Tuesday, December 29, 2015


I'm still working on this painting after a brief hiatus for the holidays. I am trying to decide which title is better "PEOPLE WITH GODS" or "FAULT LINES".

 There was always something wrong with the profile above and I couldn't figure it out. This is what comes of just making up your subjects without benefit of a model. So I turned to the internet and just googled images for "man shouting - profile".  There were plenty of good examples and I have changed him as you can see below.  The upper teeth are showing instead of the lower.  The neck is totally different.

But the biggest change is in the eye and the bones and muscles around it. And I have a long way to go on this.  But, I have learned the lesson. Never struggle with a human figure without a model or at least a photo.  Any color differences between these two are due to my inexperienced photography.

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.

Saturday, August 8, 2015


This was a new experience for me.  I spent three days on the same painting, instead of two hours - something I would like to do again.  It gave me an opportunity to look at the painting with fresh eyes each day.  For example, I was able to see that I needed to move the eye a tiny bit closer to the nose and to raise the mouth by a millimeter or two.  All in all, I am happy with the result, but I feel also that I might be running a risk of over working the piece. For me, an important part of painting is knowing when to stop.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Bringing the models to me

These three portrait studies are from my first week of having models come to pose in my own studio instead of traveling long distances to attend various painting groups around northern Vermont. I think it worked out pretty well - considering. The real problem that I was sick most of the week and actually had to cancel three modeling sessions.  The guy in the middle who posed was late and took so many long breaks and eventually fell asleep, so I had only about an hour to work on that one. Oh well, it is all a learning process and now, I am not only trying to learn to paint but am having to learn how to arrange that models and scheduling and how to deal more effectively with people. It is hard for me to tell the models what to do. I am not used to ordering people around.

Sunday, July 5, 2015


This is a painting I started last Thursday night at our Montpelier painting group. The model was entirely back lit, presenting quite a challenge for me. But I wanted to concentrate on the face so I went ahead with it.  I am fairly well pleased with the result - enough that I would like to work on it some more. I will even up the shadows, especially on the shoulder. And I will straighten the eyes. The hair looked like a glowing cloud against the dark background. I was encouraged to paint it in white for now and to work on it later with glazes after the paint dries. So that is what I will do.

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Thomas Urry Young

Sarah Ann Wilderspin
I have been making a lot of little paintings based on old black and white photos that I have found on the internet. These two people are part of my history - my great - great grandparents who lived in the first half of the nineteenth century in England and Ireland. I've been having so much fun with this series and now I am off on a whole new tangent.  I plan to create a gallery of family portraits for my nostalgia wall.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


I've been practicing my portrait skills by using old black and white photos as references. I supply the color and I try to work as quickly as possible.  I think that this exercise is a lot of fun and is teaching me to be faster, less uptight and more confident in painting. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


I came across an old black and white photo of my uncle Sam, taken when he was about two years old. I felt compelled to convert it into a tiny color portrait.  This painting is 8"x6".  I find it really fun and useful to use a black and white photo as a reference for a color portrait.  I already know something about painting skin tones, so I can rely on that.  But since there are no colors there for me to try to copy, I won't slavishly try to render them exactly.  I tried to be a quick as I could with this one and had enough sense to know when to stop.  If I had worked on this any further, I think I would have lost all spontaneity and ruined it in a useless quest for perfection.  The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Feeling myself somewhat at a loss about what to do next, I decided to just practice some little portraits based on photos.  This one is 8"x6".  I think that this is a good way to rekindle interest and to do something fresh rather than endlessly toiling over the same few pieces trying to reach perfection.  This little portrait may not be perfect, but it is good.  Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


The last day of the workshop was a Saturday.  I was so sorry to see it end.  Max set up a difficult pose for the model, Pat, who somehow managed to hold it all day with a few breaks. Max asked him to pose as if he were just getting up out of the chair.  This meant that Pat couldn't relax at all, but had to keep his muscles tense all of the time.  I'm not used to working on the same alla prima piece for an entire day, but I did it that day and the result please me.  Afterwards, we all went out to eat at a Greek restaurant in Astoria, Queens.

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Pat was our model for an all day pose.  I think I did ok with this one except for the torso being a little short.  Or maybe the thighs are a little to long.  It is really important to look carefully and work these things out in the beginning rather than trying to correct them later on.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


 I have been asked to write something about the story behind this painting - COLLATERAL DAMAGE - so here it is.  I frequently attend painting groups here in Northern Vermont.  Painters get together and pool their resources to hire a model, which few of us can afford on our own.  The model showed up with his own prop - an American flag, which someone tacked to the wall and he sat down in front of it.  THEIRS NOT TO REASON WHY is the study I did that day.  It was just chance but the painting turned out to represent, for me, some poor innocent boy who was being sent off as cannon fodder.  I chose the title from the Kipling poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade".  At about the same time, I was practicing painting faces by copying pictures I saw in books and magazines.  RED, WHITE AND BLUE  was done in this way.  The magazine picture was of one of our senators. (I'n not saying which one)  The two pictures just seemed to go together.  I thought the politician was duping the young man into going off to fight a useless war that would somehow benefit the privileged classes and the rich and powerful.  I had two of my friends pose together so I could get the pose right.  I found the image of the gun on the internet.  The two children are kids I know and the grieving mother, I made up.  I wanted the background to somehow represent the USA, so the "amber waves of grain" became the stars and stripes.  Et voila. I think that it all turned out pretty well but there are still some changes I would like to make.


