Sunday, July 29, 2018

Landscape with Rainbow
20 x 24   Oil on Linen

I went to a concert a few nights ago and they were playing a piece I had never heard before, Theodore Dubois' Quintet in F Major for Oboe, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano. Vassily Primakov was at the piano and it was a thrilling performance. I often close my eyes when I am at a live event so I can feel the vibration of the instruments and let the music wash over me. This time, however, I watched as they played. As they began the first movement, allegro, the musicians all glanced at each other as they played, looking for a connection to each other and to the piece. In the second movement, canzonetta: tranquillo, the connection was there. The third movement, adagio non troppo, was intensely beautiful. The final movement, allegro con fuoco, was played with an appropriate fiery energy. The eyes of the oboist were large and alive, the violist was often lifted from his seat by the fury of the music and Primakov was indistinguishable from his piano. Their hands flew and their hair bounced on their heads. I was fascinated by how the body language helped express the music and wondered how the body language of the artist could help express what they were painting. Often when I watch artists paint there is no excitement in the process. Each color is carefully mixed and placed on the canvas. But I remember watching my teacher when he gave critiques in the classroom and he was quite lively. Some colors were mixed gently and lovingly on the palette and applied tranquillo to the canvas. The shadows were applied adagio, but not too slowly. The middle tones came faster, allegro, and the biggest lights were mixed in big impostos on the palette and applied to the canvas with fire and power. He lunged at the easel, his hands flying, he was indistinguishable from the canvas.....
By the Brook
8 x 12   Oil on Panel

There is a brook that runs through the center of town called the Flower Brook. It is the pathway for rainfall and snow melt to find its way from the mountaintop, down through the Mettowee valley, to the Battenkill River. In some places it takes a narrow path, trickling over some rocks. Other spots are wide and deep enough to do a little fishing. In the middle of town there is a dam creating a waterfall which sends the brook to run under a bridge on the main road and behind the general store as it continues its journey. There is a spot that I am particularly fond of, not far from the road but secluded and quiet. I like to go the there on hot summer afternoons to cool my heels and watch the dog fetch sticks as she swims in its gentle current. Today was one of those days. I left the dog at home, however, and instead took my easel to spend the afternoon painting by the brook.....

Friday, June 22, 2018

On the Pond
34 x 36   Oil on Linen

I kept a journal for a year, faithfully recording my life as an artist. Here is my entry from
Saturday February 20:
I couldn't tell if I was dreaming or awake. I was at the scene in my painting, at the pond. I could feel the crisp cold air and the warm sun on my face. The kids took no notice of me at first and the two young lovers were in their own world too. I watched the clouds roll in and took notice of the movement of the branches on the trees. It was all so vivid, so alive. This is how I want it to be in the painting. One of the kids gave me stick and asked if I wanted to pass the puck around with them. I joined in and became part of my own painting.
I woke early and took our dog, Mika, out for her morning snuffle. I fed her, started a fire in the basement and one in my studio, and turned up the gas flame in Elizabeth's studio. When I got back to the house Elizabeth was up and ready to start her day too. We chatted and had breakfast together. For 31 years this has always been the way we start our day. She prepares her breakfast and I gather mine. We sit and discuss the events of the previous day and world events, and share how we see the day going forward. Once the day gets started events can take on a life of their own so we always take a little time each morning to enjoy each other's company.
Finally I'm in the studio with a full day to work. After my semi-dreamlike night I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my painting. I worked hard, but lovingly, on the young couple, trying to make them look like they were in a world of their own. And I worked on the kids, the ones I was playing with just a few hours ago. I wanted them to be alive, in motion, focused on their play as they moved through the crisp cold air. It took all my talent and training to bring them to life. It was a good day, I had a brush in my hand.....

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Fruit and Flowers (original version)

Fruit and Flowers (revised version)
24 x 30   Oil on Linen

It doesn't always come out right. You have something to say, something to express, but there are times when you’re not understood. No matter how hard you work to be clear you just can't find the right words, the right phrase, the right color, the right brushwork. You do your best, you finish the piece and send it out into the world. The thought, the idea, the concept you want to get across is out there for the world to see but no one responds. You try it in another venue, and then another, but there’s still no response. In time the piece returns to you. You look, you listen, you read the piece for hours on end. Finally you begin to edit, to rewrite, to repaint, to simplify, bring out subtleties, create more harmony, more luminosity, add depth and richness. You find a way to build character and breathe life into your work. Sometimes it comes easily, other times you have to work long and hard to say what you want to say.  Fruit and Flowers didn't come out quite right at first. Now, after being lovingly reworked, it is ready to go back out into the world again. Ready to speak, to be understood, to get a response.....

