Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year

Happy New Year. Here I am implementing yet another news year's resolution--don't neglect my blog. Pretty pathetic after a more than 2-year hiatus. Actually, today I start a pretty scary adventure. As of today, (with a little help from Obama-care) I am no longer officially employed full-time. In an attempt to de-stress my life and spend the 20 years I have left doing what I love, I have taken a part-time job with a local non-profit (I can walk to work!)so I can do an amazing thing--actually sell my art. Who would have thought. Of course, I've just spent my last paid vacation getting over the flu. Even so, I've managed to gather all of the elements needed to put up an Etsy shop, which will go live some time over the next 2 weeks. I've also tried to reach my other 2013 goal, which was to complete my egg tempera painting, Wetlands. It doesn't look like I'm going to make it, but I'm might close. I started this in August, after I learned to make my own gessoed panels at Koo Schadler's workshop in New Hampshire. It's getting mighty close. Wishing you a creative and surprising 2014.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Wednesday Completed on Monday

Finally, I have completed a new painting. Called Wednesday, I finished it on Monday of the Columbus Day weekend but have been on the go ever since and have not had a chance to post it. This is 19" H X 30" W in egg tempera. I think I'll be working on a few smaller pieces after this so that I can try a few techniques I learned (or had reinforced) at Koo Schadler's workshop in August. If you aren't familiar with her work, check it out at

Friday, March 25, 2011

Every Day is Wednesday

Before my last piece (Nautilus) was even completed, I was already working on a new piece that took a really long time to gel. Is it old age that images no longer just pop into my head? Or just proof of the fallicy of multitasking?

In any event,Wednesday was initially a real struggle--countless thumbnails in my sketchbook, on the proverbial napkin in restaurants, and even in meeting notes at the office. I had a vague concept in my head--which is not the best way to create art. I also had segments of images. I needed a human subject but didn't want to resort to another self-portrait. I wanted a new challenge but was concered about the fact that, while improving, I still don't really have completed control of the egg tempera medium down yet. That could also be a good thing.

Then, in a blinding flash it dawned on me--why not ask my neice to pose. We had a great time doing a photo shoot. In a happy accident, her new kitten, Lucy, wandered onto our set and added another dimension. Here you can see a prelimary study and the final drawing in a near completed state.

Wedesday is about sequence, seriality, and the passage of time--as well as notions of obscuring and revealing images needed to advance the narrative as well as to explore more fully the process of working in egg tempera. In this medium you build a painting from many veils of color and paint--sometimes obscuring and sometimes revealing. This work is both a metaphor and a demonstration of that process. Time will tell how successful that will be. I was brought back to the need to work in a "multiple" format while executing my piece, A Meditation on the Stations of the Cross, completed in 2008. Then I saw the Chuck Close printmaking retrospective in DC last summer and this need was cemented in my brain.

This is the largest piece I have attempted in this medium and to keep from going insane will be incorporating techniques learned from Koo Schadler (check out her site at as well as suggestions gleaned from Robert Vickrey's book, New Techniques in Egg Tempera. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Finally, another painting finished--Nautilus, portrait of my son Thomas and an homage to George Tooker--after his self portrait done as a young man. This painting was a struggle. About 4 months in I felt I had lost control of the flesh tones in the shadow side of the face and sanded off several layers of paint. The paint did not come off smoothly and took a long time to fill back in. In the end I am pleased. It is better than the last painting, although scale still presents problems. I found working at this scale--about 3/4 life size--difficult. This is mostly due to vision problems. At this scale, I spend much of my painting time wearing a magnifying headpiece reminiscent of the father in Honey I Shrunk the Kids searching for the miniaturized children lost in the lawn. I'm already on to the next piece. Will have a drawing to show shortly. Ta.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Watercolor Wednesdays

A few months ago I felt the need for a change of pace in my Wednesday night drawing sessions so I shifted from creating large, detailed pencil or charcoal drawings to small watercolors. It engages different skills and brain functions--and delivers some very different results. I was in a rut and now I'm not. In the studio, we have the benefit of a large mirror behind the model stand and, if the curtains are opened, we can create compositions of some depth--including all of the artists working on the other side of the room. The image of "Debbie" at the top of the page was particularly juicy--the lavendar chair was a wonderful foil for the black and white stripes of her garments accented with red lipstick and watch.

