Monday, March 31, 2014

Table Landscape

A 9x12 pastel drawing of the studio table from today.  You may wonder how or why I do these drawings?  The table is like a miniature landscape, and the drawings of this landscape are a way of thinking visually out loud.  Some are better than others, but it's hard to know which ones yet, and why. Over time it will become clearer.  That's what's hard about painting.  One doesn't do a masterpiece each day, and it takes time to get somewhere.  But I am amazed how much is available in so small a space.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Seeing Things

Another 12x24 oil,  of the corner of Third Avenue and Third Street.

I'm trying to get through The Guermantes Way by Proust (it's getting easier now that I am 3/4s finished).  He writes how an artist changes the way we view the world until another comes along to redefine how we see things.  Unfortunately, he uses the example of Renoir, an artist who is now not popular, to describe this process.  But one could substitute easily another artist. Except that today, I don't think it's true any longer, since we are exposed to so many artists, and ways to view the world, that multiplicity seems to be the rule: there's no one way to see things, or no way to see things.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ambiguous Reading

Another studio table view, from a little higher up, a 12x9 pastel drawing.  I've been trying to convey without thinking about it too much, except afterwards, the messiness of creativity, which may seem like an excuse for not cleaning up.  I often have this idea of sitting down with a sketchpad and drawing everything at my feet, except that most times it would be just a mess of lines.  So drawing everything that sits on this table is like that, and I don't mind that something appears ambiguous or unreadable.   How often do you understand everything you are looking at?  But that too sounds like an excuse for not cleaning up.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Vanderbilt and Dean

A couple days ago I wrote that I was working on a 'large landscape,' a 12x24 oil of the corner of Vanderbilt and Dean in Brooklyn.  The long format leads to some interesting compositional details, such as balancing the yellow sign on the left with the building opening on the right, the three cars and the the three buildings, the repetition of the arch, etc. , stuff that's always there, but not visible.

Which leads me to:  I was reading Seamus Heaney again.  In the second of the 'Squarings' poems, he wrote, "Make your study the unregarded floor."  I wondered when I read that, Can I interpret that to mean, paint what we depend upon but do not see.  The ground.  Painters paint foregrounds, backgrounds, middlegrounds, and directly upon 'grounds,' like canvases, and we walk upon the ground, the roadway, and seldom see it.  Tillich called God the 'ground of being'.  I could go on, but I will stop.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Turning the Corner

This is the fifth drawing in a series on the art stuff found on a table in the studio: a 9x12 pastel drawing. I tried to be simpler and not overdo it in this drawing of a corner of the table that I had not visited yet.  And this one is horizontal, a landscape of the table, with an underground, or undertable, and a background.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Table Tops

Two 12x9 studio table pastel drawings from today.  I am working on a large landscape, but it will take more time.  I love doing these small studio drawings, trying to come up with interesting compositions that are architectural and landscapy.  As I wrote earlier,  I don't  change anything that I find.  A chance composition.  Found objects.  Though I am interpretative in my response.   I'll have to look at the other two table corners tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Promised Land

No matter how close you think you are to the promised land, it keeps slipping away.   When in sight, it recedes.  You think it's in your grasp, only to fade away.  Nothing is easy when making art.  If if seems easy, then re-think.  The above is a 12x9 pastel drawing of a table in the studio.  Doing studio interiors and studio still lives is a venerable tradition, but elusive nevertheless.

Monday, March 24, 2014


An 11x14 oil of a view of a Brooklyn skyline from the window of my grandson's apartment.  This is the pretty compared to the gritty of yesterday's painting.  Sunlight does wonders for anything.  A good painting prep also helps.

Studio Table

A 12x9 pastel and charcoal drawing.  While waiting for someone to appear, and having already done two unsatisfactory drawings, I tried something different, and suddenly things opened up.  Thank you to circumstances.  I can't wait to do more.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Not a Pretty Picture

This is not a pretty picture, an 11x14 oil of a snapshot-like view of Sterling Place on a cloudy day, but it has the elements of Brooklyn: sidewalk, street, parts of cars, closed sliding doors, light pole.

Old Snow

I've been debating whether to scrape this down and start over, or just keep adding more snow and stalks.

Postscript:  I decided to add more snow (aka more paint).

Friday, March 21, 2014

Studio Tableau

This is a 12x12 oil based upon the previously posted pastel sketch.  Actually I took some liberties with the sketch, since the table setup was still in place, and I wanted to use the square format.  As I stated earlier I usually don't change what I find.  Maybe I will leave something out, but seldom make arrangements.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Walk 'n' Draw

When I go walking, as I did today and yesterday, weather permitting, and the weather has been very strict this year, I always take along a sketch pad.  My sketchpads now stack up to over two feet's worth.  The top long view is from this afternoon's walk, and the two trees drawing is from yesterday.  I like to call the practice "Walk 'n' Draw".  I strongly recommend it.  If you think you see something, try to draw it.  At this time of the year I use to walk along canals.  Now I walk along corn fields.  Despite the change, the path is still muddy.

Drawing Night and Day

Right now I am working on three paintings.   The following interlude is presented to buy time until they are ready.

