Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sketchbook Tree and Degas

The above drawing from my sketchbook is what I would like to achieve more often.  Light in the shadows.  The media is hard charcoal pencil and fingers.  I did this one a couple days before Christmas.

I have been looking at and reading a lot about Degas lately (besides Cezanne).  Degas started the switch to pastel in the mid-late 1870's, and used predominantly all pastel from the 1880's on.  "...[H]e took full advantage of the different ways of handling pastel, sometimes drawing with the sticks, at other times creating tonal areas with a stump or with his fingers; often he worked with pastel and water, either wetting the stick or working the powdery pigment with brush and water to create fluid passages of color ...With pastel he was able to apply color in a linear manner, not so much to delineate form as to model it...the late pastels have a tonal substructure drawn by Degas the draftsman beneath their brilliant surfaces finished by Degas the colorist." (from Degas, Jean Sutherland Boggs.  The words above are by Gary Tinterow).

Best Portrayal of a Place Nomination

The above painting, Classon at Pacific,  has been nominated for The Making a Mark Prize for Best Portrayal of a Place 2012.   Please visit Katherine Tyrrell's fabulous art blog to learn more and vote at this link. There are other nominations and categories of beautiful paintings.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Another Fourth and Last Cezanne

This drawing works better because there is more variety in the shapes.   Will do a pastel next.

Last excerpt from the Cezanne biography: "According to technical studies of his work, he used more cobalt blue in his landscapes after his father's death, in 1886, when he became financially secure."

Nelson House and Everything Cezanne

A 12 x 24 oil of the Nelson House with a view across the Delaware River at Washington's Crossing.

Another excerpt from the Cezanne biography: "Out sur le motif he mused on the fundamental.  'All that we see dissipates and disappears, does it not? Nature is always the same, but nothing remains of what we see of it.  It is our art that must convey the sense of permanence, capture the elements in all their changing forms.  It should give us a taste of the eternal.  What lies beneath?  Perhaps nothing.  Perhaps everything.  Everything, you understand?'"

Brooklyn Cubist and Flying Cezannes

Still not sure about this one.  Too many same size cubes.  Though I do like the truck, and the hole in the sidewalk is intriguing.

From the magnificent Cezanne biography: "[Cezanne] received Vollard very cordially in Aix [after the 1895 exhibition at Vollards]..., attended by his son, now effectively his agent, who was deputed to rescue a still life from a cherry tree, after Cezanne had thrown the canvas out the window.  ('Son, we must get down the Apples.  I shall try and get on with that study!')  This sounds far-fetched, but his sister Marie's gardener, Auguste Blanc, remembered canvases in the olive trees in the grounds of his last studio, left for seasons on end before being harvested by the artist."

Saturday, December 22, 2012


It maybe a waste of time, but I reworked the above a bit, and may do another.  I also started the pastel version.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fourth and Union

An 11x14 drawing.  Next I will try a pastel version.

More from the Cezanne biography:
'Renoir was an acute observer.  He note Cezanne's immense pride, matched by his deep humility; his intense focus on the task at hand, and his corresponding lack of interest in the work he had already made--an indifference bordering on the careless, which led him to shed paintings whenever they had served their purpose, casting them off like old clothes.  He appreciated what baffled the slower Monet: the "half-serious, half-joking" quality of Cezanne's talk.  All of this was well illustrated in his story of Cezanne complaining about a wealthy member of the Aixois bourgeoisie, who had a picture by Besnard in his living room--"ce pompier qui prend feu," a play on pompier, a fireman or a piece of hack work, each in its own way catching fire--and who also had the temerity to stand next to Cezanne at vespers and sing out of tune.  Renoir, amused, reminded him that all Christians are brothers.  "After all, both of you will be together in heaven for eternity." "No," came the swift retort.  "In heaven they know very well that I am Cezanne!"  Then he added: "I am not even capable of working out the volumes properly.  I am nothing."'

Blasted Tree and More Cezanne

This drawing, made late this afternoon, is from my sketchbook.  I was wandering through the woods looking at the tremendous damage left by hurricane Sandy.

I highly recommend the book, Cezanne: A Life by Alex Danchev.   It's a fun book to read.  Danchev does a great job showing the character of Cezanne with anecdotes and describing the how Cezanne relates to his time, acquaintances and friends.  Here's another excerpt regarding Cezanne's sister Marie: "At her death, in 1921, she possessed one painting, a study of Mont Sainte-Victoire.  Late in life, when a visitor made bold to remark on how few Cezannes she had, she replied: 'Oh! Monsieur, I have that Sainte-Victoire because my brother forced me to take it, and so as not to upset him!  I never understood and I still don't understand anything about my brother's painting!  And he used to say to me: Marie, I tell you I'm the greatest painter alive!'"

