Sunday, September 27, 2009

Day lillies, Green River, Cairns, Shelburne, "Eros the Bittersweet", "Why Don't You Dance?"(Ray Carver)

When not in my studio I made frequent trips to the Green River to cool off this summer. Above are a few sketches I did while in the "woods"; some trees along the banks, day lillies and a cairn I built one really hot mornimg and afternoon.
The scene of dirt road and trees was something I did a week ago today in Shelburne; the floating figures are preliminary drawings to what I hope will be a large scale oil painting representing some of the dynamics in romantic love relationships. I got the idea while reading a wonderful book entitled "Eros: The Bittersweet". The book examines ancient Greek writing, poetry, art and traditions. The figures are floating in a dream-like environment much the way those in the grasp of Eros may feel when trying to understand themselves and the beloved in the confusing state of attraction.
Lastly, a preliminary pastel and charcoal drawing for a picture based upon Carver's short story entitled "Why Don't You Dance?" In the story a young couple driving through a neighborhood in the early evening come across a yard sale set up by a man who apparently has to sell all of his possessions. The couple meet the owner, he provides drinks, they buy, the couple dance in his driveway to music he provides and there are connections made and emotions to be understood.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Work from summer 2009 and earlier




Charcoal on paper.

Charcoal and charcoal pencil on paper.

Watercolor and gouache on board.

Watercolor and gouache on board.

Watercolor and goauche on board.

Watercolor and goauche on board.

Charcoal and charcoal pencil on paper.

On October 12, 2008 I posted several sketches representing an idea I had for a painting based, in part, upon a short story by Raymond Carver entitiled "What we talk about when we talk about love". The image above, with two couples, is the almost completed piece that I was attached to with my brushes for most of the month of July. When not concentrating on that image I managed to find the time and energy to work on the other pieces posted here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ambiguity in the visual world

"What you see is what you get"?

I've heard that expression several times recently. What do the words commonly mean or intend to express? What must be considered if those words are to have any useful meaning to me? Despite the fact that the phrase is in common use, I find it to be confusing. But, I can only speak of what language means to me.

"Artists see things and make a fuss about them when others tend to look through or past those same things."

Making visual art is something I do. Although I've used various media to make what I call "designs", the majority of what I do is with oil paint, watercolor, charcoal and pastel and best described as realist-based, expressively altered interpretations of the world around me.

Sometimes "the world around me" consists of objects or activities which catch my attention and provide tangible material to interpret and represent while on-site. On other occasions I rely on my memory of the observations or activities and render something without the benefit of access to the object, individual, event or action or even a sketch of the subject. In addition I often attempt to interpret literature, short stories, poetry, the written word, and render an image based upon my imagination and interpretation of the descriptive language provided by an author. (Ray Carver and Anais Nin are my authors of choice at the moment.)

It seems to me that most events, occurances, including individuals going about what individuals go about, and all sorts of other things, said and done, are capable of being understood in more than one way. The wind, a sudden breeze, came from what direction? The movement of the ocean suggests a rising or falling tide? The haze over the forest is smoke from a smoldering fire or humidity or a combination? It is that we do not rely only on our eyes, the primary tools we have for recognizing the visual world, for understanding our individual experience. What you see may not give you much information about what you are going to get. That handshake passing the rhino virus, for example. In fact, what you get may have nothing to do with what you actually see.

We have to inform the visual impression with additional information to make sense of what we "see". Maybe "seeing" doesn't equate with understanding? Maybe "what you see" is "what you get" if you don't look any further, if you reduce "seeing" to acquiring colors, depth, perspective, light. Maybe the expression ("what you see is what you get") is simply an invitation to look and look and look and look some more? Maybe it is a warning; that you should, for example, know more than just what you see if you are going to be informed? "Interpret the signals of sight at your peril!"; that fire is hot and if you try to walk through it there is danger. But you may not see heat, only flame. To put the flame with heat you have to use your mind, your intellect.

So, the real lesson might be: an informed interpretation of things visually perceived will help an individual acheive some additional understanding of the surrounding world.

The end result of my art-making activity on any one occasion is then, generally, an expressive rendering of what I saw or what I remember of what I saw or what my imagination informs my minds eye of what I've seen. To some extent these things may occur simultaneously but I tend to prefer to think of them in isolation. To further complicate this already somewhat tedious analysis, I should also say that I have rendered at least one scene, placing myself in the position of viewer, where I observe myself, without the benefit of a mirror!

When viewing my work, though, it may not be easy to distinquish the on-site rendering from the piece completed with only reference to, for example a short story, injected with a high dose of imagination. So, I guess maybe "what you see is what you get", that is, what you are looking at is what you are looking at but a viewer may not apprehend all of what she's "getting"!

But does that make a difference? Maybe it is simply a philosophical question but I believe the question is important if we seek understanding dispite ambiguity in the world.

