Sunday, September 25, 2016

Herring Cove

A 12x16 oil on panel view from the high point at Herring Cove on Campobello Island.  I learned later that I was standing near the spot where Eleanor Roosevelt sat against a tree in 1962 for the last photo taken of her before she died.  She loved this location, and I can understand why.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Wilson's Beach at Campobello Island

Wednesday this week there were no clouds or rain in the weather forecast at Campobello Island, but the day still started with heavy fog.  I drove to Wilson's Beach, set up to paint and waited for the fog to dissipate.  As you can see, it was low tide.  The owner of the largest boat, called "The Godsend," came by to chat, as did several other people from the area.  This is a 12x16 oil on panel.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Sheep Hill, and Corot Again

This morning I spent a couple hours painting at Sheep Hill with Valeri Larko and her students.  One person said that my painting's parts were moving.  Maybe because everything is topsy-turvy, which is not all my fault since the splendid barns are topsy-turvy.

One more Corot anecdote:  Corot spent six years, from the age of 19 until 25, working in different cloth merchant shops.  His father was trying to get him trained in the family business, but Corot was indifferent to the idea for a long time.  Awareness of cloth and textiles would later show up in the various costumes he acquired for his models to wear.  But, according to the story, he chanced to see a work by the English painter Richard Parkes Bonington in a Paris shop window, and, as a consequence, became determined to pursue a career as a painter.  The story is considered 'apocryphal' but something did happen to Corot at the age of 25.  When he went to Italy a couple years later to paint plein-air, he was older than most of his fellow artists, and his maturity helped him considerably to assume the role of a budding master.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Sheep Hill with Valeri Larko

Here's an 11x14 oil on panel that I did this afternoon, while painting at Sheep Hill alongside Valeri Larko and her enthusiastic students.  Valeri Larko is a tremendous urban painter.  You can see her work at  But I discovered that she's also a great teacher and can paint anything like a master.

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Walk Down Fifth Avenue and the Death of Corot

A large 26x32 oil on canvas of a view down Fifth Avenue near The Met and Central Park.

Believe it or not, I have another Corot anecdote, from the Michael Clarke book: "Viollet-le-Duc's account of the event [Corot's funeral service] in the Journal des Debats reveals that the service, at which the requiem was sung by the celebrated baritone and collector of Corot's work, Jean-Baptiste Faure, was somewhat spoiled by the excessive complaints of the officiating cleric that the press had not sufficiently reported that Corot, a devout man, had died a Christian.  These rantings were cut short by an unfortunate young madwoman who stood up amongst the packed congregation and let out a series of piercing cries."

Maybe she was his Muse.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Corot Weekend

This painting, a 20x28 oil on canvas, represents the view down Bergen Street as one approaches Washington Avenue after having gone past Grand Avenue in Brooklyn.  One can't miss the triangular shaped building on the corner of Bergen and Washington.

From Corot and The Art of Landscape by Michael Clarke, the best short book on Corot that I've found, comes another Corot anecdote:  "...Corot suffered an official rebuff from the art establishment when in 1865 the final choice for the Grand Medal of Honour at the Salon rested between one of his landscapes and a portrait of Emperor Napoleon III by Alexandre Cabanal (1824-89), an artist whose sanitized nudes, such as the famous Birth of Venus (Musee d'Orsay, Paris) of 1863, represented the height of fashionable taste at the time.  The verdict eventually went in Cabanal's favour after the twenty-sixth walk-through by the jury!"

This past weekend I visited the Corot gallery at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The room contains twenty-two (22) Corot paintings from all periods of his life, and most are masterpieces.  In addition two nearby rooms contained dozens of late 18th and early 19th century plein-air paintings done in Italy by Corot's colleagues, including two more Corots.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Perils of Painting

The corner of Nelson Street and Hamilton Avenue in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn: a 14x14 oil on panel painting.

Though I recently said I was offering a final Corot anecdote, here's another:  In 1833, Corot painted two views for the owner of a cloth factory in Soissons, one of the factory itself, a major painting now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  For both paintings, Corot received nothing.  One Corot scholar wrote, "Corot was considered an amateur; does one offer money to such people?"

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Figure Drawing

Here's a pencil drawing that I made recently.  It's approximately 14x17 inches.

It's Hard to See

A 12x12 oil on panel of the corner of Smith Street and Hamilton Avenue next to the Gowanus Expressway in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn.

Here's something to think about, a line from the Robert Hass poem "Consciousness,"

It's hard to see what you're seeing with, to see what being is as an

activity through the instrument of whatever-it-is we have being in.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Tree in Brooklyn and Expectations

A 12x12 oil on canvas of a sycamore tree on Coles Street looking toward Sebring Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

In a short, perceptive essay on Corot, S. Lane Faison, Jr. wrote, "He did not not sell a picture until he was fifty-six, a fact which should remind us how little his work conformed to the academic expectations of his day."  This may seem hard to believe today.  But the real lesson about "expectations" affecting and interfering with one's vision is not restricted to the 19th century.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Gowanus Expressway and How to Judge a Book

Facing north this time, we present a 12x12 oil on canvas view of Hamilton Avenue under the Gowanus Expressway.

One final anecdote from the Corot catalog: Corot painted several pictures of women reading.  "According to Theophile Silvestre, a contemporary of Corot, the artist hardly ever read, but he bought books along the quays, 'exclusively for their shapes and colors,' in order to put them into the hands of his models."

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Site Sublime

Another corner off Hamilton Avenue, Hicks Street and Luquer, near the Gowanus Expressway in Red Hook, early in the morning.  This is a 12x12 oil on canvas.

Maybe apropos to this site in Brooklyn, I read in the Corot catalog another story about him: one time he was visiting friends in a small French village.  There he encountered a "... site so sublime that he fell on his knees before it, arms raised to the sky."

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Inadequate Allowance

A small 9x12 oil on canvas view from below the Gowanus Expressway on Hamilton Avenue near Bush Street in Brooklyn, New York.

Another story from the Corot catalog that I'm reading:  when in 1846 Corot received the Legion of Honor, "his father wondered whether the allowance given his son --then aged fifty--should be increased."  Two other 19th century artists who depended upon a family allowance to survive: Cezanne and Van Gogh.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Spirit Came

This afternoon I went to the pond again.  The water was like a mirror when I arrived, and I planned on painting it that way, but the spirit came across the water and everything changed.  This view is of the south side of the pond.  The painting is a 12x16 oil on panel.

I'm currently reading a Met catalog of a Corot exhibition which took place mainly in 1996.  Corot, like his contemporaries who were painting plein air in Italy and France (early-mid 1820s), tried to remain faithful to the topography, though that idea didn't carry through with studio landscapes.  However, staying true to the topography was a novelty, so much so that one mid-19th century French critic (Silvestre) wrote that "... the academic landscapists prune the trees and weed out the mosses in the forest of Fontainebleau finding virgin nature too ordinary for the grand style."  I find amusing the idea that the artist can improve on nature.  If whatever one is thinking of painting doesn't appeal, then one can always move.  Significant changes to a natural setting and contrived nature are usually apparent.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Arches de Gowanus

One could call this painting, a 14x18 oil on canvas, Les Arches de Gowanus.  It represents a view under the Gowanus Expressway from Hamilton Avenue near Clinton and West 9th Streets.  It's a very busy, noisy place, though I left out most of the moving things and the sound.