Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Sunny and Windless at the Green River

This morning since it was sunny and a windless 18 degrees I went back to the Green River at Five Corners in Williamstown, MA, where the water bends into an "S".  I wanted to paint the sun reflecting off of the water. The result is this 9x12 oil on panel.  I picked this spot because I wanted to include the tree to counter the strong down flow of the water.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Impossible Painting

Some things are nearly impossible to paint.  This painting shows an "s" bend in the Green River in Williamstown, MA when the sun was striking the surface, a "contre-jour" effect, where I was facing the sun when painting.  The benefit is that the sun is not hitting my panel, but one can only hint at the intensity of the light.  The painting is a 9x12 oil on panel done a couple days ago.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Joyful Barn

This barn is located in Pownal, VT.  Even though it's old and looks no longer used, it was singing a joyful song the other day when I set up to paint it.  The painting is a 9x12 oil on panel.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Cold Torrent

Two weeks ago the Green River was covered with thick ice and snow.  Now all that remains are large slabs of ice on the shore.  And the cold torrent is visible.  When I started this one I wasn't sure what was going to happen.  Nothing was still or quiet.  This is a 9x12 oil on panel done yesterday morning near the Hopper Road bridge in Williamstown, MA.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Still Practicing

Though I usually paint landscapes, I like the opportunity to paint from the figure.  This is a 16x12 oil on panel done earlier this week.

The poet John Keats wrote in a letter dated October 9, 1818: "That which is creative must create itself."  What I think he meant is that one can only learn by doing.  To get better at painting, one has to paint a lot.  Ken Howard quotes the painter Carel Weight: "Painting is rather like playing the piano, you've got to practice every day."

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Perfect Place

This is one of my favorite views in Williamstown, MA, a look down Blair Road from the top of Stratton Road.  The mountains in the background are the Taconics in New York State.  At this junction both roads are dirt and often rutted, a perfect place for the mud season. This painting is a 12x16 oil on panel.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Cow's View

This 9x12 oil on panel I did a couple weeks ago.  It's another in the Trees and Snow series though this time it represents the stony corner of a pasture.  I've been to this spot many times, but now for some reason the barbed wire fence has been taken down, so I was able to actually stand in the pasture itself, and look back to where I normally stood, on the other side of the fence, the cow's view, so to speak.  I tried to keep things simple due to the complexity of the view.

Another thought from Ken Howard: "If as an artist you are touched by a subject, it will touch others.  If you paint a subject just because you think other people will like it, they never will."

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The River First

This small 9x12 painting I did while standing in the snow at the edge of the Green River last Sunday.  Ken Howard writes: "Corot ... advised that a painter should first establish the sky, because everything else in the picture then relates to the sky, the source of the light."   Of course, in this painting I painted the river first, then the trees, and finally the sky.  However, Ken Howard also writes in the same book: "It is wrong to make rules--on the whole, it is best [to] keep one's options open."

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Sense of Something

This morning I found myself under a bridge looking at the Hoosic River.  Fortunately I brought along some charcoal and a drawing pad so I proceeded to draw.

I've been reading the words of painter Ken Howard from his book Ken Howard's Switzerland: In the Footsteps of Turner:  "Painting is about getting the sense of something and you achieve this by absorbing how it actually works in nature."

Sunday, January 21, 2018


The third painting from two days ago depicts a barn near the bottom of a steep hill road in Pownal, VT.  It was difficult to make an ugly little painting at a site that composed itself.  The views higher up on this road are breathtaking.  This one is 9x12 oil on panel.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Laocoon and the Disappearing Tree

While still on Burrington Road in Pownal, VT,  working on this ugly small painting, I struggled with this tree like Laocoon and the snakes, with the tree becoming the snakes.  We may think we see trees, or branches, but we really can't see them.  We follow one branch and it disappears.  They all disappear.  We know they are there, but where are they?  We feel them but just can't quite get them to keep still.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Painter in Winter

Today was a magnificent three painting day.  The temperature was in the high twenty's and the sky was overcast, but so what. This is the first one looking north on Barrington Road in Pownal, VT.  It might be a candidate for the ugly little painting series.  I'll post the others in the following days.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Seeing Through Stuff

This afternoon I went back to the scene of the crime and made this charcoal drawing.  The view is the Mass MOCA complex from under the route 2 overpass in North Adams.  I am attracted to it because of the fence, the snow, the canal, the wiggly junk trees and the industrial buildings, which all create a fascinating composition.  I've always like seeing through stuff to see stuff beyond.  Today it was no longer snowing, and the temperature was a breezy 23 degrees.  I would prefer a more detailed drawing but I think this will do for the next step.