"Susan" was painted in Joyce U's garden before we all sat down to the sumptuous annual "linguini supper."

All of these works are painted in a small (6X10") watercolor pad with my miniature Windsor & Newtown travel set. The paintbox measures only 3 X 4 inches. I spent about 1-1/2 hours on each, accounting for breaks. The works were small enough to scan -- you can see the fairly rough tooth of the paper.

Finally, here are two images of "Bernadine" painted about 1 month apart. One relied more heavily on the pencil drawing than the other. I have found it so freeing to work in an unfamiliar medium in which I have no particular skill or experience. The immediacy provides a welcome relief from the rigor of the egg tempera works that occupy the rest of my time.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Homage to Tooker

September already and still I haven't covered all I saw and felt in my little jaunt to DC--the most important part. But now the tale would be stale so I'm on to the next thing--a new painting. Another portrait of my son Tom that is also a salute to a major influence on the last 25 yeaars of my work--and to my decision to delve into a completely new medium these past few years. Here is a link to an on-line image of George Tooker's self portrait in egg tempera. It was painted very early in his career when he was probably about the same age as Tom is now - 23. In my piece, I have incorporated the young man and the nautilus shell (although a different species)but stopped short of the tondo format.

I took a series of photos of Tom in variations of the desired pose and combined the best elements. As usual, my skill as a photographer doesn't give me the level of detail I really require so I resort to memory and surreptitiously staring at him. Tom's rather severe expression is his valiant attempts not to laugh. I'm working to soften that in the painting.

Still wedded to the terra cotta Prismacolor pencils for the detail and warmth that suits my human subjects, this drawing is 14" wide by 18" high--the same as the painting.

Working at this reduced scale remains a struggle for me--both the need to spend so much time on so small a piece (even though I know art is not like real estate) and my increasing problems with eyesight. Spending long days in front of a computer and then painting for 2 - 3 hours at night is taking its toll.

As you can see from the ghostly image in this early state of the painting, the forms develop very slowly. I am using a lighter touch in this painting--as I have done with each successive piece. Each one gets closer to the result I'm seeking--but not quite. I don't really keep track but I would say I have put in about 30 hours on the painting at this stage.

I'm painting the flesh tones with a verdaccio underpainting using terra verte and ivory black. The background already has 3 successive layers of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna with a little yellow ochre. Alternating layers of complementary colors will utlimately give me a gray that resonates.

How ironic that this is exactly how I created some very luminous grays back in the 70s and 80s when I was creating large 3-dimensional wall pieces of balsa wood, handmade Japanese woodcut paper, and water color--layer upon layer upon layer of pale washes of pure color--dried with the hair dryer in between. I find this concrete evidence that no knowledge or experience is wasted comforting.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pathways to Hidden Treasures (and One Not Taken)

So many weeks have flown by and I still haven't gotten the DC trip out of my system—or onto this blog. I spent day two of my trip at the National Portrait Gallery. On the advice of the docent at the front desk, I headed first to the well-thought out Lunder Conservation Center. Here, the labs for restoring antique picture frames, works on paper, paintings, and sculptures have glass walls so the public can watch conservators at work. As this was a weekend, I had to be satisfied to peer into the empty workshops and learn from the interactive video kiosks and displays. By the time I finished my self-directed tour, I was devastated to realize that I would have made an excellent conservator. Another path not taken.

