Behind the Art: I Prevail

I can still remember the day I fell in love with contemporary hard rock as though it were yesterday.

It was in early May 2011 and my wife and I took a long drive up the coast to have lunch at Nick’s Cove nestled hard on Tomales Bay about 90 minutes north of San Francisco.

On the way there, we turned on Octane, SiriusXM’s hard rock-metal station. It hit us like a thunderbolt, and I Shazammed a ton of songs on the trip.

After that, I started downloading them by the dozen. I listened to them while driving, working out, and especially skiing. As I write this, I have created 68 playlists with 14 songs each. That’s 926 songs encompassing 2.2 days of music — with no repeats.

So, yeah, I’m into it, especially because this style of music and the bands behind them are so positive, motivating and uplifting .

I bring all this up so you know that I wasn’t being maudlin when I decided to do a painting in part to commemorate my dad’s passing based on one of my favorite songs.

The painting in question is “ I Prevail,” which also is the name of one of my favorite bands. And I love their song “Rise Above It.” That’s why I used a quotation from that tune, “I was meant to rise above it.”

Though it might not seem so at first, that says a lot about what an upbeat guy my dad was and also underscores his many battlefield travails. See, my dad was a Marine who made sergeant at the unheard of age of 19.

He saw combat in Korea, where he was deployed with a flamethrower and also a 50-caliber machine gun. He later served two tours in Vietnam, and clearly saw a lot of death in his life. His ashes are interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

And yet he was so positive and upbeat and was a great role model for me. In fact, we worked together as professionals and were very close until he died on May 27, 2021.

For I Prevail, I chose a solitary figure with angel’s wings and adorned with a crown. I like to think he’s headed up to heaven and is looking down on me.

At heart, I remain a spiritual person and use that belief in a higher power often in my paintings. I put a white bird on the lower right section of this one as a symbol of peace, love and hope for what is to come of us in the end, even if we can’t understand it all.

This particular bird is a departure for me. Most of my paintings are figurative, abstract or surreal, or a combination of the three. But I thought the juxtaposition of putting a very realistic figure in there heightened the tension and also the sense of discovery the viewer has.

I also like how much space there is in the painting set against an azure background that reminds one of a heavenly day. Add it all up and you see why I think a painting inspired by death can in fact be very aspirational.

To see a video of me talking about this painting, click here.