Under and In The Snow

Here's an ugly little painting that I did yesterday afternoon while under an overpass of Route 2 in North Adams with painter John MacDonald. It might have been cold, but blowing snow on the panel and the palette is more difficult to deal with. Actually the painting is fairly representative of what I was looking at, a view towards MassMOCA. I plan on painting there again, but not while it's snowing.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Picking About The Gravel

A painting for the trees and snow series, an 8x10 oil on panel.

From my reading on John Keats, I've found that better words for "negative capability" might be "sympathetic intuition" or "sympathetic imagination."  Walter Jackson Bate wrote in his book called Negative Capability: The Intuitive Approach in Keats the following:

"The Imagination ... looks inward, grasping by an effort of sympathy and intuition the hidden intention and reality of life; and what it seizes, synthesizes, and creates 'must be truth -- whether it existed before or not.'"

This leads him to say: "For the poet is the object, endowed with a means of expressing itself" and "... the poet is the object, and the force at work within the object is also at work within him."

As an example, Bate writes about the poet, and quotes Keats:  "if a sparrow comes before his window... 'take part in its existence and pick about the Gravel.'"

Is it too presumptuous for the painter to say "I am the trees and snow"?  How closely do you identify with what you paint?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Hidden Hopper

In this painting the trees in the foreground screen the Hopper and Mount Greylock, and the downhill road leads on behind the trees as well.  This painting is a 12x16 oil on panel.

I'm still reading Walter Jackson Bate's biography of John Keats, a great young man faced with immense obstacles, who possessed an enormous gift.  Bate was also a wise man:

"In reading a poem, in contemplating any work of art, we may genuinely feel that active coalescence of the diverse.  But when we come to speak about it, we have to proceed consecutively: one thing has to be mentioned before another; in the process of noticing them individually, we find some considerations striking us more than others, if only because in our own phrasing of them we begin to tap essential concerns within ourselves; and we are led by the momentum of our own cooperating eloquence to narrow our interpretation. (A great work, of course, not only permits but invites that eager subjective response to different parts of it.) Moreover, the existence of previous commentary further specializes our attitude if we feel called upon to contribute our mite.  For in the heat of debate, or even in the honest desire to return to the amplitude of the work of art, our recoil from what we consider to be partial, single-minded interpretations encourages us to champion those details that we feel were overlooked, and to contradict or minimize considerations that we might otherwise have wished only to supplement."

Friday, January 12, 2018


Wednesday I was wandering around Field Farm on Sloan Road in Williamstown, MA.  The day was sunny and there was still plenty of snow on the ground.  Of course I headed directly for this spectacular view of the Hopper and Mount Greylock, which I have painted many times.  The Hopper is the valley at the center of the background mountains and Greylock is the peak at the right.  The compositional elements are so nice: the large barn repeating the upward thrust of Greylock, but also its triangular shape being the opposite of the Hopper "v", and the similar but different outlines of the road and the telephone pole forms, not to mention the contrast of warm and cold and soft and hard.   The painting is a 12x16 oil on panel.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Negative Capability

A Brooklyn painting from the "late day" series.  The grid is more apparent in this one.  Though it has a couple vehicles and two "figures" not including the dog, it's also quite abstract at the same time.  A 9x12 oil on panel.

In my reading about John Keats, I've encountered his "negative capability."  It sounds like something one wouldn't want to admit to, but it's quite positive, a term meaning a sympathetic openness to the world based on particulars and concreteness.  It's appealing to this painter.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Third of Third Painting Series

This Brooklyn painting is the third in the series that started with the junk yard dog painting of Dean Street.  I call it the Brooklyn late day series.  This painting shows a view of Washington Avenue.  It's a 9x12 oil on panel.  So I am juggling three painting series at the moment: Red Hook, Late Day, and Trees and Snow.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Beauty Can Hurt You

One more 8x10 oil on panel of trees and snow before I switch off to another previous series.

The book I am reading at the moment has these words: "Beauty can hurt you, you have to deal with it in a cautious manner.  You feel like dissolving into nothingness."

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Trees and Snow

A third trees and snow painting: an 8x10 oil on panel.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Looking Into The Woods

Another 8x10 oil on panel from the just started tree and snow series.  Actually it's a slightly different view of the same location as yesterday's painting.  I used to call these "looking into the woods" paintings.  They are views from the side of a road.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Not a Battle Horse or a Nude

This 8x10 oil on panel of trees and snow is the start of another series of paintings.  I'm reusing panels of discarded old paintings.  I like working on the old paint buildup and previous brushwork.  Maurice Denis, the French painter, once said that a painting, "before being a battle horse, a nude woman, or an anecdote of some sort--is essentially a flat surface covered with colours, put together in a certain order."  So when I look at trees and snow, a very common sight now, I also see a collection of paint marks put together in a certain order that also resembles trees, snow, rocks, branches, etc.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Classon Avenue

A late day view on Classon Avenue towards Dean Street: a 9x12 oil on panel.  No better way to start the new year than with a new painting.  Happy New Year everyone!