"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.

Jul 30, 2011

Creating Something New from the Familiar: Bait for Viewers

These lovely summer days, when I sit down at the easel, I find myself creating paintings which are more abstract than any of my work since about 1985, when I was for a few years working in an abstract expressionist mode. An example of that era of work can be seen below.
"Fragments of Actuality"  36" x 36"  oil and pear paper on canvas

 From there I evolved into a "you know what it is but it is done very differently" frame of mind ...  see poor photo of painting of wild horse below ...
"Wild Stallion"  36" x 36"  oil on canvas   (sold, long ago)

...and then somehow I became much more of a realist for many years. But recently,I have once again started reaching towards a more abstracted approach.
My current work, as with the horse, revolves around my efforts to interpret a realistic subject in a completely individual way; my approach is very intuitive and organic, usually starting with thin washes on a blank canvas, often with underlayed areas of soft, crinkled pear paper which I love. The process then evolves into the use of painting knives, paper towels, my fingers and other objects, as well as brushes, to apply the paint -- layering and layering, and then finding out what is underneath! I also am bringing with me a hardfought (and not always successful) ability to keep my mind open to what the process will reveal.

My work is still firmly rooted in, and inspired by, landscape, seascape and buildings, but I find myself departing from the college-taught theories and formalities of representational art which have guided me in the past.  I guess I am trying to create something new from the familiar. My work this week takes the sea and its environs as my subject because I need to take some new work up to the Nantucket gallery which represents me. With these recent seascapes, I am trying to continue and enlarge upon my “Water’s Edge” series of the past few years, and to transcend typical seascape representation. I pick my composition, often from photographs, often from memory, and try to reach the heart and soul of each particular scene or dream. I work until I feel I have a work that is absorbing, reflective, and also makes the viewer think a bit. Unlike some abstract artists, I am not really looking to disturb: I still aim for painterly interest and some kind of beauty in my work. Here is one of the very recent seascapes. I was all over the studio with this one, flinging paint about, and getting myself and the studio into very much of a mess.The glow of the sun does not show up in this photo.
"Shallowing Breakers"  20" x 20" oil and pear paper on canvas

When speaking about his earlier work, Eric Aho was described as “ .. at first glance, … a most accomplished landscapist, but in reality he is an abstract-expressionist using farm buildings and turbulent skies as bait for viewers. His latest oil paintings, suavely brushed and knowingly layered, are in reality artworks about art.” This is where I am trying to go.

As an aside, and not exactly on point with the above discussion, I am also working on the Italian village street scenes. The one I put in this blog earlier in its initial configuration is now looking like this, and I have several more underway. 
"Montefioralle #1"  6" x 6"  oil and tissue paper on canvas

SO I am not abandoning the representational altogether, when it affords opportunity for wonderful colors, light, and texture such as these.

Jul 16, 2011

Back in the Saddle

I have not been in the studio for quite a while, but as well as starting a time-consuming water aerobics class this week, I also got back to work.

"Where All the Houses are Grey:  18 x 18, oil on canvas
This painting, almost done alla prima, is where my head is going right now. Layered and simple, an abstracted view of bayside Nantucket ... but in my mind, it could almost be Venice as well if I eliminated the grey on the horizon and added a few suggested cupolas of Domes.

And I am beginning a series of Montefioralle street scenes, as predicted. I thought it might be of interest to see a painting with just it's first few layers. It is nowhere near completed, just in the initial stages.

Stage 1 of a Montefioralle painting, oil on canvas covered with tissue underlay,  6" x 6"

 A woman who saw and liked my work at the Morrill show, and who is an art critic up here, has asked to come to my studio so she can write a review of my work for VermontArtzine, and  on line publication.  

Jul 15, 2011

La Dolce Vita in Tuscany

Door to villa
View from my bedroom window of pool and area
To continue our Italian adventure, the next whole week we, with our children, their spouses, and our grandchildren, situated ourselves at a marvelous Tuscan villa in the midst of the Chianti countryside. I have always wanted to stay in a small Tuscan town, and after reading Francis Mayes’ books, this desire became an obsession. We finally did it, and it did not disappoint.

Grandson Nate walking towards back of our villa. Loggia and patios visable. Photo by his Dad, son-in-law Bob Buzas. Below, right, loggia and patios


Entry Courtyard
It was such a joy spending time there that we almost hated to go off on day trips, but we did--- we selected this villa partially because it was so close to Siena, Florence, Pisa, many of the famed medieval fortified hill towns, and vineyards. We managed to see bits of it all.

