Monday, September 30, 2013

Chocolate Box Paintings

I was watching a British TV show the other night and a character referred to a painting as being a "chocolate box", a term referring  to the type of overly sentimental, sweet paintings that decades ago were used as illustrations on the covers of boxes of chocolates. This is one of those terms that maybe means something only on the other side of the pond, since to me, "chocolate box" means a yellow Whitman's box, or possibly See's or Fanny Farmer's.

It's hard to imagine another style of painting on a box of chocolates. It's not as if you're going to sell candy in a box with a painting featuring a dead goose, for example.

The British don't use this term as a compliment - it's a disparaging term, meaning that the painting is too cute or "twee" (another British word)  to be taken seriously. I don't think it's a good thing to have one's art referred to as chocolate box. One of the sources I consulted in my web search mentioned this 19th. c. painting as an example of a typical chocolate box painting.

"The Daughters of Eve", by George Dunlop Leslie. Image courtesy of The Art Renewal Center

What do you think of this painting? Seriously. Not what you should think of this painting, but in your private heart, what's your gut reaction?

For all I know, your eyes are rolling back into your skull and you're spitting your Pimm's Cup down your weskit.  Or maybe you're an ironic hipster who snickers at this painting and finds it so deliciously mawkish that you must have it for your collection. But then again, maybe you're searching Sotheby's and Christie's right now for available works by G. D. Leslie.

Do you honestly care what I think about this painting? Well, would you care about the opinions of magazines like Art News or Art Forum? What if I were Sir Kenneth Clark or Robert Hughes, pretending for a minute that they were still around to opine on such matters? Who validates your gut response for you?

I'm not sure where I'm going with this. For one thing, I don't like labeling art with disparaging terms, and since I'm a representational artist, I especially don't like it when those terms are used around that style of art, though I have been known to rant about a few things and let's be perfect frank here, there is a lot of representational art I don't much like. A person's taste is what it is, everybody is different and hooray for that, too.

The American word for overly sentimental artwork is not exactly similar, but close... schlock.

I'm always wondering what, exactly, is schlock. It is probably different for everyone. It seems to me that there's some suspected element of dishonest art-making in schlocky art, some whiff of market-pandering trickery that's going on. Yet I have never met an artist who isn't trying to create something honest and meaningful and lasting in his or her work. Such fraudsters may be out there, and yes I've heard rumors, but I have to tell you, I have never personally met an artist who is not doing the best that he or she can to transmit themselves and their passions to the viewer in their artwork, even if they're working in a narrow, commercial situation like illustration. The artist's soul is trying to dance around in there somehow. What you might think of as schlock is to them, generally speaking, completely sincere. Many artists don't operate in the snide or edgy range, they are earnest, straight-arrow types and even if they're painting something really off the wall, they are quite serious about it. Nobody is trying to pull  your leg, an artist is trying to show you what he or she thinks is meaningful.

Maybe "corny" is a better word that schlock. It's a lot less gutteral, for one thing. It's a gentler word, bringing to mind simple pleasures like apple picking, making cookies and other long-ago pastimes involving actual human interaction, if you had any of that type of interaction.

What I'm trying to say is this: If a painting - if this chocolate box painting -  reaches you in a meaningful way, you shouldn't worry in the least what other people have to say about it. I'm encouraging you to follow your heart in these matters and not to worry if you appear to others as unsophisticated, naive or corny.

I found the corniest song I could think of to end this post, seasonally appropriate to boot. There's another version on YouTube where the group is much younger, but I prefer this version, it's more heartfelt, I think. This group was before my time but we will all get to this age, if we're lucky. I've been singing this along with them all morning.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Laib Wax Room

There is a little room lined with beeswax at the Phillips collection in Washington, D.C.  Designed and installed by the German artist Wolfgang Laib, you can read about it here.
To experience this art form, you remove all your loose gear, like handbags or big cameras so as not to scratch the walls and then you leave them right outside the opening where they are guarded by a serious lady with a mysterious accent. Then you stand inside the quiet room and inhale the smell of beeswax, which is actually nice. The color of beeswax is lovely, too, similar to amber.

I think you are supposed to notice the feelings you have and whether they concern your union with nature. In a roundabout way, this did happen to me. I started to worry about all the stuff I had to remove and put outside the door:  my handbag, with my wallet and my mobile phone, not to mention everything else I need. Could I trust the guard to keep an eye on it? What if I got an important text while I was standing there and couldn't get to my phone?

Thoughts like these made me realize how attached I am to my belongings. Was that the goal of this exhibit, our neurotic attachment to technology and our increasing alienation from the natural world? I don't know, but being in the room made me consider the fact that I am really attached to my wallet and my mobile phone, at the expense of having a quiet moment thinking about claustrophobia, the inside of a candle, how it would feel to be one of those fossilized insects that is suspended in amber, whether the amber jewelry that professes to be amber is actually yellowish plastic from China, the mean behavior of Queen bees, the worrying decrease of the world's honeybee population, whether Germany is plagued by Africanized Killer Bees of the sort that are terrorizing parts of Arizona, and if people who are deathly allergic to bees would also react badly to being near several pounds of beeswax.

I like some contemporary, interactive art. It frequently stimulates the mind and draws people into museums who might otherwise not go in. It keeps the mind fresh and curious and we are challenged to discover new paradigms and re-think some cherished beliefs. Many of the visuals/sounds/smells/experiences are interesting and sometimes very beautiful and memorable.

I think artists should be encouraged to express themselves any way they like - well, I guess there are some limits to this, but generally speaking - it's just that I also have a lot of concerns about how art is marketed and valued. Art in general seems extraordinarily susceptible to corrupt marketing practices and unregulated Ponzi-type scenarios. I have no idea how much this wax room is worth or who paid for it and I have no idea as to how much it should be worth. How is something like this valued? Does supply, demand and resale factors guide valuation? How does the art market guide valuation, exactly? Does talent and skill matter at all or is novelty the deciding factor?

And what about hype and marketing? Is it really all dependent upon... buzz? (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Meanwhile, I had a dream that night involving wax and cellular phones, which may make its way into a painting. If  I paint my painting and it turns out well (keep your fingers crossed for me) then the visit to this little room was to me, at least, worth the price of the museum admission. You just never know where inspiration will land on you.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

On the Depiction of Animals

"Gift at my Doorstep", Oil on Linen

The cat who lives next door to me likes to put dead animals on my doorstep from time to time and brought me this one. Dear Reader, I painted him. I'm happier to see a  rodent there than the remains of hummingbirds, but she catches those also. Cats are tireless, relentless predators, rather like furry Terminators. They're not just cuddlesome; they contain a history of the snarling fanged Thing that brought terror to our ancestors and made them huddle together around fires at night, nervously playing Sudoku.

