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February 23, 2009

I'm determined to finish some of the paintings that have been sitting around for a year or more. Part of the reason they haven't been done until now is because a lot of deadlines came up in the last year, and I had to work on other stuff... but now it's time to finish these, and get on with something new. I am closing in on five pieces: He Searched; SoHo Crossing; Fashion Statement; Jay on Read; and Falling Dark (pastel version). No, make that six; one of the little 5" x 7" paintings of Old Town Alexandria is nearly done.



Stomach Flu and a New Direction

February 15, 2009

Have been sidelined with the stomach flu. Things could be worse--- my stomach's still a bit queasy but the upshot of it was that I spent a couple of days mostly off my feet, thinking about art. Then, today's article on the cover of the New York Times Arts and Leisure section made me feel more hopeful than in a long time. Maybe there is going to be a change in our attitude towards what has value in our society.

Along that line of thought, I have a couple of new ideas that still need to be developed, but which should speak to the issue of what's important in the world of art these days.

Also: the folks at Artomatic have announced the 2009 show's dates and location! I am excited!!!

At right: one of the areas of torture I involved myself with today on Conversation, which at this rate will be done in only one more year...


Andrew Wyeth and Love

February 12, 2009

Jay on Read is really beginning to shape up. I worked on contrast today, darkening the dark areas even more. It has a real sense of atmosphere, and the greens are hanging together. There's still plenty of detail that needs attention: hanging lamps, the name of the bar, some dentil molding, the lines on the flower planters--- but it really is an inviting little scene. With some luck (and fewer distractions in my life) It'll be done in just a few more weeks.

Continued to develop the left side of Conversation. There are nuances of light and shadow in the beveled mirrors. One set of mirrors has a faint bluish tinge to them, and if it's done correctly it'll really read as believable space. I brought the dark lines of the mirror edges back into focus---they'd been painted over when I worked on the wall color, and looked fuzzy. Now they describe the sharp distinction between the panels.

It's times like these that make me wonder if what I'm doing is understood or even appreciated. These days, I see a lot of art that seems to be done quickly, as if there were something more important to get to, and the art isn't valuable enough to spend precious time on. There were a number of articles written about the recent passing of Andrew Wyeth, and in one of them, he was quoted as saying, "Art is all about love." It made me so happy to see that, because it's what I've been thinking for a long time. Out of respect for the viewer, I want to give them the best of what I have to offer, and to do that takes time. It takes a lot of thought. It takes careful painting, and stroking the paint on with the brush just plain feels like love, like a caress. It's like saying, feel this; this is a beautiful, hard, shiny surface; see how different it is from this soft, filmy curtain, or this scuffed-up sidewalk. Or: here's the way the light fell on the trees in the distance during a remarkable sunset. It's communication. It doesn't have to be photorealistic--- my work is a long way from photorealism--- but it's all because of love for the scene, love of the medium, love for the viewer.



February 9, 2009

I spent the entire day working. A couple of the paintings have turned the corner from "Is this ever going to work?" to "This could be a good piece when it's done."

Started with one of the little Alexandria paintings--- I'm determined to honor my New Year's resolution to finish all of the current works on the Works in Progress page, though no doubt I'll add a few new ones in another couple of weeks--- and it looks so much better. I've written before about how disconcerting it is to paint on slick boards (as opposed to rough canvas). It's like painting on a mirror. The paint just slides around, and the feeling of being completely out of control with the first two layers of paint is scary. After that, though, the paint has something to hold on to, and the end result is a great deal of control over lines and edges and gradations.

Next, I took care of something that's been bothering me for the last couple of days: the shadow color on the clementines in Late Afternoon Still Life. While I loved the actual idea of blue-green shadows, they weren't working in the painting. They were too jarring, too unexpected, too unbelievable. Now they look good.

Moved on to something that hadn't been touched for months--- Le Monde des femmes. This is one of those paintings that I feel overwhelmed by, because of the amount of detail. But instead of letting it intimidate me today, I decided to work only on the area in the lower left. It worked! Things that were unclear started to shape up, and I felt more confident. The fluffy foreground skirt is really fun to paint, too. I want this painting to be an explosion of color, and to be more painterly than my usual stuff.

Then, back to He Searched and also one of the other little Alexandria scenes.Finished up around 6:30.


Workhouse and Slumdog

February 7, 2009

Took most of the day off yesterday. Went to see the Lorton Workhouse, and explored nearly every building. There was a great deal of interesting art to look at, and some of it by folks I know, so that was fun. It was a little too much for me to take in at one fell swoop, but I did enjoy the visit.

In the evening, went to see Slumdog Millionaire. What a powerful movie. Felt completely drained afterwards, and had to choke back a crying jag all the way to the car. See it, if you haven't already. Also, this was the first time since the original Star Wars movie that I can remember the entire audience staying in their seats while the credits ran. People even clapped at the end--- a rare thing for this part of the country!

Worked on the left side of Time Piece today. There is so much detail lurking in the shadows, and if I just left the background blank and black, the painting wouldn't have the sense of dimensionality and truthfulness that it needs. I recognize odd things here and there: the furry trim on a hooded jacket; a sign on the wall; a highlight on the edge of a car roof. These are the things that put us into the environment, even if we aren't fully conscious of them.


Seeing Red

February 5, 2009

Having decided that the red woodwork was too strong a color for Time Piece, I mixed a darker color and repainted it. It's probably hard to tell from the photo. My camera loves red, and likes to create the most saturated version of it when it encounters it. But I'm relieved to have that large area done, because it's been intimidating for quite some time. Next, I need to put details into it so it looks a little scuffed-up and not so freshly painted.

Got back to Street Life today. Have been putting it off for a long time because I frankly feel overwhelmed by the detail... This is ridiculous when I consider how much detail goes into Heartland, Time Piece, or Conversation... you'd think a little 11" x 16" painting wouldn't be so scary... Anyway, I decided to just concentrate on the two figures standing on the corner waiting for the light to change, and that was a good idea. They look more realistic to me now, and I'm starting to believe in the reality of the painting.