This center was adjacent to the Luce Center—another revelation. Here the Smithsonian houses art currently not on view in the museum’s galleries. Instead of locking it in basement storage with no public access, these works are available to scholars and curious visitors in what they term "open storage" -- rows and rows of narrow "cubbies" with paintings, sculptures, and craft works crammed onto their walls. The works are all behind glass cases in dim light--so you can see them but you can't seen them. You are also very close to each piece. It was like ferreting through granny's attic and finding treasure after treasure.

I was aghast to round a corner and come face to face with George Tooker's 1959 The Waiting Room. Why was this work not on display when there are so few available to the public? Because it was not a portrait? (Note: The images are on the Smithsonian’s web site—click on them to learn more.)

There was Helen Lundeberg's Portrait of the Artist in Time that once graced the cover of a book that I lent to someone and, like most lent books, never seen again. Then I was in Paul Cadmus territory--his earlier, looser (but equally scathing) series in oil Aspects of Suburban Life including Polo and Public Dock. It wasn't long, though, before I was peering through the glass at Bar Italia an early work in egg tempera.

I passed Harvery Dinnerstein's Brownstone and found myself in a half-empty bay that contained a bold, hard-edge abstraction by Gene Davis. There was also a placard bearing the question, “What is the Art Student's League?” If you read my earlier posting about this trip, you will know that I lacked the cell phone needed to dial the number for the official answer. Fortunately for me, I had first-hand experience of the League.

On to a little bitty Ad Reinhardt juxtaposed with a small, but luscious William Baziotes whose title was too long to capture. Later I encountered its larger, younger sibling in the main galleries downstairs. At this point we began to move forward in time at a much faster pace—Jane Quick-to-See Smith’s State Names. I immediately recognized Robert Vickrey’s nuns despite the poor lighting and the painting’s uncharacteristic backdrop of grass and earth in Fear.

There was an Edward Hopper I had never seen before (in book or on wall)--People in the Sun depicting people in deck chairs drenched in sunlight. This stroll through these cubbies of stored works was en experience like none I had ever had before—like sharing a secret to which no one else was privy. I wish I lived closer.

Then, I returned to the hustle and bustle of the main galleries of the museum. These were even more boisterous by the presence of Boy Scouts in every nook and cranny—pinewood derby tracks set up in the marble halls, exhibitions and projects set up in the courtyard, and troops being led through the various exhibitions—in some cases, I’m sure, only to get their charges out of the heat of the 105-degree day and into air-conditioned halls.

As I meandered, it struck me how unusual it was to be in an art museum whose entire collection arranged by the subjects of the paintings rather than the creators. In some cases, there was an intersection of the two like the Philadelphia Peales, with their exceptionally rosy cheeks.

In my wanderings I encountered 3 works by artists I have actually met—A portrait by Jack Beal who taught at Pratt when I was there; a 1954 portrait of a financier named Walter Lippman by Stanley Meltzhoff, who was a trustee of the American Littoral Society where I work (and whose amazing fish paintings hang in our library), and Phil Schirmer’s The Secret Gardner, a finalist in the Outwin Boochever national portrait competition, the original impetus for visiting the National Portrait Gallery. I had the good fortune to receive my very first instruction in egg tempera at one of Phil’s workshops in Maine in the fall of 2008. You can see his work at He’s an amazing painter with an incomparable ability to capture the spare, intensity of coastal Maine.

I ended my day in the “folk art” wing where I stumbled upon one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. The installation by James Hampton is calledThe Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millenium General Assembly. I had never heard of him before. He was an untrained artist who spent 14 years creating this embodiment of his religious faith in his garage, which I’m sure it would have filled. It is made from scraps of metal foil, cans, bottles and plastics that he gleaned while working as a janitor and looks like the sort of treasure of which archeologists only dream (think Indiana Jones).

This was enough for me. My senses and brain were saturated. I stopped at the book shop to pick up a copy of the portrait competition exhibition catalog and made my way back through the steamy streets to my hotel.