"The true painter strives to paint what can only be seen through his world." ~André Malraux
After a year of intermittant "painter's block" I am working again in my studio, and feeling in a tentative positive state. Painting is a solitary activity, and as artists, we are often working in a vacuum. Unless we have a show hanging, reaction to the work is minimal. With several pieces underway, I decided that perhaps if I write about what I am doing or am attempting to do, it might act somewhat as a muse for me as well as give me some feedback on the work I am creating -- hence the establishment of this blog.
As for the blog title, traditional, representational painting is a language for expressing what’s visible. But I feel my work is the most successful, and most interesting, when focused on things not entirely visible. I paint what I see but also what I sense and feel by utilizing my interior and unseen world --- in other words, the invisible world. Plein air work or studio work from photographs are only touchstones or landmarks which guide me to other inner spaces. By so doing, I find that I am pushing the boundaries between representational and abstract work.
You can enlarge the images in this blog by clicking on them.
Feb 27, 2011
by Kilian McDonnell
("I will walk the way of perfection." Psalm 101:2)
I have had it with perfection.
I have packed my bags,
I am out of here.
As certain as rain
will make you wet,
perfection will do you
It droppeth not as dew
upon the summer grass
to give liberty and green
Perfection straineth out
the quality of mercy,
withers rapture at its
Before the battle is half begun,
cold probity thinks
it can't be won, concedes the
I've handed in my notice,
given back my keys,
signed my severance check, I
Hints I could have taken:
Even the perfect chiseled form of
Michelangelo's radiant David
the Venus de Milo
has no arms,
the Liberty Bell is
Feb 24, 2011
No time to be in the studio this week, with our weekend in Nadick, MA blue-grassing away at the Joe Val Festival, and with my daughter-in-law and grandkids here for winter break. Next week my plan is to finish the portrait and move on to some new projects I have in mind.
Meanwhile, I received an excellent comment on the portrait from an artist-friend Lew Dana who wrote:
"I looked at the photograph and the painting of the girl again. At heart it's quite successful and cheery.
"In view of the comment from the family that her face needs to be "rounder" -- you might consider one thing:
"The bottom of her left eye. In the photograph it has a downward arc -- the eye is widest at its center. In your painting, the lower edge seems to arc up in the center. It makes the eye a little "pinched" or "squinty". A slight adjustment in the arc (and a big pain in the neck) would widen the eye slightly and give her a "rounder" look.
"Eyes set the tone for one's "reading" of a picture. Mean, squinty eyes make people in paintings and real life look pinched. Eyes that are more open are more appealing, more welcoming, nicer and, well, rounder."
As an uncertain world swirls into chaos in the mid East, it is hard to imagine all that is happening there while living in the peace and serenity of a dense winter snowstorm here in Vermont. But I was amused by a comment in my cousin Howie's blog today:
"Democratic, big D and small D, demonstrations continue in the mid-East and mid-West. Tyrants like Qaddafi and Walker must be resisted by their subjects. Will NJ be next to throw off the yoke of the oppressor?"
Feb 17, 2011
by Nikki Giovanni
I would always choose to be the person running
rather than the mob chasing
I would prefer to be the person laughed at
rather than the teenagers laughing
I always admired the men and women who sat down
for their rights
And held in disdain the men and women who spat
Everyone deserves Sanctuary a place to go where you are
Art offers Sanctuary to everyone willing
to open their hearts as well as their eyes
|In progress # 1|
I have sent this and a detail to the family for comment, and they seem to feel features are spot on, but face needs to be rounder, chin less defined. Easy fixes. I will be away all weekend, which is good, I can approach it with a fresh eye and maybe some more family suggestions on Monday. I am beginning to see that the problem is again, with the photo, because it is taken at an agle which foreshortens her lower face.
|In progress # 2|
Feb 13, 2011
And here is a poem I came upon today in another artist's blog which I liked a lot. if you change desk to studio in the final line, it is a very fitting poem for an artist.
What to Remember When Waking
by David Whyte © 1999 Many Rivers Press
In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.
What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.
To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.
You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.
Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?
Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the waiting desk?
Feb 11, 2011
John’s subscription is usually shared with our daughter who is far more musical than I, but now and again, I make the scene, usually for Verdi or Puccini!
We had a lovely belated anniversary dinner at Le Grenouille ,the last great bastion of old-style, formal, French dining left in New York with the closings of Lutece, La Caravelle, La Cote Basque and Le Cirque – giants! Each was famous for impeccable service, gorgeous interiors, and exquisite, Escoffier-based cooking served by armies of formally-attired waiters and their assistants gliding about the rooms overseen by a Maitre d' all of whom make you want to return again and again. It is all still possible at Le Grenouille with its gorgeous interior with extremely flattering peach-colored lighting (dating from its opening 50 years ago according to our waiter), and a justifiably famous display of astonishingly beautiful flowers. I found it to be a small refuge of restorative quiet and elegance in the midst of cacophonous and not always beautiful Manhattan. Needless to say, we had a lovely meal, and a lovely time.
|Lily and the Alien|
|Lily and her picture|
|Lily creating her rendition of New York City, note statue of liberty,tugboat, taxi, balloon she got at restaurant.....|
newyorker.com/online/ And then the drive home to Vermont where a few more inches of new snow, and subzero weather greeted us..
