Archive for March, 2012


A new painting, a 16″ by 20″  canvas that I call RFD for rural free delivery.  It alludes to the small mailbox with the the door hanging open, a theme I have  used in a prior piece within the past few years.  Maybe it’s a comment on the decline of our postal system, something that saddens me because, as I have writtern here before, it meant so much to me as a child as a form of connection to the greater outer world in the days long before the internet and social media, both terms that would have drawn quizzical looks at that time.  Maybe that’s what it’s about.  Maybe not. I know I’m not sure.

There’s a moody melancholy to this piece that is both a little scary and satisfying at once, something that I am hard-pressed to explain.  But I guess that’s what I find appealing in this painting- the fact that it is harder to take in easily with no apparent answers.  It is dark and a bit foreboding, filled only with questions.  Who might live here?  Where are they now?  Is mail delivered there now or has this place been abandoned?  Is this the end of the road or does it travel on?  When is this moment?  Is it a darkening or lightening sky?  Fall or spring?

There is no Red Tree, no central personification here.  Just a tall, windowless and doorless  house with a gaping mailbox set amid bony trees and an ominous sky.  There is no heroic quality here, no absolutely positive reading or message. Just a mood of mystery. 

And sometimes that’s enough…

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I mentioned Woody Guthrie in yesterday’s post and it reminded me of a musical release that is coming out in the next month.  It is the release of Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions from Billy Bragg and Wilco, which incorporates the remastered first two volumes from the original 1998 release with a new volume of 17 songs. 

 These sessions were the result of the Guthrie family asking singer/activist Billy Bragg along with Wilco to have a go at interpreting some of the many songs left after his death in 1967.  Guthrie didn’t read music so his unrecorded songs’ melodies were stored only in his memory, leaving only the lyrics.  But the lyrics were terrific and provided Bragg and Wilco plenty of inspiration to produce a memorable set of music.  I have used several songs here over the years and often find myself switching on Mermaid Avenue (named after the street in Brooklyn where Guthrie lived at the time of his death)  in the studio to work by.

Here’s one of my favorites, Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key.


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It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.
–Pablo Picasso
This short sentence from Picasso is  one of my favorite quotes.  It both makes me smile whenever I hear it and brings to mind my own struggles with recognizing my own creative voice, something that used to be a real internal battle in the early formative years.  There was always a pull between the craft side, as might be represented by Raphael in Picasso’s quote, and the side where one paints naturally and intuitively, as the child might.
 I knew I would never paint like a Raphael.   I never cared to tie myself to any one tradition of painting and wanted the liberty of free expression, the ability to freely display emotion, even in the most mundane scene.  Wanted my own voice, preferring the colloquial over the classical. Kind of like wanting to sing like Woody Guthrie versus singing like Pavarotti.  For as beautiful as Pavarotti’s voice might be I found a quality in Guthrie’s voice and songs that spoke more directly to me.  Native simplicity I suppose it might be called.  Over the years, my voice has evolved and there are pieces where there is often a bit of this native simplicity in the work that really pleases me, makes me feel as though I am somewhat painting in the way a child might.  Or at least in a way that might speak as well to children as it did to adults.
The piece shown here is such an example.  A 10″ by 30″ canvas, it is an extension of the work I have done recently, work that I have called internal landscapes.  Called Native Rise, it is painted very intuitively and speaks plainly.  It has an attractive harmony in its elements that lets it speak easily and be asorbed quickly – if you like this sort of voice.  For me, I see this piece as being very symbolic of my true voice,  how I see and express the world as I internalize it.  It is painted easily and in my own voice.   And like my own voice, it is far from perfect but tries to speak plainly.  And truthfully as to how I see my world.
At least, that’s the way I see it   It’s funny how much more difficult it is to describe  with words my own native painting voice, something that comes so easily on the canvas.  Perhaps one shouldn’t try…

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I was recently asked to do an interview for the blog , The Best Me, which is written by the team of Cathy Shap and Dave DeGolyer.  They are holistic creativity and wellness coaches, as well as accomplished writers,  living now in Michigan.  Their aim is to show people how to best tap into their creativity in conjunction with leading energetic and healthy lives.  The pair became familiar with my work when they lived in the area near where I live  before making the move to Michigan and asked me to do this interview for their first blogpost. 

