Friday, December 23, 2011

Ice Skating
18 x 20 Oil on Linen

In rural Vermont fire safety is a bit problematic, there is no such thing as a network of fire hydrants. What many people have instead is a pond nearby that can easily be drained by the local volunteer fire department. Our house has one such pond. On our first Christmas here Elizabeth bought me a pair of ice skates. While she sat by the fireplace reading her new books I went out to clear the new snow off the pond. If you get to the snow before it starts to melt you can create a perfect skating surface. My timing was just right so we bundled up with scarves and gloves, laced up our skates, and headed out. It was crisp and cold with a bit of a breeze. We glided and talked, marveled at the passing clouds and paused to watch the white tailed deer bounding across the neighbor's field. When we went back inside, all aglow with rosy cheeks, Elizabeth made hot chocolate and we enjoyed a few Christmas cookies. I turned on the radio. The weather report said to be cautious going outside, to not stay out too long, with the wind the temperature felt like -30! Since then, when I can time it just right, we like to have friends over for impromptu skating parties. It always reminds me of those charming old Dutch paintings, and I couldn't resist painting one myself.....

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sunny Afternoon
9 x 12 Oil on Linen

I often ask my students to tell me their thoughts about the piece they are working on. Not that I don't have my own thoughts, but it clues me in to how they are thinking as they create their paintings. Recently one of my best students, who was working on a nude, said he wasn't sure if he had gotten the leg right. Yes, I replied, it looks a bit dull and lifeless. Well, he said, I saw more light there but I didn't want it to compete with the big light on the torso. There's your answer I replied, you've taken a negative approach. You painted the leg so that it would not be something. Wouldn't it be better to paint the leg so that it expresses what you want it to say rather than what you don't want it to do? Let it live, let it take its rightful place in the painting. If nature has blessed it with light then express that with joy and confidence. It is always better to approach your painting, or any part of your painting, with a positive attitude, "this is what I want to have happen here", rather than negatively, "I don't want this to happen here". When you paint a negative thought you tell the viewer "don't look at this". When you paint the leg in its full glory you say to the viewer "come, celebrate with with me, for we are sharing something amazing".....

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Round Bales
16 x 16 Oil on Panel

I love when composers write variations on a theme and when musicians improvise. West Pawlet Farm, in the previous post, was painted on location. It is a lovely interpretation of what was happening at that place on that day. A romantic painting of rural charm, round bales of hay drying in the open air before being brought to the barn to be stored for winter feeding. As I looked at the painting in my studio I began to hear variations, passages being expressed in different ways. I pulled out a panel, a square panel, a more daring shape than the original, and began to improvise. The horizon moved up in the composition to create a more dramatic view up the hill to the farm. The weather became full sunlight to make the hay bales dry faster. I decided to make the clouds big and thick, moving swiftly through the sky. Still romantic but lighter and faster. I hear West Pawlet Farm as an adagio movement, Round Bales as an allegro tempo. I could hear other variations, a thunderstorm perhaps, presto, furiouso, or a largo with a rainbow. The elements are the same but with a different character. Perhaps in another variation the hay bales would be gone and cows would be grazing in the field. The possibilities are endless. I can see an entire exhibit of paintings of the same scene, variations created in my studio, inspired by a single afternoon painting en plein air.....

Friday, August 19, 2011

West Pawlet Farm
11 x 14 Oil on Panel

Indoor painting is for introverts, outdoor painting is for extroverts. You are alone with your thoughts when painting indoors, outside you share your thoughts with birds and cows or anyone passing by. Indoors you usually know what you will be painting before you enter the studio, outdoors you never know what you will paint until you come upon an exciting scene. Indoors everything is under control, the light is consistent, the temperature just right, anything you might need is nearby. Outdoors you go with the flow, a storm can blow through or a rainbow appear, something is always happening. Indoors you can work on the same painting for many hours or many days, outdoors you can finish several paintings in a single day. Indoors you meditate, outdoors you engage. Indoors it is quiet, perhaps too quiet, let me just check my email. Outdoors it is wild, exciting, perhaps too wild, why is that hawk staring at me.....