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fall Canal and Cezanne's Trees

A remembrance of what the canal looked like a couple weeks ago.  9x12 pastel.

Apropos of the previous post, I came across the following from the new biography of Cezanne by Alex Danchev.  Zola after moving to Paris wrote to Cezanne in Aix, "'Here...there is no ancient pine, no fresh spring from which to replenish the old bottle, no Cezanne with the expansive imagination and the cheerful and racy conversation!'  This little elegy was prompted by the memory of a favorite tree, evoked by Cezanne, who sensory experience of trees approached that of people.  'For him a tree is a growing thing, and can only live where it is; each tree has its appointed site.  And the tree which he shows as so firmly rooted is not simply an essential type; it is individualized, with a history of its own, unlike any other's.'"  The last quote is from Paul Valery.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Locked Up Tree in Brooklyn

A 9x12 oil.  This tree is going nowhere.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Brooklyn Street

My fingerprints are all over this one, a 9x12 charcoal and black and white pastel drawing.  I would like to draw with the sureness of a Zen master, but alas, I teeter and totter with hesitations, as I stumble across the paper.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Canal Path

Another 9x12 accumulation of pastel marks that appears like the canal path approaching the Grant Street bridge on a sunny morning.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Grand Army Plaza

A 9x12 pastel of Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn in the late afternoon.  An attempt at a controlled accumulation of pastel marks.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Drawing

In the last few days I have only had enough time to walk about with my sketchpad and pencil.  Above is one 9x12 drawing.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Pastel

A pastel, 9x12, of Stratton Road, mid-afternoon.  The road is slowly going uphill before it bends sharply right and downhill, becoming Blair Road.

I recently saw a reproduction of the Georges Seurat painting, The Gravelines Canal. Petit Fort-Philippe, painted in 1890, in the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  Its bright sunlight and stillness, great depth, and lack of people, have always struck me.  I could never paint as tightly as Seurat, but his landscape compositions are appealing.  He visited the northern coast of France several times in the summer to paint "marines".  Richard Thomson in his book on Seurat writes, "It was perhaps in the Honfleur group that Seurat achieved his first maturity as a landscape painter, marrying his remarkable eye for effects of light and atmosphere to his formidable conceptual faculties as a pictorial architect."

When I was a kid I told my grandfather, who was an architect, that I wanted to be an architect.  He was pleased.  I never became an architect.  Now I want to be, and hopefully am, a pictorial architect.   Thomson notes that Seurat peopled his landscapes with posts, bollards, and anchors.  I use cars for my Brooklyn pictures.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Two Deans

The top 9x12 oil is Dean at the corner of Grand, and the bottom 11x14 oil is Dean between Grand and Classon.   Shadows, sidewalks, curbs, trees, and streets, plus a few cars.

Dean at Underhill

A 9x12 drawing made with charcoal, white pastel, fingers, and side of hand.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fourth Avenue

A 9x12 pastel of Fourth Avenue near Carroll Street in Brooklyn.  I have been changing my approach to pastels, trying to use them in layers, keeping them loose and allowing the layers to show, building up as in an oil painting using fixative to simulate drying, sort of the way I imagine Degas worked.

Yesterday marked my fourth year with this blog.  I wish I had time to improve the blog, but I would rather paint.  At least the paintings have improved.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bergen and Grand

An 18x24 oil of the corner of Bergen and Grand in Brooklyn.  More feeling than judgement?

Friday, November 16, 2012

November Canal Drawing

Above is this morning's walkn-draw effort, approximately 9x12".

The following quotes are from the Seurat drawing book cited yesterday.

"Where the draftsman is a scribe and the writer a maker of of signs, the origin of man's intellectual mastery of the world appears with such clarity that Paul Valery's apotheosis of drawing sounds less exaggerated than it might: 'Possibly, drawing represents the mind's greatest temptation.'"

Drawing as the apple from the tree of knowledge.

"Though drawing stood at the inception of form-making activity and painting was originally not much more than drawing with color added, drawing nevertheless increasingly received its status and the conditions of its procedures from its relation to painting.  Drawing came to mean design...Doni...saw a connection between disegno and the creation of the universe, and Vasari called it the father of the three arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture.  But the disegno concept paid its greatest tribute to the archetypical nature of drawing by making it a synonym for the faculty of apprehension itself.
           Zuccari surpassed even this notion by recognizing disegno to be a sign of God in man..., thus exalting it to the 'principle of universal creativity.'"

Drawing as the insight into the mind of God.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


A street view in Brooklyn, Underhill towards Dean. 11x14 oil.