Sunday, May 17, 2015


We spent the morning in Manhattan at the Hispanic Society of America, looking at the paintings of Joaquin Sorolla - a Spanish bravura painter who is a particular favorite of Max's. Then, in the afternoon back at the studio in Long Island City, we worked on head studies of Pat.  This is mine at the beginning and at the end. At this point, I began to feel that I was getting somewhere in learning to paint.

Monday, May 11, 2015


On the third day, we had an all day pose.  In the first picture, I am working out the drawing.  After correcting a few errors, I completed the painting as can be seen in the second picture. I think I did pretty well with this.  I certainly learned the importance of slowing down and looking closely at the model and getting the proportions and angels right at the start - so much easier than trying to correct them later.  With this taken care of, I was able to go ahead and add color - warm and cool.  This is as far as I got that day.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


On the second day of Max's excellent workshop, we had an assignment. It was to make two quick oil sketches that included the entire body - no cutting off the feet allowed.  After Max helped me correct the drawings, I think I did pretty well.  One thing I learned was to make the lower legs darker and more purplish by using a little alizarin crimson. Pale skin is difficult for me, but by concentrating on tone and big forms, I think I did ok.

Monday, May 4, 2015


I recently attended a six day workshop at the Long Island City studio of Max Ginsburg. On the first day, after watching Max's demonstration, we attempted two head studies. 
In the first one, I think that I failed to capture the model's thin and frail look. It is all a learning experience, though. I rubbed this one out.

My second attempt was much more successful, I think.  She was delicate and I think I got that on the second try.  I was learning something every minute that I was working with Max.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


Here is a view of my studio. The photo makes it look much bigger than it is.  I offer this picture a counterpoint to the notion that a clean and orderly studio leads to greater creativity and productivity.  I notice that this idea is mostly promoted by people who call themselves artist advisors.  These people are organizers and writers - probably not visual artists.  If being neat and tidy works for them, then they should be that way.  But how can they know anything about what will work for another person.  If I ever do get around to cleaning up my studio, my next act is to start messing it up again.  I do concede however, that it would be nice to have my table top free of clutter so that I could do something on it.  Instead, I open up a folding table for a project.  Then I fold it up and put it away so that I cannot put any stuff on it.

Monday, April 6, 2015


When roaming the beaches of the Atlantic coast, I find that most of the things that have washed up are dead - relics of sea life. In these bits and fragments of once living matter I find an endless array of color and pattern that finds its way into my paintings.  This one is part of a series of "dead things on the " that has already reached over 65 in number.  most of them are 6"x6", but this one is 20"x20" - oil on canvas.

Monday, March 30, 2015


Now, I have added a lot more stuff to the ground in this painting.  Bones - trash - tires.  I need to use color and value to direct the viewers' interest to the hands and the tiny new plant that Mother Nature is placing into the scorched earth to restore a ruined world.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


I spent only one day on the beaches south of Monterey, but found there enough material to start a new series of of paintings based on life in the tide pools.  My Atlantic Beaches series was all about dead things on the beach (shells, dead jellyfish, lobster claws).  The Pacific Beaches series will be about live things on the beach (anemones, crabs, live jellyfish).  I can't wait to get started but will have to work it in between all of my other painting projects.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Gaia Walks Among Her Dead

Stage two. It is hard to see in this photo, but I am getting into pointillism with a lot of dots in the dirt. Now, Mother Nature has her plant, which she will use to start repopulating the scorched earth. I will be away from this painting for couple of week while it dries and I soak up some sun in the Southwest.

Monday, February 23, 2015


This is a sort of a first draft of a painting that I started working on when, somewhere, I heard the phrase, "Mother Nature walks among her dead".  The image seemed quite clear to me.  There would be a field of scorched earth, littered with dead - natural beings and human trash alike. The animals are there to suggest the dying earth and the trash is there to suggest that it is the fault of humanity.  As I work on this, I will make the ground browner and deader with more debris.  The key to it all, the most important part, will be that Mother Nature will have in her hands a tiny plant seedling.  I hope that this painting works out with the clear message that it is only Mother Nature who has the power to clean up the mess that we have made and repopulate the Earth with teeming life and diversity that belong here.  It will take a long time though.