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Archive for July, 2017

Maybe it’s a morning for daydreaming. There’s a sharp crispness in the air this morning that reminds me of autumn mornings, gloriously cool and bright. But we’re lingering in July with the gauzy summer days of August still before us, so there is still a bit of time before those fall mornings arrive. So I’ll daydream of those days ahead.

I guess this leads me to today’s musical selection. I thought I’d carry on the daydreaming theme with a classical piece from Claude Debussy. It is titled Reverie which is just another way of saying daydream.  I chose this version from Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra because it features a nice slideshow of Maxfield Parrish paintings, all of which easily fall into the category of daydreams.

Give a look and a listen. Let your mind float for a bit and have a good day.


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Martin Lewis - Late Traveler 1949I saw a Martin Lewis etching years ago and was transfixed by the crisp contrast of its darks and lights and the easy moodiness it gave off.  I knew nothing of the artist but it was obvious that he was masterful in his etching and in his artistic eye.  I had largely forgotten this artist until I came across a group of his etchings that are coming up for auction.  Seeing them rekindled that same feeling I felt years ago.  Mainly images from New York in the 20’s and 30’s, they often capture a feeling of urban anonymity and isolation, mining the same vein of emotion in which Edward Hopper worked in his paintings.  This is probably not a coincidence since Lewis and Hopper were friends, Lewis having taught Hopper the art of etching around 1915. Those people in the late-night diner of Hopper’s Nighthawks also inhabit Lewis’ world of dark streets and shadows.

Martin Lewis was born in Australia in 1881 and ran away from home at age 15, working rough jobs for a few years as he travelled and sketched his way through Australia and New Zealand.  He ended up in Sydney where he studied and did illustrations for a local newspaper.  He migrated to the US around 1900, arriving in San Francisco where he painted backdrops for the presidential campaign of William McKinley before finding his way to New York City.

Martin Lewis- Relics (Speakeasy Corner) 1928Inspired by the dynamism of the city at that time, Lewis worked as an illustrator and painter.  It was a 1910 trip to England, where he was introduced to the printwork of English artists such as James MacNeil Whistler, that inspired him to take up etching.  However, it was an 18 month stay in Japan in 1920 that set the groundwork for his signature work which captures light and air and mood so well.  He was active and increasingly successful from 1925 until about 1935.  However, the Great Depression brought a downturn to his popularity and by the 1940’s his work was out of favor.  His work never really took hold after that and he died in 1961,  largely unknown.  In fact, just finding some of the details on his life for this short blog post took some doing.

I think his work is wonderful and evocative and  find it amazing that his work ever fell out of favor.  But such is the nature of art.  But the etchings of Martin Lewis will persevere through the fickle cycles because they capture something elemental and personal.  And that is what real art does.

Martin Lewis- Shadow Dance 1930Martin Lewis-Tree ManhattanMartin Lewis- Little PenthouseMartin Lewis- Glow of the City 1928Martin Lewis - Which Way 1932Martin Lewis New York Nocturne

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I first read the poem The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats over forty years back and it left a mark. Cut and scarred me. Its first verse still resonates in my mind, especially that last line– the best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity. It just reeks of the current political bog in which we are mired.

After putting the final touches on the piece above, a 12″ by 36″ canvas, I began examining the painting, trying to discern what it held for me. Immediately, the image from Yeats’ poem came to mind of a world in disarray,  spinning out of control in dark chaotic clouds and rising tide that overtakes and drowns all hopes.

But instead of Yeats’ forewarning that the center ( or centre, as is in his Irish version) cannot hold, I saw the Red Tree standing strong and resolute against the troubles swirling around it.  It holds tight to its core, not allowing the madness surrounding it to overtake it or alter those values of goodness that it holds dearly as definitions of its own humanity. It will die before it will succumb to becoming part of the blood-dimmed tide, as Yeats put it.

I am calling this painting The Center Holds.

