Thursday, December 28, 2006

This is a copy, or rather a new version, of "The Maenads" a 6' x 4" painting I did a couple of years ago (check my website to see the original) This version is smaller, 36" x 24", and I am very excited about it. I love the image and feel I still have alot to say with it. The red background is the ground of the painting; it isn't going to stay red!

This is the only good drawing I did at figure drawing last night. I was really having a terrible night, everything I drew looked smashed with a hammer - all in pieces. When this pose came up it was so exciting that I just forced myself to draw well and I think it is not bad for twenty minutes.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I have been painting, I just haven't been blogging. This is the most recent still life.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

I finished this yesterday. I'm posting the accumulated photos of this piece's development with apologies because I've actually been working on it for about a month. Also the initial stages are missing. I neglected to photograph the beginning because after carefully documenting the early stages of the piece before this one I ended up wiping out. It is not often these days that I wipe out a painting but everything was wrong with that piece and it had to go. It was a great feeling to get rid of it. As soon as I started pouring the turps I knew I was doing the right thing. But when I started this piece immediately afterwards it seemed like a jinx to go through the documentation again. I let the first few days of work pass and only when I knew the painting was going to live did I start the photography.

So here's what you missed: there is a bright red underpainting under the black background.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Last week I picked up this half-finished sketch of Gabrielle's beaver pond which has been sitting on a ledge in my studio since last June when I gave her a private landscape class. For our first lesson we agreed to meet at 6:00 AM at her place to paint. Gabrielle lives in a beautiful valley here in Vermont; just below the house there is a big beaver dam and pond. On that first morning I painted for about 45 minutes and then gave her a lesson. It was the first time I had painted outdoors in a few years and I was pleased that the painting was not a complete mess but when I got it home I saw it was thin and a bit tentative. Still, there was something I liked about it. I stuck it on a shelf and there it sat until last week.

After working on the sketch for a day in the studio I am much more pleased with the piece though it is still unfinished. At the end of the day Tom came into the studio and said "How did you do that?" "Do what?", I asked, "Put light in it" he replied.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Still working on this one; actually this photo is from last month when I pulled the piece out and worked on it for a day. The good news is I think I saved it and will be able to make a decent painting.

As readers of this blog know, I have a difficult relationship with this painting. I am attracted to it; there is something big in this image. When I am massing in the circles of motion, light, and color I see it, I feel it, I grasp it; I'm going to heaven and Van Dyke is of the company. Then I try to bring my prize to the surface, to make the vision manifest itself in the rendering of light filtering through leaves onto the forest floor - and it slips off the hook and is gone, leaving me with a pile of meaningless brush strokes.

I keep trying though.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

This is not from a photo. I set up a big still life: fruit, flowers, drapery, etc., as part of a birthday celebration for a friend. When the party was over I just couldn't resist the temptation to paint the set-up even though I am in the middle of the jazz piece - and a few others, as readers of this blog know. The party was on Sunday; on Monday I grabbed a big canvas and started working.

I'm doing the flowers first because they die so quickly. Painting flowers makes me anxious: I'm afraid that if I turn my back for a minute they will wilt on me. This is three days' work; I think I have the flowers going well enough now that I can move on to other parts of the painting and finish the flowers from memory later.

Ahh the emotions and anxieties of painting from life, it has been a long time since I've done so. Working from life seems easier and simpler than working from my imagination, more physical somehow. It may be that painting has become part of my muscle memory, like playing an instrument. When I am painting from life I can almost relax, respond to the subject and let my body do the painting.

Friday, March 03, 2006

I honestly don't know if I'll ever finish this one. The last time I worked on it I ended up wiping out the entire day's work. This is the kind of subject I almost never paint, so why did I even start this one? Partly it's that I've come to enjoy being in the woods more than ever before in my life; for me enjoying something is inseparable from wanting to paint it. But it is also because I did an oil sketch last summer when I was teaching a landscape class that I really like so I thought I might try to make a larger version.

After much struggle (wiping out, starting over, wiping out again) I felt I got a good first statement. The second day went reasonably well too - and then the disaster, which, fortunately, I was able to wipe out enough to get back to a reasonably good state. I think the problem may have been that I was experimenting with a new yellow oxide pigment. When I get out of my color harmony comfort zone I freak out on some deep level and hate what I've done. I also think that if I'm ever going to do a successful painting of this subject I need to think in very abstract terms and not get too literal.

This is the study that I did plein air.

This is getting quite close to being finished, perhaps just one more day. Tom tells me each time I work on it "It looks great, what more do you want to do?" - and I'm practically weeping with frustration because, as T.S.Eliot said, "That's not what I meant at all" The problem, I realize now, is that I'm trying to paint not what is seen but what is unseen. I am copying a very old sketch, from my student days in fact, the sketch seems so simple but when I began to copy it I was overwhelmed by the feeling it gave me. I saw big rhythms of energy sweeping through the painting pulling together rocks, water, trees and depositing all in the unknowable, unfathomable distance. The first stages of the painting were almost completely abstract, reflecting my desire to put this perception to canvas. The results were unsatisfying, incomprehensible; I made the inevitable turn towards representation, back to my endless attempt to wrap abstraction in a semi-transparent veil of realism, to offer the viewer two contrasting flavors in one visual bite.

This is the most recent version of this piece, which is still unfinished. The subject is so complicated; every time I pick it up I find more in it: another rhythm to explore, a deeper sense of metaphor to express. I have a lot of ambition for this painting. Perhaps because the metaphor is so complex, I am conscious of needing every level of the painting to be active: from the deep, abstract heart of the design to the sparkling engaging surface.

I haven't worked on it since early February, but I'll pick it up again soon.