(click on the image to get a larger view where you can get a better sense of how the painting changed)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Winter Harmony
20 x 24   Oil on Linen

John Adams, our second present, was raised with strict Puritan values. Hard work and uncompromising morality were the foundations of good character and the guide to living well he was taught. The arts were to be cautiously appreciated as something to refine one's taste but could also lead to laziness, corruption and debauchery. This view softened when he was living in Paris as the American envoy to France during the American Revolution. There he began to grasp the power of the arts and the importance of culture. He enjoyed the concerts and museums so much that he feared he might be neglecting his negotiations. He redoubled his focus on his duties but in a famous letter to his wife Abigail he wrote "I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study paintings, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain." He came to believe it was worth the hard work of generations to produce a magnificent piece of music, a beautiful poem or a great painting.....

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Standing Nude
22 x 14    Oil on Linen

Yesterday in class I saw a student reading a book simply titled Perspective. "Is that about perspective in art or on life?" I asked playfully. "What's the difference?" another student inquired. "Well," I said, "one is a particular point of view, the other is viewed from a particular point".....

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Early Morning
16 x 16   Oil on Panel

I never knew my grandteacher, Frank Vincent DuMond, but my teacher, Frank Mason, would talk about him and how his love of nature affected his painting. "Don't make the greens in your landscape look like arsenic" he would say, "it should look like something a cow would want to eat." He didn't want any harm to come to the cows, or to the birds. "There needs to be air between the branches of your trees so the birds can fly through them" he would tell his students. One day a student brought in a painting to be critiqued. It was a landscape with a large tree in the center and some odd black dots under the tree. "What are those dots at the bottom of your tree?" DuMond asked. "Oh," the student replied "those are the birds that couldn't fly through my tree".....

Monday, May 4, 2015

24 x 20   Oil on Linen

The surface of the canvas the artist works on is known as the picture plane. For many years, centuries actually, artists painted their sitter or landscape or still life as if it were receding from the picture plane. When the painting was framed you felt as if you were looking through a window or doorway at the subject of the piece. More recently, the past hundred years or so, artists have built their paintings on the picture plane. This brought the subject of their works right up to the face of the viewer. I can see advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. In my own work I've taken a different path altogether, I choose to ignore the existence of the picture plane. Instead I see my canvas as an empty space. This lets me to enter into the space beyond the canvas and also bring my subject as close to the viewer as I choose. Because the picture plane is no longer a window, or barrier, between the artist and the sitter I am able to occupy the same space as my sitter. I can talk with my sitter, reach out and touch her, engage with her, laugh with her, paint a more intimate portrait.....

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

New Beginning
10 x 18    Oil on Linen

I can describe every representational painting ever created in five words: light on form in space. Now, of course, this is a very basic description and does not take into account the subject matter and its story or content, or the emotional impact, or even the technical merit of a piece. It does, however, describe the inspiration for most paintings, nature. Whether an artist is painting a portrait, or a figure composition, a still life, landscape or seascape the inspiration for his work of art is a form, occupying a certain space, revealed by light (generally a single light source). The artist is free to manipulate this subject matter in whatever way he chooses. Some add to or subtract from the objects of their observed subject while others manipulate the composition on their canvas to create a more pleasing picture. Others flatten or distort the subject, while some create impressions of what they observe. No matter what the artist does, or how he chooses to express it, he is still essentially painting light on form in space.....

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Still Life Con Brio
20 x 24   Oil on Linen

Still Life Con Brio didn't come to me in a flash of inspiration. It began with my gallerist suggesting I do a painting demonstration at her gallery. It was to be done in the Christmas season so the idea of having red and green dominate the color scheme was a given. The music of the piece began to come to me. I like to think of the time spent conceiving a painting as its opening movement. The thoughts for this piece developed at a good pace, not too slowly, not too fast, an andante perhaps. The second movement, the demonstration itself, was an adagio con anima. I began by slowly expressing my thoughts and philosophy of painting. Slowly but with life, with feeling. That movement had a long cadenza of course so I could show off my technical skills (you can watch a short video of this movement on Vimeo). I came back each of the next two afternoons to work on the painting while chatting with a friend who watched as I worked. Now I was free to paint at my own pace, allegro con brio. The paint came flying off the brush at a lively pace, expressing the objects in the painting with vigor and vitality. Portraits of each object in the painting began to emerge, then each took its place, harmonizing with the others to create a gorgeous ensemble. The colors were bold and beautiful and the brushwork virtuosic. I was at my easel and nothing else in the world mattered.....