I initially thought that this was a mouse, but it's more likely that it's a baby pack rat, which are all over Arizona like chopped onions in salsa. I don't always bring dead things into my house, by the way; I'll often spend a couple of hours painting or drawing it outside.

Many representational artists like to paint the natural world and will eagerly accept any fresh roadkill to examine an animal in the privacy of their studios. This is one reason why you should think twice about visiting an artist's studio. (May I just remark, en passant, that fish are the worst thing to have in your studio? I have had a fish liquefy in two days. Liquefy, as in, turn into a dripping jello with bones inside the skin. I have new respect for those Dutch still life artists.)

Goldfish are not bad, though:

"Simple Fish", Charcoal and Pastel on Paper

"Black Moor", Charcoal and Pastel on Paper

But there are a number of artists who seem to restrict themselves to painting animals solely from photos. Everything, from bugling elks to charging cape buffalo to fluffy puppies, is rendered with photographic accuracy, or artfully blurred and arranged, all done from fabulous photos, apparently. The resulting paintings are often filled with vitality, power, great design, grace, intelligence and everything else that makes a wonderful painting, depending upon the skill and intent of the artist.

I have no problem with working from photos but I'm always surprised by the artists who paint animals who are also repelled by dead animals, or think that an artist is somehow treating an animal with disrespect when you look at their bodies for a very long time as you draw or paint them. Hmmm. What is less respectful, 1. looking at a beautiful being for hours and hours, marveling at its extraordinary structure and moved to sadness, possibly to tears, by being in its presence; or 2. taking a few photos of an animal in action and running home to make a nice happy painting, after a bit of Photoshop blurring and lassoing?

(And artists, how do you explain having that human skull in your studio, if you find death so disrespectful, hmmm? Not your own human skull, silly, the other one, grinning jauntily on your still life shelf.)

Since animals are so active, personally I think it's best to work both ways: from "life" (meaning, from death, as the case may be) and from photos. The very best animal artists really understand how an animal moves, rests, how the legs are constructed, etc.

You can also paint or draw animals that are visiting your back yard, hanging around the park or in cages, or otherwise holding still, but this is obviously a little trickier, since wild animals seldom hold still for you. They do stand or lie around on occasion and you can sketch them. It's helpful to have an enclosed area so they don't run away from you. An animal in a zoo might go to one location for a while, then to another, so you can have two sketches going at the same time, depending on where he is at the time. (I call this "common ground non-narrative sequential art" - I'll write about this later and then come back and link to it here. Maybe by then I can discover a better term for what I'm trying to say.)

I've done this often; for example, this baby citrus rat got stuck in a convenient location and I drew him, poor little guy. I am not authorized to disclose the location. The same rat, in five different poses.

"Baby Rat", Graphite on Paper

I think the real issue is that nobody wants to see, and maybe not to buy, a painting that reminds them of death. This, I can maybe understand. If nobody wants to buy a painting about death, then, why would you bother to paint or draw anything with dead things in it? To which I respond:

How do you know what life looks like if you don't know what death looks like? What does it mean to breathe and then not have breath, is there a visual difference?

How do you know what movement looks like if you don't know what stillness looks like? Is photographic stillness real stillness? Is photographic movement real movement?

How do you know how the surface of an animal feels if you haven't touched the animal? How close do you need to be? What does presence mean to you, anyway, does it mean.... being present with something right near you? What does it mean to be near something, anyway?

Your art can be all about life, design, movement, color 'n light and bringing happy feelings to others. That is wonderful. But there is also room in art for another, maybe deeper truth that can only be found in the total-immersion system of looking it all in the face, including the end-of-all-movement condition which is death - which quite shockingly is in fact, NOT the end of all movement, matter just goes from one form to the next, a process which - and we are getting morbid and icky again here - includes movement, actually an alarming amount of movement and which probably would involve the linkage of another scary video if I had the time to go and find one.

I won't do that to you, don't worry! I found a cute 'n happy video to end this up for you. The puppy is listening to what is on the owner's computer:

Friday, September 27, 2013

"Landscape with the Fall of Icarus"

This is one of the paintings I grew up looking at, in one of the Time/Life Art Series books I kept checking out from the library.  There were not a lot of paintings to see in my town but there was a wonderful library with art books. The first famous painting I remember seeing in person was at a school field trip to the Detroit Museum of Arts. Please, people, do not sell off the paintings at the Detroit Museum of Arts.

This painting was long attributed to Pieter Brueghel, but since it's an oil and Brueghel worked in tempura, it's now thought to be a copy by a student. It shows the moment that Icarus, son of Daedalus, plunges into the ocean as a result of the candle wax melting off the self-made feathered wings (while escaping from a tower with Daedalus, the boy had defied his father and flew too close to the sun, thus melting the wax that held his wings to his arms).

I liked this painting as a child because I knew about the Icarus story and I was fascinated by the fact that at first glance, this painting doesn't seem to be about the fall of Icarus at all. It seems to be a painting about a farmer plowing his field, though how you can plow fields that steeply inclined is a mystery to me. Far away in the background, a boy with wings is falling from the sky into the ocean, and nobody notices, they just go on about their business.

As a child, you identify with the boy falling into the ocean and of course being an alarmist even then, I figured, well, yes, awful things happen all the time, even to children and anyway, you could see that the bird wing experiment was a pretty dumb concept to begin with.

But as I got older I got the point that is made by the poets that wrote about this painting -bad things happen, and yet the world moves on, largely oblivious. People keep planting the fields, people go about their business, boats sail by and a miraculous being who tried to achieve something incredible dies instead and it all goes without notice.

Of course, this is not the point of the Icarus myth itself. The point of the myth is to obey authority and avoid hubris, as if that is ever a fun couple of objectives. But the point of the painting is, I think, much more interesting. The artist has made a very interesting comment on human nature and how  we are the center of our own world, often to the exclusion of others and some very interesting events. If you don't doubt that we think we are the center of the world, go look at Facebook and watch the artists talk about themselves. "Well, enough about me, tell me, what do you think of my work?" (And yes I am just as bad, I guess.)

