Sunday, March 31, 2013

City Market and Cezanne

A 16x20 oil of the City Market in Lambertville.

In the book Cezanne: Visions of a Great Painter Henri Lallemand writes, "...his landscapes have no seasonal variance, the people of his portraits little individual character, and the everyday objects in his still-lifes no trivial function.  The artist projected his isolation and loneliness onto a natural world which is void of human subjugation, and the composition of his works are as tight and complex as his own personality.  His goal was to take the contemporary aspects out of his subjects, to make them appear permanent, eternal.  His life in Aix, with its immutable rhythms, determined the iconography of his paintings."

I imagine that it would be possible to extrapolate similar psychological conclusions about the mature, consistent work of any artist.  Cezanne, first through the influence of Pissarro and then his own persistence, managed to transcend his weaknesses, and turn them into strengths.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Two Houses in Lambertville

Two houses in Lambertville. 9x12 charcoal and pastel drawing.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Not Much

Always, I try to do a lot with a little, but often it's not so much with a lot, which is too much.  The above charcoal drawing from yesterday's walk-n-draw was done quickly, and sparingly, and approaches what I am after.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Exploration of the Next Room

The above drawing is from Lambertville, NJ.  11x14 charcoal and pastel.

This 16x20 oil is the final version of this particular image of houses on Route 2 in North Adams, MA.

Macfarlane writes: "We don't come fresh to even the most inaccessible of landscapes.  'History,' as the American writer Susan Solnit has observed, 'which is itself an act of imagination, is carried in the mind to the remotest places to determine what one's acts mean even there.'  So traversing even the most uncharted landscape, we are also traversing the terrain of the known.  We carry expectations within us and to an extent we make what we meet conform to those expectations...  A raft of largely undetectable assumptions and preconceptions affects the way we perceive and behave in a place.  Our cultural baggage--our memory-- is weightless, but impossible to leave behind."

But all is not lost.  On the very next page Macfarlane writes:  "Yet we are still capable of being surprised by strangeness, of being shocked by the new.  In the right frame of mind, to walk from one room in a house to another cab be exploration of the highest order."

Monday, March 25, 2013

Snow Field

Another landscape painted over two weeks ago, a snowy cornfield on Stratton Road.  9x12 oil.  I can't wait for spring to arrive.  I hope to post what I am working on now tomorrow.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Landscape Interlude, Pigment, and Hard Rock

This is an 11x14 landscape from Stratton Road I did a couple weeks ago, followed by a more recent 8x10 pastel looking up Luce Road.

Macfarlane writes that " intimate with the history of painting; in oil paintings of landscapes, the earth has been pressed into service to express itself."  He is referring to pigments.

Here's another, possibly more profound thought: "Contemplating the immensities of deep time, you face, in a way that is both exquisite and horrifying, the total collapse of pasts and futures too extensive to envisage.  And it is a physical as well as a cerebral horror, for to acknowledge that the hard rock of a mountain is vulnerable to the attrition of time is of necessity to reflect on the appalling transience of the human body.

Yet there is also something curiously exhilarating about the contemplation of deep time.  True, you learn yourself to be a blip in the larger projects of the universe.  But you are also rewarded with the realization that you do exist--as unlikely as it may seem, you do exist."

Friday, March 22, 2013

House Face

Did I tell you that I love to draw?  This is a 9x12 charcoal and pastel drawing of the face of a house in Lambertville, NJ.   I couldn't wait until tomorrow to post it.

Washington Avenue

The above is an 18x24 oil of Washington Avenue near Sterling Place in Brooklyn.   I did a preparatory (as it turned out) pastel earlier of the same view.   It's just a quick glance (though it took me several days to paint that glance) to the right down the street before looking ahead and crossing with the light.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

House Sketch and a Mountain of Disjunction

Just a sketch.  No need to worry.

I am reading another book by Robert Macfarlane, Mountains of the Mind.  "What we call a mountain is...a collaboration of the physical forms of the world with the imagination of humans--a mountain of the mind... Mountains--like deserts, polar tundra, deep oceans, jungles and all the other wild landscapes that we have romanticized into being--are simply there, and there they remain, their physical structures rearranged gradually over time by the forces of geology and weather, but continuing to exist over and beyond human perception;  they have been imagined into existence down the centuries... A disjunction between the imagined and the real is a characteristic of all human activities."

True painting is about that disjunction between the imagined and the real.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


An 11x14 charcoal and pastel drawing of a house on Route 2 in North Adams, MA.  You can't get housier and more triangular than this.   A first step towards true painting.

Route 2 III

This morning I found true painting for a moment.  Now to move on to the next painting.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Another Route 2

8x10 pastel.  Just like Matisse, I am in search of true painting, so I think I will do this one again.  I saw the exhibition at the Metropolitan this weekend.   Early on Matisse would do a second painting to advance beyond the first.  Later in his career, he would keep painting it over and over again until he was satisfied.  Presumably, he washed away what he did the day before, since the final version shows no evidence of earlier efforts.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Route 2

The above is an 11x14 charcoal and pastel drawing;  I am working on an 8x10 pastel painting of the same.  It depicts Route 2 in North Adams, MA, with some melting snow on a sunny day.  Still not sure if I am on the right route.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


 A couple weeks ago I started to explore Lambertville, a small city on the Delaware with many beautiful nineteenth century houses.  The above is an 11x14 charcoal and pastel drawing.  I used pastel to get a different kind of gray on the right wall.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


We can call this an experiment, a 9x12 drawing in charcoal and pastel.  It depicts the 3rd Avenue bridge crossing the Gowanus Canal.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Carroll and Nevins

Today I had the unoriginal idea of adding a color or two to a charcoal drawing.  I think I will pursue this idea.  The above is a 9x12 charcoal and pastel drawing.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Run Don't Look

An 8x10 pastel of a location near the Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn.  Run, don't look.  The cars will get you otherwise.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Two Houses

An 8x10 pastel of the two houses on Carroll Street.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Washington Avenue and Barefoot Eyes

An 8x10 pastel.  One has to remain simple at 8x10.  Fortunately the original looks better than the photo image.

Macfarlane writes, "It is true that I remember the terrains over which I have walked barefoot differently, if not necessarily better, than those I have walked shod.  I recall them chiefly as textures, sensations, resistances, planes and slopes: the tactile details of a landscape that often pass unnoticed."

I am working with my barefoot eyes.

Friday, March 1, 2013

1st and 6th

This is what I have been working on the last couple days: a view of the corner at 1st Street and 6th Avenue in Brooklyn, 18x24 in oil.

Here's Macfarlane on reading surfaces:  "For [Mark] Twain the river was a capricious text, which punished literalists and allegorists alike for the fixities of their interpretations.  Horace Bixby, the veteran steamboat captain who apprenticed Twain, taught him the need to read surface for depth: how small perturbations might infer large submerged truths: the 'long slanting line' that suggested a reef which would 'knock the boat's brains out'."

Of course, I interpret this like reading the surface of vision and the working surface of paper or canvas. Both contain depth with hidden truths.