Archive for August, 2018

Next Up

The West End Gallery show has come down and next up on the list is my annual Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria. ThIs Gallery Talk, my 16th there, begins at 1 PM on Saturday, September 15. There are a bunch of neat things on deck for this talk so keep your eyes peeled for details in the next two weeks and pencil it in on your calendar. Hope to see you there!

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Today is the last day to get into the West End Gallery to see The Rising.

Many thanks to those of you who were able to stop in and take a look. The response has been fantastic and the feedback I have received provides me a lot of inspiration going forward. That’s a big thing for me and for any artist.

Thanks as always to Jesse and Linda at the gallery for all the work they do for my work. I know it’s a lot and I truly appreciate it.

Hope you can make it into the West End Gallery today. Thank you!
2018 WE Show 2

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Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.

-Leo Tolstoy


I don’t know about the accuracy of this quote. Tolstoy did write about art and the transmission of emotion through it but I can’t vouch for the precision of the wording in the widely accepted quote.

But I do heartily agree.

Craftsmanship– handicraft– definitely has a part to play but that alone cannot transport the viewer to that inner spring from which their emotions flow. Something might be beautifully crafted but unless it is constructed from the empathy, the love, the awe, the wonder and the wide assortment of feelings that define tour humanity, it remains just a lovely object.  Beautiful but coolly devoid of feeling.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

But the aim of the artist, at least to my mind, should be to engage the the emotions of the viewer ( or listener or reader, whatever their medium might be) with their own. To create a sort of communion of feeling between the artist and the recipient.

Can this be taught? I don’t know. I try to tell students to read, to look, to listen, to practice a sense of empathy in their daily lives. Widen their view and become a fuller person. I think art comes from an equal blend of one’s handicraft and their sense of humanity.

That’s just my opinion and it may be as flawed an idea as the mind that thinks it. But I can stand behind that thought and hope, in some small way, to achieve that blend in my own work.

The painting at the top is Find Your Light, a 36″ by 36″ canvas, that is a central part of my show, The Rising, at the West End Gallery that ends tomorrow.

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I was not sure where I was going, and I could not see what I would do when I got there. But you saw further and clearer than I, and you opened the seas before my ship, whose track led me across the waters to a place I had never dreamed of, and which you were even then preparing to be my rescue and my shelter and my home.

― Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain


Well, my annual show at the West End Gallery comes down in just a few days. This year’s edition is called The Rising and Thursday is the last day to see the show.

It is a show in which I feel a real sense of pride. When I am prepping for a show, my goals for it are often vague and undefined. I feel that I want certain things for it and from it but when I try to verbalize these goals, the words evade me. I find myself like the sailor in the Thomas Merton quote above: I was not sure where I was going, and I could not see what I would do when I got there. 

I knew it was going somewhere. I just didn’t know where. I let intuition and reaction guide me and it often worked out fine.

But this show, much like my June show at the Principle Gallery, felt more preordained and focused and less haphazard in it’s final edited version, the one that hit the walls of the galleries. I still allowed for the role of intuition and the unconscious in the process of painting each piece. That is a necessity.

But where I could make conscious decisions, I did just that. I chose to simplify forms and chop out the fussiness of detail. Deepened colors. As much as I like them and appreciate their popularity, I reduced the number of small paintings and went with works that were a bit larger. It streamlined the look of the show on the wall, made it feel less cluttered, and gave each piece a bit more room in which to expand.

They weren’t big things but enough to make the work in the exhibit to be presented with fuller impact. I felt like this and the Principle Gallery show were my most mature and complete exhibits to date.

The response to the show has been great which is gratifying on many levels. A number of the original paintings from the show have flown the coop to their new homes but there are a few replacements that I feel fill the void they leave behind. One new piece is shown above. It’s Star Navigator, a 24″ by 8″ canvas that feels very much like it jibes with the words of Merton at the top.

I hope you can make it out to the West End Gallery in the next few days, if you haven’t had a chance to see The Rising.

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Life is very short… but I would like to live four times and if I could, I would set out to do no other things than I am seeking now to do.