 When it comes to travel, we all have our preferences. Some of us like to rough it, others like to stay in the most luxurious places they can afford. Some of us like to plan EVERY DETAIL to the nth degree, others like to wing it and just find adventures around every corner. Some like to be busy from sun up to sun down, others like to stop to smell the flowers along the way.  This trip confirmed something I have been learning about myself in recent years: that as I am growing older, I am less and less enticed by cities, and more and more happy and comfortable being in the countryside.

At this point in my life, when I arrive at the airport terminal, I like to head straight for the rural – wherever I am going, even when abroad. I have been to Paris often, but love Burgundy more and hope to get to Provence. I have loved spending time in London, but far prefer being in the Cotswolds, the moors of Yorkshire, the gardens of Sussex. I find the air sweeter, the people friendlier, the food fresher and local, and the pace of life slower. 

I also like to centrally locate myself in one place, and then move out for day trips. We draw a circle around where we are staying, and visit what there is to see in that circle--- always a lot!  And I am very happy to settle myself into a location, often in a rented cottage or villa, immersing myself in the area daily life,  without rushing to every possible famous tourist attraction before closing time.

Life at the villa was good. Below are my grandkids having a pasta making lesson from the chef hired by their parents to provide a fabulous birthday dinner for us.

The children loved eating the pasta they made by themselves--tagliatelle and ravioli.
The family relaxing at the villa.

I left the suburbs in New Jersey to move to Vermont 13 1/2 years ago, and in Vermont, I live among fields, farms, forests, animals and country lanes, unpretentious and rock solid folks. I like to explore these same things in foreign lands. Whenever possible on vacation from here on in, I want to try to avoid long lines, traffic, tourists, loud noise, exhaust, pollution and stress --  all part of the city scene.

That’s not to say I don’t find myself enjoying what cities have to offer  on occasion. I do want to sample the atmosphere, foods, cultural attractions and tourist attractions which are offered by cities now and again. Obviously I was not going to spend two weeks in Italy and not visit the Ufizzi, see the famous piazzas and squares, stand on the beautiful city bridges and take in the river landscapes -- so I did make the effort to see Siena, Florence – both wonderful -- and ended up in Rome for our last four days as my husband had never been there. (But we opted to stay in the quieter neighborhoods of Trastevere). 

But along with all the wonderful family interaction, the time I spent in our little Tuscan village of Panzano, the day trips we made to a few of the medieval hill towns and to a very peaceful monastery at Badia a Coltibuono, were the highlights of my trip. This is what I shall hold in my heart, and hopefully, transfer to my canvasses. 

Below are some of my favorite shots from the medieval, walled hill town Montefioralle for future use. This was my favorite town of those we visited because it seems relatively undiscovered by tourists (San Gimignano is wonderful, but crowded with people and shops). Montefioralle is full of Kodak moments, a perfect setting for a wedding, has one good restaurant, but that is about all. No tourist spots. And it seems to be a village still lived in by normal people living normal lives. I almost felt intrusive as I wandered around the lovely little streets.
 I cannot wait to paint the light in these streets..

Jul 14, 2011

Venice: A Work of Art Unto Itself

Photo by Bob Buzas (son-in-law)
The start of our two week trip to Italy to celebrate my husband’s and my 70th birthdays was our two days in Venice, undeniably one of the world’s most glorious cities. I had not been to Venice since 1962, and it was my husband’s first trip to the magical city -- with it's glorious blend of water, art and romance situated so close to the Adriatic Sea. Created more than 1,000 years ago by men who thumbed their noses at the sea, and built their splendid Venetian Gothic palaces and churches on mud banks in a swampy and treacherous lagoon, it’s a true treasure of architecture, art and atmosphere. We reveled in the unique atmosphere of the canals and boats, the panoply of museums, bridges, churches and sunlit squares and everywhere, flowers. 
Photo by Bob Buzas
 The whole city is an extraordinary architectural masterpiece in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world's greatest artists such as Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and others.

 With only two days there, and with four grandchildren between the ages of 5 and 10 in our group, we obviously did not see and do everything. While the others climbed the Basilica di San Marco, John and I took the slow vaporetto #1 down the length of the Grand Canal enjoying long, extended view of the major waterway of the city, and took in the wonderful ambiance of Venetian life unfolding on the Grand Canal.

We stopped off at the Accademia Gallery which houses the most magnificent collection of Venetian art in the world. Over the centuries, the great masters of Venetian painting adorned the city with wonderful works imbued with light and color, a quality that has distinguished the Venetian school of painting since its origins, I am sure because the city itself is so light splashed and luminous. The collection at the Accademia Gallery illustrates the evolution and characteristics of Venetian art, including the fourteenth century Byzantine-style Madonnas and the great canvasses by Gentile Bellini and Carpaccio that record fifteenth century Venice.  As my 10 year old grandson later remarked when in one of the Italian art museums, “…there are a lot of Marys and Jesuses there.”

