Archive for January, 2009

And The Future ComesThis a new smaller painting with the title  And The Future Comes, an 8″ by 16″ canvas.  It is a continuation of my Red Roof series and is, what I think, a very strong piece.

There’s a great deal of warmth in this piece and the mosaic-like quality of the sky adds depth and vibration.  There is a quiet, contemplative feel throughout the piece and while the coming light of the future seems ominous, it is also hopeful. 

This painting will be at the West End Gallery in Corning, NY  for their upcoming Little Gems show which opens February 6.  There is also a group of very small paintings that I call Redtree Thumbnails .  They are 2″ by 4″ canvasses which give them a real gem-like quality and are a great way for the beginning collector to obtain a first piece.

 If interested call Linda or Hedy at the West End at 607-936-2011. 

9909-102-redtree-thumbnail-29909-105-redtree-thumbnail-5Redtree Thumbnail #4

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RailbirdsThis is an old piece called Railbirds.  I’ve always liked this little painting for the clarity of color and the composition and rhythm of the figures that are seemingly  engaged in a fistfight at the rail of a horse track.  It’s also a piece that calls back parts of my youth that are distant and remain only in memory.Between Races

The culture of gambling played a major part in my youth.  I spent an inordinate amount of time at racetracks and taverns, reading the Daily Racing Form and drinking watery Cokes,  as a kid.  There are a lot of stories and details I could add that might make this a personal mythology piece but I think in this instance, the less said the better.

However, I will say that this time was a great experience in watching people and how they click and interact with one another.  I was exposed to adults, often at their worst .

 Drunk. Angry.  Greedy.

I can’t say how this translates into my work or how it effected my becoming an artist .  Maybe it showed me the darker side of our psyche and took away the romance and influence it might hold for many.  Maybe it was important in forming my sense of light and dark.  Maybe it’s the basis for the darkness that I try to put behind my paintings.

As I’ve pointed out before, you can’t appreciate the good without knowing the bad -or the light without having been in the dark.

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StruwelpeterThis is Struwelpeter, a small painting based on the famous German children’s book from the 1800’s,  containing 10 cautionary tales.  Struwelpeter translates as Shock-headed Peter which is the story of a unkempt young boy who refuses to bathe or cut his hair or trim his nails.

He is just one of the children with offending habits who fall victim to cruel ends as a result of their own foul behavior.  It’s macabre and sometimes gruesome but it has remained in print for over 150 years and is one of the most influential children’s books of all time.

I did this piece as part of my Outlaws series from a few years back.  I could only envision Struwelpeter as an outcast as an adult, never quite shaking the bad habits of his youth, and this is how I saw him.  A little creepy, yes.

But he is Struwelpeter, after all…

So groom yourself well and don’t suck your thumb!

Don't Suck Your Thumb!

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That’s what I call this painting from a year or two back.  It’s a small, simple piece.  A little fanciful perhaps.  For me, there is something personal in the piece.

Whenever I see this piece it reminds me so much of the many jobs I had before literally falling into this career.  I remember the long days spent at real labor where there seemed to be weights on the clock hands, preventing them from moving ahead.  At the A&P I remember another guy and me loading a railroad boxcar with cases of mayonnaise  by hand, filling it completely, one case at a time, deep into the night.  I remember building chimneys with my brother in the mud and snow, hefting each chimney block up the ladder on my hip, each step a struggle as the cold permeated your core.  I remember clearing the land where my home stands, cutting the white pines down and into 8-12 foot lengths and dragging them by hand to the side of the clearing.  I remember starting my overnight shift as a waiter at Perkin’s Restaurant, knowing that there was nothing in store except cooks who just didn’t care and an endless supply of lousy-tipping kids, drunks and other nefarious creatures.  Those nights were the definition of grind, just moving forward one step at a time.

It may sound as though I’m complaining.  I’m not.  I so appreciate each of those work experiences, along with the many others I didn’t mention.  Each had a lesson.  The lesson of endurance.  The lesson of realizing what you can and cannot control.  Focusing on the task at hand and blocking out the rest of the world.  The lesson of discovering what you were and weren’t.  

So when I have what I now consider a hard day in the studio, I remember all the days spent in ice and mud, my boots soaked through and my back and shoulders aching, and I laugh.  

This is a gift.  

That was a grind…

Also, John Updike died yesterday.  Whenever I read anything, I compare them to Updike in my head.  His writing at times left me breathless, having to stop and re-read sentences and paragraphs.  He was a true master and luckily for us, he left a wonderful group of work that will live on.

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Casablanca-posterSome of my favorite films to have on in the studio are those that have something to do with World War II.  Not necessarily combat films, although there are a number of those that I find really engrossing, but rather films that have to do with the periphery of the war and how the world coped with a raging war or its aftermath.

Of course, many will immediately think of films like Casablanca and I can’t deny that it is one of my favorites as well.  It’s just a treasure trove of great dialogue and powerful moments ( the dueling anthem scene with Nazis being drowned out by the patrons exuberant  and emotional La Marseillaise is a classic) and remains as powerful a story today as ever.

idiots delightI think I am most taken by the film that deal with the ideology of the times.  For example, Idiot’s Delight, starring Clark Gable, was made before our entry into WW II and was an appeal to the nation to rise up against the Nazi tide that was sweeping through Europe.

