teach a weekly Drawing & Painting class that is modeled after the classes I took with Linda growing up. Everyone works on whatever they want— any medium, any subject matter—and I just roam around and offer suggestions. I enjoy letting each of my students develop their own styles rather than trying to make them all clones of myself. It is challenging and exciting to see where each person is, where they want to be, and help them figure out how to get there. I’ve also taught workshops online through OGS, including figure drawing and portrait drawing, and I have plans to offer many more. Why did you choose that location? My husband is an oncology nurse practitioner and he found a job at a private practice here in Monterey. We were

living in Ohio at the time but I encouraged him to send his resume out all over to find what would be the best fit for him since I can do my artwork anywhere. When he landed on Monterey, I had to do some Googling because I had never heard of it. But it has turned out to be the perfect location for us. It’s a wonderful small town right on the Pacific coast (our house is across the street from the beach) with a thriving art community and the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. It’s also close to San Francisco and I can easily get to other places in California like LA if needed for various events and projects. We miss our family and friends in Ohio, but otherwise couldn’t be happier here. How has meeting Dennis changed your life? Dennis is the love of my life. He’s the perfect complement to me in every way. We’re different enough that it never gets boring, but our core values are perfectly aligned. Dennis is such a nurturing person and he cares about everyone. He treats everybody the same, regardless

of what might be in it for him. That’s one of my favorite qualities of his. It doesn’t matter if he is talking to the janitor or the CEO, he’s going to give them his full attention and compassion. He has a tremendous amount of integrity and that’s why everyone from his patients to friends and family members want his input when going through difficult health challenges. He has helped me learn how to make concrete plans to help achieve my goals, and he is always so supportive of all my dreams. I am so lucky to spend my life with this beautiful person. Was it love at first sight? We met online even though I really wasn’t there to look for love. I just wanted to have fun. But there was something different about him and I knew it the moment we met. I thought he was beautiful, smart, and interesting, but I also thought I was way too wacky and unsophisticated for him. Thankfully I was wrong about that.

Photo by Nic Coury


Tell us about the paintings you’ve made of Dennis. Contemplating His Dharma was the first painting I did of him—I believe that was during the first year of our relationship. It portrays his soulful, introspective nature and spirituality. The Snake Charmer was part of a series I did inspired by sideshow banners with a queer twist. It shows his more sensual, sexy side, caressing a snake tattoo that winds around his chest. Looking for the Answers is from my War Paint series, which portrays models coating their faces and bodies in different pigments that represent something about them as an individual. Dennis is always striving to collect information and connect dots to learn more about our world, and I chose green as his color because he is most at peace in nature. Wounded Healer is from my recent series called The Masks We Wear. He’s shown holding a plague


doctor mask away from his face, representing his ability to connect with his cancer patients by sometimes letting his guard down in order to interact with them on a human/emotional level. You are around young people a lot and part of organizations that help children. Are you and Dennis going to adopt one day? We considered adopting at one time and even went to meet with an attorney to learn about our options, but it ultimately wasn’t for us. There’s nothing missing in our lives right now, except for maybe a puppy which we hope to find one day soon. If we had kids of our own, we wouldn’t be able to do nearly as much to help other people’s kids. Dennis works so much and I have so many different projects going on at once that it would be very difficult for us to make children a priority without significantly changing our lifestyle. And we

figured why mess with a thing!

What advice do you ha young future artists?

My advice for young futu artists is don’t wait until t future. You can be an art right now! Some of the m innovative, exciting work ever seen has been mad young people. If you love make art, then make it a take yourself seriously. C yourself an artist and nev apologize for your art. W you create doesn’t need to measure up to anythin except what’s in your he and in your heart. If it do that, then you’ve created something really importa and worthwhile.


ave for

ure the tist most k I’ve de by e to and Call ver What

ng ead oes d ant

Photo by Nic Coury


Talking to the LGBTQQIP2SAA world one publication at a time.


Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.