Sunday, July 27, 2008

Building Sand Castles
9 x 12 Oil on Panel

Every time an artist paints he learns something new. It happens slowly, almost imperceptibly, but one day you suddenly realize that you paint better than you used to. I recently had such an epiphany. When it happens to me I am overcome with a desire to repaint every painting I ever did. The only paintings that are spared from this insanity are those that have been sold or those that are on consignment and in the protective custody of a gallery. Everything else is fair game. Building Sand Castles, painted en plein air 10 years ago, got caught in my most recent madness. It is a delightful little painting about youth and aging. The two boys are working hard building their castles while rising up behind them ancient rocks watch over the young architects. I was inspired by the contrast and painted a rather nice sketch. Now in my current frenzy I couldn't resist reworking it. Off came the varnish. I brought more sunlight to the rocks, more wind and clouds and atmosphere, the ocean now moves forward and will soon threaten to wash the sand castles away. I thought I was making a few subtle adjustments but within an hour or two the whole painting had changed. The story now has more drama. Then I looked around the studio to see who the next victim might be.....

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Oil on Panel
Image 10 x 12 - Framed 16 x 18

This is not a painting about rocks. Don't look at it, listen to it. Listen to the rhythms as the sun dances up and down the rocks. Feel the heat of the day. Let the clouds drift in and out. Think Monk, Thelonious Monk, improvising. His fingers floating about the keyboard, setting a mood with dissonant harmonies and angular melodic twists. Now listen to the color. Tenor saxophone. Coltrane. Intense chromatic shifts, vivid, sultry. Beautiful.....

The Painting of the Month is a special offer to my blog readers (click on the image for a larger view). This month Rockscape, which retails for $1800, is being made available for $1200 (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.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Cheese and Crackers
12 x 16 Oil on Panel

"I want my paintings to be looser" or "I want my work to look brushier" or "I need to jazz up my paintings a bit." These are some of the responses I get when I ask my students what they want to see happen in their painting. To me, however, "loose" painting is not a look or a style, it is the result of natural enthusiasm. The artist must have total control of every aspect of his painting to do it effectively, otherwise he is simply throwing paint around. Your drawing must be confident, your understanding of light and shade and color has to be sound and your mind, palette and painting in harmony. It can't be a guessing game. It's not a game at all. If it's not who you are, not how you see things, it's not honest. If you see the world around you, however, as living and breathing, dancing and laughing, make your paintings fit that vision. If you are able to glide up and down your palette, play the scales of color, easily find the half steps, the sharps and flats, able to put your stroke down with absolute certainty, then let your brush sing, piano here, fortissimo there, a bit of vibrato, allegro, con brio, vivace, gustoso, furioso...let it fly.....

Monday, July 7, 2008

Women in Art
30 x 24 Oil on Linen

Art history has been, almost exclusively, written by men about men. Not until late in the 20th century, when Germaine Greer penned The Obstacle Race, did a substantial account of the contribution of women artists exist. Those that were noticed fit into neat second rate categories, a student of so and so, or a follower of this or that movement. They were also allowed to do subjects that men wouldn't touch, mothers and infants for instance. There was occasionally someone, like Cecilia Beaux, who painted, they grudgingly acknowledged, as well as any man, or a Georgia O'Keefe who painted with an undeniably feminine vision. Elizabeth Torak, one of the most amazing artists on the contemporary scene, is one of those artists who can't be ignored. Women in Art is a tribute to her unique perspective. She paints women as no man ever has, powerful and independent, bold and confident. Here she is working on a life size group of women called The Maenads. It is a study for a larger piece, The Beat Goes On, a 6' x 7' masterpiece created from imagination and observation without the use of models. It is a unique portrayal, a delicate balance of power and grace, abstraction, design and detail, of the moment yet timeless. Her depiction of men is not the traditional view either. The French Fry Eaters, for example, are full of energy, lusty louts oblivious to their surrounding, they exhibit that raw sexuality so common in young men. It is not the way men see themselves, it is the way a young woman sees young men. For whoever writes the history of art in the late 20th and early 21st centuries Elizabeth Torak is certainly an artist to watch...dynamic, intense, expressive, feminine, unique.....

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Simple Pleasures
20 x 20 Oil on Linen

This is a test. I deliberately set up the most amateurish still life I could. Nothing could be simpler. Anyone who has done a painting or two would probably look at this and be immediately bored, it is what most people think of as subject matter for a beginner. So here is the test. Can someone who has been painting for 30 years make a magnificent painting of daisies and fruit? The challenge here is not in painting the objects, one can quickly learn to do a recognizable painting, but to express them as fully as possible. The objects may be simple and common but they are still full of life. The daisies live and breathe, each stretching, reaching, trying to catch as much light as they can. The grapes float around like the corps de ballet behind the principle dancer. The apple sits proudly up front showing off its ruddy complexion. What a riot of color! Pinks, whites, yellows, reds, and the light passing through that green vase, all sitting on a beautiful dark wood table! What could be more glorious! What could be richer, fuller, more complex! Oh, right, sorry...I forgot that we were doing the simplest most boring thing in world.....