The real point of this post is that you can interpret a painting a million different ways. It's not just the knowledge and intent of the artist that matters, it's the knowledge and intent of the observer, too. A painting is a dialog. We need good, educated viewers, just like we need good, educated artists. If you don't know the legend of Icarus, how will you understand this painting? Well, you'll get something out of it, and it could be interesting, and you might be really impressed by the whole steep hill plowing reference, but you won't get as much out of it. If you didn't know the myth, part of the language between you and the artist would be lost. Ars longa, vita breva, etc. but ars gets a lot more breva if we lose a part of our cultural heritage. You could listen to the story on your headphones, but wouldn't it be better if you knew a little something about it in advance of your museum trip?

Now you'll have to go and Wiki the legend of Icarus if you don't know it.

There are a few excellent poems written about this painting. I'm going to write out the poem by W.H. Auden, "Musee des Beaux Arts", otherwise you'll be too busy to go and find it:

Musee des Beaux Arts
W. H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Despite what you're thinking, I don't just go swanning around at art parties and museums, I work like a dog at my studio and I have lots of opinions on art materials.

I use two brands of varnish for my paintings, in addition to the occasional use of retouch. The first is GamVar, a very fine product made by Gamblin. The package that I have comes with two glass jars. The first has varnish crystals and the second jar has liquid that dissolves and suspends the varnish crystals into a usable liquid varnish. The two jar method keeps the product fresher, in theory. I just went on the Gamblin site and it seems that GamVar is now being sold in bottles, so it looks like you might as well just get the single bottle after all and forget the mixing and shaking.

GamVar is glossy, but you can reduce the gloss by mixing it with Gamblin's Cold Wax medium. You can also make the varnish completely matte by applying the Cold Wax Medium and buffing your painting. I've done this and it works well also, especially on panels.

The company is well known for providing lots of good product information to artists and this is the link to its discussion of varnishes.

The varnish I've been using most recently is 'UVS Matte Varnish'  made by Conservator's Products, available at this link. I like the matte quality of this varnish on my paintings. It comes with a little plastic bottle of UVA product and you add a drop or two according to directions as you mix up your varnish. The nice people at the company answer the phone if you have questions about anything, too, or if you have managed to lose the top of your squeeze bottle or tipped it over. The reason there's a rubber band around the can is because I attach the varnish directions to the can that way (it's a separate piece of paper).

The best way to apply your varnish is to pour it into some kind of china or porcelain saucer ( that's what I use) and use a little triangular soft white makeup sponge, available at your local pharmacy or megastore. These are perfect for putting on the right amount of varnish and you can also use them for applying powered charcoal or graphite or other dry media when you draw. They create a satisfying blockiness and mass when you draw this way and you can use the side or the edge of the sponge. Dual thank yous for this tip, the awesome artists, Sadie Valeri and  Kate Stone.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Guest Blogpost: Ilaria Rosselli del Turco on the BP Award vs. The Boochiver Award

A quick note: I now have a link on the right side of the Blog to subscribe via email to these blog posts. I'm trying to keep this up on a regular, if not daily, basis, so thanks for reading.

A lot of us from the WPW (R)evolution show at Principle Gallery last weekend naturally ended up in the museums in Washington, D.C., a short hop on the commuter train from Alexandria where the gallery is located.

Can I just say something here? Is it possible that the same minds that brought you the U.S. tax code wrote the instructions on this ticketing machine for the Washington D.C. Metro? Furthermore, the kiosk containing an actual person who might answer your questions is located in the area after you insert your ticket into the turnstyles. I guess you could yell across the room, but somehow it seems like a design flaw - you have to select payment and pay before you can get to the spot where you can ask somebody how much you have to pay. Why, it's downright Sisyphussian in its potential frustration.

But press on in your journey, because the National Portrait Gallery is a wonderful place. I saw so many memorable pieces there.

My brilliant friend Ilaria Rosselli del Turco has written this insightful blog post about the difference between the prestigious BP Portrait Award based at the National Portrait Gallery UK (she was in the contest a few years ago) and the Outwin Boochever Portrait Award now being exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery of the United States. (Go over and read Ilaria's blog for a while. She is funny, incredibly talented, passionate and very, very smart. She had Washington D.C. all figured out while I was still looking for coffee. But she did look to the right once when stepping off the curb. How many Brits do we lose every year this way!?)

Ilaria is in front of some trash cans, pointing to the National Portrait Gallery sign. I think we were considering making some kind of performance art piece out of this but it was never fully realized.

In her blog post linked above, Ilaria includes a lot of good photos, links and much insight to the current Outwin Boochever show.

I agree with Ilaria about many things but I disagree with her on one thing - okay, maybe two things, including the number of times a person should drink cappuccino during the course of the day - but, personally, I don't like that this competition clumps paintings, photographs, videos and sculptures into one contest. This would be fine as an exhibit based on a portrait theme but I feel it is not a service to any of the artists working in the various art forms to compete directly against each other in a mass competition. The BP contest, meanwhile, is purely a painting contest and encourages the art of painting as a separate art form. In my opinion there is a lot about the technique of painting that can be examined, discussed and judged which sets it on a different platform that the technique of, say, photography, which has it's own techniques and possibilities. It's a little like having discus throwers and javelin throwers in the same Olympic event. If there's going to be prizes, let's spread out the prizes and include more artists in more categories.

I would have liked to see a portrait sculpture made out of American snack food. What could be more American than that? I've been thinking about this all evening. Fritos, crushed potato chips, Oreos, M & Ms, those pull-apart Twizzler strings for hair... . You are what you eat. By the way, did you know that the typical American's DNA is slowly being readjusted and our cells now indicate that we are genetically very similar to a Dorito?

"We're like corn chips walking because we really have a very, very large fraction of corn in our diets, and we actually can't help it because it's an additive in so many of the foods we find on the market shelves."  - see the quote and full story here.

For all I know, this sort of sculpture has been done before, but I'm putting it out there in the blogosphere because I would love to see somebody do this. Maybe I'll get to this myself in my spare time.

Anyway, as Ilaria says, it's a great show - do go see it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Women Painting Women" (R)evolution Show opening night, Principle Gallery

So this is a little late, I had a few internet problems...but here's what the group of artists looked like on Friday - we had a wonderful crowd. So much fun, thank you all so much for coming! Photo from Clint Mansell of Principle Gallery.