Also worked here and there on He Searched, mostly on the left side, but I painted a small, subtle shadow down on the corner of the bar/table that supports the jar and water pitcher (hard to see in the photo---hopefully it'll be darker when it dries down). It makes such a difference to have that little shadow in place. It breaks up what was otherwise a very boring, flat plane, right in the middle of the painting.



Recent Work

February 4, 2009

He Searched is coming along rapidly, much faster than any painting I've ever done. Considering its size (40"h x 50"w) that is really something. I repainted both the shirt and the head today, taking out the purple-y color from the shirt and making it more of a blue-green. I think the head might be done. I changed the skin tones to better match the room surroundings, which would, of course, have an effect on the color, and now there is a more unified look to it.

The color in Conversation has troubled me for quite a while, so today I glazed over the entire left side in an effort to tone it down a bit. It does look better, probably needs some highlights to be brought back, and the photo I took of it this afternoon has a lot of glare on the wet spots, so we'll see how it looks once it dries down.

Jay on Read is finally looking like it has some shadows under the overhangs on the building, and I put in the flower stand on the left side. Also worked on the tree and the foreground. And Coffee After Work is progressing. It doesn't have that excessively lonely, lost look that the previous version had. Things are in proportion to each other, which is as it should be. At least in this painting.



Server Woes

February 4, 2009

Ah, technology; the bane of us all. Sorry about any difficulty accessing the site recently, and the lack of updates, but the server was down. I did work on two paintings in the interim and have a lot of painting to attend to today. More later.


Coffee and Conversation

January 30, 2009

Worked on the new version of Coffee After Work yesterday. In the old version, the figure was too small and too far back int he space. It looks better now. I want to really get into the way the spotlight washes the wall behind the figure, and play with the suggestion of things going on outside the coffee shop on the right.

Also did a bit of work on the base of the columns/pillars in Conversation and tried out a color that did not work in the reflected area at left. Bah.


Facing the Facts

January 26, 2009

I hate it when a painting doesn't work out. Such was the case with The Blind Date, which I loved, but the linen canvas I was using as a support (I was trying a new manufacturer) buckled under the paint. I'll try it again on my usual manufacturer's tried-and-true linen.

This past weekend I realized that Coffee After Work was hopeless, so I took it off its stretchers and will repaint it. I changed the size of the format to a standard 16" x 20," and have already stretched new canvas over the frame. Will gesso it and then will be good to go. There were just too many places where I'd changed things and repainted, and I lost my enthusiasm for it. Having developed my grid system over the last couple of years to a point where I feel pretty secure with it, I'm confident that I won't repeat the same mistakes with placement and perspective. It's a good scene, and worth painting.

A storm approaches from the west, necessitating a flurry of domestic activity in case the power goes out. I picked up some extra seed for the birdies, and have watered the plants and done the wash. Worked on He Searched late in the day, and probably made the shirt too blue. Once the sun starts to sink in the sky, it's impossible to gauge color accurately, so we'll see what it looks like in the morning.


January 24, 2009

Spent yesterday at the gallery, but had remembered to bring my paints with me, so I sat in the front window and worked on two of the tiny Old Town Alexandria paintings, which seemed right and proper, after all. Some passers-by stopped to watch for a bit, then moved on up the street. I did feel virtuous for having gotten some work done, and I did not make a mess of the gallery.

One couple stopped in to see the show, and we had some wonderful conversation about painting. They were very complimentary about my work, and what artist doesn't need to hear a few words of praise every now and then?

Got a little bit done today; just a few strokes here and there on Jay on Read and Late Afternoon Still Life, which I haven't touched in months. BUT! I did finish Paradise!!! My New Year's resolutions include finishing everything that's currently on the Works in Progress page. I also need to give some serious thought to the big genre painting series. Seems like it needs to take a step in a slightly different direction.


A Break of Sorts

January 21, 2009 2pm

For the past six weeks (at least) I've been concentrating on getting the Big Three into a respectable enough place that I could include them in a grant proposal. I got the proposal done today and just got back from dropping it off. Also spent the last weekend out of town, and half of yesterday watching the Inauguration and partying. So now I'm looking forward to getting back to work on not only the Big Three, which I do want to finish as soon as possible, but also to some of the other fun stuff like Jay on Read. There's bright sunlight today, great for painting.


Vermeer and Ralph Mayer

January 14, 2009

I only worked on Time Piece today, but it was an all-day affair. The head on the elderly man looks better, less cartoony. I think there should be a sense of a light source washing down on him from upper left, so he casts a shadow to the right on the picture plane. The shadow near his feet right now is too green.

Stayed up late last night reading the exhibition book put out by the National Gallery of Art in 1995 in conjunction with the Vermeer exhibition. Some of the photos show details of the work, and it's interesting to confirm what I thought about the way he treats edges... some of them are brushed over to soften them and integrate them into the background. I'm going to consciously do more of this. But what gorgeous paintings... Just looking at them calms me down and gives me a sense of peace and well-being. My favorites are: A Girl Asleep, Girl in the Red Hat, Woman in  Blue Reading a Letter, and Young Woman with a Watering Pitcher.

Today I picked up Ralph Mayer's The Artist's Handbook (otherwise known to art students as The Bible).This is the kind of book we had to buy in art school and then never got around to reading. I loaned my original copy to a friend who then never returned it; this is actually my third copy. I'm hoping to learn more about paint and technique now that I actually have time to read!

Magical Reality

January 13, 2009

Maybe this is how I should characterize my work when someone asks what style I work in... Magical Reality. Reality that has a sense of mystery to it, whether it's because of the image content or the way it's painted. I'm moving more towards a softer edge on things lately, and some hazier areas for atmosphere.

