Last Sunday I noticed the Big Umbrella Studios while walking down Divisadero Street. I went in and met Pete Doolittle – a talented artist who’s renting one of the studios. His work fascinated me as he paints bold images straight onto glass salvaged from construction sites.
How did you develop such a unique artistic style?
I never went to art school. I believe life experience alone is a worthwhile form of education. If I received college credits for all that I have so far experienced in life I would be a doctor by now. I am originally from Georgia but I have done a lot of travelling around the US. I first came to San Francisco 11 years ago. I went to a couple of art shows and discovered what was going on here. I really connected with the city and knew that this was the right place for me. I gave up working a crappy job doing the grunt work for other people; I then started to develop my own style.
How do you find the glass you use for you your creations?
Most trashed windows end up in landfills or sitting around behind buildings, down alleyways etc. People tend to smash windows when they have no further use for them. I get most of my glass through contractors because it costs them to get rid of waste glass at the dump. So by having them drop it off at my studio I save them money while saving money myself. When people realise I use windows for my art they bring me windows, it works well.
What inspires you the most?
I get a lot of inspiration by just working here in my studio with the other artists. I used to organise a painting workshop, teaching window painting to other artists. It was very interesting because while I was teaching them I would learn about their particular styles, I learnt a lot. I find inspiration by exchanging ideas and generally being around other artists and artistic styles. But if I had to choose one particular artist I really like it would have to be Keith Haring. I grew up in the 80s so I was a huge fan and I feel like this is evident in my art. I always loved his work because it conveyed such big and strong emotional message with only very simple line work.
Do the bold colours of your work convey a particular message?
Usually I am slowly figuring out what I am wanting to say in my work as I go along. I stand back from my work, look at it over and over again, work on it gradually, and I discover that a part of me is in my work. It’s a kind of therapy for me, to know what’s going on in my mind. It’s a way of learning about myself. But of course, I also do a lot of commission work and my current project is a work on canvas, not glass. One of my first commissions was a painting of a dog. The funny thing is that a lot of people seem to want me to paint their little dog instead of their portrait, so far I have done more dog portraits than human. I find that people who want a portrait of themselves are arrogant, but if they want a painting done of their dog they are usually awesome, so too is their dog.