I think this is a strong piece although I am not sure the photo above captures everything in it, its depth and contours. It’s coming with me to the West End Gallery for my Gallery Talk there next Saturday, August 5. Stop by and check it out for yourself.

Meanwhile, here’s Yeats’ The Second Coming:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer; 
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; 
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, 
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned; 
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.                                                                                                                                                                               .
Surely some revelation is at hand; 
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi 
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.   
The darkness drops again; but now I know   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep 
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? 

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Sunny Point from Keuka Lake

Have some details here for a two day painting workshop I will be leading at the Sunny Point location on the east side of Keuka Lake, located here in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York state. The workshop is being hosted by the Arts Center of Yates County and their Sunny Point location is a wonderful setting. We will be painting on the wonderful porch overlooking the lake and if the weather turns will move inside where they are in the process of updating their lighting with full spectrum LED’s.

The dates are September 28 and 29, Thursday and Friday. The workshop begins at 9 AM and runs to 4 PM each day. Enrollment is limited to 8-10 workshoppers with materials being provided. It is open to all levels of ability– from working artists to pure beginners. Even if you have never held a paintbrush, you can take part and create your own piece of art. You can go to this link to contact them about enrollment.

Looking out from the Sunny Point painting porch

This is my third year with this workshop and it is, surprisingly for me, something that I enjoy. Believe me, I was a little apprehensive in the beginning, as I am sure the folks who attended that first workshop can attest. But seeing how attentive and excited they were by the things they learned was invigorating to me. They made tremendous strides in a very short time and much of what they did was, simply put, exceptional. Plus, it was fun, with a lot of story-telling and good natured conversation.

In the past two workshops we focused on my wet process, one where a lot of liquid paint is put on the surface then taken off. It is fast paced and sloppy but the effects of the paint show themselves immediately. It can be exciting.

We will be painting in this style at this year’s workshop

This year we are switching gears, moving to a more controlled type of painting, one where we will be working a bit more upright on easels, applying multiple layers of paint. To put it simply, the wet process was about pulling paint off to reveal light and this process is about adding paint to build up light.

It’s a different thought process, one that is often a bit more meditative and slow forming. But, that being said, we will be moving at a fast pace. I want the artists there to try to see how it is to paint without thinking so much about painting a picture and focus on each stroke and its importance. My feeling is that every stroke is significant and the painting as a whole is a compilation of small paintings that come together to express something emotive.

Maybe that sounds ambitious for a two day workshop. But I have a feeling that the folks who end up at Sunny Point will be willing to have some fun and work hard to see that end. If it sounds like something that might interest you, I can guarantee you that I will work hard to make it worth your while.

Hope to see you on Keuka Lake in late September!

 

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I wrote about late artist Dale Nichols (1910-1995) a few years back after being completely charmed by his paintings of snowy scenes from his home state of Nebraska. In that blog entry I mentioned that there wasn’t a huge amount of info on the artist. The only book was a book that accompanied a show of his work from back in 2011 at a small but not unimportant museum, the Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art, in his hometown of David City, Nebraska. I was shocked to find that this book was selling for $458 on Amazon which is a testament to the lack of literature on this wonderful artist. Happily, I found a copy at a normal price at the museum’s online gift shop.

I came across a nice short called The Forgotten Artist from Nebraska public television that features Nichols’ work and the Bone Creek Museum. It is a charming look at his work and the relationship he had with his niece. I thought I’d rerun the article I ran earlier along with the video. Maybe it will help make Dale Nichols a little less forgotten.

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Dale Nichols- Company for SupperMost likely prompted by the recent weather here as well as a desire to try a slight change of palette, I have been doing a small group of snow paintings recently.  I thought I would look at several other artists, especially those with a distinct personal style,  to see how they handle snow in their work.  One of the artists whose snow works really stuck out  was Dale Nichols, who was born in Nebraska in 1904 and died in Sedona, AZ in 1995.  He is considered one of the American Regionalists,  that loosely defined group of painters whose work  for which I have long expressed my admiration.