Feast in the House of Levi by Paolo Veronese
One of the most interesting works of arts at the Accedemia is Veronese’s painting which is now known as the Feast in the House of Levi, completed originally for the rear wall of the refectory of the Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo in 1573. The painting was originally intended as a depiction of The Last Supper, and was titled thusly, designed to replace a canvas by Titian that had been lost in a fire. It measured more than five meters high and over twelve meters wide (at 42 feet long, one of the largest canvases of the 16th century), and was a culmination of Veronese's banquet scenes, which this time included not only the standard characters of The Last Supper, but also German soldiers, comic dwarves, and a variety of animals. 

When Paolo Veronese unveiled this enormous painting, it was shocking not only for its size, but also for its rather raunchy depiction of the Savior and his pals. But as Veronese's use of color attained greater intensity and luminosity, also his attention to a narrative interplay and emotion among his beautifully rendered figures was becoming tantamount to his creations. And here, the artist had portrayed one of the holiest of moments in the bible as a drunken banquet that conjured up, to some, paintings of Roman orgies!

So, because the subject, and title, of this rather racy painting was The Last Supper, it was noticed by the increasingly Puritanistic powers-that-be in the Inquisition which was exerting its influence in Venice at this time. Quite simply, they had a fit over the painting, and very speedily in July of 1573, Veronese was summoned to explain the inclusion of “extraneous and indecorous details” in the painting. The church charged the painter with irreverence—and threatened to indict him on the very serious charge of heresy. Veronese explained that "we painters take the same liberties as poets and madmen."House of Levi". 

The inquisitors suggested several changes to the painting, probably relating to the removal of Germans and buffoons etc, but in the end nothing at all was changed and a very Italian solution was negotiated - the work was retitled The Feast at the House of Levi. The scene still had Jesus in it, but a Jesus surrounded by guests who were free to engage in acts of secular glee and gluttony—and the mollified censors let it pass!

We also, all ten of us, visited the Doges Palace, or Palazzo Ducale, an extravagant Gothic Renaissance palace that symbolizes the glory days of Venice.  The Doge’s Palace, created of white limestone and pink marble, was softened by porticos, finely wrought loggias, a crenellated roof and a series of balconies by Pier Paolo and Jacobello Dalle Masegne,  was the seat of the government of Venice for centuries. It looks like dessert! The system of elected doges was as singular as everything else about this very singular city, and lasted for 1000 years. As well as being the home of the Doge (the elected ruler of Venice) it was the venue for its law courts, its civil administration and bureaucracy and — until its relocation across the Bridge of Sighs — the city jail. In spite of the heat, we marveled at the Golden Staircase and ornately decorated walls and ceilings covered by works of great artists including the world’s largest oil painting, the 23x75 foot Paradise by Jacopo Tintoretto.

Upstairs we walked through the doge’s private rooms to the Anticollegio, where the doge and council would meet foreign dignitaries. The Anticollegio is decorated with four Tintorettos; his work and Titian’s  dominate the walls, although the Sala del Consiglio dei Dieci has works by our old friend the almost-heretic, Veronese; and the Sala dell’Armamento has the remains of Guariento’s fresco, Paradise, wrecked in the fire.

The kids loved walking out over the Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs, constructed 1602) to the city’s ‘new’ prison. 
My grandchildren looking out over The Bridge of Sighs--- their father who took the photo says : "We need one of these at home!"

 Before it was built, prisoners were kept in the eaves of the doge’s palace, (the Piombi or ‘leads’) or in the cellars (the Pozzi or ‘wells). Wherever, it must have been horrible, and the kids loved hearing about it.

The rest of our short time in Venice, we fed the pigeons in San Marco Square, walked over the picturesque bridges, had a drink at water’s edge, and took our grandchildren for a gondola ride down the back lagoons and canals of the city, which everyone enjoyed. John and I enjoyed an elegant dinner at the Hotel Danieli, but otherwise we ate the delicious food in everyday places.

Eloise with the pigeons, Photo by Bob Buzas

View from Gondola, photo by John Reese

Grandson Aidan wearing Gondolier's hat. Photo, John Reese

          If ever a city itself was a work of art, this is it.

Arrivi Derci Venezia! GranddaughtersLily and Eloise carting their suitcases to the water taxi, causing quite a stir wearing their souvenir masks. Photo, Michael Reese