That reminds me; there is a style called Magical Realism; I should look that up in Wikipedia.

Anyway, I've been working my tail off all day on The Big Three: Conversation, Time Piece, and He Searched. I've attacked some areas that were frustrating me, like the back wall in Time Piece, and made a lot of adjustments and changes everywhere. The table in Conversation had to be redrawn. The seated group of women in He Searched needed attention. And I lightened the color of the reflected wall in Conversation to match what I saw in the extra reference photos. It brightens up the whole painting, but the color still isn't right. But I'm finally getting a sense of the shiny reflective off-white tile in Time Piece. The wall's far back in the space, and in shadow, but it should still read as a darkened white.


January 12, 2009

I found some other shots of the St. Francis lobby (the setting for Conversation) and have been able to study the furniture and interior space. It helps me understand what exactly I'm painting---for example, the leather on the almost black chairs is pretty pooched in spots, much more loosely attached to the frames than I had thought. I repainted the foremost chair, making it less of a black silhouette and giving it more of a deep bluish-grey color, as well as a ripply appearance that even fools me--- I keep thinking the canvas is loose on the stretchers.

The photo of the painting is picking up a lot of reflected light from the window in the space I'm working in, so it looks lighter than it really is. But the other photos of the lobby help me see that the columns or pillars have a marbly appearance, and that the back wall reflected in the mirrors on the extreme left, is a much lighter color. Conversation is going to take some time to finish. There's a lot to it, and I've invested too much energy in it already to take a slap-dash approach to completing it. I'd rather go inch by inch and make sure everything in this little universe is coherent.


Pillars vs. Palms

January 10, 2009

Right now, nasty and tedious as they are to paint, the pillars in Conversation are less daunting than the palms in He Searched. Only had abour 45 minutes to work this morning, but I made some progress on the pillars. The light is so tricky, as there are multiple light sources.


Head, Instead

January 9, 2009

I chickened out on working on the palm fronds. Am going to have to study what's going on with them in the reference photo before I start doing much more brushwork. A lot of them are hidden in the shadows, and I really need to understand what direction they're going in, which fronds belong to which stem, etc.

Worked instead on the old man's face in Time Piece.

Shirt Tale

January 9, 2009

I'm concerned about the shirt in He Searched. It needs to be integrated into the painting, and right now it kind of stands out. Then again, I was worried that the big shadow on the back wall was too blue, and now it seems just right. The shirt's now too wet for me  to continue to work into it, so I'll let it dry for a couple of days and then see what I think. Meanwhile, will concentrate on the palm fronds.


Second Thursday

January 8, 2009

Yesterday had several rough spots, so today I am indulging my inner color junkie by working mainly on the large pot and palm fronds in He Searched. I had thought it would be both easy and pleasurable to paint in the shadows of the palms on the pot; turns out I was wrong. Even a zen-like, quick brushstroke can go amiss. After careful consideration, I realized that the shadows not only define the curvature of the pot, but also document the shapes of the fronds that are largely unseen in the shadowy area above. So after two cups of coffee, I had to think in advance and then try to focus on a brush stroke that should be loose and free.

The central vertical frond coming out of the top of the pot is a violent green, but it matches exactly the color in the reference photo and perks things up. I'll tone it down a bit with a shadow on one side but I like its spunky individualism.

It's already the second Thursday of the month/year. If you are art aficionado, come on down to Gallery West. We'll be open until 9 tonight.

Hanging the Show

January 6, 2009

We hung the 4 X 4 show at the gallery today as well as the general membership monthly show, and I am excited. The monthly show, downstairs, is handsome, and darkly interesting. There are some very striking pieces in it and it's beautifully balanced. The new members' stuff (of which I am one) is upstairs. I took a snapshot of my wall but this was before Headless was added to the display.

Reception: this Saturday, from 5 - 8pm at Gallery West in Old Town Alexandria, 1213 King Street. Fabulous photographs, intriguing drawings, and exquisite landscapes are also a part of the 4 X 4 show.


January 4, 2009 11am

Down to the last details on the two pieces I've been repainting for the show. At right is the finished (I think) head from Diesel. Lots of work to do today on numerous paintings, but I feel energized.


January 3, 2009

Diesel looks much better. I've changed nearly everything that I didn't like about it, and have only got some work on the face and the shadow on the right side of the pool table to finish. It should be dry by Tuesday morning.

Worked on the last hanging light on Food for Thought; just have to add two stripes of color on the right side woodwork. And maybe adjust the eye on the left side of the face (viewer's left).

Have also been working on Time Piece. Committed the mortal sin of using paint straight from the tube (Cadmium Red, Medium, no less) in an attempt to color correct the bar at the top of the painting. Now I'm sorry! Using a Perm Blue to darken it, as I did on the inner wall (mid-right) seemed to dull the finish, and I thought a Winsor Blue, because of its tendency towards green, would just muddy up the color. Tried some Cobalt Violet, but while it creates a really interesting red, the result is too intense. Will have to figure out another combination.

Time to Stop

January 2, 2009 5:20pm

I actually put in six and a half hours of painting today. Am dead tired and my feet hurt. Went back to Postcards 6 after uploading a photo of it to the works in progress page and added a lot more of the orange glow. Will upload a new photo tomorrow. It only needs one or two more sessions and it'll be done.

Painted in the woman coming through the turnstile in Time Piece. Close-up at right.

Lights and Action

January 2, 2009 1:45pm

Worked on the glowing orbs in Food for Thought, still have one more to do. Fixed (I think) the mouth line. It's insanity to try to get a likeness on a head area as small as the one I'm faced with. Am trying nonetheless. All that's left on it now is the woodwork detail flanking both sides of the painting.

On to He Searched: managed to cover a lot of the flat planes, like the ceiling, the back wall, the extended table that supports the jar, and the arched doorway on the left side of the painting. Stroked the paint on ever so carefully in an attempt to avoid the sueding issue. Ready for a break, but there's too much to do. As usual, deadlines threaten. Back to work.


