Thursday, December 2, 2010

Combining Creation

I had intended to paint a picture of a diving helmet. I painted a rough version of it, but got bored of it.  I wasn't learning anything.  It was a little too complex for a study, and not very fulfilling as a painting. I borrowed it from a friend who is a diver. It was fun to play with though.  I put it on. it weighed a ton

At the end of a full day of painting, I looked at what I had done, and felt nothing toward it, so I scraped the entire canvas down, but there was so much black and yellow on the canvas, that it stained it green.  So I let it dry and used this as a base coat for a new painting. 

I am very interested in the way certain painters handle their paint and application.  I've been reading about the limited palette Sargent was known to use (yellow ochre, black, vermillion (cad. red in my case).  Ivory Black is very blue, and when it is placed near warm colors, the blue is even more apparent.

I opted for the Sargent portrait of Lady Agnew and Michelangelo's God from the Sistine Chapel - combined into one image. I liked the beauty of the Sargent face and the technical virtuosity of his strokes.  A beautiful face and I have painted it before. I can see how much more competent I have gotten since painting it the first time over a year ago. I wanted a profile to accompany the young girl, and opted for another favorite of mine. Michelangelo.  I originally was planning on the Delphic Sibyl - to have two pretty faces 300 years apart, but the strong profile of the old face seemed even more fitting.

This was purely an exercise in using a limited palette.  It forced me to work on my drawing too.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Painting Skulls

I've been reading a great book called Alla Prima by Richard Schmid which is having a tremendous effect on my work and working methods.  In essence, "alla prima" (which translates to "in the first") is a way of working directly with a subject in one setting.  I have been using this technique while doing my landscapes too.  It forces you to make decisions about everything from color to shape to drawing to edges.  It is not about just working quickly, but rather working smarter and more directly - to start with your first stroke being "perfect" and working out from there.  To put down a stroke that is the right color, value and shape and leave it alone.  It is a great book for any realist painter.

So I have been painting smaller canvases to improve my eye and to work with thicker paint.  Schmid says that most problems in painting are not color related, but drawing related.  I agree.  Sargent said a painter should feel as comfortable drawing with the brush as they do with a pencil.  Something to strive for.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Commission

Above is my first commissioned portrait.  This guy is great and I had a really wonderful time getting to know him.  We did this in my studio, so he got a chance to see some of my other work too. The majority of the portrait was done from life in a 5 hour period over the course of 3 evenings.  It was very fun and very stressful at the same time.  I am also in the process of experimenting with a "new" technique of painting with a loaded brush so there is much more paint on the surface.  As Sargent said "The thicker you paint, the more color flows." he also advocated using plenty of paint.  So I'm actively trying to do this. 

"Stressful" because I had someone sitting in front of me that I was painting - in my studio - where it is usually just me.  I definitely need to work on my set up/studio if I am going to do this again.  My light was not as good as it should have been...  I also was not as "free" as I usually am - meaning I was a bit self conscience at times.  I was completely discouraged after day 3, and actually stopped the session short because I was no longer making good decisions.  I thought the colors were off, the drawing/structure was off (a really bad sign) and I was making "mud".

I went back to the studio the next day determined to get it right, or at least move it in a better direction.   It was good to see it the next day with fresh eyes, because I realized that it actually had some good bones, and that the color was pretty good in the daylight.  I also had a chance to look and think about my decisions and what I needed to do to push it, without having the sitter present.  Bouncing the colors around the canvas, using the shadow colors in the skin in the background and vice-versa.  warm/cool. general paint mixing/handling etc...

I'm learning more and more with every piece.  I'm getting better handling now too.  I finally saw, mixed and laid down the green that I kept avoiding by adding too much blue.  it's the little things.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


In an effort to keep things fresh and possibly interesting to whomever is reading this blog, I give you this entry:

Today I got up extra early (6am) and hit the road for the 3 hour ride to Boston.  The reason for this journey?  To file my paper work with the Italian Consulate in Boston for dual citizenship.  Italian and American.  Two Passports.  A citizen of the European Union. Thanks Nicole.
Things went really easily for me.  The hard part was getting my Mother's documentation in order to prove the lineage.  So now I wait a month for my birth to be recorded in Belcastro.

Tonight I also accepted my first proper portrait commission. This is something I am extremely proud of and really looking forward to.  It is a direct result of the live portrait drawings I did at the Clark back in February. A met a very nice man who sat for me and his wife.  He wanted to give his wife a special present to commemorate her 25th year of being in the States, and decided on a portrait painted by yours truly. I am really looking forward to the one on one interaction.  What a story this guy has already told me after our first meeting tonight!

