Archive for the ‘Music’ Category


Things are as they are. Looking out into it the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.

Alan Watts


I wasn’t planning on showing this newer painting for a while. But I came across this lovely piece of music and this painting seemed to pair perfectly with it, at least to my eyes and ears.

The painting is an 18″ by 36′ canvas that I call Starmap and is part of my annual show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria which opens June 1.

I have been working on a series of paintings like this, with blocks of color making up the sky and stars as points of light showing at the intersections of these blocks. I love working on these pieces. They require an emptying of the mind with a focus solely on what is before you. There’s this interesting sense of constant problem solving that bounces from making each form correctly and balancing that form within the whole composition. I continually go back and forth from tight focus to wide focus.

I probably can’t properly explain it but for me, it is an exhilarating process as each added form and layer of color, each poke of light from the stars, subtly transforms the piece into something more than I was expecting. It feels more complete and full than the first thoughts and brushstrokes that initiated the painting, leaving me with a giddy kind of satisfaction. I know that this has been the case thus far with each of the paintings in this series.

Now for this Sunday morning music, I thought this wonderful piece, Nocturne, from young Hungarian guitarist Zsófia Boros paired up beautifully with the feeling that this piece creates for myself. I’ve listened to it several times this morning and it just seems right.

Give a listen and have a great Sunday.



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Another St. Patrick’s Day, that celebration of all things Irish– parades, pints and more Kelly green than the mind can fully process. They say that well over 30 million Americans claim to have Irish roots.

Growing up, I always believed we did as well because my grandmother was an O’dell, which certainly seems Irish. But doing genealogy over the last decade I have discovered that the O’dell was changed through the years from Odell and before that from Odle and, most likely, before that from Woddell, It turns out that it was not Irish at all.

No, it was British. And for the Irish that is a big distinction.

But I also discovered that my father’s great-grandparents were Irish immigrants during the Great Migration of the middle of the 19th century. It was something I wasn’t sure of before I started my genealogy work. I still haven’t found where they originally came from in Ireland.

Icon: Mary T.

Their’s was a pretty stock story. The father, Michael Patrick Tobin, worked on building the railroads in central New York, ultimately settling in the Binghamton area, where most of his family worked for the next several decades in the tobacco industry there. Most were tobacco strippers or cigar makers.

I am not positive that his wife was actually born in Ireland. There are conflicting accounts but her parents definitely were. She was the subject of one of my Icon paintings from a couple of year’s back shown here on the right. Her story is an interesting one, one that I wrote about on this blog. You can read it by clicking here.

So, it turns out I am one of those 30-some million with a bit of Irish blood, about 16% according to the DNA tests. I don’t give it much thought except on this particular day and even then I realize that these folks were little different than most of my other ancestors from other countries who left the hardships of their homelands for what they hoped would be a better life in America. I can’t say they all found wonderful lives but perhaps they were a bit better off than they might have been had they stayed put.

Okay, here a bit of Irish music for the day, a nice reel, The Glen Road to Carrick, from a contemporary Irish group, FullSet. I like the feel of this- it has a fresh edge that makes me want to drive too fast. By the way, the painting at the top is from a late Irish painter, Paul Henry, who painted primarily in the first half of the 20th century. I am a fan of his work and featured it here a couple of years back.

Have yourself a good day.

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Lost time is never found again.

–Benjamin Franklin

The clocks moved ahead by an hour this morning despite my protests. Even though I have wasted more than my fair share of time in my life, I am at an age where I hate to see an hour just taken from me. That feeling on waking to find that it’s an hour later than I was expecting makes me rush out of bed and my morning begins on a frazzled note.

So this morning–what’s left of it–has found me searching for something to play for this week’s musical selection that would stave off my lost hour panic. Something that would slow me down so that it feels like that hour is still there, somehow.

My search takes me down dead end streets on YouTube with songs that just felt wrong which only served to aggravate me more. But somehow– and don’t ask me how– I spotted this song by a group of musicians unknown to me, a French group called the Tarkovsky Quartet.  It was a composition titled Nuit Blanche (White Night) and, as I listened to it play, felt that it was the right song for this wrong morning.

So, give a listen. Most likely the idea that time springs ahead doesn’t bother you. But if it does, this song is a lovely way to spend a few minutes of time without feeling you’re wasting it.

Have a good day.

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Don’t like to mention my dreams too often here but I woke up this morning from one where I had just put on an album on an old record player and the first song was Frank Sinatra singing the Aretha Franklin classic Chain of Fools, a song I am pretty sure Sinatra never covered. He did a pretty good job with it in my dream.

I didn’t have to think too much about where this dream originated.  Watching the craziness that goes along with this completely dysfunctional White House and everything that is related to it, especially the ongoing Russian investigation, is mind-boggling.  The ineptitude, greediness and sheer ignorance  that reveals itself on a daily basis is totally nuts, especially yesterday’s manic meltdown on national television by Sam Nunberg, a former aide to the person some folks still consider to be the president of these United States.

You can see it all beginning to crumble and fall apart before your eyes. It’s like sitting in a huge stadium where the entire field is filled with standing dominoes. As you watch nothing seems to be happening for the longest time. Nothing is moving. Then at the edge you notice a tiny shift and suddenly dominoes are falling in what seems to be large chunks in every direction.

As all of this is happening, the obnoxious stadium announcer is yelling over and over, “Fake News!”

