Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pastel nudes on paper

So, ya, it has been way too long since I have posted anything here. It's not that art-making has been off my radar; indeed, quite the contrary. I think that my new-painting pace has slowed a bit since the summer months but I've been busy with the pen and ink in the sketchbook and with revisions/adjustments to work I thought I'd completed. I have several ideas in the works-including the "What we talk about when we talk about love" picture(s) which is/are now in an advanced stage of charcoal rendering and will soon find a way to some shape or form of canvas. (I'll move on next to watercolor and become frustrated because I'll want to mat and frame.) SO, maybe I will just jump right to a canvas.

Searching for new studio space has become a priority. As of 22 December I will need to relocate from my present situation at 83 Newton St. Studio-mate/sub-lessor sees the need for more space and less of my presence........I'll miss the convenience of a close-to-home space with a sufficiently neutral ambiance that I can actually work when I am there! And I have just gotten good with the wood stove so that 30 minutes after the first match I've got a comfortable place. Oh well.

There may be a good substitute on the horizon; I will look at new space in an artist-populated Class D building close to home next week. We'll see.

I told a cyber-friend that my next (this) post would be nudes upon nudes. She's an artist's model in Brooklyn and writes an exceptional blog called "Museworthy". The images which accompany this posting I offer her as well as to those who would stumble upon this record. Museworthy's writing is worthy of attention. What's on her mind finds its way to the accessible digital world in a refreshing style and tempo. Honestly, I don't know how someone as busy as she is with her musing and related activities can find the time to present such a remarkably thoughtful journal with spectacular historical perspective and accounts of her own work and heart. Read it!!

Images #1, #4 and #5 above are pastel renderings of an artist's model I had several opportunities to work with both in group life drawing settings as well as in my studio. Cindi acted as sort of a "den mother" for several models (she explained the how and what the work was about to the novice model) and she was something special for artists, also.
The artist/nude model transaction may be unique in the context of social interaction. Clearly, a rendering of the subject is the objective but it is undeniable that the offering and acquisition of the nude is an exceptional, though traditional, exchange conducted by, at least in my experience, otherwise strangers to each other. In the ideal exchange both parties disrobe: the artist in a "figurative" way, the model in quite a literal fashion. If you accept the proposition that, regardless of the subject, the artist paints "himself", i.e. the self "he" "knows", the self "he" seeks to know, or the self unknown to "him", the nude rendered may reveal as much or about the artist as the subject. I think that art, assembled in a setting where artist and model have a remote posture vis a vis the other, has the greatest potential for success. Cindi endeavored to facilitate such work, I think. She precipitated a flow of expression I don't always find in some of my other work. The faster the rendering, the less thinking, the better.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

New Work

The two finished oil pieces directly above were the result of visits I made to Old Deerfield during this past July and August. I set up my easel and began the sidewalk-scape looking for much more detail than the final result reveals. It was a hot but comfortable day, a bit of humidity in the air, enough that distant points in my field of view faded some. The image I've presented here isn't the best quality reproduction....some of the colors just don't look like the real thing...but a bit of the mood comes thru and I like the piece and want to share it. The Hopper-like look in the building/shadows picture just kind of evolved. Again, I began the piece (using a reference photograph taken in Deerfield during one of the visits described above) looking for more detail than the final piece has. It was started and finished in my studio; never was set up on location. The color as presented here is not true to the original. The yellow being a yellow-green in the original piece. So much for my attempt to photograph my work and scan it to this location! When I use the skills of a professional the results are much better.
The pen and ink sketches were completed recently and were done from photos.......don't know why the weren't completed from life except a lack of time at the time!!!
The trees at the top are a work-in-progress; oil on canvas. The subject are a cluster of trees I've painted many times; an earlier posting of a pastel is on a prior page. Now, I am painting this picture using reference to the earlier pictures.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"What we talk about when we talk about love" and other images

These sketches are preliminary to a picture I hope to complete based upon Raymond Carver's short story "What we talk about when we talk about love." Carver is a favorite of mine, both his poetry and short stories. To me, he wrote like Hopper painted; often the subject is something from the everyday but from a particular point of view, a sober even somber view of the mundane. Carver's life was fueled by alcohol and apparently in addition to self destructive tendencies he occasionally became abusive, violent. "What we talk about...." includes conversation between the four characters, drinking heavily as the sun sinks in Albuquerque, about what it means to be in love and how lovers behave with and toward the other in the couple. The two couples in the storey bring their individual experiences to the table. There are stories of divorce, reconciliation, drinking, violence and the ability of the spirit to somehow sustain love through it all.