A New Start

January 1, 2009

I'm excited and hopeful about the new year, preferring to see that the glass is half full. There are plenty of opportunities out in the art world, and I plan to work very hard.

Did some good work today on Diesel and Food for Thought. The pool cue rack on the right side of Diesel looks great, and really adds to the composition. It's not done yet, still needs a little refinement and cast shadows behind it on the wall, but it's going well. I also worked on the fuel tank, the pool table, the hanging lights, some of the signage, and one of the pictures on the wall.

Food for Thought now has a dark grey strip just below the edge of the bar that gives it a lot more dimension and interest. Still have to soften the haze around the light fixtures, but that will be a pleasure. Both of these paintings have a real quiet dignity about them.

Also worked on the midsection of Time Piece today. It's shaping up, slowly but surely.


Power Outages

December 31, 2008

This has been the last painting day of a very productive year, and in retrospect, I'm very happy with the way things have gone.

That said, the day was interrupted by four or five wind-related power outages which were very annoying and distracting. Clouds sped by in the sky, and we even had a brief snow flurry. These and other distractions made it hard to concentrate on the &*%$ pillars in Conversation, which are extremely tricky in terms of color, value, and tone. Had to do some re-drawing in a ouple of places, but all in all, I made some good progress.

Also picked back up on Time Piece, and while I was only able to do a minimal amount of work on the right side of the painting, the elderly man's face is improving. The nooks and crannies of age create some subtle challenges, and it'll probably take a couple more sessions to resolve him satisfactorily. At least he doesn't look so much like a cartoon anymore.

So, I've put the brushes down and am looking forward to the New Year! Wish you all the best!


Attacking the Pillars

December 30, 2008 5pm

It's harrowing to try to pick up on a painting that needs fine tuning and that one hasn't worked on in a while. Today I went back to Conversation, taking a deep breath and throwing everything I've got into getting those pillars to work. So far, so good. There will be some color adjustments here and there, but at least I figured out which plane was getting the light and which was more of an old rose color.

The other thing that was scaring the socks off me all this time was the seated female figure, but FINALLY it looks like her face and hair are believable.

Also: repainted the pool table in Diesel. The spots of light on the table look much better.


It takes so little to make me happy. This morning, it was the realization that the stripes I was painting on the banquette (in He Searched) would reinforce the shadow patterns of the palm fronds on the jar. I had, actually, a physical response to it, and did a little spontaneous dance. Does this happen to other artists?

I'm worried about the shirt. Does it look like it coexists in the same universe as the rest of the objects in this setting? I think it needs more yellow.


Back in the Saddle

December 30, 2008 9:30am

Spent all of yesterday gallery sitting; got up early today and am already working. Am looking at four uninterrupted days of painting time, hooray! I'm placing a thumbnail here of the seated group of figures on the right side of He Searched, will add more late this afternoon. The sun is shining and the day is promising.


December 28, 2008

It's so dark today you'd think there was a total eclipse of the sun. It's not exactly conducive to painting, but I've been working on the back wall of Food for Thought.  At first, it seemed like a good idea to just darken the shadow cast by the figure, but then I repainted the negative space around one of the hanging lights, reshaping it to something more conical... and I ended up re-doing the whole back wall. I do like the lights much better now, and the darker shadow makes the figure more important. There's a lot of modulation in the wall. Will see if the whole thing dries down to a nice, consistent finish when the sun comes back tomorrow.




December 26, 2008

Spent most of the day refining Food for Thought and Diesel. I keep seeing minor details that would, if painted correctly, make the paintings so much better. Attending to them is paying off; both now have that eerie sort of stillness that I was aiming for in the first place but wasn't able to achieve— that sense of utter tranquility, of time suspended. Having the time to really look at the reference material and figure out what colors or values need to be adjusted, or whether a line should be painted more clearly makes a difference.

I'm putting a second set of pool cues in Diesel. It's not easy to paint straight vertical lines, but somehow it's working. The clock still doesn't look round to me— I'll make some sort of template or maybe dig one up from my old graphic design days. The painting on the right side looks catawampus, too; will have to get the t-square out and repaint the frame lines. Am taking G.S.'s advice and putting circles of light under the lamps on the pool table, and darkening the areas around them.

I think I've got the face in Food for Thought done, will look at it again tomorrow in stronger light. It's much better now. Both paintings should be ready in time for the show in January.



December 20, 2008

There's a great deal of satisfaction in getting it right, even when "it" is just a small part of a painting. In this case, I'm working on the wall-mounted rack of pool cues in Diesel. The drawing's still a bit off, but I've got the color and shadows correct. I hope I can get all of the changes made before it's time to hang the January show.

Food for Thought is coming along well. I figured out how to get the glow and soft edges around the hanging lights, and was glad to realize it didn't involve repainting the entire back wall. The wall's looking good, anyway, so I'm happy.

Did some more work on He Searched, particularly the figure. Still not sure the shadow tones on the face are dark enough.



December 18, 2008

I'm really worried about finding enough time over the next three weeks to finish the repainting on Food for Thought and Diesel, with the way the calendar's shaping up. It's just crazy this time of year. I found myself sitting at the easel at 1 am this morning when I couldn't sleep. Worked on four paintings before I dragged myself off to bed. Fortunately, it all went very well... but I'll have to get very creative about finding more working time.


Picking up on Conversation

December 15, 2008

I'd been working hard on Conversation in October, so hard, in fact (in preparation for a show), that I flamed out on it and haven't been able to even look at it until today. Didn't know where to start, finally decided to try once again to capture the female figure opening her cell phone. It went pretty well; though the skin tone still isn't what I want, the whole character of the painting changed for me. Maybe that's what it needed all along. Now I can buckle down to the tedious part of painting the pillars and adjusting the background so it's less orange-y and more like warm wood.