Friday, September 20, 2013

"Women Painting Women" (R)evolution Show opens tonight

Here's a photo of the gallery before the show at Principle Gallery in Old Town Alexandria, VA - hope to see lots of people at the opening!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Remember Me

A while ago I was in another country, in a very remote spot, painting plein air, when a man from a nearby village saw what I was doing and kept wandering into the scene I was painting, a winding road. He would wander down the road, stand there for a while, then wander away, then wander back behind me, then ... wander into the road again.

Photo of winding road, without wandering wayward waif.

It took me a while to figure out that what he was doing was trying to get into the painting. He was, in effect, photo bombing my painting. I find this remarkable. First, that he might think I was fast enough to put him into the painting while he was standing there. I'm pretty fast, but not really all that fast in oils. And secondly... and here is what I'm thinking tonight.... he wanted to be remembered. He wanted to be remembered, for somebody to notice that he was there. He wanted the immortality (? hmmm? depends on the painter, I suppose) of being in a painting.

In an earlier blog post I was fretting that people often like to stand in front of me while I sketch in museums. It just occurred to me - are those people in headsets trying to photobomb my sketch?

Suppose you are a good artist but you are slow as molasses and besides, you only work from professional models who can hold a pose for a long time. Wouldn't it be a wonderful thing if you could speed up things and draw or paint some average Joe and just... well, just give it to them?

I try to do this whenever I can. I will draw or paint practically anybody who sincerely wants me to, to tell you the honest truth, as long as they hold still, let me light them the way I want to and (very importantly) don't try to direct what I'm doing. I don't always want to give the drawing or painting to the person - I am trying to make a living with this, after all, and sometimes people would rather be paid for their time - but when I do give the drawing away, it's been such a memorable experience, for me, anyway. Especially when you reach across cultures.  It's been wonderful. Art really does have the power to unite, and all it takes is pencils, paper and some patience.

People want to be noticed, to be seen, to be remembered, to have a record that they existed. I suppose photos supply a lot of that but there is something very special about having an artist paint or draw you, of being truly looked at for once in your life. I'll write more about this later on.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Drawing by Harold Speed. Images here are from The Art Renewal Center

"Dither" is not to be confused with "hither", the opposite of "yon", which sounds like "yawn" but is much farther away from you.

"Dither" also sounds like "Zither". I actually own a zither, inherited through my husband's side of the family, although nobody I know really knows how to play it. The zither is the musical instrument used in the famous theme from the movie "The Third Man".

Back to the point. "Dither" is a term used by the revered artist and writer Harold Speed. He was an intelligent man, a very good artist  and a thoughtful, articulate writer who lived late 19th c. to early 20th c.. He wrote two books that are still widely read by artists today, Oil Painting Techniques and Materials    and The Practice and Science of Drawing. That last link goes to the public domain version of the book (free to download).

As Speed explains it, "dither" is "the play between vital parts to allow for movement", such as pistons fitting into cylinders. Speed says that the "play of life" should surround drawings and give them a vital charm. It's this lack of dither, this "play", that makes machine-made articles of things so lifeless. In Speed's view, a photograph can thus always be less full of life than a drawing or painting hand made by an artist. The test of a good drawing, says Speed, is not necessarily accuracy, it's whether the picture has life and conveys genuine feeling.

Now, photography has come a long way since Speed's time and it's not just the cold recorder of what the camera sees. There's all manner of ways to manipulate photographs, especially in Photoshop, and fine artists avail themselves of this tool all the time. Speed's point was that drawings which do not contain evidence of the hand of the artist tend to be "dead" drawings.

"Pictures are blamed for being conventional when it is lack of vitality that is the trouble. If the convention adopted has not been vitalised by the emotion that is the reason of the painting, it will, of course, be a lifeless affair. But however abstract and unnaturalistic the manner adopted, if it has been truly felt by the artist as the right means of expressing his emotional idea, it will have life and should not be called conventional in the commonly accepted offensive use of the term." Speed, The Practice and Science of Drawing, p. 75.

I'll probably come back to Speed later on in this blog, I read his work often and learn something new each time.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Letter From William McGregor Paxton

"Girl Combing Her Hair" by W.M. Paxton.. Image from The Art Renewal Center

Around ten years ago my family bought me a special art book on Ebay for my birthday. The book is "William McGregor Paxton" by Ellen W. Lee, R.H. Ives Gammell and Martin Krause, Jr. - it's long out of print, but you can find used copies on Amazon pretty readily (I just checked).

Not only is it a wonderful book, but my birthday present contained an old letter from Paxton to one of his students, J.J. Lankes. Lankes studied with Paxton at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the letter had been in the possession of  Lankes family since it was received in 1915.

I thought I would type out the body of the letter here. I'm inspired to do this because I'm a fan of the landscape painter Stapleton Kearns' blog. A while back he posted  another letter than Paxton had written to another one of his students, and you can read that post here.(The fact that Paxton wrote such supportive letters to his students indicates to me that he was a good and supportive teacher and very probably a nice person as well as being a great painter.) [EDIT: I can't seem to get this link to go to Kearn's specific post on Paxton's letter. I will get the Digital Marketing Division, Tech Sector Subdivision of Linda Tracey Brandon, Corp. Inc., LLC, PLC to check this out. Meanwhile, go to Kearns' July 16, 2012 blogpost to see the letter and discussion.]

Kearns has a better claim to this Paxton information than I do, as he was once a student of R.H. Ives Gammell himself. Mr. Kearns has a lot of generous information to share if you wander over to his blog.

Here's the content of the Paxton letter tucked away in my book, it's not much, but it's a shame not to share it. He makes a good point about a "bad hanging".
[Postmarked Chatham, Mass.]

Dear Lankes -

When your letter came I was in San Francisco and I did not receive it until my return.

You are very kind to write, but I don't like to kick about a bad hanging for all you can get by it is to have some one else's picture badly hung if yours is changed. Then there are two sore heads instead of one.

It seems to me that you have sized the picture up pretty accurately. You see there are several elements that go to the making of a reputation, painting is one of them though you might not guess it at a glance.

I'm glad and sorry to hear that Fashery [sp?] wants to go to war. It must be some thing of a problem for a man to decide with a family dependent on him.

