Sunday, December 31, 2017

Dean Street and the Junk Yard Dog

A view of another area in Brooklyn, Dean Street, where there are old warehouses, empty lots, littered sidewalks and junk yards: a 9x12 oil on panel.

When I was there a few days ago, I saw a dark gray cat cut across an empty fenced-in lot.  Then as I turned the corner, I  saw the cat go into the junk yard across the street.  The cat immediately ran out of the junkyard as I approached the gate.  The most sorry looking small bull dog came out in pursuit, but stopped immediately upon seeing me.  The dog seemed to have one eye half-closed, a large scar on his face, and a bulls eye ring around one eye.  He (assumption) looked at me suspiciously for a second, and, while I wondered if he was going to attack me, he quickly ran back and disappeared into the junk yard.  As I continued on my way, I wondered why the cat had entered the junk yard to begin with. Certainly both animals were locals aware of each other's existence.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Surreal Red Hook and John Keats

A surreal Red Hook painting, the eighth in the series.  Not to worry; I'll be moving to a different location for the next one.  This one is 8x10 oil on panel.

I'm currently reading the fabulous biography of John Keats by Walter Jackson Bate.  In his late teens, Keats knew he wanted to be a poet, but he did not know what to write about.  So, at first, he wrote poetry about writing poetry.  How modern.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

If Only They Kept Coming

The seventh Red Hook, an 8x10 oil on panel.

I've just finished reading Night Studio, a memoir, written by Musa Mayer, the daughter of the painter Philip Guston.  One enviable takeaway for me is the constant and exciting creativity that came upon Philip Guston in the last twelve years of his life.  No matter what you may think of his paintings and drawings from this period, he kept finding and inventing new visual ideas pulled from his own experience.  It's as if he didn't know they were there, but when he started tapping the source, they kept coming and coming.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Smaller Red Hook

A smaller 8x10 Red Hook painting, sixth in the recent Red Hook series.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Red Hook 5

The fifth painting in the Red Hook series, a 9x12 oil on panel.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Fourth Red Hook

Since this is the fourth Red Hook painting in a row, I suppose I should call it part of the Red Hook series, a 9x12 oil on panel.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Red Hook Dead End Sign

A third 9x12 oil on panel of a street corner with a Dead End sign in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Red Hook Building

Another 9x12 oil on panel of a building in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Red Hook

A 9x12 oil on panel of a street in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Borderland

A 9x12 oil on panel of a large boat at the public pier in Gloucester, MA.

The borderland--that's where, if one knew how,
one would establish residence.  That watershed,
that spine, that looking-glass . . . I mean the edge
between impasto surface, burnt sienna, thick,
             striate, gleaming--swathes and windrows
             of carnal paint--
             or, canvas barely stained,
             where warp and weft peer through,

and fictive truth: a room, a vase, an open door
giving upon the clouds.

A step back, and you have
the likeness, its own world.  Step to the wall again,
and you're so near the paint you could lick it,
you breathe its ghostly turpentine.

Words from the poem "The Life of Art" by Denise Levertov.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Here is where the ladder stands today

This barn is found at the end of Hopper Road.  The hay bales are brought into the barn loft on a mechanical roller through a side opening, but retrieved by hand by climbing the ladder and tossed down to a waiting truck.  The ladder presents a painting problem: how should it be painted if the painting approach is somewhat loose?  It has to be as convincing as the splotches of paint that represent the truck, but not too convincing.  Anyway,  here is where the ladder stands today.  The painting is a 12x16 oil on panel.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Gloucester Boat in the Air

When you see something like this boat in the air, you have to stop and look.  I recently saw this boat at the Gloucester Marine Railways at the end of Rocky Neck Avenue in Gloucester, MA.  There's something magical about a boat in the air, like the boat that Seamus Heaney writes about in poem viii from "The Lightenings."

The annals say: when the monks of Clonmacnoise
Were all at prayers inside the oratory
A ship appeared above them in the air...

The painting is a 12x16 oil on panel.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Late Afternoon Mountains

Here's a depiction of the Greylock range from Sheep Hill in Williamstown, MA that is striking because of the not-quite-horizontals that take you from the foreground path and weeds to the mountains.  This is a late afternoon view with the sun coming from the right about to drop below the trees, none of which is visible except indirectly through the long shadows sloping down the hill.  The painting is a 12x16 oil on panel.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Insanity and The Dome

We've all encountered somewhere the quote that "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."  It might apply to artists as much as to anyone else.