And in the blink of an eye, it is over.

I have a feeling that is what we are watching at the moment. The tiny shift at the edge of the pattern has taken place.

The dominoes are tumbling.

So, first thing this morning, I  get into the studio and find a version of Aretha’s Chain of Fools with the lyrics shown.  As it plays, I am struck how the words of the song could apply to the people who thought this was a good idea in the first place, those folks who voted to turn this country into the world’s largest dumpster fire. Fools backing a fool and a liar.

The chain of fools- and I think I am being kind to say that they are just fools- has been broken.

Couldn’t find a Sinatra version so give a listen to Aretha and pay attention to the lyrics.

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Woke up late this morning, at least by my standards. I bolted awake directly coming out one of those weird dreams that seem like something out of a dystopian novel like 1984 or Brave New World.

Or taken from any recent newspaper.

I wanted to go back to sleep just to try again, maybe come out this sleep with something better. Second times a charm, you know.

But I couldn’t so I headed over to the studio for my morning rituals. But that feeling from my dreams lingered, like a foreboding prophetic omen that is always at the edge of my thoughts and my vision.

I have a floater in my right eye that sometimes, when I am looking straight ahead, will dart across the far right periphery of my field of vision. It’s been there a while now but I often still finding myself jerking my head reflexively to see what is there. Of course, there is never anything there yet its continued presence gives me an unsettling feeling as though something could be there when I look the next time.

Uncomfortable dream or terrible omen? I’m rooting for uncomfortable dream but who knows what our subconscious is up to these days.  So much of the info, the indicators, the patterns it selects to process from the outside world enter without our knowledge.

It all reminds me of the image at the top, a painting from back in 1996 or thereabouts. I can’t locate a slide of this piece but came across an old photocopy yesterday and was really taken with it. It’s called Strange Victory II designed as a kind of companion to Strange Victory which was an early painting that I showed here and was based on a favorite poem of mine with that title from Sara Teasdale.

There is a lot that I like in this painting– the subtlety of the colors, the textures and the contrast of the figure and the tree against the backdrop. It is so simply constructed but has a fullness that is often elusive to me as an artist.

I think it’s a great companion piece for this week’s Sunday Morning Music. This week I chose Don’t Give Up, the Peter Gabriel song from back in the 1980’s. This version is from Willie Nelson accompanied by Sinead O’Connor, from his 1996 album, Across the Borderline. I think it’s a first rate cover of the song and I can envision the image of this painting when I listen to it.

Take a listen and have good day and better dreams.

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I came across this post below from back in 2012 about my first encounter with the artist LS Lowry. Since then I’ve looked at a lot more of his work and read more on his life, all of which has made me realize how much I was missing before then. He was an interesting figure, providing me with one of my favorite responses when once asked what he was doing when he wasn’t painting: Thinking about painting.  I know all too well what he was saying.

Anyway, I thought I’d repost this if only to once again play the song about the distinct figures that populate his world, Matchstick Men. Take a look and give a listen.


I feel sort of embarrassed to admit this but I had never heard of L.S. Lowry until I stumbled across him the other day.  I am most likely not alone in this but would have thought he would have crossed my radar screen at some point, especially given his prominence in the British art world and in British culture. Not that I know a lot about British art or pop culture. But this is a beloved painter there who has sold many works in the multi-million dollar range, one selling for a record $9+ million last last year [2011].  This is not an anonymous artist.

I am still discovering more about this  painter  with a most individual style but here is a very short summation.

He was born in the north of England in 1887 and died in 1976, having spent most of his life as a rent collector for a property company.   Although he is often referred to as a self-taught artist, through much of his working life he studied art in the evenings at various schools. He used this study and the environment around him to find the distinctive style that marked his work, one that is populated with matchstick figures walking through   urban scenes, often heavily filled with images of  the English industrial landscape.

His work has permeated British popular culture as well. His matchstick figures were the basis for a 1967 rock song, Pictures of Matchstick Men, from Status Quo that was later became a hit  here in the States when covered by Camper Van Beethoven in the 80’s. And more recently, the British group Oasis had a video, The Masterplan, featuring the band members as matchstick men walking through animated scenes from Lowry’s paintings. In fact, Noel Gallagher, one of the leaders of  Oasis, has joined a growing chorus of fervent Lowry fans in Britain who have been calling for greater displays and recognition of the late painter’s work there.  As a result, the Tate is mounting a major retrospective of Lowry’s work for 2013.

There’s a lot for me to like about Lowry which makes just finding him now more puzzling. But I have found him and will continue to learn more.  For now, here is the both the Status Quo song and the Oasis video.

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I was looking for something to play for this week’s Sunday morning music and I saw a song that I hadn’t heard in many years from an artist that I seldom even think about, Melanie. Most of you who remember Melanie most likely immediately think of a couple of her hits from the early 1970’s that were close to being novelty songs.

Most notably, there was Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma and Brand New Key. You know that last one: I’ve got a brand new pair of rollerskates/ You got a brand new key.

Pretty lightweight stuff. But she had chops, being one of only three solo women to perform at Woodstock. In fact, this song, Lay Down (Candles in the Rain), was written about her experience at that festival. It’s a song that completely fell off my radar, to the point where I had forgot that this was a Melanie song.

This is the full version with lyrics. It has a lead in that you probably never heard on AM radio back in the day. Give a listen and have a great day.


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