The sketch at the lower left with the table and shadow lines is what I hope will evolve into the final setting for the scene I hope to paint. The drawings above are my first sketchbook attempts at representing the characters; I've moved to a larger format and started a charcoal rendering I hope will help me finalize shapes, positions and facial expressions.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Summer slipped away

It's been since June that I've posted to this blog of mine?!?! The time seems to have slipped away but I plan, at least, to revive my activity here...well, I will revive my activity here! This place provides a reference point, along the path of my artistic activities, which I find helpful to turn to and work on.

So, during the summer months I've allowed myself a break from Brushwork to, ah, get some sun, clean my brushes, contemplate? I guess, to a certain degree, but I've mostly been painting, planning my future work, looking at various gallery websites as I consider how best to market the work I am now organizing along something of a planned theme...and while doing this I've also tried to keep a journal record of all of it. I've participated in two summer exhibits organized by the Deerfield Valley Art Association: a summer show open to all members as well as a "new members" exhibit, which is still running at the Association's temporary home in Turner's Falls, Massachusetts through September 28th.

In July I spent a day or two at Old Deerfield painting and taking photographs for future reference. I've completed five oil pictures inspired by my visits there and anticipate several more will evolve from that effort as well. I am organizing twelve to fourteen pictures as more or less a "collection" of similarly executed pieces done in the realist style I enjoy working through these days. Not that I've perfected this style or indeed even settled upon exactly how I ought to render the image I decide to begin to execute.......there is something ambiguous about being a painter; something ambivalent about "style". (I will photograph and post the work here shortly.)
The owner of a local cafe has asked me to exhibit in October; I'll push myself a bit (not really, 'cause I love doing it) to have ten or twelve new pieces (since July) and chose five or six to show.
While considering my "portfolio" these last few months I've tried to evaluate my own work and set up a presentation package to present to potential agents, representatives or gallery managers. Self-evaluation of work product is really a tough challenge but I think the exercise might have been productive.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


These are two images I recently had photographed so that I could present them here. The top picture was done in 2005; it is watercolor on paper and was done with reference to a photograph and a pastel I did on location at a large, private facility in Duxbury, Massachusetts during an artist-run workshop I attended. The street scene was done in 2002 and is watercolor on paper. It was completed in my studio and won Third Prize at the Duxbury Art Association annual summer exhibition. It is an image of Surplus Street, Duxbury looking east to Washington Street.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


The top four pieces were done within the last week or so and are clearly a departure from most all of my previous painting. They are a combination of water media: transparent watercolor and opaque media. The figure in a wrap (charcoal) was done just a few weeks ago at the Sunday morning life drawing group I attend. The second figure was done at the same venue but about six weeks ago. The pastel road/woods/field scene was completed during the spring of 2007 and I just photographed it to scan the other day. It is a location I particularly enjoy in Shelburne Falls. When the weather is good I like to set up my easel on location and either paint or work with pastel.
The abstract/subjective works were based on sketches I did previously; I posted two examples just prior to this posting. I haven't worked in that fashion too often, that is, to prepare something of a preliminary rendering to execute in another medium. The techniques used in one medium don't necessarily translate easily in another! So, I took some liberties....and why not, it's my work, huh?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

These are colored pencil with some ink detail and lines I did within the last day or two with the idea that they could be preliminary sketches for larger works or used as greeting/note card designs.
They were inspired by a need I had to attempt to visually represent the dynamics of the interaction I was experiencing with a not-so-close friend. The star forms were chosen because they are symbolic of almost boundless energy; the gold/cold waves came to mind as symbolic of distance to be transcended; the colors just appealed to me though they may be meaningful on some level beyond aesthetic appeal.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Klimt Fan

