“Knotted Snake” was the result of an urge to represent the twists and turns that were occurring in my life at the time. It represents the creative process, but beyond just the artistic sense. At that point in my life there was a lot of heavy creation happening. I was developing Citra Studio with Jess. I was designing our first furniture collections to put into production. I was determining my next move, literally, by moving from Chicago to… somewhere (I moved to Philadelphia in the end). At the time it felt like I was creating my life from scratch, tossing what wasn’t working and keeping everything that was. During this creation period there was a lot of uncertainty, some much needed flexibility, and plenty of curveballs to work around. I wanted to create a painting that represented this process not just for myself, but for anyone working through a dramatic shift in their lives.

Knotted Snake sketch

As with any painting, I started with only a nugget of an idea and sketched it out on paper to solidify it. When I come up with an idea for a painting, I don’t actually “see” it in my mind. I understand the concept of what I want to create, but I don’t have photographic thoughts. It’s a bit tough to explain, but it’s sort of like knowing exactly what a thing looks like, without ever actually having seen it. The only way I can actually form the idea visually is by sketching it out on paper first. This is where the idea starts to come alive. I don’t need the sketch to be perfect by any means, I just need enough worked out for me to understand where I’m going with it.

After I’ve reached a good starting point with my sketch, I decide on what colors I’m going to use in the painting. When I choose my color palette, I choose it intuitively without much deliberation. I like having a nice balance between dark, vivid, and light colors, as well as playing warm and cool hues off each other. I rarely have a specific reason for choosing colors beyond a gut feeling, though after I’ve chosen my palette I am very intentional on how I use each color. For this painting, the navy blue is perfect for shadows. The bright green is a vivid mid tone, the light purple makes a wonderful highlight, and the vibrant red makes a fantastic anchor for the overall composition. 


Like the other paintings I have in the store right now, I painted “Knotted Snake” in an additive fashion with acrylic. I added layers of paint until the balance of color was just right. After I added the background, I painted a rough image of the snake with a large brush, using my sketch as a reference. Then I layered on the colors one by one, fine tuning the form and the curves as I go. With each layer my brush gets smaller and smaller until I’m making tiny, delicate edits with an ultra fine liner brush. Time spent on the details can vary wildly, but eventually the painting feels right, complete.

The idea of using a snake to represent the twisting path of creation just felt right to me. It’s a living thing with its own purpose and motives, trying to find its path in the world. Obviously snakes in real life don’t knot themselves up to get to where they are going. They seem to know exactly where they’ll be next. But we can at least take solace in the fact that when they do knot up it’s usually for a purpose, and they can quickly find a way to straighten themselves out.

The original "Knotted Snake" painting and it's limited run prints are available in the Citra Studio store.