Over the years I have done thousands of drawings.  Some I framed but didn't store properly, and now have to reframe them.  While doing so,  a task I do when time permits, I also photograph them.  The above two charcoal drawings date back to the early 1980's.  I call them night drawings since I did most of them at night outside, but a few I did during the day, as you can see.  If you select the search label  'night drawing' in the list on the right, you can see the others that I have already reframed.  There are more to come.  They were done on the most exquisite surface, rag matboard.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


A 12x9 pastel and charcoal drawing of a table in the studio.  Clive Bell wrote that for Bonnard 'table' equalled 'tableau'.  But this one is not so flat in appearance.   Nothing is going to roll onto the floor.

This picture is also an accidental 'memento mori'.  There's a plastic skull on the table.  I didn't change anything on the table to make the drawing.  There's always a natural architecture available when composing a drawing or painting,  as evidenced by the position of table and chairs.  The rest just falls into place.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Two Doorways

These two 12x9 oils are also studio interiors, of doorways leading to no clear or obvious space.  Some openings may take us to dead ends, or they may suggest mystery.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Grand and St. Marks

While waiting for the paint to dry,  I also visited Brooklyn.  This is a 9x12 oil of the corner of Grand and St. Marks.

Studio 14

Sounds like a really posh place.  I advanced the two paintings, though didn't complete them, and I did the above 12x9 mainly pastel drawing of the studio today while waiting for the paint to dry.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Twelve and Thirteen

Two more 12x9 studio interiors.  I do have a couple paintings underway.  The composition possibilities are endless.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Still in the Studio

The top is a 12x9 oil, while the two bottoms are 12x9 charcoal and pastel drawings.  Now I'm trying to find more contrasty, bolder views.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Union Street Bridge

A 9x12 oil of the Union Street Bridge crossing the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

More Inside

Three more 12x9 drawings of studio interiors.  The starving artist is in the bottom drawing.  I like doing interiors, because they easily lend themselves to becoming more abstract while remaining what they are.

Maple Train

A 14x18 oil of the maple barn steaming away like a train evaporating the water out of the syrup from yesterday morning.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Three 12x9 drawings in charcoal with touches of pastel of the studio space.  I'm drawing the sides and edges.  There really is a lot of space.  Here's a question:  why are interiors vertical and landscapes horizontal?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Exterior View

A 9x12 pastel of the expansive view of the Hopper from Sloan Road in Williamstown, Ma.  I mentioned the waning winter the other day, but there's another snow fall on the way this week.

Interior View

A 12x9 oil of the corner of the studio space in which I am fortunate to be working.  Somebody asked me who cares about interior views of a studio.  Tough question to answer without seeming disconnected.  Besides many things,  it's just a way to move into something new,  though I used to do interiors years ago.  I've done a number of pastel and charcoal drawings, which I will post in the next few days.  The studio has multiple, multiple views available, lights on, or lights off.  I had an inkling about it the moment the space was available to work in.


A 9x12 oil of the Monhegan coast.  I've started a new series of interior 'landscapes'.  The above is the last seascape for a while.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Monhegan and Bonheur

A 9x12 Monhegan seascape in oil.

John Elderfield in his essay,  Seeing Bonnard, in the 1998 Sarah Whitfield catalog Bonnard answers the question I posed yesterday.  He writes that Bonnard felt that "a painting is thought to remember a momentary perception.  Bonnard needed to remember the original 'seductive vision' - or the 'original thought' or the 'initial idea' - of the object, he said, lest 'the inconsistent fleeting world of the object' take over and swamp him in the mere appearances of things 'just as they are'."  The only way to 'remember' is to paint the remembrance.  

Interestingly, Elderfield writes about focus and peripheral vision, and how Bonnard composed by placing things at the edges, and having things sink into the background, but he doesn't pursue the idea that memory itself is never very sharp.  Bonnard painted from memory, and so it makes visual sense that his paintings will be like thoughts one is trying to remember: things are not quite clear, they fade in and out, something is at the edge, just about to appear,  some things just cannot be grasped.

Bonnard's name is similar to 'bonheur' but while his paintings are joyous,  they are also extremely sad: a dream that is powerfully suggestive but always elusive.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Winter and Bonnard's Comment

Winter is starting to fade away, so I'll try to get a few winter paintings done as quickly as possible.  The above is a 9x12 pastel of the view at the top of Stratton Road looking towards the Taconics.

I have been puzzling over Bonnard's comment that everyone would be a painter if they knew how to look and see.  I'm not sure that I agree with that.  If one sees, how does one go from that to feeling compelled to paint?

Harsh Coast and Bonnard

A more severe coast scene,  9x12 oil on mdf panel.

From an essay by Sarah Whitfield on Bonnard, "In a conversation Bonnard had towards the end of his life with some friends who were visiting him at Le Cannet, one of them quoted Balzac: 'A curse on the man who keeps silent in the middle of the desert, believing that there is no one to listen to him.'  Bonnard, asking him to repeat his sentence, paused for a long time before replying, 'Speaking, when you have something to say, is like looking.  But who looks? If people could see, and see properly, and see whole, they would all be painters.  And it's because people have no idea how to look that they hardly ever understand.'"

Friday, March 7, 2014


Not really.  A 9x12 oil of an Ogunquit view previously done in pastel.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Brooklyn Cubist

An 11x14 oil painting of the intersection of Sterling Place and Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn.  When I saw this intersection I was amazed at all the different planes, all in the same place.