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Artist Paul, 64

Incarcerated: 21 years

I first began oil painting in 1978, shortly after I was discharged from the army at the end of 1977. I then took a couple of classes at Fullerton Community College. My painting instructor told me to paint whatever I felt like painting, however I felt like painting it. I was hooked. Then I met a girl, fell in love and was persuaded to leave painting behind. I was told by my new in-laws, “No one makes a living painting.” So I worked in sales and left painting behind. Many years later, in 2010, I attended a painting class at San Quentin, taught by Patrick Maloney. I discovered that my life wasn’t quite over. Pat had the same teaching philosophy as my first instructor. For me, it clicked. Since I do not have the benefit of viewing things in the real world then painting them, I rely on my imagination. Sometimes I use photo references to guide me. I have painted recreations of some of the great masters: Vermeer, Monet, Marguerite and others. I change them slightly to make them my own interpretation. I am ashamed to be known as a convicted murderer who paints. That’s why I don’t promote my work. But beauty often grows out of ugliness.

I believe people have forgotten the importance and beauty of the small things. My example for my two paintings would be the birds and the bees, without the birds and bees we would have no food to eat and be inundated by insects. Without plankton, algae and coral there would be no environment to produce the air that we breathe. Everything seems to be about what we can attain and secure, rather than gratefulness for what we have. The birds and bees are a symbol for me of the circle of life.The small things in life are often neglected, the beautifully simple, necessary building blocks of life. Without the birds and bees, there would be no life. We always look toward the Colossal for what is meaningful, but what if what is truly profound is so found within the minuscule creatures that are under-appreciated. Chaos is only a heartbeat away, but even within chaos, order can be found. Nothing is truly random. Look closely, from a distance.

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