If you get a chance to go to San Francisco do it. It is the best show of American pictures I have seen and the whole show is very wonderful.

Just at present we are at Chatham, Mass. waiting for some decent weather which we have not had all summer.

Will you give my regards to Mrs. Lawkes and tell her I'm delighted that she likes my pictures.

Sincerely yours,

W M Paxton
August 9, 1915

Included in the envelope is a small gray card, a ticket to an exhibition of Paxton's paintings held at the Saint Botolph Club in February, 1913. I'm not sure why this ticket was in the envelope, since it pre-dates the letter by a couple of years. It appears that somebody (Paxton?) sent this ticket to Lawkes - either he went to the show and kept the ticket, or he never made it to the show and kept the ticket anyway.

One critic wrote of this exhibit, "Today, Paxton goes to the limit of possibilities with pigment and makes no hard work, no effort evident in doing it. He is passed master of his craft... He is seemingly now near the zenith of his career."

Incidentally, I blogged about Paxton a couple of years ago, I included a list of advice he gave to other painters - see this link to a 2011 post.  It explains how to make painting look easy... ! I need to go read this again.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Activate the Omega 13

1. Things change every day, so if things are bad right now, just wait a while. Just hold on. "If you're going through hell, keep going." - Winston Churchill

2. Smile more often, even if your teeth are kind of crooked and bad, people are not noticing as much as you think they are.

3. What you see very much depends on where you stand.

4. Speaking of which, standing up is much better for your health than sitting down, and it uses more calories, too.

5. There is no one way to paint. You should try to learn a lot of ways to paint, actually.

6. Measure yourself against your previous self. (I wish I had made this one up, but I stole this one from here.)

7. You don't have to answer any questions unless you want to answer them, even if you're in court on the witness stand and then you can plead the Fifth Amendment, but get a lawyer first.  In real life, you really don't have to answer questions like "how much do you weigh, anyway?". You can bluntly refuse to answer or be evasive - deflection and distraction is the key, politicians are very good at this kind of thing.

8. Time whips past you like Kungfu Panda homeruns at a Giants game. Don't mess around, and stop watching so much television, too.

9. "Awards are meaningless, unless of course, you win one." - Mark Twain

10. Mark Twain, Samuel Johnson, Winston Churchill, Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde have said just about everything there is to say already. This shouldn't keep all of us from adding to the general verbal landfill, however, or making advice lists, as some of us are driven to do.

11. What looks like bad news, very often turns out to be good news. You just never can tell about anything, since you - since all of us - are operating on the basis of incomplete information. Never give up, never surrender!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

"The Laughing Cavalier"

The laughing cavalier isn't laughing and he probably isn't a cavalier, so you'll just have to accept that.

I know what you're thinking: "Frans Hals! Uncomfortably crass facial expressions, occasionally too slapdash, tsk tsk tsk,", but take a good look at this and try to deny that this painting can teach you how to paint.

Photo is from The Art Renewal Center

I think this is marvelous example of what an artist can do with paint. It looks like a tightly finished painting until you really start looking at it and then you see how the paint has been applied - broad strokes, then looser ones, layering, alla prima flourishes - it's just all there. He has modeled form beautifully and subtly but has also allowed his brush to dance around when it gets a chance to let loose, in the sleeves and embroidery. Franz has condensed some values and expanded upon others and has concentrated detail on the important facial characteristics. It's "about" the form and yet ... it isn't all about the form.

He isn't trying to impress us with excess detail and finish, though the painting is quite detailed and finished. He isn't trying to show off all the noodly little bits that you see when you  zoom in on something, he's showing us the parts that mattered, what he could see and summarize. He's still being sensitive and discriminating but he is having a little fun there, too. He's made judgment calls. He's focusing selectively. Look how subtle the value change is in that hat, it's a value 10 with a value 9 [on some scales, values 1 and 2, respectively - why are there different value scales?! can't artists agree on anything?] to show where the light hits, that's all he says in terms of value changes for black, the hat basically is an interesting shape setting off his (detailed, paleish) face against the thinly painted neutral background.

So, Hals is exploring form while painting something beautiful and sensitive, includes bravura paint application and textured patterning, fits it all into a memorable strong design composition and lures us in with that wonderful hint of an amused smile. Is this a memorable painting? It sure is.

I recently read an essay by a critic which gives an in-depth analysis of this painting. I can't find it and I have a feeling it's somewhere in my art book library. It's also possible I read it someplace on the internet. I'm going to go ahead and post this anyway and if I find it later, I'll edit this and let you know.

I spent a very long time looking at this painting at the Wallace collection in London a while ago. When I stand in front of paintings I try to have a sketchbook with me so that I can remember what I'm learning, and I learned a lot here. Usually I move aside for the ubiquitous folks with their headphones so they can peer in and examine the surface, or at least they pretend to. Sometimes these people just stand in front of me for a long time, just to stand in front of me, I guess. (Why? They even do this when the rest of the room is empty. I'm not there that long, I'm not carefully copying every single thing, I'm just sketching with a pencil and making notes to myself. I'm usually off to the left of the painting, or to the right...why can't people just... stand next to me? Is that so bad? ) Once, in New York, a horrible lady with headphones asked a guard to move me aside because she thought I was standing too long (over two minutes) in front of a William Orpen painting and I was interfering with the sequence of her headphone narration. 

I had a really nice experience at the The Wallace Collection, though. Try to go there if you make it to London. I can't remember if there were people with headphones there or not. While drawing, I looked up to see a little British boy, maybe, oh, 10 or so, timidly standing behind me with a notebook and he had his pencil out to draw the painting too - not as part of a school project, it was because he seemed to just want to do it. The fact that I was doing it made him decide it would be okay if he did it, too. I gently asked him to show me his drawing, he shyly did so, and we had a wonderful quiet little chat. I love artists.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Just how Different are Women Painters?

Do women, in fact, paint women differently than do men? Good question. I've been thinking about this a lot since I've been involved with the Women Painting Women group. I certainly think that women view women differently than do men, and yes they usually do paint them differently than do men, but they don't always, or at least in a glaringly obvious way. There's no 100% certain way to tell if a painting of a woman was done by a woman, unless of course you know in advance who the artist is, or recognize the work, or whatever. People, and therefore artists, are far too varied to be clumped together, and hooray for that. Someday artists will all be recognized (or not) solely on the basis of our abilities and our vision, and that is what a meritocracy is all about.