William Merritt Chase
I find this to be a very interesting quote from the American master William Merritt Chase (1849-1916). I don’t think about it very often but given a choice of doing what I am doing with my life and being able to freely pursue any other life, I would continue, like Chase, on the path I am currently on.
I know there could be greater adventures, greater importance, greater rewards, wider travels and so on in other pursuits. But this life meshes with my character and my preferences so well that the thought of doing anything else seems almost absurd at this point. It never even enters my mind.
And there is something calming in the certainty of this. It’s one less thing that might gnaw at me, to make me question my own decisions. One less thing in which to find uncertainty in a world overflowing with it. When I enter my studio, I know I am in my proper place. Oh, I might question my decisions, my actions, in that space but I can no longer imagine myself being in any other place. And like Chase, I find myself wishing I could live four more of these lives.
And that’s a good thing.
Here are some more painting from William Merritt Chase. Hope his words somehow apply to you. Have a great day.

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Those he commands move only in command,

Nothing in love. Now does he feel his title

Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe

Upon a dwarfish thief.

-William Shakespeare,  Macbeth


I read an interesting article in The Atlantic  by Eliot Cohen this week that has stuck with me for the past few days. It parallels the possible fall of the current administration to that of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. How fitting that the Scottish play, as it is often called, might mirror the fall of a man with a Scottish ancestry.

The end may be brought about by those he has freely abused and those around him who serve him not from admiration or love but from fear and the self-serving nature of the position, things that will no doubt soon fall away as the downward spiral hastens and his true nature of this utterly selfish person becomes apparent to even those who still follow him with fervor.

As Cohen writes:

…his spirit remains tyrannical—that is, utterly self-absorbed and self-concerned, indifferent to the suffering of others, knowing no moral restraint. He expects fealty and gives none. Such people can exert power for a long time, by playing on the fear and cupidity, the gullibility and the hatreds of those around them. Ideological fervor can substitute for personal affection and attachment for a time, and so too can blind terror and sheer stupidity, but in the end, these fall away as well.

Who will be Macduff, the one who ends the reign of the tyrant, in this version of the play is yet to be determined. But the last words of Macduff before he is urged by Macbeth to Lay on, Macduff should be remembered:

Then yield thee, coward,
And live to be the show and gaze o’ the time:
We’ll have thee, as our rarer monsters are,
Painted on a pole, and underwrit,
‘Here may you see the tyrant.’

In case you don’t know the play, it doesn’t end well for Macbeth.

The Cohen article is an interesting read. You can see it here.

For this week’s Sunday morning music I have chosen a nice collaboration of a song from the great American songbook from Elvis Costello and the late great Chet Baker. The title fits well with an article about a man who demands love and loyalty but offers none in return: You Don’t Know What Love Is.

Take a look and a listen. Have a good Sunday.


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Mid-fifties temperatures made it a cool,comfortable stroll over to the studio this morning. These guys were waiting for me part way down the driveway where it emerges from the woods. They are some of the resident critters who regularly visit me. There are quite a few other bucks and a number of does and fawns, including one thin doe, Skinny Girl, who often sleeps between the shrubs and the foundation wall of the studio in the front. She knows it’s a safe spot. Many of these deer have grown up within sight of the studio and know they are secure within a certain area. It’s been interesting to watch many of them grow up.

This time of year the bucks, like this group, still travel through the woods together, not yet ready to begin their annual display of strength where they establish their dominance in an area for rutting. In a month or two the strongest buck will clash with and chase off the weaker and younger bucks. There is a large, thick bodied 10 or 12 point buck, not part of this shown group, that shows up periodically and seems like the dominant buck. He even makes a different sound when he runs, pounding the ground with his heaviness. It’s a frenzied time for the deer when the mating rut begins and the big bucks exert  their dominance but for now they happily coexist.

Along with the deer, there are plenty of other residents who regularly show up around the house and the studio. There are small groups of turkeys who like the deer, are grouped together by sex at this time. A flock of seven or eight toms regularly stroll through pecking at everything, hopefully hoovering up all of the ticks that abound in these woods. They seem pretty at home and not too skittish when they see me unlike the group of hens who rush off through the underbrush at the first glimpse.

There is also a regular parade of squirrels, chipmunks, woodchucks, skunks (although they haven’t been as regular a visitor this year), raccoons, foxes, coyotes and a periodic bobcat. I am sure I am missing someone here but I know they will show up soon to remind me..

Then there are the many birds who inhabit these woods and regularly visit the pond. The caw of the crow, the squawk of the jay, the distinct call of the thrush and the wacky cackle of the pileated woodpecker often echo through the woods, along with the sounds of the black birds, chickadees, titmice, mourning doves and my favorites, the cardinals. It must be the red.