Monday, December 29, 2014

Winter, Gibbous Moon
16 x 16   Oil on Panel

A new year is about to begin. Over the course of the past year I have been thinking about beginnings and the original beginning, creation. Being raised a Catholic my conception of creation comes from the bible. I've mused on the similarities of creating a work of art and the creation story in Genesis. In the beginning, says the bible, there was a void, and God separated the heavens and the earth. My empty canvas is also a void and I decide what will reside in that void and what will not. Next God separated the darkness and the light. I also create lights and darks to illuminate the middle toned void on my canvas. Then God separated the land from the sea and created plants and animals to inhabit them. As I compose my paintings I also decide what plants and animals will inhabit them. Finally God creates man by taking dirt from the earth and breathing life into it. When an artist paints he takes dirt from the earth, mixed with linseed oil, and breathes life into it on the canvas. On the seventh day God rested. That's the hardest part for the mortal artist, there is so much to be painted and so little time.....

Monday, November 10, 2014

Variations on Cezanne's Still Life with a Plaster Cast
30 x 24   Oil on Linen

The idea of variations on a theme has always fascinated me. In music there are variations on an original theme like Bach's Goldberg Variations. There are also variations on a theme by another composer like Rachmaninoff's variation on a theme by Paganinni or Beethoven's variations on Mozart's duet from Don Giovanni "là ci darem la mano." These variations generally begin with simple changes in key or tempo and then go off into marvelous and ingeniously complex manipulations of the original theme. In painting there is a tradition of one artist copying another's work like Rubens' copies of works by Titian or Picasso's interpretations of paintings by Velazquez. But these are wholesale reinventions not variations. So I assigned myself the task of doing multiple variations within a single work by another artist. A theme by Cezanne seemed like a good choice, I chose his Still Life with a Plaster Cast (now in the Courtauld Institute of Art, London). I could have approached the problem by playing with technical elements such as color and composition but instead decided that my variations would be stylistic. The plaster cast, for example, is a more classical rendering than Cezanne's version. The blue draped chair on the left (part of a painting in Cezanne's version but a real object in mine) is painted the way Matisse might have handled it and the floor is reminiscent of Van Gogh's approach. The deep shadows in the upper left hand corner are rendered with multiple glazes à la Titian. The apples on the table represent various artistic styles while the onions return to the way Cezanne himself rendered them. For the paintings stacked on the floor I've introduced cubist, abstract expressionist and religious themes. All of these variations are held together by my own artistic hand and philosophy. I've never seen a painting approached this way before, perhaps I've invented a whole new genre of painting.....

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

After the Rain
10 x 12   Oil on Panel

The reason I prefer to create plein air oil studies rather than work from photographs is this: the oil studies, no matter how unfinished they may be, are a richer, fuller interpretation of the landscape before me. Photographs are like simple, unadorned declarative sentences. No adjectives, no adverbs, just a record of what fit within the parameters of the lens. When I'm standing outside painting, however, I can express what is going on outside the parameters of my canvas. I can see the clouds moving into my painting and feel the breeze on my face. I am aware of the moisture in the air, the birds singing and the joy of seeing the clearing in the distance. I am not just painting the scene before me but painting the experience of being in that place at that time. Monet's paintings of his gardens are great paintings, not because they accurately describe his garden but because they make you feel as if you are actually experiencing what it was like to be in those gardens. Rembrandt’s portraits are masterpieces, not because he can paint a better likeness than anyone else, but because you feel like you could speak to the sitter. Rembrandt recreates the experience of being in the same space as the sitter. Photography is very good at recording what is in front of you, but painting is able to express the experience of being there. Photography speaks, a painting sings. A good plein air oil study can take me right back to the place I was standing when I did the sketch, I can hear the birds and feel the breeze.....