While jay walking, it may be important to be able to judge how fast the oncomming vehicle is traveling as you stride across the roadway. Presumably, the more reference points available the more accurate the estimate. Parked cars along the side can reference the moving vehicle and with those points ambiguity lessens.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Life Drawing Exhibit/Recent Sketchbook Stuff/More

The drawing group I joined several years ago is having an exhibit of figure related work and I submitted two pictures, both of which I've never photographed or I'd post them here. One is a recent (2008) 11" x 14" female nude in oil on Masonite and the other a watercolor (1998). The watercolor was done from my memory of the musical "Chicago" which I saw performed on stage in Boston just before I did it. I'd have liked to submit more and actually some things done in the group but work on paper requires framing (I think) but the time and other resources just weren't there.

The two sketches at the bottom of the post were done this week and last. They are , respectively, the front door of the Duxbury (Massachusetts) Historical Society building and a shaded sidewalk in Deerfield. I showed them today to the editor of a local weekly newspaper who remarked that they had an "old style" feel to them.....I'm in agreement but I don't particularly like to think that's what I do!!

The next two in ascending order are scenes from Gloucester, Massachusetts; the house done while sitting on the adjacent beach and the boat from a photo, I think. Both done several years ago.

At the top of the page is a sketch in ink and gouache done on location a few years ago in Marion, Massachusetts while sitting in my car.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Opportunites and losses

The Rocky Neck Art Colony in Gloucester, Massachusetts offers a Residency for visual artists running from mid-May to September each year. They have a great studio facility on Smith's Cove with living space for the artist in a location I really enjoy. Maybe five (5) artists are selected and each has about a month at the Colony's studio to work without the usual day-to-day distractions. I've applied for one of the Residencies at least twice, including most recently my April 2009 request. Sadly, again, I received a letter last week indicating that a residency was not going to be offered to me. Disappointed, yes but not really discouraged. Motivated by rejection? I don't know...maybe. I didn't apply because I was searching for approval of my work but approval is an inherent part of the application process!!! Not securing approval doesn't change how I feel about what I am doing. I think it makes me want to be a bit more directed about how I present myself, my work, my story. That's what I want to take from the experience of rejection ; I'll keep growing my work the way I want to grow it.
The sketch above is a view to Rocky Neck


Several days ago I arrived at the Leverett Crafts and Arts building, where my studio is located, to discover a table in the hallway loaded with art supplies and seven (7) magnificent c. 34" x 38" museum-style frames complete with glass, mat and mounting board....all in fine condition.....with a sign on the table in large black letters reading "FREE"!!! How could this happen and what does it mean, I thought to myself? Well, what it meant was that I had just gotten a gift beyond gifting!! I have accumulated 100's of drawings I'd like to be able to show and now I had the vehicles, devices, gadgets, tools to show them!! Wow! I felt a bit greedy as I carried them up the stairs to my second floor space, occasionally wondering if I had some obligation to share them with others and feeling that now I knew what it was like to be a pirate.
I'll fill them with pictures and show them. I'll be careful with them while they are in my custody and I'll pass them on to another just I received them!!!
After storing them and while working on a painting I could hear footsteps in the hall. I went outside and asked if by some chance the "gifts" I'd secured had been placed by the woman I'd just introduced myself to. "Yes", she said. She was moving from her studio and couldn't take the frames with her; I thanked her and offered that they were obviously valuable and that I should pay her...of course knowing that I had no money to do that.
I'm appreciative of her gift and will remember the gesture of Petula Bloomfield, artist, supporter of the arts, angel in the perpetual world of artist needs. Thank you, so much!


Although nothing has been finalised, the editor of a local weekly newspaper, the Montague Reporter, has indicated an interest in publishing some of my illustrations. We're meeting later this week.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Figures/Landscape/Watercolor abstraction

Most of the images in this posting are recent; some within the last few weeks or so. Although it has been many days since anything has gone up here, in fact the art making has been going on pretty much non-stop. I seem to be getting lots of studio time but I could always use more, or so I think. The majority of what is here is charcoal, one pastel; most of my time, however, has been spent on an large (36" x 24") oil picture. The oil work was begun in my studio several weeks ago and is based upon a smaller oil I completed late last year.
During the summer of 2008 I spent a couple of days painting on location at Historic Deerfield. I took lots of photographs while there and have done lots of illustrations: an 11" x 14" oil picture (which was sold at an auction this past February at ArtSpace in Greenfield! ) of essentially the scene I am re-working on a larger scale, as well as a smaller work-in-progress and an 11" x 14" oil of a building in the village.
The current project has been a challenge in every sense. At the top of this post is a view, taken with my cell phone camera, of a portion I was working on today.
The drawings are just what they are....not necessarily preliminary to anything I've planned except that the pastel is serving as the reference piece for an oil-in-progress.

The sketchbook pages are exhibits of what I think good picture makers must (ought to ) do! Actually, I'm not so sure how helpful "planning" might be or "study" is. Although I might get one or two ideas from a mid-painting sketch of a work in progress once I take the idea and try to do something with it I rarely go back to the study to see if there is anything else of value to me. And I often make notes I don't look at again!! Maybe it is just process.