Did some more work on He Searched, too--- it's going awfully well, and very fast.

There are two paintings that I did earlier this year that I've just been really unhappy with: Food for Thought and Diesel. I took them out of their frames and am  going to re-work them. I repainted the two hanging fixtures in Diesel today, as well as the gasoline pump. They look SO much better. There are a lot of subtle changes in the lighting on the back wall that are going to be nasty to work on--- painting that type of thing is an all-day affair. I'll have to mix up a lot of paint in varying values, and paint wet into wet, feathering the edges until you can't tell that there was a brush involved.

Food for Thought needs the same kind of treatment on the back wall— more subtlety, especially around the light globes. I want them to absolutely glow, adding a little mystery to the scene. And I think I can do a better job on the face.


Deadlines and Distractions

December 13, 2008

Working at the gallery all day today. We've had a couple of sales!

In the meantime, new deadlines have appeared, making it necessary to finish at least two of the three big paintings I'm currently working on. I'm also running out of business cards and need to have new ones made, plus I wonder if the website design isn't due for an overhaul.

Since A.B. suggested I eliminate some of the contrast on the old man's face in Time Piece, I did, but he still looks cartoony to me. He's got to be done correctly for this painting to work, but I'm at a loss as to what to do.

I did a lot of work on the foreground/sidewalk yesterday with what little painting time I had left after a trip to DC galleries with S.M. We talked with a couple of gallery owners who were quite interesting, and it was instructive to see what's being shown and to hear about what's going on in the art world right now. Times are tough, but S. and I are undaunted, and she thinks we need to put our heads together and develop a business plan. The shows we saw were mainly realist oriented, and the prices were a revelation to me. I probably need to at least double the price on everything I have.

Tomorrow: no outside obligations AT ALL. Pure painting time. I'm looking forward to it.



December 11, 2008

So many things went through my head today while working on Time Piece. The back wall has to be finished before I can paint the reflections on the front window glass, so there was a lot of analysis and comparison to be done. Several areas had to go much darker. I thought about an article I'm reading in the November 16th edition of the New York Times Magazine about the guy who wrote "The Gift," and how what I was doing was basically crafting a gift for the viewer. If you wonder why it takes me so long to finish a painting, it's because I'm trying to get it right: just slapping paint on isn't my style, and it feels shoddy to me. This is the problem I have with art that looks like it was hastily done, without any real evidence of thought---because that's what art is: evidence of cognition.

Anyway, I compared areas to each other and checked the reference photo a lot, and feathered and blended until things worked together. I can already tell that the "o" in "No entry" is going to have to be resized. It does take time, but it's satisfying when it's done right.

Yesterday, M.P. said to me on the phone, "Do you realize how lucky you are?" She was referring to my having escaped from the world of 9-5, and I told her that I did. I just want to spend my days making art that speaks to the common person, engages the viewer, and represents our time. Oh, and that's flawlessly executed. I have a long way to go.

This afternoon I worked on He Searched. It looks like it's going quickly because it's still in the underpainting stages. Whisking on a wash of color doesn't take long---after that comes the modification. I'm worried about the skin tones on the figure, and challenged by the shirt. It should be white, to draw attention to the figure---in the reference photo it's dark blue, so I'm having to wing it.


I Know I'm Bad

December 9, 2008

I know, I know--- there's plenty of stuff lying around in the studio that I started ages ago and really should finsh, but sometimes I just get so excited by an image that I just can't help myself and have to start a new painting. I'm once again in love.

Such is the case with the pic at right---it's called, "He Searched the Room for Her Auburn Hair." I fell in love with the restaurant interior, and especially with the play of shadows over the large urn in the center of the piece. The figure has been added--- it wasn't there in the original photo.

Reflecting on A. B.'s Advice

December 8, 2008

While A. was here, he patiently made out a long list of galleries to which he thought I should send letters of inquiry, saying, "Sue, I think you need an urban gallery." That meshes with what I've thought, too, for a long time... or at least since I started getting into these large paintings with complex imagery. But it's good to hear it from someone whose opinion I trust, and also to hear that he has that much faith in my work. He said, "I guarantee if you apply to these places you'll hear from at least one of them." Great! But--- Sherry French? Arcadia? Addison in Boca Raton? Me?

Well--- I guess it's time to take the big leap. I'd like to wait until I finish Time Piece and Conversation, but hey; time's moving on...

Worked on Time Piece today. Had a bunch of nasty errands to run, and some other responsibilities to attend to, so that cut into the painting time again. I did a lot of work up at the top of the painting, and it hardly shows at all in the photo on the WIP pages... You should see a change in the ochre banner, though; it has a few more recognizable figures on it. It's slow going, but it's pulling itself together.



The Need for Magic

December 6, 2008

I think that art raises our awareness of the special, the out-of-the-ordinary experience in day-to-day life. So with that thought in mind, I became more and more frustrated with the work I was doing on Time Piece yesterday.

The back wall in the painting is made of tile, probably an off-white in reality, reflecting all sorts of color from the neon lights across the street that shine through the glass window in front of it. It's in fairly deep space in the picture, so it has to be dark, and that's what I was going for yesterday. I spent a lot of time mixing the right murky green that I see in the reference photo, but in applying it had to cover up some of the turquoise, olive green, and orange that was already there. This effectively killed the magic of the reflected color, so I tried painting the murk as a glaze instead of the opaque mix I was using. But by nightfall the light in the workspace had dimmed considerably, adding to the sense that I'd gone too dark, and I had to just put the brushes down and walk away from it.

The feeling of failure was compounded by visiting a top-notch show of illustration the night before. A.B. was in town, and he stayed with us Thursday night after we went to Rockville to look at the exhibition. The first thing that caught my eye as I looked around was a gorgeous long format illustration of zebras running in a herd from visual right to left. After that, there was more knock-your-eye-out stuff. Each illustrator's style was unique and showed years of solid development, with pictorial matter ranging from chickens to Pegasus to an African statesman. A concurrent show featured artists' books, and was just as fabulous.