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Testing the Water
24 x 30   Oil on Linen

I create my paintings from nature and observation, memory and imagination. Early on in my painting career I took a 6 week painting trip to England, staying a fortnight each in the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and Northumbria. Hoping to bring home a large number of paintings I spent no more than one sitting on each oil study. I was a bit fearful though that I might not have enough information to either finish those studies or create larger works from them so at the end of each session I took a photograph of the scene I had painted. This was before the age of digital photography so when I returned home I took my film to be developed. When I picked up my photographs I was shocked and horrified to find they bore no relation to what I was painting. They were, in fact, records of the scenes I had painted, but were a universe away from what I observed and felt and wanted to express in my painting. They might have been useful to recall a detail of the scene but I knew the more I looked at them the more they would become my memory of each scene. So I threw them all in the trash and decided to trust my oil studies and my memories. Over the years I've painted larger works from those studies and finished others that I thought worked better as small paintings. I've recently reworked one of the larger pieces and am now considering completing the study for that painting from memory, nearly 30 years after it was begun.....

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pansies and Asparagus
18 x 20   Oil on Linen

I recently wrote a reading list called On my Bookshelf for the Art Students League's online journal Linea. There are books on drawing and painting and technique as well as monographs on some of my favorite artists. The final book is a novel, The Horse's Mouth by Joyce Cary
 ...about Gulley Jimson, an artist who will do anything to keep a brush in his hand. Lying, cheating, and stealing are all acceptable behaviors for Gulley so long as they lead to a good piece of canvas to work on. The story is told from Gulley’s point of view, and we read in delightful detail about what inspires him, how he thinks about his subjects and attacks the canvas, and how he deals with friends and foes who help or hinder his efforts to paint. As the novel progresses, his ideas become grander and more complex until it becomes difficult to even find a wall big enough to hold them, and as his vision grows so does his desperation to get it down. The novel has a rather wacky plot, and those who are not artists might find Gulley an unsympathetic, reprehensible character. But to those of us who understand his passion, it is a wonderful journey of survival in a hostile world. Cary, who did some painting in his youth, does a marvelous job capturing what it is like to be an artist and astutely expresses the torment of bringing one’s vision to life on a canvas. “I didn’t know whether I’d be able to live through the night without my picture,” Gulley says. “I’m never really comfortable without a picture; and when I’ve got one on hand, life isn’t worth living”.....

Saturday, May 10, 2014

 Untitled Character Study
24 x 20   Oil on Linen

In Genesis we read that God created man in his own image and likeness. Man, therefore, by design, by nature, like God, is creative. It didn't take very long for man to start expressing that creativity as we can see from cave paintings. In addition to painting I suspect the cavemen and women also sang, and danced, and told stories. With every blank canvas or piece of paper, on every empty stage, we repeat the creation story by bringing paintings, and music, and stories and plays to life.....

Monday, March 3, 2014


Tinmouth Farmhouse
Oil on Linen
Image 9 x 12 - Framed 14 x 17

Sometimes, in the heart of a Vermont winter, when the temperatures struggle to get above zero, I like to hang up a sunny landscape and meditate on the joys of summer. Breathe in warm air, breathe out cold air. Breathe in sunshine, breathe out snowstorms. Breathe in shorts and sandals, breathe out sweaters and boots. Breathe in gardening, breathe out shoveling snow. Breathe in dewy grass, breathe out icy windshields. Breathe in rustling leaves, breathe out barren branches. Breathe in long hot days, breathe out long cold nights. Breathe in warm, breathe out cold, breathe in warm, breathe out cold.....

The Painting of the Month is a special offer to my blog readers (click on the image for a larger view). This month Tinmouth Farmhouse, which retails for $2200, is being made available for $1600 (includes shipping, VT residents add 6% sales tax). To purchase this piece contact me at Payment is by check only please, no credit cards. If you prefer you may make 3 monthly payments. This offer is available for 30 days from the date of this post.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Bread and Eggs
18 x 20   Oil on Linen

