Monday, April 30, 2012

Bergen and Washington

Finally, I just declared the Pierre Schneider Matisse book to have been read, even though I skimmed the last few pages.  I do think it's probably one of the great 20th century art books, but I just wanted to get onto something else.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Big Picture

While I work on what's coming next, I thought I would post this big picture of an onion that I did a couple weeks ago.  It's a 5x7 pastel.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Canal at Grant

Tonight as I was making this sketch, my pencil broke, and I didn't have a backup.  I finished the sketch holding the lead in place with my thumb and index finger.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Barber Pole Barn

This is an 18x24 oil of a famous barn in Hancock, MA on Route 43.  The other barn is in the background left.  The main barn is the distant one in the previous painting.

One more quote from the Schneider book on Matisse (I am almost done reading it): "...when myths are no longer viable, the process of identification remains the sole manifestation of the sacred.  To 'go out of yourself,' in order to become one with the model--be it a parakeet, a shell, or a woman--to feel ecstasy, is to know the divine: 'Do I believe in God? --Yes, when I work.'"  So said Matisse.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


A 12 x 24 oil of geometric forms in the guise of two barns and a road.   The "graffiti" in the roadway was created by a highway crew trying to preserve the cracks in the road.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Evening Canal Sketch

Here's a key passage in the Schneider Matisse book describing the work of the 1920's in Nice: "The difficulty was that a return to realistic representation was at once necessary and impossible. Unless--and this was the solution Matisse was looking for--the abstract image could be made to look like a realistic representation. For Matisse was no longer satisfied with merely combining the two- and three-dimensional space to create effects which had so far been produced by three-dimensional space. It was no longer a question of skillfully combining realism with abstraction, but of getting abstraction to simulate realism."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Another Hopper

The Hopper view: I don't know why I keep going there. 8x12 pastel. This one I tried to keep loose. I would like my oils and pastels to become more similar in handling. And sunny.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Weekend Work

Three 11x14 images of Brooklyn, one an oil painting, and two drawings. I find it amusing that it's hard to do anything of Brooklyn without automobiles. Just think of Impressionist paintings of Paris without carriages.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bright and Early Morning River

This is an 8x10 pastel of a familiar spot at Washington's Crossing on the Delaware River. I did it last week but forgot to photograph and post it. Too busy trying to finish the Matisse book.

Washington's Crossing in January

The above painting, done in January, 2011, I entered into the exhibition New Jersey State History Fair Art Exhibit: Featuring New Jersey's Historic Heritage, which runs from April 14 to 28 at the Prallsville Mills, Stockton, NJ. Anyway, I was informed this afternoon that it won Third Best Overall in the show.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Feeder Canal

This canal view, which is located at the end of my street, feeds my imagination constantly. This morning it was different than above. The canal's formal name is the Delaware & Raritan Feeder Canal, since it feeds another canal with water from the Delaware River. The above is a 12 x 24 oil.

I keep plowing through the Schneider book on Matisse. It is the best book on Matisse available today, but it's long, heavy, and somewhat repetitive. However, it's so unusual that I will keep on reading. Here's another excerpt: "Science can only move forward; art alone has the capacity to return to its beginnings. Through art, the primordial remains accessible to us. Art has a way of communicating that has not changed since the beginning (do we understand a Fayum portrait any less well than a portrait by Manet? has there been any progress from the former to the latter?), but this language has been drowned out by another language. The return to the sources of the sacred coincided with the reduction of painting to itself. Matisse recalled this fact at the end of his career: 'All art worthy of the name is religious. Be it a creation of lines and colors: if it is not religious, it does not exist. If it is not religious, it is only a matter of documentary art, anecdotal art, which is no longer art. Which has nothing to do with art.'"

Which words make me consider that many approach art as if it is science, always on some kind of progression, as if what you are doing today was done yesterday. So it's all been done already. Why bother making any more pictures? Because there's always something new to discover, something new that will feed your imagination, even if it's old.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Orange and Matisse

Pierre Schneider writes, " Matisse was probably the first artist to have elevated the orange to this rank [king]. (Cezanne and Gauguin had favored the apple.) There is a reason for this and it has to do with the physical nature of the fruit: unlike the apple, or Chardin's beloved peach, the orange has an even intensity of color which resists shading, modeling, and being put in perspective. Whereas the peach, for example is only partly pink, the orange is wholly orange. In the process of transferring this particular object from reality to painting, nothing seems left out, nothing seems added: the orange becomes a bright spot on the canvas without the painter having to do anything about it ... the orange is the fruit d'or, the golden fruit. Thus it has gradually come to replace the apple as the foremost fruit of the garden of paradise ... Thus the orange was to Matisse's personal cult of Elysium what bread and wine are to Christianity."

The above is a 5x7 pastel of an orange. I don't think I can find as deep a quote for the other pastels of garlic, onion, and pear that I have also done.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Underhill and Bergen

This is an 18x24 oil, as large a format as I work on these days. We assume that landscape is about soft forms and cityscape is about hard forms, but I like to do cityscapes whose forms are soft somewhat. Also Brooklyn cityscapes give a great opportunity to use red. The graffiti on the building may be a real sign language that I have completely scrambled up, but I am more interested in its graphical energy just like the white markings in the road or the lintels over the windows.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Quick Hopper and Sacred Matisse

A quick 8x10 pastel of the Hopper view.

Pierre Schneider in his book on Matisse repeatedly makes the case that Matisse is a painter of the sacred, a religious artist: In Notes of a Painter, he speaks of "my religious awe towards life." Elsewhere in the same text, he stresses the identity of the impression experienced and the pictorial expression. It is not to misrepresent Matisse to say that here he is glimpsing a religious art, and that he has been led to this vision by his recognition of the fact that decoration must speak and that it can speak only of one thing: the sacred.