Wait! Did I just imply that the art world is a meritocracy? Is it? What is the criteria? Should it be a meritocracy?  If it is a meritocracy, who gets to be the judge of merit? If it isn't a meritocracy, then what is it? and what should it be?

But I digress. Personally, I think certain themes and imagery emerge in women's paintings of women more frequently than in paintings done by men. Images of nature - all the varying flora and fauna, often in wild profusion - show up a lot in women artists' paintings.  I'm also seeing a lot of emphasis on patterning and fabric, lots of whirling, swirling shapes and repeating design.

Also, the women in these paintings usually (certainly not always, but usually) look like individuals and not generically pretty things. In other words, there are often faces, identifiable faces, treated with empathy and insight. Women artists generally are sympathetic to their women subjects. Again - not always. But very often.

There's been a lot of discussion on the internet (including earlier on my blog) and in art magazines about the show and its concept, and other women painting women shows which are going around this country and a few other countries as well.  I'm linking a post by the fierce and smart Lisa Gloria who I have the pleasure of showing with next week at Principle Gallery. Here she writes about art and the intent of the artist.

I'm also linking a post by the wonderful artist Ilaria Rosselli Del Turco, who is more full of life than the three or four people sitting next to you all rolled together - it's an honor to be showing paintings with her:

[Edit - I'm also including a link to the terrificly imaginative and multiple-award-winning artist Terry Strickland who writes about the intent behind  her paintings at this link:]

Friday, September 13, 2013

"Let Me Show You How to Improve Your Work!"

A.B. Frost was a famous 19th-20th c. illustrator and artist who, like many talented artists of his day, has become quite forgotten. He is best known for his collaboration on the Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit books by Joel Chandler Harris.

Frost was a student of the much more famous Thomas Eakins, who taught in Philadelphia for many years. Frost decided to illustrate an incident involving Eakins, described in a letter from another student, Horatio Shaw, as follows (the letter is to Shaw's wife, Susie):

I must tell you about Frost. You recollect I described him to you once. Well, when Eakins came around last night, he sat down and looked at Frost's work, then he began to point out where the figure was out of drawing, as a special favor I suppose for they seemed to be old friends, he took his brush and painted the figure over, made the body longer and put more action in the figure. Such a complete change made a smeary mess of it. That was just before a rest. After the rest when Eakins was gone, Frost sat down, shoved his hands into his pockets and sat and looked at his picture. Finally said "Well, that looks encouraging, don't it?" I haven't laughed so hard for a long time.

The illustration's narrative proceeds left to right, then up and down. Click on the images below so you can see them more clearly on your screen:

Don't you love that last panel? Crushed! Yup, been there, too!

I love gifted caricaturists, they are in a special breed all their own. There is so much life in this drawing. Can you not feel in your own body what the student is feeling? See the simpering needy gratitude of the student when the Great Man walks in. See that grandly aloof, nose-up superior satisfaction of the Great Man after he "fixes" the painting. Watch how the student's hair changes and his feet start to crumple and cave in as the panels progress... wow. That is simply genius. I'm going to post more of Frost's humorous work later on.

The information on Frost, the quote and illustration are taken from Reed, Henry: The A.B. Frost Book available here.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Art Instruction DVD on Indirect Painting from Sadie Valeri Studio

Sadie Valeri is an extraordinary artist and teacher in San Francisco whose art school, the Sadie Valeri Atelier, has gained a lot of renown in recent years. She and her husband Nowell Valeri have made a video which explains how to paint indirectly, a method of painting in which the drawing and value aspect of an oil painting is first addressed before the color is applied.

This is a preview (without the music, which is coming in the final version) that  Sadie and Nowell have made to give a hint of what we can expect. (Nowell is responsible for the music, it will be wonderful!) The link is a little slow to start on my computer but give it a few seconds (and doesn't she have a nice voice!).

Indirect Oil Painting DVD/Blu Ray Intro from Sadie Valeri Atelier on Vimeo.

You can order the DVD at  www/ .

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"Stand By Me"

Oil, 20" tondo, which means in circular format - and the frame itself is circular, not square. (Did you know that a circle centered within a square canvas placed in a square frame is usually surrounded by a spandrel?) I said 'spandrel', not 'spaniel', those are English Pointers up there, not spaniels.

This is the third of my three paintings at the Women Painting Women: (R)evolution Show at Principle Gallery, opening September 20th, 2013.  (I have other paintings at the gallery, too, which you can see by going over to my website and clicking around.) And I have two other paintings at the (R)evolution show, already discussed on this blog here and down here also.

This piece was enormous fun in a technical sense. Lots and lots of layers and special paint effects. I can go into this, given the slightest encouragement.

This painting is reminding me again about how much I don't like to explain my work. This is my beautiful daughter in a vaguely woodland setting with two dogs. All three are gazing into the distance and none are gazing in the same direction, and none of them are gazing in the westerly direction, so not all the bases are covered in terms of watchfulness. (All bases can never be covered in terms of watchfulness.)

It isn't a portrait of my daughter in the sense that it's supposed show her doing what she does in the usual course of her life, except that knowing her, it's entirely possible that she does in fact wear a long cape and red gloves while surrounded by dogs in woodland settings. This is indeed more likely to take place in her case than anyone else you are likely ever to meet - except in reality, there would be at least three or four more dogs in the setting around her. But "Stand By Me" is a figurative painting, not directly about her life, it's metaphoric and narrative, and it's not an obvious narrative.

Generally, I want my paintings to be honest, sympathetic, thoughtful, powerful, sensitive... all that... but I also want to paint positive aspects of human experience, especially when it comes to painting women. Here, I wanted to show bravery and the decision to take care of others who need your help. So I put my daughter in this painting to reflect one of my own emotions; I suppose this is a somewhat autobiographical piece, from my own experience.

Remember when...
... you were a little girl and you dreamed of your future, you read all the stories about Andromeda and Perseus and Rapunzel and the Prince, and you decided that no, you didn't want to be the passive, helpless one hanging around, waiting for rescue and anyway, you wanted to be the one with the courage and bravery and guts to slay dragons and bad guys and save people, and besides, the chances were very slim that you would ever be pretty enough to inspire a dramatic rescue by a handsome princely hero, and only later in life did you figure out that the other side of the equation, the requirement for heroism, which by the way is something men have had to deal with all their lives since they rarely have the Andromeda/Rapunzel option, was to go through tremendous hardship, great risk, probable failure and a possible grisly, unappreciated death?!