Dale Nichols- After the Blizzard 1967His biography is a bit sparse with but Nichols lived a long and productive life, serving as an illustrator, a  college professor and the Art Editor of the Encyclopedia Brittanica.  He also spent a lot of time in Guatemala which resulted in a group of work with Meso-American forms that is quite different from his Regionalist work.

But Nichols is primarily known for his rural snow scenes and it’s easy to see why.  The colors are pure and vivid.  The snow, put on in multiple glazed layers with watercolor brushes has a luminous beauty.  The stylized treatment of the crowns of the bare trees adds a new geometry to the paintings.   There is a pleasant warmth, a nostalgic and slightly sentimental glow, to this work even though they are scenes that depict frigid winters on the plains of Nebraska.  Free of all angst, they’re just plain and simple gems.

You can see a bit more of Dale Nichols other work on a site  devoted to him by clicking here.

Dale Nichols- The SentinelDale Nichols- Silent Morning 1972Dale Nichols- Mail Delivery 1950Dale Nichols- Bringing Home the Tree

 

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You have most likely seen the work of Piet Mondrian, the Dutch painter who lived from 1872 until 1944.

Like the painting shown here. Seems so simple. Mainly black lines creating squares and rectangles that are mainly white but periodically filled with bright primary colors. Critics claim it is too simple, that it is something a grade-schooler with a ruler and some paints could replicate easily.

Maybe. Maybe not. Who cares?

But putting that side aside, his work has always remained refresh and modern through most of the last century up to this very minute. Outside of time, like it represents a future moment that exists just beyond this very moment at all times. And that factor in itself makes his work appealing to me.

I will never list Mondrian as a true influence or even a real favorite of mine, there is much to be gained as an artist from studying his work. The elegance of his structures and the space created within, for example. Or how he transformed his work through the years from a style of impressionistic realism into cubism and then into the style of his that we know so well, stripping away all detail and content down to the bare essence of being.

The video below shows that evolution beautifully, with musical accompaniment from Phillip Glass. I hope you’ll find it interesting to see how the work makes that transformation. Take a look below.

Let us note that art – even on an abstract level – has never been confined to ‘idea’; art has always been the ‘realized’ expression of equilibrium.
-Piet Mondrian

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Here’s an update for upcoming events on my schedule for the next couple of months:

First, on August 5, I will be giving a Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery in conjunction with my show, Self Determination, that is currently hanging there. The talk begins at 1 PM and generally runs about an hour, give or take. As is now tradition, one of my paintings will be given away to one of those in attendance, along with several other surprises that are currently in the works. This is normally a brisk hour of questions and answers with some laughs along with some serious moments. If you have questions about the whats, whys and hows of my work, this is a great way to have them answered. Plus, you might cart off a piece for yourself!

Then the following month, on Saturday, September 16th, I take the Gallery Talk on the road down to the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA. This is the 15th year for this annual talk and, like the West End talks, features a drawing for one of my paintings along with some other surprises. There is generally some fun and a few revelations. I am always surprised at how much I learn from these talks myself from the input and insight provided by the audience. This talk starts at 1 PM and goes to around to 2 with the drawing at the end of the talk.

Sunny Point on Keuka Lake

And in late September, I will again be leading a painting workshop at Red Barn at the lovely Sunny Point location on beautiful and tranquil Keuka Lake in NY’s beautiful Finger Lakes region for the Yates County Arts Council. The past two years doing this have been an unexpected pleasure for me and I think this year’s edition will be a couple of days of fun, good conversation and, hopefully, some useful instruction. The dates should be finalized this week and details will be forthcoming. Most likely, this two day workshop will take place in the last week of September. Enrollment is limited to 8 or 9 attendees so, if you are interested, don’t hesitate in getting in touch with Kris at YCAC  to get your name on the list.

Hope you make it to one of the talks or to the workshop. I think it could be a lot of fun.

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