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Near the Battenkill
8 x 12 Oil on Panel

I had the most delightfully lovely day today. Elizabeth and I rose late and decided to have breakfast out. There is a marvelous cheesemaker nearby with an unspeakably charming goat farm. On the weekends they have a cafe where one can have various baked goods or a goat cheese panini with fresh coffee or a pot of tea. It isn't meant to be a money making enterprise, just a pleasant environment for friends to gather and chat and, often, make new friends. We arrived this morning to find our friend Tim (who you may remember from an earlier post) playing his recorder with two other recorder players and accompanying a lovely singer. Each of the recorder players had several recorders with them and took turns playing the alto, soprano and bass parts. They played mostly renaissance music, the singer showing a talent for interpreting the works of John Dowland. This was not about money either, they were playing for free for anyone who cared to listen. It was a gloriously sunny morning, we sat outside with our refreshments, listening to sweet music, watching the nearby kid goats frolic, visiting with old friends and new. After a few hours we started home, we had promised our dog that we would take her for a hike in the woods in the afternoon. As we drove home through a breathtakingly beautiful landscape I was reminded of how much I love the life I have. Well, there isn't anything about painting in this post, but it's my 144th post so I'm taking a bit of a break. Besides, if you don't get out and enjoy life you probably won't have much to say with your paintings.....

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Atlantic Surf
36 x 36 Oil on Linen

The new League catalog just came out with the schedule for the summer and fall classes. If it had a hard cover it would make a wonderful fine art book. Each instructor is given a full page with a beautiful reproduction of their work, some biographical information and a description of the class. In the back are examples of a student's work from each class. Near the front of the catalog is a page with the header Leading artists talk about the League. There are quotes from Peter Max, Everett Raymond Kinstler, Mark Rothko and others. My favorite is from Georgia O'Keeffe talking about her experience in William Merritt Chase's class. "Chase", she says,"encouraged individuality and gave a sense of style and freedom to his students...There was something fresh and energetic and fierce and exciting about him...To interest him, the paintings had to be alive with paint." I may not be as fresh or energetic or fierce or exciting as Chase but I express that same philosophy to my students, the painting has to be alive.....

Sunday, May 15, 2011

8 x 12 Oil on Panel

When an artist sees something beautiful he must paint it. In order to give it form he must also paint the space behind it. He then realizes that there is space in front of the object and that he is standing in that space. Now he is aware that he is in a room and that room is in a building. The building occupies space in a city and the city is but a small part of the world. It soon becomes obvious that in order to paint his beautiful object in its full glory he must bring to it all the expression and wisdom and experience of the entire universe.....

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bread and Wine
16 x 20 Oil on Linen

The Paris Salon exhibitions were so large they had to be organized alphabetically. Artists whose names began with A were in the first room, B in the second room and so on. Manet was in the same room with his friends Monet and Berthe Morisot, with Jean-François Millet, known for his paintings of peasant scenes, Gustave Moreau, who painted religious and mythological themes, and Meissonier. Ernest Meissonier was arguably the most popular and highest paid artist of his time. His genre scenes and history pieces drew large crowds who stared breathlessly at those meticulous paintings. His historically accurate and exquisitely detailed works drew the highest praise from the critics. Manet’s paintings, by contrast, were mocked. Meissonier won medals, Manet was rewarded with ridicule. Meissonier was applauded, Manet was laughed at. This went on year after year, Salon after Salon. Meissonier’s funeral was attended by state dignitaries, Manet was buried by a few friends. The tide quickly turned however. In less than a generation Meissonier’s paintings were being mocked and laughed at and ridiculed. He is now nearly forgotten and Manet has come to be known as one of the fathers of modern art.....

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Fruit Vendor
34 x 30 Oil on Linen

Manet had a rather vexed history at the Paris Salon exhibitions. He did not enter a painting to be juried until he was 27 years old and that piece was promptly rejected. Two years later, however, he had two paintings accepted. The Spanish Singer was well received and won an Honorable Mention. His Portrait of M. and Mme. Manet was less kindly received. One critic wrote that the artist’s parents “must often have rued the day when a brush was put into the hands of this merciless portraitist.” At the next Salon his entries were rejected. Not only did he suffer the ignominy of hanging in the Salon des Refusés but his painting, Le Bain, was given a prominent position where it could receive the maximum ridicule. It was mockingly referred to as Le déjeuner sur l'herbe, the title by which it is known today. The next year his two paintings were accepted but savaged by the critics. The following year two paintings were again accepted. One was of Jesus mocked by the soldiers, the other a nude. He knew his Olympia was going to be controversial and went to the opening with great trepidation. He was relieved when a number of people rushed over to congratulate him on his work. They were, he was told, the most superb seascapes. Seascapes? Manet was perplexed but soon enough discovered the source of the confusion. The two admired canvases were not by Manet but by an unknown 24 year old artist exhibiting at the Salon for the first time, his name was Monet.....

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

24 x 30 Oil on Linen

Like the painting in the previous post Melons is more conceptual than narrative. Yes, the melons were fun to paint and the painting can be enjoyed as a lively depiction of a variety of colorful, juicy fruits of the vine. For me, however, this piece is all about the composition. Circles and spheres moving in space. The cantaloupes are spheres, one in the process of being bisected, another with a sliver missing. The watermelon is half a sphere as is the honeydew, which becomes a circle as it turns to look straight out of the canvas. The bowl is also half a sphere, a bit elongated and turning to tell a joke to the watermelon which blushes and responds with a big belly laugh. All of these rounded forms create a visual playground. A roller coaster for the eye, going up and over and around, in and out of the painting. For those who can see beyond the obvious this is one of the most playful paintings I've ever created.....