So maybe you didn't have that particular dream, which is fine, also.

I like paintings that invite dialogs since it can get so tedious if a painting just ends up to be a monologue. A painting is, in a sense, a house guest that (we hope) remains interesting for at least a while and doesn't just drone on and on and on forever or get up in your face too much.

Mainly I wanted people to look at this painting and wonder, who is standing by and who is protecting whom? Is there a moment of choice involved? When you look at this painting, do you assume the dogs are standing by the woman, or is the woman standing by the dogs?

If you own an English Pointer, by the way, you will know that these dogs aren't watching out or standing guard for anybody, they are probably just looking around for birds, or maybe a dog treat.

Today is September 11th, let us remember all the brave firefighters and heroes who have chosen to protect us and given their lives for us. And let's keep praying for peace.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"Young Girl"

Oil, 12" x 10" . I used an alkyd white because I wanted this to dry quickly. Funny how different whites act differently. There's a lot of layering in this piece.

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Monday, September 9, 2013

Show Preview and Link for "(R)evolution" Catalog

Principle Gallery now has a page displaying all the work which will be up for the "(R)evolution" show this month, please visit and take a look at all the paintings that will be there. A lot of these paintings are large and so it will be fun to see how they are all displayed together!* Hope you can make it to the show, I think a lot of us will be there.

Meanwhile, I keep forgetting to post the site where you can order copies of the catalog for the show  - it's  from Madder Deep Publishing featuring the uber-talented team at Chez Terry Stickland .

The catalog image is a portion of the powerful painting "Rising Tide" by powerhouse artist Alia El-Bermani- here's the link.

*This is what you should listen to before viewing pictures at an exhibition. Turn the sound up loud!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Solvent Free

[EDIT: the dishwashing detergent shown in the photo was fine for the synthetic brushes I've been using lately but not the best thing for sables, badgers, natural bristles, etc. - see the comments to this post for other recommendations. There's a lot of bar soaps and other products out there for oil paints that are kinder on brushes.]

The condition of being "Solvent Free" is not to be confused with the rarer condition of "Solvency", which is another thing entirely, especially in the representational art community.

Going solvent free means getting rid of the solvents in your oil painting working methods. Common paint solvents such as odorless mineral spirits (OMS), turpentine, etc. can be dangerous to your health, especially when you work with it every day in close non-ventilated quarters. Several of my artist friends have also developed allergies to the stuff.

A few months ago I was at an open studio and watched a young man paint a portrait using a jar of walnut oil to clean his brushes instead of OMS. His work looked fantastic - lush paint, expressive strokes, fresh and clean. I went back to my studio and decided to research this. Apparently you can use either safflower oil or walnut oil to clean your brushes - don't use linseed oil because of its flash point. Linseed oil soaked rags are a cause of fires since they can accidentally spontaneously combust. Don't leave oil soaked rags sitting around, dispose of them right away.

Watch this, artists!

Did you know that human beings can spontaneously combust, by the way?

A half hour after I finished writing the above, but before I posted this, I read a story about human spontaneous combustion in the Sept. 7-8 weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal. Apparently,  a case of spontaneous combustion took place in Oklahoma in February of this year, so it's nothing to joke about or to sneeze at.  Naturally, being the alarmist that I am, I researched this a little further. One theory postulates that energy patterns, the Kundalini, that run up and down your spine become misaligned, triggering a temperature spike and you ignite. ( I'm not so sure about this theory.) Another theory is that there are energy anomalies in the earth itself, since suspected cases of human spontaneous combustion are geographically clustered. Hmm. The real estate agents never tell you that, do they?

Back to our story. I wanted to try painting without solvents because I was travelling to a far away land with zero hope of getting solvents when I landed there.Meanwhile, I really like the way my paintings are turning out using safflower oil and dishwashing detergent as brush cleaners. I use small amounts of Oleogel as my medium lately, but I also use other products as mediums. The brushes are incredibly supple and responsive to varying degrees of pressure. I wipe off as much safflower oil as I can  before reusing the brush in another color and it usually works, but if I'm going from dark colors to light I change brushes. At the end of the day I wash them in the soap and shape them.

Many thanks to the marvelous Master of Maastricht, Scott Bartner for his encouragement to pursue anti-solventation, though he has much more to say about this subject than I've covered here.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

"A World With Stripes"

Oil, 24" x 36"

This is the second of my three paintings which will be at the impending Women Painting Women: (R)evolution show at Principle Gallery (opens September 19th, 2013).

I love stripes, not only for their graphic design possibilities, but for their symbolic aspect. Artists have been on to this for a long time. Much as been written about the mysterious way nature incorporates spirals into her work. You don't have to look far to see this - hold out your arm and see how your muscles spiral and alternate down your bones. (What, no muscles? How do you expect to win arm wrestling contests?)

Circles are also a powerful symbol of nature and rebirth and have been used by artists for centuries to explore various concepts. I'm fascinated by them too and I frequently paint circular pieces ("tondos"). (You could also say I'm "painting in circles", which may also be true.) Circles are also a powerful symbol of time (obviously referencing the analog clockface) and eternity.

This is in a way a still life, and to my mind, a form of vanitas, a reminder that earthly things will pass, time is short, all is transient, and all those other things you don't want to hear about.

The model is the lovely Cheyenne. We spent many hours on this painting. I learned a lot about my studio and where I have to back up to put models near this window (which turned out to be me smashed against the wall). I ended up painting the spiraled hoop from a photo since the repeating stripes drove me crazy and anyway, Cheyenne ended up moving out of town. She's wearing a selection of items from my costume closet, including a 1930's silk nightgown. Playing dress up with her was great fun all on its own.

Not everybody can be a good life model. The good ones understand somehow in their bones that there's an attitude that needs to be conveyed and they give it to you. Really, it's a form of acting, where you get beyond your self-consciousness. A good life model also displays impressive amounts of proprioception and can get back into the same pose after breaks. If you think this is easy to do, just try it sometime. If you are good at this, contact me, please.

Incidentally, you probably can't see this, but there's a circle within the circle, the locket on her necklace, which has a little rodent at the center - available from the wonderful painter Marina Dieul.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Alex Tyng's Solo Show, Dowling Walsh Gallery, Rockland, Maine

My friend Alexandra Tyng has become one of the country's most interesting representational painters and her new show of narrative figurative paintings at Dowling Walsh Gallery is a major event for anyone who cares about the direction painting is taking in this country.