In the interview, I am asked about creativity and ritual as well as some specifics about some of the elements of my work.  The color red, for example.  I hope I gave some answers worth reading.

Check out The Best Me and all that it has to offer. 


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It is with great pleasure that I can announce that I am now being represented on the coast of  California  by the Just Looking Gallery in beautiful San Luis Obispo.  The gallery, with owner Ralph Gorton and Gallery Director Ken McGavin at the helm,  has been in operation for 28 years now and has long established itself as a premier gallery, offering strikingly individual work to its clientele.

When I was first contacted by them a few weeks ago, I was not looking for a new gallery.  But their enthusiasm for my work and the fact that they only carry a very small roster of hand-picked artists,  which offers closer attention in promoting the work , quickly won me over.  I have already placed a number of paintings in their very able hands and look forward to working closely with them in both the near and distant  future.

I was also excited by the prospect of finding such a gallery on the West Coast.  For many years I have had a number of people tell me that the style of my work would fit well in the central and northern coastal regions of California and the galleries representing my work in the east have sold a fair number of paintings to collectors on the West Coast.  So, hopefully their optimism will hold true.

In case you weren’t aware, San Luis Obispo, besides being one of the oldest cities in California, is known as of late as being one of the happiest cities on the planet, the only American city on a list compiled by Dan Buettner for his National Geographic book Thrive, based on a five year  global study on the keys to personal happiness.  Buettner applied the same techniques in studying happiness that  he used in his famed study on the global blue zones, areas where longevity is much longer for the average human. 

 I always hope that my work finds a happy, appreciative  home and, if this is any indicator, San Luis Obispo and the Just Looking Gallery sound like the place where it should be.

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There’s a wonderful site to which I  subscribe , PhotoBotos.com, which blogs a remarkable photo each day.  From all parts of the world, most are spectacular shots and I always look forward to seeing what each new day’s offering will be.  Today’s was not a disappointment.  Called Soulside Journey, it is a shot of epic feel taken in the Cerce Valley of the French Alps by photographer Alexandre Deschaumes.  Just an amazing sight.

It made me want to see more of Deschaumes’ work and to learn a bit more about him.  Doing just a bit of research, I discover that he is a self-taught photographer who has been gaining acclaim in recent years for his stunning and emotionally charged shots of natural landscapes.  There is a nice online interview on the site Photography Office  that has Mr. Deschaumes stating: I find my inspiration in my hope and fears, through a simple mix of elegant curves , line and color harmony

I could very much sum up my own artistic philosophy in this simple sentence.  It makes me empathize very much with Mr. Deschaumes artistic vision and journey.  Going to his own site , which is filled with a vast number of his imagery, it’s easy to find many that speak to some of those same deep inner emotions that I seek in my own work.  Just plain good stuff.

I also found the lovely high-def film shown below from filmmaker Mathieu Le Lay that shows Deschaumes at work in the wild, trotting among some beautifully shot settings.  Gorgeous color.  Worth a look on a Sunday morning…

Alexandre Deschaumes – The Quest for Inspiration | Demo 2011 from Mathieu Le Lay on Vimeo.

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Beauty Scorned

I was going to write about something  different but came across this older image and completely lost my train of thought, this piece replacing everything that I had been thinking.  It’s a smaller painting, maybe 6″ square,  that sold many years ago but has lived in a larger sense in my thoughts ever since. 

It’s titled Beauty Scorned and is a relatively simple piece.  But there’s something in the the bend of the twisting tree trunk that really speaks to me in a very poignant way, as though it is a pure physical expression of some deep emotion.  Beauty and sorrow. 

