He arrives in his studio at 9 or 10 in the morning, he explained. He sets aside a corner for watercolors and drawings "away from center stage," meaning where he paints his big, collaged oil paintings. "I consider that corner of the studio to be my comfort zone," he said. First, he tears a large sheet of paper, always the same size, into eight pieces, all about 6 by 9 inches. Then he loosens up with some pencil marks, "nothing statements, which have no function."
"They're not a guide," he went on, they're just a way to say something and nothing with a physical mark that is nothing except a start."
Watercolor goes on top. He estimated that each head takes 5 to 15 minutes. Occasionally he'll paint while on the phone. He may finish one watercolor or 10 in the course of a day.
"There have been days I have not made them," he added. "Sometimes it felt absolutely necessary to do pencil drawings instead. It was cleansing. There's a beautiful sound that pencil makes when it's scratching on paper. Very soothing. Watercolor is like waving a conductor's baton. It's very quick. I almost don't even have to think."
"Sometimes," he added, "I will return to the watercolors in the evening. And that's a completely different atmosphere. If things haven't gone well during the day, I can calm down. The big paintings are like a performance -- me looking at me. It's self-conscious. There's a lot of getting up close to the canvas, then stepping back, reflecting on decisions, thinking about gestures. I try to take on all sorts of issues and ideas. So my mind is busy. With watercolor, it's just about the colors and the faces. They're free to go any way they want to go. I may tell myself, 'This will be the last one I do.' Then I'll do another. That's liberating."
The New York Times, May 8, 2005
(Thanks to Ben Griswold.)