I can't say enough good things about this show. I've seen a few of these works and I'm amazed by their power, imagination and depth of emotion. She has a remarkable ability to transmit universal themes while at the same time pursuing a private, deliberate journey and Alex's ability to show the quality of light in her technique is extraordinary. They're intensely personal paintings with mystery and intelligence.

I'm so very proud to have such an inspiring master as a friend. Alex is a brilliant artist, painting at the top of her game. I really wish I could be there tonight. Go, Alex!

The image above is an ad from the recent issue of American Art Collector Magazine.

Show opens up in Rockland, Maine tonight, Friday, Sept. 6th; for more information, go to Dowling Walsh Gallery

Thursday, September 5, 2013

"Portrait of Jim" on display at Scottsdale Artists' School

I teach weekly classes at Scottsdale Artists' School and they often hang samples of teachers' work in the halls and lobby. The other day they put up my "Portrait of  Jim" (my brother). I really enjoyed painting him and I'm delighted to see him on the wall, so thank you, SAS!

I've got a wonderful family and it's my great good fortune to paint them - I'll get to everybody one of these days, I promise.

Family members show up in a lot of my artist friends' work. I wonder how they really feel about it. I imagine that it can't be easy, at least some of the time.

What about those crazy leaves, you ask?! More about this painting can be found in an earlier post here .

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

"Gardenia Quadrille"

Oil, 20" x 16". It's at Principle Gallery.

 I paint a lot of gardenias, you'd think it would get easier, but they are still pretty maddening. I love the wavy starburst pale green shapes of the calyx formed by the sepals. (Yes, I did just go and Google those terms, it's not as if they were in the front part of my brain.) I might do a painting of just a bundle of calyxes next time.

Now go and Wiki "Quadrille", it's interesting, actually.

You will also of course remember Lewis Carroll's "The Lobster Quadrille" . I used to memorize poetry when I was younger and I remember trying to decide between this poem or Jaberwocky . I picked Jaberwocky, but mostly because of the illustration, I think.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Books, Birds and Sky"

"Books, Birds and Sky" - oil on linen, 30" x 48"

The above is one of my three paintings that are featured in the Women Painting Women (R)evolution group show at Principle Gallery , opening Friday, September 20th, 2013.

I don't much like to explain my work, to tell the truth, though I'm always interested to hear what people have to say about it.  If it resonates with somebody on an emotional level for any reason, under any interpretation, then it has succeeded, in my opinion. The best reason to own a painting is to decide you can't live without having the painting around you, sharing space with you. It can be outrageously beautiful, funny, powerful, dramatic, intellectually challenging... well, you get to name the emotional reason. I know there are other reasons, including buying for investment, gifts, putting something in the horizontal space above your sofa, impressing the neighbors or just adding to your collection, but if there is no emotional connection, there's no relationship with the painting. Go with the gut. I buy paintings from time to time and it's the ones I can't drive out of my head that are the ones I need to own.

This painting is what I call a "Figurative Painting", so no, it's not intended as a portrait of either the specific woman or the St. Bernard. And I would further classify this as a "Narrative Figurative Painting". In other words, there is a story taking place, albeit subtle in this case. (Some might argue that it's a "Genre Painting". I would argue it isn't, though.) It has beauty, yes, but it isn't all about the beauty. It's not all about the technique, either, though of course that's part of it. I'm aiming for some content here.

I say "subtle" story because I personally dislike obvious narratives in narrative paintings, unless you're, say, an illustrator and you need to move the story along. There are always exceptions, but in general, I think of paintings as visual poems which contain mystery, emotion, imagination, and open-ended questions which can be interpreted many ways (much like life). This approach may not appeal to you, and that's fine, there are a lot of paintings out there you might like better.

A narrative painting offers the viewer a glimpse of what's inside the artist's mind. This is, or should be, a scary thought. This fact in itself might cause you to just put an autographed basketball jersey in a lucite frame and hang it over the sofa.

Over the past couple of years I've been trying to make only those narrative paintings that can't leave me alone unless I paint them. I don't know how else to describe the compulsion to paint them. Sometimes people like them enough to buy them and sometimes they hate them, and of course they can also be totally indifferent to them.

This is a quiet painting, quiet in subject matter, color and value, not a lot of drama except for the incline of the hill and the point of view. It's not edgy or flashy - and notice that she's not even holding a Kindle or tablet reader. I put the physical books in because I love the sensual aspect of  holding a book, touching paper, smelling the pages... all of that. I can't even begin to describe how much reading has enriched my life and I wanted to share that gratitude in a painting - so this is my Ode to Reading.

I love putting animals in paintings and this idea of having a young woman lie on top of a huge dog is compelling to me. I've been trying to get time to paint this painting for years, I think. She's sprawling, taking up space, not hunched in a corner. Her home is nearby, but she's not in it, she is... elsewhere.

I thought a lot about the flat, diffuse cool light in this painting. It's not the light that I usually paint, but I like it.

As I was painting this in my studio I was listening to reports of girls being attacked for trying to attend school in Pakistan. The thought of one gender trying to prevent another gender from becoming educated fills me with grief and rage. I thought hard about whether I should include these feelings in this painting. I finally decided, well, no, that is another painting. This one is about joy, happiness, imagination, freedom.

Meanwhile, the village in the background happens to be just up the road from the magnificent  Isenheim Altarpiece in Colmar, France. I need to write about that sometime soon.

Monday, September 2, 2013

"Duck and Shadow of Duck" Oil, 20" x 16"

This is a still life about ... well, a dead duck. But also, sadness, and the death that is always so close to all of us.

I spent a very long time looking at this duck. It's so beautiful, even in death.

I completely forgot to post this painting here after I painted it, so if you hate paintings of dead birds, click out of here right now. Wait. Too late!

This painting is available at Abend Gallery

"Drawing the Three-Hour Portrait", Weekly Class at Scottsdale Artists' School

Here's a quick photo from my phone of the info in the Scottsdale Artists' School catalog for my charcoal drawing class, which meets on Wednesdays from 1:00 - 4:00 starting on October 9, 2013. I really hope you can join me in this class, it should be a lot of fun and we're sure to encounter a lot of interesting faces. Contact me if you have questions.

The link to sign up is here.