Sunday, December 29, 2013

Grand Steps

An 8 x 10 1/2 pastel of a view on Grand near Bergen.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Contradiction or Paradox

Two views: top, 8x10 /1/2 pastel of Longview Terrace, and bottom, 9x12 oil of St. Mark's, suburban/rural and urban.  A paradox is only an apparent contradiction.

Best Wishes for the New Year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Snow Field

An 8 x 10 1/2 inch pastel.  I'm trying to paint what can't be painted.

More words of wisdom from Charles Wright:

"The problem with all of us as we get older is that we begin writing as though we were somebody.  One should always write as if one were nobody, for that's what we are.  In the giant shadow of Dante's wing, for instance, we are nobody and should never forget it.  So we should always write out of our ignorance and desire and ambition, never out of some sense of false wellbeing, some tinge of success.  There is no success in poetry, there is only the next inch, the next handhold out of the pit."

Just substitute 'painting' for 'poetry' and 'writing'.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Truck Route

An 18x24 oil of a corner in Brooklyn, Third and Third.  Sounds awful.

In an interview the poet Charles Wright said:

There’s a very famous—maybe I’ve said this before—Czech photographer named Josef Sudek. He had only one arm. He was a great photographer and he used this big view camera and he did landscapes and still lifes and things like that. He was once asked why there were no people in his pictures. He said, “Well, I don’t know. There are always people there when I start, but by the time I get everything done and take the picture, they’ve all gone.” And that’s sort of the way my poems are. I think of them as being populated with people who are whispering stories in my ear which I then launder in my own way and present, and by the time the poem gets presented, all the people are gone and nothing’s left but the whispers. Once the people go, there goes your narrative.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Winter Mysteries

Winter snow brings mystery to the landscape: two 8 x 10 1/2 pastels.

Two more items from the Belden Lane book on The Solace of Fierce Landscapes:

A Zen Buddhist saying:  To the one who knows nothing, mountains are mountains, waters are waters, and trees are trees.  But when he has studied and knows a little, mountains are no longer mountains, water is no longer water, and trees are no longer trees.  But when he has thoroughly understood, mountains are once again mountains, waters are waters, and trees are trees.

"Most of us have little experience in paying careful attention to anything.  We marvel at a naturalist such as Louis Agassiz of Harvard, who once said he had spent the summer traveling, only to get halfway across his backyard."

Friday, December 13, 2013

Ridges and Edges

An 8x10 1/2 inch pastel of a view from a ridge of other ridges and edges.

In the outstanding book The Solace of Fierce Landscapes the author, Belden Lane, writes about an Englishman in northern India near Tibet who wrote, "We are saved in the end by the things that ignore us."  The 'things' he was referring to was the landscape.  Lane adds, "By its very act of ignoring him, the landscape invited him out of his frantic quest for self-fulfillment."

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Top of Blair Road

A dear friend was driving to visit us, and got a late start.  When she finally arrived, she told me she had driven over a dirt road just before finding our place.  That's when I realized that she had gone up and over Blair Road in the dark, not the preferred route.  Fortunately the road is not rutted yet.  Nor did it  have the late afternoon sun to illuminate it as seen from the 9x12 oil from a couple days ago.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Late Afternoon December Field and Managed Chaos

A 9x12 oil on panel.

I've been reading a book called Epitaph for a Peach by David Mas Masumoto, which I found fittingly at the dump.  It's a book filled with wisdom acquired through Masumoto living the life of a farmer dependent upon nature, and other things out of one's control.  The writer mentions a farmer friend who paints, who uses a variety of greens to depict plants,  and who also likes to depict piles of discarded fruit trees assembled by the bulldozer.  I might paint a picture of the discarded barn, another pile of wood.  Masumoto wrtes:  "This past year I have learned that productivity is little more than managed chaos, wildness the source of fertility."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Butler near 3rd and Wisdom

Samuel Johnson said that the prospect of being hanged concentrates the mind wonderfully.  The same applies to moving.  But I am concentrating on painting again.  The above is a 9x12 oil of the view on Butler Street approaching 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn.

Lately, I have been reading Thoreau's Ecstatic Witness by Alan D. Hodder,  which I acquired at the bookstore at Walden Pond earlier this year.  It is a rich, profound book about Thoreau's religious and artistic vision.  Hodder cites Thoreau from Walden:  "I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born."

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Restarting Slowly

When in doubt draw a pine.  The move is complete, the studio set up again, though now smaller.  Just need to recover the groove of working again.  The above sketch I did yesterday after wandering in the woods in the late afternoon behind where I live now.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Three Urban Sketches

The above are oil on primed paper sketches (top two 9x12 and bottom 11x14).  The top one is Grand near Prospect; middle is Pacific and Grand; and bottom is Underhill towards Pacific, all in Brooklyn.  