In the past, when I was working full-time away from home, such shows used to make me feel frustrated because I had so little time to paint and create my own stuff. But I've had the great advantage of having the time the last couple of years, so now it's a matter of quality. How do I measure up? My standards are pretty high, and I'm (like most artists) very critical of my own stuff. So with the darkness descending yesterday, I felt less and less adequate, and started wondering whether I will ever get to be as good as I'd like.

This morning, there's enough light in the workspace, even though it's an overcast day, for me to see that the color on the back wall is working very well in conjunction with everything around it, and the other areas I painted yesterday (the lighter tiles that seem to be suspended above the back wall, the roof of the limo) are also in harmony. It's really important to get the all the areas of the painting to work together, like a symphony orchestra, and I can see that Time Piece is headed in that direction. As far as the magic of the tiled wall goes, I can always add some colors back in with more glazes, and that'll (hopefully) be even more exciting, visually.


Easing Back Into It

December 2, 2008

It's funny how your brain works. You'd think that after spending a week or so away from painting, one would have to play catch up as far as technique (drawing, as well as the application of paint on the canvas or board) is concerned. But I've almost always found it to be the opposite: I actually improve with time away.

Have been on an extended stay out of town, and saw some new places, which will undoubtedly work their way into the Postcards series... But despite the fact that I had to spend a good portion of the day preparing for a major committment, I did get into the studio and the work went unusually well. Paradise has been presenting some problems for me lately, particularly in the area of the foreground. I couldn't figure out why it looked mushy and unresolved, and didn't know what to do about it. Today the painting was almost automatic, and effortless. There's even---get this--- a raised, painterly texture! When I went to art school, my parents had no money for me to experiment with art supplies, so I developed a really spare, frugal technique, and have always had trouble letting go with the brush. But today...

Also worked on Postcard 6, Connecticut Coast. Again, the struggle that I've been having with choosing the right colors for that one had evaporated. I went straight to Winsor Blue, Cerulean, Burnt Sienna and Cadiums Orange and Red (deep). And the brushwork fit the scene. Must go on vacation more often.


Making Adjustments

November 21, 2008

Spent all of my painting time today on Time Piece, and found there were a number of places that needed some adjustment. Straight lines, as I've mentioned before, are not my favorite thing to paint, but it's so important to get them right. It's a question of believability with a painting style like mine, which counts on atmosphere and spatial depth to produce a sense of reality in the eye of the viewer. So I worked on measuring, and painted v-e-r-y slowly.

Also worked on the face of the elderly man. I'm still not sure what he'll be holding in his hand. A newspaper seems to be the general consensus, but I think that's too predictable.


November 20, 2008

Not painting = not happy.

Had a limited amount of time to work today, and all I could get to was the back wall of the subway station in Time Piece. It needed to have more of a sense of unity, and I glazed and smudged it with what we used to call Subway Green. Some of the coral shows through, which is good. It still needs a little yellow highlighting here and there, but it's closer to the way I wanted it to be.


Another Day

November 18, 2008

Worked on three paintings today, and I might get a chance to work on a fourth tonight. Paradise has turned a corner— I'd thought for a while that it was not going to work, and things got especially confusing after I noticed that the clouds were too blue and changed them to a grey that didn't look convincing, either. I managed to find a happy medium and give the clouds a bit more form and structure, and now it looks pretty much the way I envisioned it.

The scene is of an old house out in Berryville that I think has since been demolished. I made an effort to get the photo...the rich September colors worked together like a symphony orchestra. Sunlight and shadow from the clouds played over the fields. Everything about the scene made me want to stay there forever. I just hope I can pull it off. The scene at right is a close-up of the house, which is where most of today's work was concentrated.  It still needs more detail, particularly on the windows and the front porch, but you get the idea.

I did return to one of the oldies, Fashion Statement. Worked on one of the mannequins, but she doesn't look sufficiently haughty.


A Full Day's Work

November 11, 2008 6:30pm

I had a chance to spend the whole day working, and it felt really good. One thing I've realized: No Painting = Not Happy. Unfortunately, the next two days are going to be broken up with other responsibilities.

Started a new Postcard this morning. I know I should be finishing a few things that have been hanging around the studio for a while, but on the trip back from New England I took some photos of the coast and was itching to do at least one painting. The one I started today features lots of fall rusts and browns against a peachy-pale blue sky and water setting. There are bluish trees way off on the horizon, so it plays to my favorite complementary color combination (orange/blue) in a big way.

I worked on Timepiece most of this afternoon, only stopping a little while ago. The natural light's fading fast, so I took a photo of it for the Works in Progress page around 3:30. It's hard to accurately assess the color late in the day, but I pushed on anyhow; tomorrow, in the strong light, I'll probably recoil in horror at some of the choices. But it felt so good to be able to take my time to decide where to blend, where to paint a hard line, where to soften an edge to make a transition believable. I love the challenge of trying to represent something so that it's both realistic and a little magical at the same time. The central figure in Timepiece needs to have an "Is it there or is it an illusion?" type of quality about it, and that means slightly smoky edges and a sense of transparency in places.

Family Matters

November 2, 2008

There have been several scenarios lately involving family members, and painting time has been accordingly reduced. I've done just a bit of work here and there whenever I can catch a bit of time. This will probably continue over the next week, but painting can wait a bit. I did manage to finish the first set of five Postcards. They're going in to the gallery tomorrow, but you can check them out on the Landscapes page.


Where I Am This Morning

October 14, 2008

Visited the eye doctor yesterday for a long overdue eye exam; was happy to hear that my eyes are "very healthy." (Sigh of relief)

Started in early on Time Piece, will continue to work on it through the day. Am adjusting the colors on the side walls on the right side of the painting. Some are a delicious blend of mossy green and pink tomato; other places have posters or bulletin boards that are a simple grey. I want to get the bars on the turnstile in, too---they're very dramatic and add a contrast to the walls.