For me , I see this as being about perceptions of beautyand acceptance.  About how we often conform, like the other trees which are so much alike here, and step back from that which is different, seeing not the beauty in it but scorning it because it is unlike us.  The difference is the beauty. 

I remember when I did this piece, feeling that this was symbolic of my own work at that time.  It was often different from the work of other painters with which I showed and I was still unsure of the validity of my own voice, often feeling that my work was somehow inferior because it wasn’t painted in the same manner, didn’t have the same look as these others. At the time,  I felt like my work and my voice was truly tied to this twisting tree and those who dismissed it because it had a different look were missing the beauty and emotion that it may hold. 

Just seeing it again, summons all of these thoughts in a rush of feeling.  It remains a potent piece for me for this reason.  It also has a sad memory in it.  When I see this piece I am always reminded of the couple who purchased it and were avid and encouraging collectors that I always looked forward to seeing at shows.  They later divorced and the wife would still come to the shows, always so happy for and encouraging of my work.  Tragically, she passed away in a plane crash this past year and now, instead of seeing the scorning of beauty in this piece as I once did, I now see the beauty of this young lady’s spirit. 

It’s a different painting for me now but no less potent.

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I recently saw a short film called The Chapel which is from filmmaker Patrick Kizny.  It is a high-def timelapse film that explores the interior of a decrepit Protestant church in Zeliszów, Poland, designed by  architect Karl Langhans and built in 1796-1797.  It has obviously been in a horrible state of disrepair for many years but Kizny manages to evoke the architectural beauty of the building with his moody film.  At first, I thought it was all computer generated, like a video game, but this is real photography.  And a great and real building.  If you are a fan of the art in great architecture, this is quite striking.

If you are interested in seeing how the photography and look of this film came about, I have included The Making of The Chapel below.

Thanks to Via Lucis, a terrific  site specializing in the photography of religious architecture,  for pointing out this film. 

Making Of The Chapel from Patryk Kizny on Vimeo.

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When I was first notified of this by a reader the other day, I wasn’t sure how I should feel.  Should I be upset over the use of my images in this way or should I feel flattered?  I really didn’t know.  What I’m talking about is a site called Jigsaw Planet that features photos and artwork uploaded by users and transformed into online jugsaw puzzles.  Going to their site, I found seventeen of my paintings among the many there, as well as quite a few other images taken from my blog.

I spent a few minutes looking at the site, doodling around with some of the puzzles just to see how they worked.  While part of me was concerned with the unauthorized use of my images, the whole thing seemed innocent enough and kind of fun to play with.    In the end, I am flattered that somebody liked these images enough to want to spend their time doing  jigsaws of them. Besides, I have allowed a great deal of my imagery to enter the cyberworld and have seen it used in less flattering  ways.  There are definitely worse things than seeing my work on an online jigsaw puzzle.

 By the way, the puzzle at the top of the blog is this painting, Soul Lights.  Try one– you might like it.

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Lascaux.   The name immediately brings to mind the famed cave in France containing the extraordinary Paleolithic paintings.  Preserved for over 17,000 years, they represent the profound need for the artist to record what is in his world.  It also serves as an intimate glimpse into an age that is massively far removed from our modern world.  Yet, for as distant as that world and time might seem,  the imagery in these caves still brings us back to our primal connections to those ancestors.  We are still moved by the image and the story.  We may have changed less than we would like to believe.

I mention this today because there is a new online literary/art magazine called The Lascaux Review.  The first edition premiered yesterday and features one of my Archaeology ( Archaeology: Rainbow’s End, seen below)  paintings as accompaniment to a poem, Creation, by the distinguished American poet, Philip Appleman.  The poem is dedicated to Marcel Ravidat, the discovered of the Lascaux caves.  It is a lovelyand powerful poem and I am honored to have my image associated with it.

Please take a moment and check out The Lascaux Review.  It won’t be time wasted.

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