Another variation on feeling and judgement, this time from the Introduction to the book, Georges Seurat: Drawings by Erich Franz and Bernd Growe:  "Most of us tend to think of the world as a conglomeration of separate things that we understand by attaching names to them; with Seurat this accumulation of discrete entities merged into a continuum of the visible.  In Seurat's drawings we experience things that we had conceived as irreconcilable opposites merged and manifested as compelling synthesis--rational judgement combined with emotional immediacy, and ideal generalization with unique and transient individuality.  They show us that these opposites can enter a visual unity without being reduced to a mere gray twilight of compromise."

Those words summarize what I want to accomplish visually.

Monday, November 12, 2012


A street in Brooklyn, Classon toward Dean.  9x12 oil.

Reading the catalogue Pierre Bonnard: Early and Late, I came across Bonnard's words, "Drawing represents feeling: color, judgment".  I'd like to have both...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Back On!

When in doubt start with a drawing.  Actually, the only doubt I had was, after almost two weeks without electricity and running water, if the power would ever come back.  Take nothing from granted.  I did start painting again this weekend while located elsewhere, and hope to have some new work to post soon.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dean at Classon

Plenty of time to finish paintings at the moment while waiting...This is a 9x12 oil of Dean at Classon in Brooklyn.  They keep re-doing the fence at the right.  Google maps shows at least two different earlier fences.  The new fence then received pictographical graffiti.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Classon Near Pacific

This is an 18x24 oil of a view on Classon looking towards Pacific in Brooklyn.  I wanted to post it before the storm arrives.  Where I live electricity may not be available tomorrow evening, and if it goes out it may be days before it comes back.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sorrento Medium

This past weekend I spent two days on a pastel that was overcooked, and is now gone.  This one is medium rare in comparison.  8x12.

There's another vision of beauty described on the first page of The Golden String,  the autobiography of Bede Griffiths:  "I remember now the feeling of awe which came over me.  I felt inclined to kneel on the ground, as though I had been standing in the presence of an angel;  and I hardly dared to look on the face of the sky, because it seemed as though it was but a veil before the face of God...It was as though I had begun to see and smell and hear for the first time...I experienced an overwhelming emotion in the presence of nature, especially at evening.  It began to wear a kind of sacramental character for me.  I approached it with a sense of almost religious awe, and in the hush which comes before sunset, I felt again the presence of an unfathomable mystery."

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sorrento Rooftops

A 9x12 pastel.  A suggestion of a view.

I found the following quote from Maupassant in a magazine article:  "From time to time I experience strange, intense, short-lived visions of beauty, an unfamiliar, elusive, barely perceptible beauty that surfaces in certain words or landscapes, certain colorations of the world, certain moments..."  It caught my interest because I experienced a vision of beauty walking along a roadway recently.  The late afternoon sunlight raking a bluish road surface next to the tan gravelly edge, with brilliant grass further in off the road.  Nothing else, but I just stood there transfixed by what I saw.

Monday, October 15, 2012


A 9x12 view of a Naples street, closer to what I am looking for.

Neapolitan Mal Content

12x16 oil of Rua Catalana (the lower street) at Via Medina in Naples.   I am not sure that this picture is what I want yet...It may undergo revision.

Arnheim writes, "The Pointillists displayed the Newtonian revelation that neutral gray comes about as the union of various colors.  Although the effect of a straight gray does not vary all that much from the additive mixture of multicolored dots, it makes all the difference for the meaning of the pictorial statement that the drab tranquillity of standard existence is revealed as an accumulation of all the riches."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ornate Column and Dumpster in Naples with a Definition of Painting

Another 9x12 drawing of a street scene in Naples.   I also made more progress on the painting I started yesterday.

In the Lucien Freud: paintings exhibition catalog Robert Hughes offers a moving definition of painting:

"Painting is a sublime instrument of dissatisfaction, of dissent from any kind of visual orthodoxy and received idea, not excluding those of late modernist mannerism.  No work of art can ever be experienced at first hand by as many people as a network news broadcast or the commercials that grout it.  That does not matter. It never has.  What does count is the energy and persistence with which painting can embrace not 'empty value' but lived experience of the world; give that experience stable form, measure and structure; and so release it, transformed, into one mind at a time, viewer by viewer, so that it can work as (among other things) a critique of the more 'ideological' and generalized claims of mass media.  There is no great work of art, abstract or figurative (and especially none figurative) without an empirical core, a sense that the mind is working on raw material that exists in the world at large, in some degree beyond mere invention.  Painting is, one might say, exactly what mass visual media is not: a way of specific engagement, not of general seduction.  That is its continuing relevance to us.  Everywhere, and at all times, there is a world to be re-formed by the darting subtlety and persistent slowness of the painter's eye.  We are never loose from our bodies and the re-embodiment of our experience of that world -- its delivery from the merely conceptual, the unfelt, the second-hand or the rhetorically transcendent -- is what painting offers."