Yesterday I went, again, to the top of Sheep Hill, and painted the mountains, this time looking north towards Vermont, towards a mountain called "The Dome".  Can you see it?  The painting is an 8x10 oil on panel.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Mountain Week Continued

Another painting of the Greylock mountain range from the top of Sheep Hill that gives a sense of the variety available from this spot.  I did this one on Friday on site when the sun was irregular with an overcast sky. The steep, layered hills intersect at fascinating angles enabling dynamic compositions.  This painting is a 9x12 oil on panel.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Mountain Week

This week I've been doing small oil paintings of the mountains at the top of Sheep Hill again in Williamstown, MA.  The site varies constantly especially at this time of the year.  Visible are the Hopper, Mount Greylock, Stony Ledge, and Mount Prospect.  The painting is a 9x12 oil on panel.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Suggestion

This painting has reached that stage where I can add more detail, or repaint it, or just leave alone (at least for now).  I'm going to leave it alone.  My goal is to suggest more than is actually there in the painting.  The site is the view up the hill behind the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA.  The painting is a 12x16 oil on panel.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Old Tree on the Clark Hill

On the high hill above the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA there are a number of fascinating old trees.  This is one of them with the shadows of another. Given that they take such a beating during winter, one has to wonder how they ever grew there to begin with.  They form interesting patterns with the sky and mountains.  This is a view north and the mountains are in Vermont.  The painting is a 12x16 oil on panel.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

What I Saw and the News

One day last week, even though it was late in the afternoon, overcast, and getting darker, the sun kept appearing for seconds at a time at long intervals.  I walked up the dirt road hoping to see something even if for the briefest moment.  This is what I saw.

One more quote from the book What Painting Is by James Elkins, which doesn't have anything directly to do with paint, but it does have to do with art and the world:  "It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there."  It's a line from the poem "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower" by William Carlos Williams.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Mud and Transcendence

Another view of Rue Celony in Aix.  The experience of Rue Celony has to be contemplated in paint over time.  It's not something I can absorb and understand all at once.

Here's another interesting passage from the James Elkins book What Painting Is:  "What matters in painting is pushing the mundane toward the instance of transcendence.  The effect is sublimation, or distillation: just as water heats up and then suddenly disappears, so paint gathers itself together and then suddenly becomes something else -- an apparition hovering in the fictive space beyond the picture plane.  The boiling point, just before the substance evaporates, is the crucial moment, and it is vexed."

By the word 'mundane' Elkins means that paint stuff, which comes in tubes, and is formless when spread on a palette, and is like mud.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What Painting Is

Yesterday afternoon I also did a second painting of the mountains from the top of Sheep Hill: this one a 9x12 oil on a linen sheet.  As I placed and moved the paint around on the linen surface, I thought of the book that I've started to re-read,  What Painting Is by James Elkins.   He writes, "Paint is a cast made of the painter's movements, a portrait of the painter's body and thoughts.  The muddy moods of oil paints are the painter's muddy humors, and its brilliant transformation are the painter's unexpected discoveries.  Painting is an unspoken and largely uncognized dialogue, where paint speaks silently in masses and colors and the artist responds in moods."

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Mountains, Mountains

This afternoon's weather was delightful, so I went to the top of Sheep Hill to paint my favorite view of the mountains, Greylock, Prospect, Stony Ledge and the Hopper, which is not a mountain but a distinct space in between the mountains.  Recently, I was in Provence where Mont Ste. Victoire seems so high because it stands alone, but Mount Greylock is actually a few feet higher, 3,317 vs. 3,491.  This painting is a 12x16 oil on panel.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Another Angle

Believe it or not, but he told me that he's smiling.  Actually, he didn't tell me any such thing.  He just wanted to pose from a different angle.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Face Paint

You're probably getting tired of seeing this guy by now, and it's only been three portraits.  He keeps pestering me now to paint his portrait.  I have to admit that there are so many variations possible for a portrait.  So I can't say what will happen next.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Hat On

My sitter came by for a few minutes yesterday.  He didn't stay long, and kept his hat on, so I had to paint quickly.  Funny how this time the painting came much faster.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Figure Painting