So after showing him around my studio, talking over the logistics of the portrait, and getting to know a bit about each other,  we will be off and running on Tuesday of next week.  I logged 336 miles in the car, and about 3,200 mental miles in tonight's conversation.  All in all a productive day.  And I even got some fresh paint on the Kripalu painting.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

En Plein Air

For my birthday this year I treated myself to a French Easel so I could start painting outdoors.  There is nothing quite like finding a great spot and working on location.  I have been reading a great blog lately by Stapleton Kearns who got me inspired to get outside.  His blog is incredibly useful and full of everything you need to know regarding outdoor painting.  Plus he seems like a fun guy and is a hell of a painter.

For my first venture, I went out to Mt. Greylock, and camped out at the base in a meadow looking south.  I worked for about 4 hours in the field before bringing it back to the studio to finish it off.  Not bad for someone who hasn't done something like this in a while...

For my nest venture, I traveled south to Kripalu in Lenox.  Another beautiful place to paint.  Looking out over Stockbridge Bowl surrounded by peace and quiet, I set up my easel on the grounds of Kripalu and set to work.. This is where I am after about 6 hours.  I think I'll take it back to the studio to finish it off, or I might head back out on location.  We will see when I get a chance to get back out.  

The leaves are changing and Fall is such a wonderful time to be outside.  I've got a list of places that I want to paint.  I'll try to post them as I make them.  I'm shooting for one a week.

On a side note, I had a catastrophic easel failure today (second time it has happened) where the a leg suddenly collapses.  this time it smashed my turpentine jar and so I had to go home early.  Totally lame.  I've got an idea about how to rig the easel so this NEVER happens again.  Imagine... the whole rig just suddenly falls to one side.  I've got 5 paint brushes in 2 hands, and a paint soaked cloth. The easel has my full palette, extra brushes, turpentine jar, rags, and canvas attached.  what do you drop and what do you grab.  I'm with you.  I grabbed the wet canvas.  It only smudged a little. everything else lay scattered on the ground.

All in all, it was a very fun time and I can't wait to get back out there.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

white on white

I created 3 pieces for a show called "White on White" as part of a city-wide art exhibit in collaboration with Barrington Stage Company's play "Art".

They are each 18" square and 2.5" deep.

Materials:  wood, masonite, epoxy resin, plastic bags, joint compound, spray paint, acrylic.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pittsfield Contemporary

I will be showing new work at the Pittsfield Contemporary show this weekend at the Lichtenstein Center in Pittsfield.

If you can make it to the opening (Friday at 5:30) please come by.   I'll try to post some photos.
should be a fun time.

 "Tools of the Trade" - 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

summer showing #1

I got word this morning that I got juried in to the 9th Annual Berkshire Arts Festival over the July 4th weekend at Ski Butternut in Great Barrington.  I am hanging 4-5 paintings in a group show - in a white walled gallery on the grounds - not as a table/booth. 

It is called the "Insiders Art Fair Gallery Show" and is only local Bekshire Artists.  should be interesting.
Around 8,000 people are expected to attend the Festival over the 3 days, so I should have lots of new eyes on my pieces.

The director emailed me to say "I am sure that you won't be showing the work that is not for the innocent general public. Although  I like it..." (I submitted Marla, Jazu, Justice, Bash Bish, and self-portrait 35)

problems of the flesh.... would it really be so scandalous?  hmmnn... now I've got to find out.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fast Food/Still Life

This painting, "Fast Food/Still Life," has been an idea I have had for quite some time.  It has been lingering in my mind for a little over a year.  I decided to act and follow through the idea and realize the picture.  I wanted to treat the subject like a classical still life painting, and focus on the objects.  I chose fast food because it is so ubiquitous and not something that would normally be treated to a still life, plus I loved all of the hidden extras that fast food comes with (globalization, marketing, obesity, overfarming, immigrants, science, genetics, capitalism, etc...)

Here is what actually happened:
The concept was to visit McDonald's, Dunkin Donuts and Burger King and buy the items that are targeted at children.  So a Happy Meal, a Kid's Meal (plus the toys), a 6 pack of Munchins, and one burger from each place (found on their "Dollar Menu"), were set upon a table and I painted them.  All food was unwrapped and put down on the table exactly as it comes out of the packaging. In total, I spent $12.  All the food purchased is visible in the still life (minus about 8 ketchup packs). 

Following a page from "Super Size Me," I accepted every extra they threw my way (like sauces, and ketchup, and salt and pepper) and I got a ton.

