Tuesday, November 24, 2015

PEOPLE WITH GODS - in progress

I working on this piece pretty steadily, perhaps inspired by recent events. But I have been thinking about doing this piece for years and recent events are really no worse than so many events in the past. OK, I know that it is not fair to suggest that religion is the cause of all human misery but I don't think it is helping. This is my personal tirade about it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


 A work in progress that I have been thinking about for a long time. The first picture is an oil sketch that I did a couple of weeks ago to work out my ideas for a painting that I am now calling "People With Gods". The second picture is a bigger version (36"x52") that I am working on.
While I am well aware that religion can bring peace, love and meaning to a lot of people, this painting is not about that side of religion. These three arguing men will be wearing small symbols that identify them as a moslem, a christian and a jew.  The red and black in the background will be explosions to represent the result of their conflict, while a group of shadowy figures trudge off in despair. Pretty grim, but that is the way I am feeling about things right now.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

On The Last Day Of The World, I Would Want To Plant A Tree

I started this painting about a year ago. I heard a phrase on the radio - I forget the context. "Mother Earth walks among her dead."  Somehow, hearing this phrase immediately made me want to make a painting about it and this is what I came up with. An unidentified woman walks across a scorched and dead landscape, but reaches down to plant a little seedling.

 In this first version, she walked on something that was supposed to look like lava with a few bones and a little trash strewn about. I wasn't sure where to go with it at all and the title didn't seem just right - too grim for a grim subject. Gradually, I eliminated the lava and put in more and more garbage. The more garbage I put in the more I liked it. Who knew that painting trash could be so much fun?

So here is the final (maybe) version.  When I heard Garrison Keillor reading a poem by WS Mirwin on "The Writers' Almanac". I knew that I had the perfect title "On The Last Day Of The World, I Would Want To Plant A Tree."  It suggests a ray of hope and faith in the restorative powers of nature to carry on with the world in spite of the damage we may do. I changed the posture of the woman just a bit, added some more trash and called it done.
24"x30"  oil on canvas

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


In recent posts, I have been featuring some of my figurative work, which is really important to me and I keep trying to improve my skills. I want to be good at painting people so that I can use them in larger paintings that reflect my concerns about social and environmental problems of our time. These paintings are mostly troubling because they are about unpleasant subjects and all of the things that are wrong with the world.
 On the other hand, the paintings shown here (both 20" square) represent an entirely different aspect of my work. They are about what is right with the world, in this case, plant life going through its important cycle of decay which leads to regeneration. These abstract looking works are not abstract at all. They are almost microscopic views, blown up to large size, of the leaves of the Water Shield plant that float on May Pond, my favorite local kayaking spot. The colors are realistic and lovingly painting them is, for me, simple Nature worship. This is something beautiful in the world and I think that people need to see it.
 So, with these two completely different bodies of work, I feel like some kind of schizophrenic. They are so different - as isftwo different people had painted them. I don't know which way to go with my painting, or if I should even decide. The only reason not to do it all is because people expect to get to know a painter for a particular type of work and this is supposed to help one advance one's career.
But maybe they really are the same sort of thing, in that they are both something that I think people need to see.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


First, I will say that Kerry Dunn is a really good painter and a good enough teacher. I learned something in this three day workshop. Mostly what I learned was how to quickly establish the proper location of the various elements of the face when painting an alla prima portrait.

 The first day involved an exercise where we painted only with Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Umber, Cadmium Orange and White.  I thought it was a useful thing to do to help establish the importance of value without any interference from color. It turns out that you can get some pretty good skin tones with just this limited palette. Certainly worth knowing about, but not where I particularly want to go. The picture above is what I did that day in a couple of hours.

 On the second day, the goal was completely different. Use as much extreme color as you can. I looked forward to this exercise and enjoyed it, except that we were expected to use only a palette knife instead of brushes. I hated that. I could not keep my colors clean, I could not keep them separate and I could not put them where I wanted to. Never the less, I made these two quick studies with a little brush work at the end to help me out.

On the third day, the goal was to work all day on one piece and to combine the two previous approaches.  I made this painting of a rather interesting looking character in about four hours. Over all, the workshop was OK. I have some criticism though. The main one is that Kerry had too many of his personal friends in the class, including his girlfriend.  They were all very nice people but in my opinion, there was a strong sense of nepotism.  And Kerry was so involved with his own little group (especially the girlfriend) that I felt him to be unapproachable and disinterested in the rest of us - at least disinterested in me.  I would hope that next time he would leave his cronies at home, and give more attention to the students who paid a lot of money to be there. Also, he could suggest the use of a palette knife rather than insisting upon it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I am attending an alla prima portraiture workshop at the Art Students' League with Max Ginsburg. This is so much fun that I wish I could be doing it all of the time. The first picture I did yesterday in the morning.  Then we changed models and I did the second one in the afternoon.

Both are 14"x11" - oil on canvas

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


After a long hiatus I am back at painting.  A trip to Labrador and Newfoundland was wonderful, but now I am glad to be back in the studio and working on a new painting.  Months ago, I asked my niece to pose for this piece.  She held a plastic milk bottle in the photos. 
I'm not sure how I will title this piece, but it's function is to suggest that the earth, or Gaia as represented by this young woman will heal itself in spite of all the the terrible things we have inflicted upon it. 

She contemplates an egg shaped glass terrarium which holds all of the new life that will restore the earth. She stands in a fiery matrix, which is to represent the scorched earth.  I am searching for a title to make all of this clear to the viewer.