It's always good to paint different subjects, even if one prefers landscapes or cityscapes.  I continue to paint the figure from life as part of a weekly drawing group.  This 12x9 oil on linen sketch is from our last session this week.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Headed My Way

In the last few days I spent a lot of time painting this guy's portrait.  His head kept growing and shrinking.  I eventually had to end this particular sitting at the point you see here.  However, he was nice enough to agree to come back for another painting.  I am indeed happy that I didn't chase him away.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Same Spot in Aix

The top painting I did while in Aix in September.  It represents the Jas de Bouffan, the mansion acquired by Paul Cezanne's father in 1859.  It's a 9x12 oil on multimedia board.

The other painting was done by Cezanne in 1887-90.  What is interesting about the Cezanne painting (besides being a great painting) is that it is the only painting considered to be of the front or north side of the Jas de Bouffan.  All of the other fifty or so oils and watercolors of the Jas de Bouffan Cezanne did at the back of the building.  I'm not convinced that the Cezanne painting represents the front of the building.  The balcony and main ground floor entrance are not visible though Cezanne always took liberties.  But I like the idea that I could have been standing in the same spot as Cezanne when I did my painting.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Aix Intersection

This is not a view of Rue Celony.  The painting depicts where Rue Aude intersects with Rue Espariat in the old section of Aix en Provence.  The sun makes an enormous difference in how these ancient buildings appear.  The is a 12x16 oil on panel.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Rich Rue and Squeezed Cars

Another view of Rue Celony in Aix-en-Provence.  This narrow street is rich in views.  People in Aix squeeze cars into the tiniest parking spots using great patience and many backward and forward movements.  However, most cars that I saw had tell-tale signs of this activity.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The End of Landscape

Rue Celony again.  It is a narrow street that pedestrians and vehicles use as a shortcut to get to the old part of Aix.  Fortunately there are metal barriers to separate people from machines.  This painting is a 12x16 oil on panel.

Here are a couple interesting quotes from the Alex Danchev biography of Paul Cezanne:

'Asked why he was so fond of ultramarine, he [Cezanne] replied: "Because the sky is blue."'

'"With Cezanne landscape itself comes to an end," proclaimed the artist Robert Motherwell in the 1940's.'

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Visual Time

When in Aix, I would see this view every day, illuminated differently of course depending upon the location of the sun and clouds.  This is just one slice of visual time.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Up in Aix

This little 9x12 oil painting is the one I prize the most of those I did while in Aix.  I took the bus out to Le Tholonet with all my gear, and climbed up the path to a spot where surely Cezanne once stood.  I could hardly contain my excitement.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Rue Celony

This 12x16 oil on panel depicts on the left side a view down Rue Celony in Aix-en-Provence.  If one were to continue for another mile and a half or so, the Jas de Bouffan would be on the left.  But I couldn't help being impressed by this magnificent building and its diagonal shadow.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

View in Aix

A 12x9 oil on multimedia board that I did while in Aix a few weeks ago.  This view was accessible from a side area off the Pavillon de Vendome garden.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Return to the Pond

Having seen this view yesterday to the left of where I was painting, I went back to the pond today to see what I could do with it.  The painting evokes what I was looking at, the late October sun coming through the trees which have lost many leaves and the pond reflecting the sky in the middle ground.  This is a 9x12 oil on linen sheet.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Pond Painting

Trying to get back into the painting routine again, I went to the pond just over the border in New York state where I've painted earlier this year and at this time last year.  The pond scum is now gone leading to nice sky reflections and more painting opportunities.  Even when painting something that moves all the time, like water (and light and shadow), I used the tree trunk and the diagonal pond edges to provide structure.   This painting is an 11x14 oil on multimedia board.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fantastical Landscapes

These two paintings, I am happy to announce, will be included in the exhibition "Fantastical Landscapes and Imaginary Places" at The Bryan Gallery in Jeffersonville, VT. from November 9 to December 23.  They depict different aspects of the wooden path that winds its way around and through the darker and heavily rooted side of Jordon Pond at Acadia National Park in Maine.  Both paintings are 18x24, oil on canvas.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