Thursday, November 7, 2013


The above sketchbook drawing is from my walk yesterday.  My posts will be more sporadic over the next three weeks, since I am packing up and moving.  I will be limiting myself to drawings.   Not so bad a thing.  Assuming that I am able to photograph them, and have access to the computer.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Illusion of Butler Near Nevins

A 9x12 charcoal and pastel drawing.

W. H. Auden maintained that "art is an illusion of an illusion" according to Arthur Kirsch in Auden and Christianity.  Art certainly is an illusion.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Butler and Nevins - Disorder Reconfigured

A 9x12 charcoal and pastel drawing.

Richard Rohr in his daily meditation for today writes, "...the pattern of evil undone much more than evil ever perfectly avoided.  It is disorder reconfigured in our hearts and minds -- much more than demanding any perfect order to our universe."  I like to think that making art is reconfiguring disorder.  Note that it's still disorder.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hopper and Greylock

Greylock reminded Melville of Moby Dick, except the mountain was known to him as Saddleback and he saw it from a different direction (from Pittsfield), so he could not see the Hopper.  This is the view from the Sweet Brook Farm, where the alpacas live.  I am going to switch off to other subjects for a while until the season changes at Sweet Brook.  It's a 14x18 oil.  The above view is from earlier this summer.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Another 14x18 oil, this time of the entrance to the Sweet Brook Farm.   The entrance is entrancing.  One immediately encounters the Hopper in the distance.

Monday, October 21, 2013

King of the Hill

A 14x18 oil of an alpaca who stands on a rock before a much taller unattainable mountain in the background (Mount Greylock).   A friend asked me yesterday if I was still under the sway of "alpaca madness".  I only have a few more to do.  It's an interesting situation for an artist to have, to take on a self-imposed project, like deciding to run a half-marathon.  There's a point where you have to see it through but it has its lessons.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Back Side

A 14x18 oil of the back side of the barn, with its stacks and sap tank, devoted to making maple syrup.  Not an alpaca in sight.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

White and Black

A 9x12 charcoal drawing.  I had the hardest time getting these two to stand still!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Three Alpacas

A 9x12 charcoal and pastel drawing, part of a continuing project.  It's like Degas' dancers and horses, except they're alpacas.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Under and Through the Roof

Another 14x18 oil of the Sweet Brook Farm.  This is the opposite view from the painting below.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Alpacas, Barn Yard and Monet's Taches

Another 14x18 oil painting of alpacas in the barn yard.

I've been reading, among many books, Monet: Nature into Art by John House.   House writes that Monet instructed Lilla Cabot Perry to paint with taches or touches of paint (I call them 'marks'), thus: "When you go out to paint, try to forget what object you have before you, a tree, a house, a field or whatever.  Merely think, there is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact colour and shape, until it gives your own naive impression of the scene before you."

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sweet Brook Farm Alpacas

The top oil painting of alpacas and house is 14x18.  The bottom two 9x12 drawings are charcoal and pastel.  Yes, I am temporarily alpaca nuts.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Moving Inland with Monet

A 14x18 oil.  I have moved inland to continue my other project, though I might sneak out to the coast occasionally.  This is a view of the Hopper from the Sweet Brook Farm.

Lately, I have been reading the catalog The Unknown Monet: Pastels and Drawings, which has a lot of information about Monet's early years, which is not available in most if any other Monet books.    The writers, James Ganz and Richard Kendall, make the case that Monet's early and extensive caricatures substituted for his not attending an art academy.  "Representing the opposite of the academic ideals of classical beauty and proportion, and concentrating on the unique features of the modern face rather than the idealized anatomy of the nude body, they nevertheless display the draftsman's proficiency in modeling the tones of flesh in black and white."

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Another 9x12 oil on mdf panel of the coast line, though the line is irregular.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Close and Distant View

Another 9x12 oil on mdf panel of the Ogunquit coast.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Rocky Morning and Monet's Plein Air Pain

A 9x12 oil on mdf panel of the Ogunquit coast.

In the Monet catalog cited earlier, Richard Thomson writes about Monet's visit to the Creuse area in 1889, "Reviewing his many canvases after four weeks' work, Monet was shocked to see how sombre they were... But this gloomy character was in part the result of the seasonal rainy weather, which made continuous work impossible... Monet was evidently beginning consciously to think of his paintings forming series, though as yet his understanding seems only to have been of a group of the same motif with varied effets, not a harmonised ensemble to be exhibited together.  The variety was the result of both light and weather conditions shifting and so requiring another canvas--on a single day, 11 May, Monet worked on no less than eleven canvases--but also seasonal change.  As he wrote to Alice on 24 April, if bad weather prevented work on a canvas for a few days, on going back to it he would find the foliage had notably advanced.  In early May Monet was even forced to pay two local labourers to defoliate the oak at the confluence in an attempt to perpetuate a passing motif."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Coast and a Tree and an Excerpt from Wallace Stevens

The 9x12 oil painting on mdf panel is part of a continuing series of seacoast images.  This one depicts a spot on Monhegan Island, where I was five years ago.  The pencil drawing of a tree on the Delaware and Raritan Canal located two minutes from my home was done this afternoon.