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Naples 4

I did start a painting, but have another 9x12 drawing for now.  This location is the corner of Via Sanfelice and Via Medina.  I hope I am conveying the sense of non-stop activity that typifies Naples.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Another Naples

Another 9x12 charcoal drawing of a street scene in Naples.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Exploring a new urban subject, the city of Naples, Italy, I am starting off with drawings.  There will be other non-urban images as well to come.   Oil and pastel paintings soon.  Both of these are 9x12.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Deli Grocery

Another 18x24 oil of the Bergen and Underhill corner in Brooklyn.

Arnheim writes, "The eager searchers who hope to find the secret of beauty in mathematical proportions expect that the golden section or some other ratio will offer them a recipe for how to design a successful building or painting.  Actually, all that such measurements can do for the artist is to sharpen relations he has selected intuitively.  If he wants to find the middle of a canvas or facade, a yardstick can help; but it is the artist, not the yardstick that indicated the middle as the proper answer to a compositional question.  Le Corbusier's modulor never made a success of anybody who lacked the genius of its inventor."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Back To The Hills

Back to the hills.  12 x 24 oil of the Five Corners site looking south towards Stony Ledge.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


A Brooklyn interlude. 11x14 oil.   When I walk around Brooklyn,  I always seem to visit this intersection.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Five Corners Study

8x12 pastel.

Rudolf Arnheim writes: "The question is not, Why did Cezanne not use correct perspective? but,  Why should he have?  The tradition of naturalistic representation has made us forget that every pictorial device calls for justification--including the conformation to nature."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Five Corners View

Another in the series.  8x10 pastel.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hopper Study

I have always wanted to do a series of paintings of the spectacular view of the Hopper and Mt. Greylock from Route 7 near the Five Corners, but have shied away from it because ...  it's a spectacular view of the Hopper and Mt. Greylock from Route 7.   Scenic views don't always make for great paintings.   I could paint something like 7 x 10 feet large in the mode of Bierstadt, but I won't.   Though this view needs a bit more space than provided by the 11x14 oil above.   In any case,  I will attempt the series.  It's a beautiful spot, but also kind of sad, since the apple orchard seems to have been abandoned.

Mountain Edges

This weekend I spent a lot of time wandering at the edges of mountains,  the bottom edges.  This drawing I did while sitting on a beautifully manicured lawn that is the footpath up the hill.  After hearing so much talk about a particularly large bear being sighted everywhere,  I also kept looking over my shoulder, another variation on the theme of "looking back".

Monday, September 3, 2012

North Hero

A view of North Hero, Vermont, on Route 2, just north of North Hero House.  9x12 oil.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Steep Hill

9x12 pastel of Sheep Hill, which is a steep hill.  This view is from the northern end looking back towards the Hopper from last Sunday morning.

Here's a comment from Arnheim: "In his travel diary Meerfahrt mit Don Quixote, Thomas Mann reports being struck by the unique trick of Cervantes, which I too, pondered last summer.  Writing a second volume of his work fifteen years after the first volume was published, Cervantes makes the first volume a book read by some characters in the second.  He thereby turns the story told as a reality in the first volume into a mere narration figuring in a secondary reality, which has taken over from the first.  This dizzying performance could be compared with, and clarified by, the practice of painters such as Matisse or Seurat, who showed their own earlier works hanging on the walls of their paintings of interiors."

Monday, August 27, 2012

Arrow Re-do

Rue du Commandant Vidal, Cannes.  9x12 oil.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Urban Flower

This is the painting that I have been working on for the last two weeks.  The scene is Prospect Place near Washington Avenue, Brooklyn.  The flower graffiti is really there.  You can walk down Prospect heading west from Washington using Google Maps and see it.  The painting is an 18x24 oil.  Is it a still life?

Arnheim has a lot to say about art in his Parables of Sun Light, but other comments are more interesting:  "G. C. Argan tells me that upon arriving at a railway station in India, he was informed that the train he intended to take would be twenty-two hours late.  But if you like, they told him, you can take yesterday's train, which we expect to arrive any minute now!"

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Keep Still Life

These will be the last of the still lifes that I post for a while, a grapefruit and a lemon.  I like them because they are Zurbaranesque.  Both are 5x7 pastels.

Arnheim writes: "Nothing is more humbling than to look with a strong magnifying glass at an insect so tiny that the naked eye sees only the barest speck and to discover that nevertheless it is sculpted and articulated and striped with the same care and imagination as a zebra.  Apparently it does not matter to nature whether or not a creature is within our range of vision, and the suspicion arises that even the zebra was not designed for our benefit."