Gustav Klimt is a particular favorite of mine....and lots of others I am certain!! His style of representation is quite unique and very appealing. His "view" in his landscapes and his use of color are, I think, timeless. His female figures are much the same, to me at least. (Maybe that is as much about his approach with line in the figures as his use of color is in landscapes.) The figures have a contemporary feel; some of course are dated by hairstyle and dress.
My work with portraits and figures, if I can be objective, is frenetic by comparison; it is often more about removing marks/lines than careful, thoughtful placement. Klimt's work seems to reveal an immediate, thorough understanding of his subject as revealed in his outline of shape, contour.
So, I wondered if I could get into his mind a bit if I tried to copy a few of his "simpler" pieces. What you find here are some of my attempts, done in my sketchbook, with reference to a small volume of drawings and paintings edited by Alice Strobol and first published in 1962.
I found his approach as alien to mine, entirely! He must have had a flat view of the figure (actually, many of his landscapes seem as a "thin" view of his field of vision, too) and when I approach a portrait or figure from life I want to obtain some depth and weight; my understanding (intuition) of the body is to place a curve/contour to grasp the subject's depth, physical and otherwise.
I've done my best to place the Klimt original within easy reference to my attempt and I've certainly felt no compunction to avoid color on my ersatz work. (I enjoy the word "ersatz" and can remember distinctly my first encounter with it. I'd written a letter to George Higgins, lawyer and author, when I was just out of law school and in his reply he chastised me for what he called a "bad" ersatz of his work in several paragraphs of my letter; bet Klimt would have had a similar response!!)
Anyway, I thought the exercise was one I'd like to continue; understanding your own visual work can be enhanced through copying the work of others.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Artspace Show

I've decided to enter three pictures in a June 2008 show at Artspace in Greenfield. Each piece is figurative as is the theme of the exhibit. The portrait above is one I will show. It is pastel and charcoal on paper, approximately 18" x 24".

Friday, April 11, 2008

These pastel images remind me of how much I enjoy using the medium. I like that it can almost encourage, even demand spontaneity. When working with a brush, as in oil, watercolor and acrylic, I find it much more difficult to let the medium take the lead, to let the medium tell me where to go next. Maybe that is a learned skill; I 'm sure it is but I get a bit impatient with the brushed on materials! Maybe less so with watercolor.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Old Work Recorded

These are several images I have recently scanned to my computer. They represent some work which inspires me to continue my efforts with paint, paper, pastel and charcoal. The watercolor with four figures was inspired by a meal and conversation I had with my brother in law several years ago at a bistro on 2nd Ave. in Manhattan. I had taken the train into the city from Boston to spend some time with him and while riding thru Connecticut on the return trip I pulled out my sketchbook and recorded my memory of the previous night's supper setting. From that came the watercolor.
Shoiban modeled for the charcoal figure, Venus in Transit remains a work in progress and the Wisteria is an image of my backyard in Duxbury, Massachusetts done several years ago; it's watercolor and pastel and a particular favorite.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

This is a piece I began from a photograph and one of which I am particularly proud. For me, it has some scale issues but it has a way of holding my attention and asking me to keep my eyes moving across its entire surface. I know somewhere along the line someone suggested to me that a good picture was one that among other things didn't draw the attention of the viewer to one place.

Although I don't like being hostage to a photo in my work, sometimes they do come in handy for reference. I can say in this piece that I referred to the photo when I began the watercolor "under painting". I tried to represent the basic shape of the hull and place some of the surrounding "supports" in relation to the vessel by making reference to the photo but, to the extent the subject holds symbolism, I like to think that the work accomplished thereafter was the "art".

The vessel looks to be pointed toward light but any move it makes will require some coordination. Maybe we all look for direction.

The piece measures 47" x 44" and was executed with watercolor, charcoal and pastel. It was completed on 120# cold press acid free paper.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sketching and painting

My current remunerative employment provides not much visually but does offer a sufficient amount of free time that occasionally I can grab a pen and my sketchbook. Usually I'll rough something out and then, when away from the Men's Department, add some color with pencil or sometimes watercolor. Above is an example.

As I try to develop a consistent approach to my work...which for me is a challenge because I enjoy experimenting with materials and styles of representation... I often think that I should work exclusively with a combination of watercolor and pastel. In several pieces I have used watercolor to create a basic image and then done an overlay of pastel in an effort to "focus" the image. Two examples are posted here: a figure and a "landscape" by the sea. The water scene was done mostly from my memory of a place in Rockport, Massachusetts I like to visit and the figure was done at my studio frm life.