It’s filled with great ideological dialogue, words that really do more than just propel the story forward.  They’re meant to stir and anger, to drive people to action.movie-watch-on-the-rhine

Another along the same lines is Lillian Hellman‘s Watch on the Rhine with Bette Davis and an incredible performance from Paul Lukas as the simply worded Resistance fighter.  Again, it takes place before our entry into the war and portrays us as innocent and naive but as the events of the film take place we, as represented by the characters, begin to understand and show our resolve to fight for freedom.

There are so many powerful films from this time that it would be impossible to list them all in a simple blog.  The Best Years of Our Lives, Mrs. Miniver, 49th ParallelHangmen Also Die!  and on and on.  They were meaningful films in a trying time and I think the overriding emotion of them still shines through.  I recommend that anyone with a feeling for the drama of history take a look…

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Maxfield Parrish

Parrish  Christmas Morning 1949Today I want to just show the influence of Maxfield Parrish on my work.  He is certainly well known for his fairy tale-like scenes of scantily-clad young women or children  in fantastical settings but I have always loved his other, lesser known work, particularly his landscapes and homescapes.

There’s an intensity and warmth of color that I find completely compelling, drawing you in immediately and immersing you in a luxurious blanket of warm tones.  For instance, in the piece above, Christmas Morning 1949, even though it is a wintry, snowy scene there are warm tones in the snow fields.  It changes how you look at and feel about the scene, differentiating it from the normal, obvious winter landscape.Parrish Hunt Farm

I am also visually excited by the way Parrish used gradience in the colors of his skies, taking a deep rich color at top and drawing it down in lighter fragments of the colors that make up the original color.  It creates a brilliant effect.

The trees often took a central part in his compositions as well, something to which I was obviously attracted.  Many were boldly colored and powerful.

The houses were mainly long range and very idyllic, warm interpretations.  More home than house.  There was never a specific story conveyed in these homes, just an overall feeling that was formed by their part in the overall picture.Parrish Hill Top Farm Winter

I have also been influenced by the way Parrish put his compositions together, how all the elements were placed to create mood.  The way the trees fill the picture plane.  The way the houses are shown, never in full view.  More about feeling and inference rather than representation.

I could go on and on about his work and all the little things comprising his magic that I’ve tried to incorporate into my own work but the images tell the story much better.  Enjoy…


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Let Us Now Praise Famous MenThis painting is another of the Exiles series, its title, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,  taken from a group of Depression-era photos of sharecroppers in the American dust bowl from the camera of Walker Evans.  I have always been taken with these portraits as well of those of Dorothea Lange.  There is a sense dignity and will that has an eternal quality as though anyone in anytime in any culture would know and could empathize with their sorrow, their struggle.

That universal feeling is what I had hoped for this piece.  I am never sure it hit that particular mark but there is something quite haunting for me in this slightly alien face and the sadness written in his face.  He is a true exile…

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harlequin3Saturday morning and I’m in the studio early, anxious to get to work.  There are things I’d like to post on my blog but I feel like there’s a painting waiting to be released.

I think that for this Saturday morning I’ll instead show a little early Rolling Stones.  At Christmas, I was talking with my nephew, who is around 30 years old, who commented on how many people he knew who were totally ignorant of the music of the Beatles and the Stones, particularly before the mid-70’s,  and the great influence that both had on current pop music and culture.

For anyone from that time that is a remarkable thought because of the incredible changes that were taking place at the time and, for many,  how their music was very much the soundtrack for the era.  Perhaps this is hyperbole and the world would pretty much be the same without either band and their songs but I doubt it.  Great change is only affected by great influence.  The greater the influence, the more we are inspired to go beyond, to take what they have shown us and to synthesize and integrate it with our own voices and visions.  

Growing up, listening to this song, Get Off My Cloud, was empowering.  There was a sense of defiance and a sense of standing up for yourself that pulsed out of the grooves.  I don’t know if it completely comes through but at the time, it played loud and strong.

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Seeking Imperfection

Seeking ImperfectionThis is the title piece from my 2001 show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA, titled Seeking Imperfection.  I’ve always liked the title to that show (as well as this painting) and the thought behind it  which is that everything is inherently flawed in some fashion.

 I have a belief that for every strength there is a parallel, balancing weakness and that when one seeks perfection in an area of their strength, their area of weakness grows more apparent, more pronounced.  The trick is in maintaining a workable balance between these two poles.

Perhaps it’s a matter of knowing what we aren’t is as important as knowing what we are…

On a separate matter, we have solidified the dates for my 2009 show at the Principle Gallery.  It will open on Friday, June 12 with an opening reception running from 6:30 to 9 PM. It will be my 10th show at the gallery and I’ll be announcing some special things that I will be doing for this show in future posts.

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Arnold Bocklin

arnold-bocklin-the-isle-of-the-dead-1880This is Isle of the Dead from artist Arnold Bocklin, a Symbolist painter of the late 19th century.  This was a painting that Bocklin painted in several versions and is the painting for which he is best known.

I’m showing it because it’s a piece I’ve always been drawn to and to illustrate how an artist gets inspiration from work that is wild divergent from his own.  

Obviously, I don’t paint in a style that resembles Bocklin in any manner but the way he uses great contrasts of light and dark struck me immediately.  When you look at great pieces throughout history, one of the common elements is invariably great contrast.  It creates tension and mood within the piece and draws the eye in.  It heightens the visual impact of any piece.

So when you see a piece of mine with high contrast you can bet I was thinking of Bocklin and many others when I was at work even if there isn’t smidgen of their work visible in mine.

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