As I try to lower the pile of NY Review of Books, I came across an article by Dan Chiasson on the John Serio edition of Wallace Stevens Selected Poems.  He quotes the following from "Description Without Place":

Description is revelation.  It is not
The thing described, nor false

It is an artificial thing that exists,
In its own seeming, plainly

Yet not too closely the double of
  our lives,
Intenser than any actual life could

It struck me that these words might describe a landscape painting.  A painting is not what it depicts, but it is not false for that, but, though a painting allows one to reflect and imagine, could it be more intense than what it depicts?  Maybe in the sense that it might be easier to revisit the image than the actual place.  The image can also have more emotional meaning captured by the artist.

Sea, Rock and Monet

A 9x12 pastel and charcoal drawing.

From the catalogue, Monet: 1840-1926, a quote from the essay Seascapes in Normandy by Anne Roquebert: "His connection with nature was not conventional, as he shows reality through a process of analogical reference, appropriating a universal style."  Interesting way of saying that Monet had generalized and unfussy way of painting.

Monday, September 23, 2013

On the Edge

An 8x10 pastel of the rocky seacoast.  A seacoast is a beginning and an end, yes?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Al and His Pal

Here are two 9x12 pastel and charcoal drawings of alpacas at the Sweetbrook Farm, part of a larger project I am working on.  They've been shorn, so are a little thin below the face.  They have interesting personalities.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

More Shore and Cezanne

A 9x12 pastel and charcoal drawing.

Just completed reading Cezanne and the End of Impressionism by Richard Shiff.  It contains an intriguing line somewhere in the middle: "One is confronted with the possibility that all art is actively made; and impressionism's appearance is not the result of receptive innocence, but active deception."  Deception here means that the artist really does know what he is doing, but paints as if he might not.   Shiff calls this the "technique of originality".  I can't quote the whole book, but Shiff explains why Cezanne is a master impressionist.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Back to the Water

Two 8x10 pastels of the Ogunquit coast.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sweetbrook Farm and Deep Van Gogh

A 14x18 oil painting of the Sweetbrook Farm.

I'm trying to catch up on my reading.  The following is from the March 24, 2010 NY Review of Books (yeah, I know...), a review of Van Gogh's letters by Richard Dorment:  "...when you look at his pictures you sense the depth of experience and the breadth of culture behind them.  Lesser artists like Maurice de Vlaminck or Andre Derain imitated Van Gogh's bright colors, thick paint, and expressive brushwork, but all they achieved in their work was surface excitement.  Their art had none of the moral weight and psychological density that in Van Gogh's came from living among the poor, taking the gospels to heart, poring over the works of Shakespeare and many other writers, and studying the history of art."

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Poignancy of Impermanence

9x12 pastel and charcoal drawing.

A friend told me this morning, after he examined my pictures on line, that he coined the phrase "the poignancy of impermanence" to describe his experience.   He told me that in his former life he drove a cab in Brooklyn, and when stopped, saw and now remembers the things that I paint.  Very gratifying.

Impermanence is the area within which I work.

And later this morning a neighbor, who looks at my blog frequently, told me that she has become re-inspired to visit Maine.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sea Outlet

A 9x12 oil of the inlet at Ogunquit.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Encompassing Earth

A 9x12 pastel and charcoal drawing with a quote from David Abram's great book, The Spell of the Sensuous:

"It would seem...that the conceptual separation of time and space--the literate distinction between a linear, progressive time and a homogeneous, featureless space--functions to eclipse the enveloping earth from human awareness.  As long as we structure our lives according to assumed parameters of a static space and a rectilinear time, we will be able to ignore, or overlook, our thorough dependence upon the earth around us.  Only when space and time are reconciled into a single, unified field of phenomena does the encompassing earth become evident, once again, in all its power and its depth, as the very ground and horizon of all our knowing."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Coast Line

This time a 9x12 oil of the coast line.  The water moves one way, the coast another, and the rocks don't move at all.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sea Coast

Today I am starting a new series of sea coasts, actually mainly one varied sea coast, in Ogunquit, Maine.  I need to give the canals a rest.  The above is a 9x12 pastel drawing.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Canal and Shadow Path

12x9 oil on mdf panel.

From The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram:  "To be sure, by disclosing the body itself as the very subject of awareness, Merleau-Ponty demolishes any hope that philosophy might eventually provide a complete picture of reality (for any such total account of 'what is' requires a mind or consciousness that stands somehow outside of existence, whether to compile the account or, finally, to receive and comprehend it).  Yet by this same move he opens, at last, the possibility of a truly authentic phenomenology, a philosophy which would strive, not to explain the world as if from outside, but to give voice to the world from our experienced situation within it, recalling us to our participation in the here-and-now, rejuvenating our sense of wonder at the fathomless things, events and powers that surround us on every hand."