Foremost, I’m an author of more than a dozen books covering topics in geology and mineralogy, primarily identification field guides, but also some titles covering more in-depth and focused topics (agates are a particular area of expertise). To go along with the text, I photograph mineral specimens with studio equipment custom-built for the task, and with hundreds of published photos, I’ve progressively honed my photographic work to best convey a rock or mineral specimen exactly as it appears in-person, with no alteration to color or perspective.
My knowledge of the earth sciences is in large part self-taught, with some amount of formal education combining with extensive self-motivated research. A hands-on education has most put me ahead, however, derived from growing up in a rock shop, buying and selling rocks and minerals most my life and identifying stones out of necessity. At the same time, I spent those years watching my parents, both jewelers and lapidaries, cut and polish all manner of exotic specimens. Growing up on the shore of Lake Superior—a sea, by no stretch of the imagination—also ensured an unending supply of geologic complexities to study. It was predestined; there was no way I’d reach adulthood without an appreciation for minerals.
While I’ve received my share of criticism for writing about these topics without having a degree in the field, my “amateur” status has actually been an incredible asset. I’ve prided myself on making my text relatable; on being able to strip away some of the complexities of geology and mineralogy and make the topics approachable and enjoyable for novices in a way that not many authors are able.
I earned a bachelor’s of fine arts in graphic design and photography from the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2008, but while I have created some successful working logos and brand identities, and enjoy many aspects of the graphic design process, my creative passions fit firmly in studio art.
Despite professional success within the realm of geological science, a large part of me still thinks of myself as an artist first. Balancing a love for lush, elaborate detail with a personal aesthetic of stark, cold perfectionism, I strive to create visually interesting photographs, paintings, and drawings that straddle the line between realism and abstraction, as well as experimenting in music and film in styles that challenge my own creative boundaries.
Aspirations toward writing a novel round out my creative and professional pursuits. Relating my personal experience as an anxious individual within the context of an extraordinary situation with which I’ve never actually been faced is an interesting challenge I’ve been trying to tackle for a few years.
My wife, Julie, and I currently live in Madison, Wisconsin, where I attempt to balance bookwriting, artmaking, and working at a local coin shop, which a friend tells me is a most “hipster” lifestyle.