I was lying awake in bed last night thinking about how to teach my students to create atmosphere in a painting. Painting something you can't see is much more difficult than painting the observed physical forms in front of you. Perhaps if I presented it as painting a concept, as opposed to an object, I might be able to break through. I went to the computer to see what I could find about conceptual art, hoping to find something useful for my lesson. The definition of conceptual art is a rather free floating concept itself but basically any work of art where the original idea, the concept, is more important than the actual work qualifies. Then I went to my website and reread my artist's statement, I use still lifes and landscapes and figures to explore the possibilities of light and space and mystery in a painting it said. I clicked on the image of my Bread and Eggs painting which is not at all about bread and eggs and fruit but rather is about luminosity and atmosphere, design and color. That sounds like conceptual art to me I thought so I went to see the exhibit at the Tate, a comprehensive history of conceptual art starting with what they call preconceptual art, Turner's late seascapes and Whistler's arrangements and symphonies, and then moves on to classic conceptual pieces like Duchamp's urinal/fountain, and there are installations of course, one with a room full of people seated quietly in the middle of the room examining their reactions as lights of varying color and intensity and duration flashed around them, and another where everyone walked through a collection of objects from the life of the artist, again in silence, installations almost always require silence, and observed their feelings about those objects and then discussed those feelings in front of a video camera as they emerged on the far side of the room, thus participating in and becoming a part of the work, then postconceptual work like Damian Hirst's bisected and dissected animals in formaldehyde and Tracy Emin's bed and the last room labeled neo-postconceptual art is filled with my paintings and there is Damian Hirst standing in front of my Bread and Eggs saying "I don't get this stuff", paintings do not require silence, and Tracy Emin bent over reading the curator's text on the wall trying to find out why this is important since has nothing to do with her life or who she has slept with and then I hear music, a Beethoven string quartet, one of his  Razumovsky quartets, and I think what an interesting choice of music for this exhibit, then realize it is my alarm clock, set on the radio mode. I got up and showered and headed out to catch the train to the NY, to try to explain to my students how to create atmosphere in a painting.....

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Slate Valley Farm
9 x 12  Oil on Linen

I was looking through a catalog* of Constable's paintings recently and came across the following passage, which I offer as a consolation to any artist who has ever entered a painting in a juried competition.

In 1830 the Royal Academy Council, of which Constable was a member, met to consider entries for the annual Exhibition. An eyewitness reported the following occurence:
a small landscape was brought to judgement; it was not received with favor. The first judge said "That's a poor thing"; the next muttered "It's very green"; in short, the picture had to stand the fire of animadversion from everybody but Constable, the last remark being "It's devilish bad - cross it". Constable rose, took a couple of steps in front, turned round, and faced the Council. "That picture," said he, "was painted by me. I had a notion that some of you didn't like my work, and this is a pretty convincing proof. I am very much obliged to you", making a low bow. "Dear, dear!" said the President [Martin Archer Shee]..., "how came that picture amongst the outsiders? Bring it back; it must be admitted, of course." "No! it must not" said Constable; "out it goes!" and, in spite of apology and entreaty, out it went.....

 * John Constable by Conal Shields and Leslie Parris. Published by Tate Gallery Publications, 1985

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Winter Nocturne
18 x 20 Oil on Linen

A few weeks after I moved to Vermont there was an early winter snowstorm. After the driveway was plowed I went down to the general store to pick up my newspaper. As the cashier was giving me my change she asked "did you see the moonlight on the snow last night?" It gave me great joy to know that someone else shared that experience with me. May you all see the moonlight on the snow this holiday season.....

Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays, to all my friends in the arts and to all those who appreciate what we do

Friday, November 22, 2013

Atlantic Surf
36 x 36   Oil on Linen

Picasso is alleged to have said "bad artists borrow, good artists steal." If that is true then I'm a good artist. Elizabeth and I once took a two week trip to Mount Desert Island in Maine, the home of Acadia National Park. It is a beautiful island with breathtaking views from Cadillac Mountain and a stunning rocky coastline. We spent the entire first week lying on the rocks listening to the waves crash, breathing in the ocean air and reading. Recreational multitasking you might say. The second week we got out our paint boxes and set to work. There was one afternoon that was particularly dramatic. It was a partly cloudy day; when the clouds parted there was a roaring surf, when they gathered again the sound of the waves was muffled. We were both excited. I clambered down the rocks to get close to the sea, Elizabeth liked the view from where she was and stayed up top. We both painted well but there was something very compelling about the way she had used the rocks to frame the sea. I loved that study and over the next few years thought about creating a large painting using her composition. One day I asked if I could borrow her study to do the big painting. "Borrow it?" she said laughingly “You mean steal it”.....