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Open Melon
18 x 20 Oil on Linen

The Open Melon is not a painting about an open melon. It is a conceptual piece that explores the use of warm and cool colors in a painting. When I am painting landscapes I find myself repeating a pattern, the cool blues and grays in the sky dominate the top half of the painting and warm earth tones prevail on the bottom half. So I decided to see what this arrangement might look like in a still life. Artists have always thought this way. Whistler titled his famous painting of his mother Arrangement in Grey and Black. Rembrandt could have called his portrait of Jan Six an arrangement in red and black. You can find other arrangements in Monet's water lilies or Turner's late seascapes, Morandi's still lifes or a Hals portrait. Perhaps Gilbert and Sullivan said it best “Things are seldom what they seem, skim milk masquerades as cream”.....

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Oil on Linen
Image 8 x 10 - Framed 15 x 17

As I stepped out of the 86th St subway station and started walking to the Metropolitan Museum snowflakes began to fall. They were large and they came fast and furious. Everyone put their heads down and charged forward, but I couldn't resist looking up catching a few flakes on my tongue. When I got to the museum I stood on the steps and looked up and down 5th Ave. The scene could not have been more glorious, the falling snow softened the harsh edges of the buildings and the traffic seemed to move in slow motion. It was a classic New York moment. After I left the museum I decided to walk through Central Park to the League. It was alive with children playing in the snow and muted laughter. I stopped to watch some teenagers sledding down a hill. No longer children but not yet adults they were savoring a last moment of youthful innocence. I watched them slide and tumble, trudge up the hill and follow their well worn path down again. It too was a classic New York moment. When I got back to my studio I did a small oil study of the sledders from memory, a souvenir of a perfect winter day.....

The Painting of the Month is a special offer to my blog readers (click on the image for a larger view). This month Sledding, which retails for $1600, is being made available for $750 (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.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Red Bowl
24 x 36 Oil on Linen

Most artists use light and color and design to express what they want to say about the objects in their paintings, I do just the opposite in my work. I use subject matter, apples, flowers, trees, mountains, portraits and nudes to explore the possibilities of light and space and poetry. Most artists begin their paintings by drawing the subject on the canvas, then lighting it and finally giving it space and dimension. I start my paintings by envisioning the space in the painting, then letting light enter that space and fall on the subject, and finally bring that subject to the canvas. Most artists construct the subject on the canvas, building to the completion of the painting. I prefer to let my subject emerge from the canvas until it is fully formed. Most artists refine the details in the final phase of painting, I subdue the details so that they do not destroy the unity of my painting. I am the opposite of every artist you’ve ever known.....

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mostly Apples
24 x 30 Oil on Linen

I read a lot about art and artists when I was a sudent. One of my favorite stories was about a, perhaps apocryphal, meeting between Van Dyck and Hals. As Van Dyck was on his way to England to paint for King Charles he stopped by the studio of Frans Hals. Without introducing himself he said "I have a little time before my boat leaves, would you paint my portrait?" "But of course" Hals replied. He grabbed the nearest canvas and set to work. Forty-five minutes later he showed the sitter his lively masterpiece. "Excellent" the unknown man remarked. "You looked like you were having quite a good time as you worked. Would you mind sitting for me? I'd like to give it a try." Hals, always ready for an adventure, agreed. Forty-five minutes later, painting as quickly as Hals himself, the mysterious stranger's picture was finished. Hals walked around the easel and found a magnificent portrait. Astonished, he gave the man a quizzical look. "You're either Van Dyck" said Hals solving the riddle, "or you're the devil".....

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Rhapsody in Green
Oil on Linen
Image 18 x 24 - Framed 25 x 31

My intention was to set up a beautiful little classical still life. I was hoping to hear a piano concerto by Mozart or Schubert or Brahms but instead the opening clarinet glissando from Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue poured into my head. I decided to go with it and see what would happen. Like Gershwin I stayed with a classical structure but moved away from the concerto arrangement to the more free flowing rhapsody form. He used jazz themes to make his piece livelier, I brought in a wicker basket to make my arrangement less formal. The fruit gravitated to the basket making it the lead instrument. The still life came together quickly, spontaneously, and I painted without restraint, as if I were improvising on the canvas. Classical, but informal, rich and lively, thanks for the inspiration George.....

The Painting of the Month is a special offer to my blog readers (click on the image for a larger view). This month Rhapsody in Green, which retails for $3200, is being made available for $1500 (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.