Even though my intention was (and still is) to show the horror of the food, and to display it exactly as it is served - no glamour or fancy product photography - I became absolutely fascinated by the color and textures in this "food", and quickly became more interested in painting exactly what I saw.  It became an American Landscape.  The color of McDonald's french fries are golden and Burger King's are more translucent, chicken mcnuggets are golden green.  burger buns are orange - but the cheese is even MORE orange -  the wax paper is a visual treat of reflected blues, oranges, greens, purples and reds.  The entire picture was an exercise in texture and color relationships.  The food/packaging is remarkably reflective and the colors were found everywhere.  the munchkins were very light - mostly air, and sparkled.

For those who care how it ended, ALL the food became hard after being out for one hour.  All smells dissipated after half an hour (no match for turpentine and oil paint) and by the next day, of course, it looked exactly the same, and did so for the rest of the week, and then I had to throw it out in disgust.  None of the food was ingested.  it was all given to the garbage.  Although I did drink the Apple Juice afterword, but don't tell anyone.

In an age of Fast/Immediate/Now, I wanted to slow down and look at what we as a society are doing, what we target at children, and what passes for food.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

New Work

coming soon - I've been busy-

Idle hands are the Devil's tools, but boy does he make cool stuff sometimes...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Falling Water

I finished my first painting in almost 2 months.  "Bash Bish Falls"  48" x 32" oil on canvas.  I had no desire to finish this one when I initially started it (March) because I couldn't find a reason for it.  My mind wasn't into it.  I stayed away from the studio for this entire time and occupied myself with new media and materials - like welding - (pictures might follow of these explorations).  I wanted to do more than a "landscape".

It seemed like I had given up on it, or at least I had lost interest in following through on this idea - I was starting to consider what I might paint over it.  All I had was a loose drawing on the canvas from when I visited and a slight indication of some rocks.  I wasn't sure I could pull off the composition I wanted.

I was out for a walk last weekend and went to see a gallery show, I was overcome with a bit of a "creative rage" and knew I had to make something of this image- or at the very least make a horrific mess -  and break through this creative block.  There really was no choice.  It was my duty.  I left and went directly to the studio.  I completed 90% in a two day furry.  I think it is the legend of these waters that propelled me through.  I see her legs.

Bash Bish Falls is a waterfall in the SouthWestern corner of Massachusetts.  The story states that a native woman (a Mohican Indian named Bash Bish) who lived here was sent to her death over the falls for adultery.

I find the surging water powerful - especially in the Spring when their is so much volume. The last time I was here was in 1999 and I did a small sketch in roughly the same place.  I think I've come a long way since then.  I know I understand quite a bit more now.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Burn baby, burn

Today I set fire to a number of older pieces that I have been carrying around for a few years.  Most of the pieces date from 1993-1999. 
There might be more, but today's fire consumed around 15 pieces.  I recently moved, and so I am going through 5 portfolios worth of work that I've been carrying around for  17+ years now. This picture is from 1994,  during the RIT years, a project where we had to paint 3 images in monochromatic color schemes.   I chose 3 violent images.  Two were war images (Vietnam- one is a woman having shrapnel removed from her hand) and the one pictured above is of R. Budd Dwyer. 

crazy days.

Friday, February 19, 2010

New Pics

Finished a few new paintings and posted them to the site.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Live Portriat Drawing at the Clark

I have been invited by The Clark Art Institute to be an onsite artist for their winter party: Picture Yourself at the Clark.

This event celebrates the opening of Giovanni Boldini in Impressionist Paris, the artist's first exhibition outside of Europe in over 20 years.

I am delighted to have been asked to set up my easel and draw portraits of guests "a la Paris streets circa 1880"

The event is on February 13, from 6-8pm, at the Clark.  If you are attending, please stop by for a sketch.
If not, I'll be sure to post some pics.

Tweaking in the New Year

I added some subtle touches to "Justice" and think it is much better now.  I gave it an all over tweak.  I made the hand "hold" the skull better by eliminating the heavy outline where they meet.  I added some extra highlights to the iris and lids to "sparkle" a bit more.  I also solidified and rendered the pages a bit more and added some warm tones from the reflection of the hand.  I also repainted the hand - for the 4th time, and I'll leave it at that.

I also tweaked "Trinity" and am really happy with the way it looks now.
A new painting is already in the bag for 2010.   I am focusing on the application of the paint and building structure/form through my brush strokes.  I'm taking a page from Shawn Barber's notes.
After I finish 3-4 I'll start uploading them.