Friday, November 15, 2013

20 x 16   Oil on Linen

When I go to museums I generally find myself spending less time with the well known masterpieces, preferring instead to seek out the small studies and historically less significant pieces. These are often the ones created with the most artistic freedom. Commissioned works are very important to the survival of the artist but are always to some degree a collaboration of the artist and his patron. I like to see what an artist does when he is unfettered. Studies for large works are usually not expected to be seen, or exhibited, or purchased so the artist abandons any attempt at a pretty finish and instead allows the work to be pure expression. When these pieces do survive and are exhibited they are as close as you can come to having a conversation with the artist about his philosophy of art. The other works I like to spend time with are pieces that the artist does for his own amusement. Artistic caprices. Like musical capriccios they are generally upbeat, lively pieces. No great meaning or message, no adherence to rules or dogma, perhaps not even very interesting subject matter, just pure joy in being alive and being an artist.....

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Morning Walk
30 x 32   Oil on Linen

Artists are liars. Botticelli was a liar. So was Renoir. Poussin, El Greco, Corregio, Gainsborough and Eakins were liars. The little Dutchmen, the Hudson River School and the Impressionists were all liars. They all showed you a flat canvas and told you it was not flat. They tried to make you believe you could see fruit and flowers in the round, pastures receding in space dotted with cattle and trees, human figures and groups of human figures, engaged in real, even mythological, activities. It was all a big lie. No matter how real, or spacious, or tactile, or vivid the image seems to you the canvas is still flat. You can lay your hand on the canvas but you can’t pick up the fruit and your hand will not be able to enter the space you think you perceive. It's all an illusion. Perhaps artists are not really liars but illusionist. Magicians. Claesz was certainly a magician. Not only your eyes but your nostrils and tastebuds are set in motion when you look at his still lifes. Corot too. You can feel the breeze and hear the rustling of the leaves in his paintings. Tiepolo was a great magician. He could make you think you were looking though the ceiling of a church and gazing right into the heavens. Rembrandt was an astonishing magician. His portraits not only make you believe you are standing in front of another person, but that you can look the person in the eye and know their character. Each time you view the painting you feel like are visiting a friend. Magic. It can make you believe you are seeing a landscape where two friends are taking a morning stroll, where sunlight floods a distant field and a gentle breeze brushes against the tall grasses in the foreground.....

View of Rupert Mountain
30 x 36   Oil on Linen

In the early '90s, when we were still living in New York, Elizabeth and I decided to spend the summer painting landscapes. After a few unsuccessful attempts to find a suitable place to rent in upstate NY we ventured into southern VT and found a place near the NY state border about an hour north of Bennington. It was an old farmhouse at the end of a dirt road, nestled in a valley with fields gently sloping up on the east and west sides. It had stopped being a working farm many years ago but the current owner still leased out the fields to neighboring farmers who used it mainly as a place for their sheep or cattle to graze or to grow a little extra hay or corn. There was a field that went up behind the house that became a favorite place for me to explore. It hadn't been tilled for years and consequently was full of lush grasses and a dazzling array of wildflowers. If you climbed all the way to the top you could look out over the valley to the mountains on the far side. It was always quiet up there, always peaceful, a great place to think, to dream. I did a lovely little study there that hung in my studio for many years. I was reluctant to show the piece, reluctant to let anyone else stand on that hillside. As time passed, however, I gradually became aware that I did indeed want to share my hilltop. I painted a larger version and sold the study. Now anyone can stand on my quiet, peaceful hillside, look out over the valley, and think and dream.....

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Adagio for Peonies
20 x 16    Oil on Linen

Sometimes, like Appassionata in the previous post, my work is inspired by a specific piece of music. More often, however, I hear what a painting sounds like while I am working on it. Not as a finished piece of music but snippets of rhythm or cadence, harmony or dissonance. In the process of painting these peonies I became aware of what the tempo of the piece should be. Artists usually paint flowers in the early stages of development in a soft, flattering light with little or no shadow to express their innocent, gentle, delicate nature. Flowers in full bloom are often depicted in a more dramatic light or a more colorful setting, using livelier brushwork to set off their magnificent array of petals. I was ready to follow that familiar pattern but as I was cutting these peonies I began to feel that they wanted to be presented in a less dramatic fashion. As I set up the arrangement in my studio I could see that it was rich and full yet I heard it not as an allegro or presto tempo but as a lovely slow movement. The brushwork was lively but not showy, the color was intense but not loud, the mood was calm, tranquil, almost meditative. It had become an adagio for peonies.....