Completed another Postcard yesterday! I will have enough for the Small Works show at the gallery next month.

In Love

October 13, 2008

The Van Dyke Brown, Deep---fabulous! It mixes with Perm Blue to create a rich darkest dark, it works on its own straight out of the tube, and it doesn't have a reddish cast. I also used it to neutralize and darken a couple of colors I mixed for the tile wall in the background. Perfect! I'm in love!



October 12, 2008

Went to see the show by Dennis Crayon yesterday at Gallery West. If you're a fan of realism, you should go; the work's beautiful. Also had a chance to take photos of Old Town and add to my collection of reference shots for the tiny little street scenes I'm doing.

Afterward, went to Pearl Paint for supplies. Picked up some Van Dyke Brown, Deep, from the Sennelier line and am hopeful it'll provide the dark, rich brown I need for shadowy areas. The Raw Umber and Burnt Umber hues I've used forever tend to be too warm, and I always end up mixing them with one or another blue. Maybe this'll be better. At $9.13 a tube---which is about what I usually spend for the big tube of white---I hope so!

They did have the 17" and 40" stretchers in stock, too, the ones I need for the train platform painting. Woo-hoo!

More brilliant sun today, and pleasant temperatures.

Up and Running

October 11, 2008

Woke up and had enough coffee to clear my head; then went straight to work. Feel very creative today, maybe it's the sunshine. Put in three hours of work on Time Piece, and had some thoughts about how my painting technique relates to the process of discovery. More on this later when I get a chance to write. Planning the rest of the day to include a stop at one of the area art supply stores for those 18s and 40s.


New Ideas

October 9, 2008

I know I shouldn't start new work until I finish the old; the problem is that oil paint takes a while to dry, and I get so excited about some ideas that I just can't wait to see them realized.

There are two new paintings in the works: one is based on a scene in a restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The reference photo shows a warm interior with gorgeous light washing over a large urn, cast shadows from a frondy plant, people conversing, and a single standing figure looking about pensively. The second is a grab shot I took from a train a few months ago. It shows a crowded train platform with turnstiles in the foreground. The people are in all sorts of poses, and it features a young girl, about ten years old, right in the center. She appears to be looking across the tracks and platforms straight into the viewer's eyes.

So, today, I began applying the first layer of gesso on the linen stretched for the restaurant painting. The linen is finely woven, and without the kind of irregular slubs in the weave that I find so often in canvas. I'm optimistic about it, and it won't be as complicated as, say, Flowers of the Valley or Conversation. Have to track down stretchers for the second painting, which will be around 17" x 40".

Didn't get as far on Time Piece today as I would have liked, but made some progress on the left side, which had been looking unfinished. The painting looks dark, but there'll be some light areas in the middle, and outside the station there will be some soft, dusky, bluish evening light.

Slip 'n' Slide

October 9, 2008

It's always a thrill to start a new painting on a piece of hardboard panel. It's like being on the kind of wild amusement park ride where you have no control over the situation. Unlike gessoed canvas, panels have a slippery, uniform surface that makes for an initial paint application that's like a smeary finger painting. It always scares the bejeebers out of me when I start one of these, and I freak out thinking I've lost whatever competence I might have had. Then after avoiding the piece for a few days, I get back to it and find the second layer goes on with real control. The paint has something to hold on to. It just gets better with every application.

The beauty of panels is that amount of control that you get as you build up the paint. There's no comparison with canvas. You can get precise detail. If you want to create an impressionistic, brushy look, you can do that too.


Early to Work

October 8, 2008

Woke up early from a disturbing dream, and started painting before I even washed or got dressed. I'd found a very old (but viable) tube of Cadmium Red Medium in my paint supplies yesterday, and it made me happy---it's just what I needed for the red area outside the subway station in Time Piece. Mixed it with a little Permanent Blue and it creates just the atmosphere that'll make this painting. It suggests a time of day when the light is failing, and evening's coming on. Can't wait to play those red panels off against the soft bluish dusk light falling on the sidewalk.

Talked with D. last night, and he thought it would be less distracting if the old man's coat was all the same color. I had considered a dark fur type of collar, but wasn't sure if it was too much information. I'm trying the all-of-the-same approach today, will see.

Got my paintings back yesterday from the show they'd been in since July, and it was like greeting old friends. They're stacked around the house right now, waiting for me to figure out what will go where.


October 5, 2008

It's peculiar---even with all the instability going on in the financial sector, I feel incredibly optimistic about my life, and especially painting...Woke up this morning and automatically set up for working on Conversation, which I'd burned out on a week or two ago. The session went awfully well. It's hard to describe the pleasure I get from knowing that the stroke of paint I'm putting on the canvas is going to describe the way a form, like the edge of a sofa, turns in space---creates three dimensionality---I feel like my teachers taught us well, and years of practice are coming to fruition.

After a few hours of painting I met R. in Reston, had a very pleasant hour in the sun outside Starbucks, sipping coffee and chatting about art and politics. Could Tina Fey's impression of Sarah Palin be described as anything less than dead on? I can't tell them apart!

Losing the Light

September 30, 2008

Went out to run some errands and spend a pleasant hour or so with two good people, both artists; when I got back I couldn't wait to work on Time Piece. We are losing a few minutes of light every day, though, so I must keep this in mind when I make plans. Once the sun dips to a certain point in the sky, it's harder for me to judge color and value. Maybe I should rig up some sort of elaborate light system.



September 29, 2008

After an evening spent in good company, I got a decent night's sleep and was raring to go on Time Piece this morning. Have blocked in the features of the elderly man's face, and done a bit on the woman coming through the turnstile behind him. Am excited about the prospects of this moody, existential painting.