Feb 4, 2011
This week, during the snowy hiatus, we cocooned in comfort in our wonderful newish bed (hooray Tempurpedic Cloud mattress, it has changed my life!) With no reason to get up on the stormy mornings, we found ourselves sleeping late and staying in bed when awake: John doing crossword puzzles and me reading Tuscan guide books, and aloud, Donald Hall prose about winter in New Hampshire and Billy Collins poetry, as we slug-abedded. Fluffy snow, the sparkly, powdery kind, blanketed our visible environment, spinning total white outs some days, and brilliant sunlit vistas on others. The birds rose long before we, busy at the feeders squabbling and gobbling their weight in seed, and the dogs always get up early, but snuggle back to bed to snore gently, on the cold, stormy mornings. Their eyes cock open and often they erupt into simultaneous loud discontent when the snow plows rumble by.
The snow is so beautiful against the bright winter sky, and the stark armature of the bare birch and popple trees. I love to see the changing colors on the hills play over the snow as the sun sets--- it picks out one hill, and then another: they light up, one by one in pale mauves, or bright golden peach, and then slowly go dark, as night begins to close the curtains. I feel blessed to live in such a place.
|Dusk on Sharon Hill, view towards Mooselauke at our home|
It amazes me how some paintings just never come together even after daylongs of work, whereas others can be completed alla prima in one sitting, such as this large piece, Break of Day, that was done in a matter of hours, and sold well, barely dry several weeks later, at my Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center show.
|Break of Day 48" x 24" oil on canvas|
|Snow by Winter Sewn 20" x 20" oil on canvas|
La Boheme at the Met, hopefully getting to the other Met or the MOMA museum, and on Wednesday,entertaining our granddaughter at a show and dinner for her 6th birthday. So,no blogs for a while. When I get back I hope to put together a new storage thing for my studio--- maybe that will encourage me to clean up my workspace.
Feb 3, 2011
Just tonight, on the John Stewart show, I learned that Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, was the target of some terrible, dirty politics in the election of the Speaker for the next term. Straus, a traditional mainstream Republican who focuses on fiscal issues and calls himself a fiscal conservative, is disdained by conservative activists who have targeted him since the fall election, when the GOP piled up a 101-49 majority over Democrats in the House . There were loud protests from Tea Party activists in the groups Americans for Prosperity, the Austin Tea Party Patriots, the Texas Pastor Council, and Texas Eagle Forum who insisted on a more conservative leader, and organized to oust him. Pro-life advocates including key Catholic clergy worked hard against Straus because of his weak pro-life record. Further, anti-gay forces worked behind the scenes in the race for speaker of the Texas House; it was made public when The Texas Observer posted a story in which John Cook, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee, explained his opposition to Speaker Joe Straus. The race to lead the Texas House of Representatives took a very nasty a religious turn, with some conservatives in the state suggesting that the speaker of the House, who is a Jewish Republican, should be replaced by a "Christian conservative." Cook said “I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office.” And apparently some conservative Republican activists working to unseat Straus circulated e-mails that emphasized his Judaism. I understand Straus handled the nastiness with diplomacy, grace, and intelligence.
Feb 1, 2011
Most artists are also very fussy about their brushes – the springiness, the shapes, etc. I am as well, but cannot afford really expensive ones because I am very hard on my brushes. And of course I often paint with, and scrape away with, my painting knife. And do try out different grounds--- besides canvas (and do you prefer cotton duck or the finer more expensive linen?) there are boards--- masonite, clayboard (which I love), etc. The paints work differently on all of them. And try painting oil sketches on gessoed paper for a new experience.
Basic Palette--- where I try to have a warm and cool shade of the basic colors--- red, yellow, blue, green and brown I could indeed use only these colors for any painting. But often I don't.
Raw Ochre of my past
Prussian Blue now known as Pthalo Blue as well (any brand)
transparent green with yellow undertones
I am told I should have Chrome Oxide Green and Sevres Blue (Rembrandt) but seem fine without them.
Optional Greys --- And just because I am lazy, I do often use one of the other greys--- don't tell anybody
Old Holland Warm Grey light
(Gamblin), and sometimes Red Madder, and Quiniquidrone Red
And after a tip I have just ordered Gamblin’s Manganese Blue Hue — a cool (toward green) transparent water blue and their Phthalo Emerald — a warmer, more natural looking Phthalo Green. I just ordered them from Cheap Joe’s Art Supplies.