We’ve had large ospreys visit the pond with a huge splash as they dive for fish and herons who take a quieter approach, often seeming like pieces of sculpture as they wait without any motion at all for a frog or small fish to come within their reach. And then there are the swallows and bats diving and dancing in the sky above the pond as they help keep down the bugs. And there’s the red-tailed hawk who hovers around, menacing the other birds. And at night, the hoot of the owls comes out of the blackness.

It all gives me a real Peaceable Kingdom (like the famous folk paintings from Edward Hicks) kind of feeling watching so many of these critters coexisting and allowing me to be part of the group. Not a bad feeling on a cool Saturday morning.

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It is my dream to create an art which is filled with balance, purity and calmness, freed from a subject matter that is disconcerting or too attention-seeking. In my paintings, I wish to create a spiritual remedy, similar to a comfortable armchair which provides rest from physical expectation for the spiritually working, the businessman as well as the artist.


–Henri Matisse

I have read (and shared) a different translation of the quote above from the great Henri Matisse. It aligns perfectly with my own hopes for my work and stands almost as a credo. At the end of the day, I am trying to create work that allows any viewer, no matter how much or how little they know about art, to withdraw into their own inner space while at the same time feel a sense of communion with a greater whole. To move into a place that feels safe and comforting.
A spiritual remedy, as he calls it.
It’s not something you can have in mind, however. It only comes in the process, as the thoughts that may have been pressing on my mind are set aside and my own emotions are leveled off to a state of calm. It has to be my own spiritual remedy before it becomes that of anyone else.
When it happens, it is a lovely thing and the world seems somewhat right.

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Cue Celine

Over a century ago, in 1912, the Titanic, claiming to be the biggest and best ship of its time, made its maiden voyage heading from England to New York.

Well, there’s a ship out there right now, big and as full of itself as the Titanic. Its name is written in large gaudy gold letters across its bow and like the Titanic begins with a T.

This week, the iceberg that has been looming on the horizon moved perilously close to this ship. And I have a feeling that this iceberg is bigger and deeper and vastly more dangerous than the pompous Captain and his First Mates ever could imagine. They think they can simply evade the part of the iceberg they can see. And the passengers who trust this captain believe that he will steer them clear.

We all know how this story goes: Big Ship+North Atlantic+Iceberg+Crash+Bottom of the sea+Celine Dion singing. Closing credits and fade to black.

There are a lot of people out there saying that the events of this week are the end of the story, that they are a small iceberg that can be swerved around and the big ship trudges onward. But we all know that icebergs are sometimes massive and that the sighting of one is often just the beginning of the story.

We have sighted the iceberg and even the tip of the iceberg is big. This story has just began.

Cue Celine Dion.


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There are so many things we’ve been brought up to believe that it takes you an awfully long time to realize that they aren’t you.

–Edward Gorey
I love the work of the late great illustrator Edward Gorey which very often took matters to dark and quirky places. His Gashlycrumb Tinies, a primer style book with small children being done in in a variety of curious ways, is a prime example. I’ve shown a few here. At face value, it’s awful yet there is a quality to it that still makes you smile at the macabre absurdity of it.
It’s often thought that Gorey, who passed away in 2000 at the age of 75, was English, mainly because much of his work looks very Victorian and Edwardian. Lots of well appointed gentlemen and gowned matrons brandishing cigarette holders. However, he was from Chicago and lived most of his life there, in NYC and on Cape Cod, where he died. He actually only left the USA once in his lifetime.
One little factoid that interested me was that one of his stepmothers was the actress who played the cabaret musician who sang and played guitar in the movie Casablanca. She was playing the guitar during one of my alltime favorite scenes which featured Resistance fighter Victor Lazlo leading the band in a rousing version of the French anthem, La Marseillaise, that drowned out the singing of the Nazis in Rick’s bar. I guess that doesn’t mean much as far as Edward Gorey’s work but I thought it was a neat little detail.
I also like the quote at the top from Gorey. It’s one of those realizations that come only with the passing of time, after years of trying to fit one’s self into a mode of behavior that is acceptable to others. At a certain point one realizes that they don’t have to satisfy anyone’s expectations or beliefs but their own. It’s the beginning of freedom.
Anyway, have a good and Gorey day.

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