September 28, 2008

I'm so impatient with the Postcards--- because they're only 9" x 12", I keep thinking they should be finished quickly. But then I look at one or another of them and realize there's a place where I need to make an edge darker to separate it from another area, or the ripples in the water should have less of a curve to them, or a transition isn't visible enough; stuff like that. Then I realize the painting's not going to be finished after the next sitting.

Time Piece is making me happy, though. As with Conversation, it has some flat areas that will be magical when I add a little more gradation to them. I love the mysterious quality of the image. There's the stretch limo, the hooded figure---male or female? ---the elderly man coming out the exit, and there will be blurred figures in motion here and there. Usually I can't paint on weekends; there's too much going on, other people are around, or I get distracted if I have to go out somewhere in the afternoon or evening. But yesterday and today I've been able to settle down and focus. The little Old Town Alexandria series is coming along nicely, too. There are three of them now.


Doing the Happy Dance

September 26, 2008

I got a lot of work done today (see the Works in Progress page) and am feeling really good about it. Two of the Postcards are close to being completed, and a third is getting there. I got back to Time Piece, and made some progress on that. And the tiny Old Town paintings, while presenting a bit of a challenge (the surface soaks up paint like a sponge) are moving forward very nicely as well. I may take more of an Impressionist approach with those. Anyway, I feel like I put in a good day's work.


Small Works

September 25, 2008

Not much time to write, but the 5 x 7 inch gessoed boards I ordered just a couple of days ago arrived today, and they are sweet! Decided to do a bunch of street scenes of Old Town Alexandria and started two of them this afternoon. Will upload to the Works in Progress page tomorrow or the next day; meanwhile, see right---

Recharging the Batteries

September 23, 2008

Didn't realize how much I needed a break from painting. I was getting positively antagonistic towards Conversation, and it has the potential to be a really good piece. It just needs a loving hand, careful strokes, attention to detail, but that's all over a 40 by 50 inch span... Anyway, I couldn't even think about painting until this afternoon, and then I worked on Jay on Read and three of the Postcards in quick succession. It feels good to get back to landscapes.

But---back to the title of this entry---over the weekend I went out to the country. This time of year the Virginia countryside is just spectacular...everything's gold and green and smoky blue. The air is fresh and clear, and the light softens the landscape. You remember to breathe. The destination was Piedmont Vineyard, and it was a delightful experience. The wine was tasty, the company couldn't be beat, and the surroundings were gorgeous. The image at right is the view from the patio, just outside the tasting room. I took a bunch of photos---there is a lily pond, too. Creative batteries are now in good working order.


Getting Real

September 21, 2008

Sometimes you just have to face reality, and for me that means coming to terms with the fact that Conversation isn't going to be finished in time to make the much-anticipated reception at the Levine School of Music. I worked on some of the background detail and the table on the left side last week, but finally had to call it quits and throw down my brush. It's too hard to sustain interest in one painting day after day after day. I feel like I've got a choice between doing a lousy, quick job and doing it right. This painting needs subtle details and some atmosphere, and that ain't gonna happen by Monday.

I really need to get back to some work with soft blues and greens... Jay on Read or the Postcards series.



September 12 , 2008

Making progress on Conversation v-e-r-y slowly. It's hard to paint straight lines, plus I realized the perspective is way off on some of the bevels or frames in the angled mirrors. I paint for a little while, then have to step away from it. I really want to nail this painting, but feel constrained by the need to finish it quickly.

The seated male figure does look better and better. I had to adjust the skin color again, but it was the right thing to do.

Met with R. yesterday for coffee and conversation (no pun intended) and had a great time discussing art and trying to stay away from politics, which have the two of us completely flummoxed at this point. She is doing a painting of Obama. Can't wait to see!

Shaping Up

September 8 , 2008

Amazingly, we did not lose power in the storm--- in fact, it was rather enjoyable to take a day off and get a few things done around the house in a leisurely manner.

So---today, back to Conversation. Worked on the ceiling, which is an interesting shade of violet in the reference image, and which does a lot to counterbalance the rust/hunter green direction that the palette leans toward. Fixed a few mistakes here and there, and overall, it's shaping up. Managed (for the most part) to keep from smearing paint by remembering to work from left to right.


Approaching Storm

September 5 , 2008

This time of year we are almost always under a storm watch or warning, and today is no exception. I've spent the entire day cleaning, charging batteries and cell phones, washing stuff, filling containers with drinking water, vacuuming, doing everything that I won't be able to do when the power goes out. And it tends to go out here in a mere thunderstorm, let alone a tropical storm like Hanna. There's a light rain right now, so I guess the heavy weather is on its way. So, not a lot got done again today in terms of painting... I did sketch in some more of the guy in the chair. Check the WIP page to see where his feet are going.


A Little More Conversation, A Little Less Action, Please

September 4 , 2008

Have been pulled out of the studio the last two days for errands, other work duties, and socializing; back to work now. I had the usual problem of paint smearing on Conversation yesterday, anyway. Gave up on the idea of doing much work until the paint dries. Today I worked up the background behind the female figure where the bartender or waiter is. Also added some highlights around the framed photos reflected on the left side, but the paint application I did was dreadful, so I'll have to re-do that area. It should have a subtle grace to it. Instead it looks clunky and heavy-handed. Still---in the evening, when I catch a glimpse of the painting hanging on the wall, it has a serene look about it.

A huge bunch of small frames that I got on sale arrived at the door yesterday. I'll use some for the Postcards series, and will have to figure out what to do with the rest. Maybe that veggie series?



September 2 , 2008

Started working on Conversation at 10am; it's now almost 4pm, and my feet are killing me from standing on them all day--- the painting's too large for the easel, so I have it mounted on a wall. Taking a break to write this as I plan to get back to it in a little while. Pushed myself through some large, tedious parts today: the big chair on the right, some of the black foreground chairs, the reflections on the right and left side mirrors. Also did more work on the male figure's head, but I'm still not happy with the skin color on the forehead. Will this be done by the 15th?

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