Someone once asked me years ago if I painted anything else besides trees, and I was asked the other day if I'm not yet tired of painting boats.  You might as well ask me if I'm tired of using paint.   This Gloucester harbor view is a 12x16 oil on panel.  However, I do think I'll be painting something else soon.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Yester House Foyer Exhibition

In July I spent four days painting inside and outside at Yester House at the Southern Vermont Arts Center as the "artist in residence."  This past month the SVAC has been exhibiting the resulting eight paintings in the foyer of Yester House for which I am grateful.  They will be up through this Sunday.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Not Flying Schooners

Another 12x16 oil on panel painting that I did at the end of Pirates Lane in Gloucester, MA.  These two boats are not flying schooners, though I read in The Gloucester Guide that the term "schooner" may have originated at the end of Pirates Lane.  During the week I noticed that sometimes these two boats were gone, but they would eventually always end up in the same spot.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Decrepit Beauty

This the fourth time I've painted this old structure at the Gloucester Marine Railways shipyard, this time at low tide so you can see its age and decrepit beauty.  In some places at the harbor's edge one can only see the ends of posts jutting out of the water to indicate what might have existed at one time over the water.  This painting is a 9x12 oil on linen, which I will eventually mount to a foam core panel.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Old Boats Now and Then

When I was a kid, I found a stash of old lumber under the front porch of our house.  I hauled it all out, removed and saved the nails, and from then on, every summer I built a small "cabin" in the backyard for us to play in.  Every year the cabin became grander.  One summer I built a boat.  It was anchored to the ground, and would never have floated, but it had port holes, and you needed a ladder to get up on deck and into the hold, and it had a mast with a crow's nest.  Maybe that long ago boat explains my infatuation with boats and Gloucester.  These two boats were recently tied up at the Gloucester Marine Railways shipyard at Rocky Neck.  The painting is a 9x12 oil on linen.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Not A Portrait of a Boat

This is not a portrait of a boat, but a view from a pier in Gloucester harbor.  The painting is a 12x16 oil on panel.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Guilty and Gruppe

The Gloucester painter Emile Gruppe once complained that students "... tend to make their ships too big.  Instead of a composition, they end up with a portrait of a boat."   I'm guilty here of trying to do both (no pun intended).  This is a 12x16 oil on panel.

Here a few more words from Emile Gruppe:

“… every student paints a masterpiece sometime during his years of study; only in most cases he doesn’t know it.  There is no one around to tell him—and he keeps working till he spoils it!”

“…the single most important fact to remember when painting outdoors: in order to get a feeling of sunlight in your pictures, you have to paint in terms of warm and cool.”

“Remember when you’re outdoors, you have to be open to the character of the site.  I’m reminded of a friend of mine, a friend who painted marvelously sensitive tree studies—and who was so poor that he would scrape off masterpieces so he could reuse the canvas! I went to his studio one day and saw a large picture of some beech trees, with the light filtering down them.  The subtlety of the piece took my breath away.  I remember standing there in silence for a minute.  Then I thought to myself, “This is God!”  That’s all I said.  And that’s all I needed to say.”

“The more you paint outdoors, the more you’ll notice that you can pass a site a hundred times without its affecting you.  Then, on the hundred and first time—with the right light and atmospheric conditions—the spot comes to life.  It suddenly has to be painted!”

“Simplify the scene in front of you by squinting at it.”

“I find the more paint I have on, the better the painting.  I tell students to paint like a millionaire.”

“Painting is supposed to be fun, after all.  When it gets to be work, it shows in the picture.”

“At best you have about three hours in the early morning and three hours in the late afternoon when the light is fairly consistent.  So three hours is the maximum amount of time you can spend on your painting.  You can’t do much detail in that time.  And, besides, most people can’t draw well enough to do detail anyway.  So why bother?  There’s nothing worse than a picture full of flyspecks!”

“It takes years—maybe even a lifetime—to learn to see in a simple way.  You have to be as old as the hills, sometimes, before you really understand what art is all about.”

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Rainy Day Composition

A quick oil sketch from a couple weeks ago of the Beacon Marine Basin building in Gloucester.  It was cloudy when I started and raining when I decided to wrap things up and get away.  I tried to arrange all the presented parts into a viable composition on my 12x16 panel.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Rocky Neck

A view of Rocky Neck near the foundry at the tip of the little peninsula at Gloucester harbor: a 12x16 oil on panel.