"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.

Mar 19, 2013

We Went to a Hanging

We went to a hanging on Monday before the snow flew.  Actually John was the hangman, minus black hood, wielding tape measure and ruler. I supervised, but he is the measurer, and mathematician. The hangees were my 21 paintings now on display at Dartmouth Mary Hitchcock Rubin Gallery. It took several hours, because hanging on those track and slide systems, while nice because no tools are required, necessitate a lot of measuring and adjusting. Given the weather -- big snowstorm was on the horizon which is in full swing as I compose this --  people walking by were very receptive to the golden forsythias of spring, and the lush blues of the summer seascapes. Except one old man who walked by with his wife and grumbled "Too much yellow. Grump grump."           

I tried  to get photos of all the work going into the show 
before it was hung. Here are a few which I have not yet put into a blog, which show the results of a long journey towards somewhat abstracted impressionism, or whatever you want to call it. (I dislike labels.) 

Below are  the two largest of the forsythia series. I posted 
the second one sometime in the spring, but it was a bad photo. These are not bad, but the skies are not so turquoise at all, and the real paintings overall are lighter, brighter.

"Trranscendant Joy" Oil on board 24" x 35"
"Springtime's Yellow Telegram"   Oil on canvas   36" x 36"

I was after a very loose and free look, using the forsythia fronds simply as a mechanism to hold the dabbed, layered, scraped, glazed and sprayed paint. I would like to take myself to another level, and learn to do encaustic work with the oils. A future challenge.  

 Among the many seascapes are these little ones.

"California Coastline"         oil on canvas   12" x 12'"

"Striped Sea, No. 2"     oil on clayboard   12" x 12"

These two paintings are clear evidence of the direction in which I am going with my work. I will be working on a number of these in the next months to take to the Nantucket Gallery.

This is the rather cumbersome click and slide hanging system:
            The clear plastic hanging rods slide along the top rail and sliding hooks are     attached to it from which to hang the paintings.                                                                                                                                        
Meanwhile, I was very happy to get the show hung. It has been a long haul, and quite honestly,I was not sure I would be able to get enough new work created in time. But I did. We celebrated with a late lunch at Molly's in Hanover, and then I came home to work on the piles of laundry I have not done over the past few weeks (because I have had no time to do it due to painting and Skidmore 50th Reunion book writing and organizing)  --- lots of sheets and towels from visiting family,the dog sitter and us, and about 3 loads of personal laundry. Also washed the dog-dingied white duck couch slipcover and cushion covers and got that back on. Next chores: a general uncluttering of the house which I have ignored lately, and a real clean up in my studio!

But first--- to enjoy the beautiful late snowfall we are having today. About 10 or 11 inches so far, with it still falling. Sadly, no grandchildren will be able to be here this weekend to play in it, or ski. They were here a few weeks ago and had a great time outside. We miss them all.

Aidan, 12, on board

Eloise, 9 1/2, on marshmallow
Cousins Lily, just 8, and Nate, just 7, at the firepit
Lily on board, first time!
Grampa on A Bloody Mary
Nate on belly
Bob on board, second time ever
Mike on tube


Mar 17, 2013

Getting To The There

My living room/dining room space is filled with 21 paintings standing up against the furniture and on tables, finally finished (last brush strokes this afternoon), coated with temporary varnish, nicely framed (except for some with gallery wrapped, painted edges and those done on cradled clayboard which can be frameless) and ready to go! We will take them to DHMC either tomorrow or Tuesday, depending on the weather. I  think this show is going to hang together very well, pardon the pun. The opening reception is 10 days away on March 28. I hope it is well received.

As I mentioned previously, the title, "Yellow to Blue: From Here to There" references a number of things ... the yellow is the "here" -- 8 forsythia paintings, and the and the 12 blue pieces, are of the sea, and of the "there" -- Nantucket, MA and Barnegat Light, NJ. 

But it is more than that. From here to there also speaks of the constant journey artists have as they evolve from one style, or one place in their vision,to another. You cannot stagnate in one style, one place. I love the pure exploration of materials, the excitement of new discovery: process is everything. Both in the field and the studio, some of my work may be nonrepresentational then the next might be far more representational. This is in evidence in my show, and is because in the past few years I have been evolving. I don't believe one genre is better than another, but focus on whether the end result is solid and well executed, and elicits genuine emotion and connection with the viewer. 

I am finding that that the study of landscape and seascape allows me to edge from reality into abstraction, without losing a sense of time and place. However, I am definitely moving in my mind to a less representational style of painting, and when my hand catches up to my vision, I will have gotten to the THERE... and the show at DHMC shows part of the journey. It is good to be still journeying, evolving, growing, at almost 72!

You Are All Invited
To an Art Opening
“Yellow to Blue: From Here to There”
New Work by
Deborah Frankel Reese
Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center
Rubin Glass Hallway
One Medical Center Drive, Main Entrance
Lebanon, NH
March 19-May 30

Opening Reception Thursday, March 28, 2013

Chilcott Lounge, Level 4
4:30 art discussion and refreshments
5:15 tour of the work of four artists

Bright Reveille 20x 20 oil on canvas

Any of you who are local, I would love to see you there on the 28th. Otherwise take a look next time you are at DHMC.

Mar 2, 2013

My Blue Period

Picasso is not the only one. These past two weeks I have moved from yellow (the forsythia)  into the blue, full steam ahead. I have completed three of the seven seascapes needed, and am halfway into a fourth. I am working with skies in these, more than water, as sky is so often the focus when on the beach. And you can be insane with the colors, which is where my head is this very wintry monochromatic week!

Here is a somewhat better photo of the first one posted last week.

Low Tide at Dawn, No. 1  20 x 20  oil on canvas

And another.

Low Tide at Dawn, No. 2  20 x 20  oil on canvas

 The one above has the colors slightly off, the foreground is much darker. 
And another.

Monotone of the Sea   20 x 20  oil on canvas

I hope to complete one more this size. These will be complemented by the large seascape I will bring back from the condo, and some of my Water's Edge series such as 

Winter Spindrift  16 x 16  oil on canvas (SOLD)

Water's Edge No. 6   12 x 12  Oil on Canvas

 I plan to complete a few more of these before the show hanging on March 18.

I am also working on a painting for the cover of my Skidmore 50th Reunion Yearbook which is supposed to evoke the old campus, the campus we knew. It is proving to be very difficult as there were really no iconic buildings or a green that shout out "Skidmore" from that era, and because all of the photos I have as references are black and white. I am trying..... I also have to take two pieces with me when I go to curate the alumni show at the Tang Museum for Reunion in the middle of the month. And I have nothing new to take.

It is making for some very busy days in the studio. Wish me luck.. .

Feb 22, 2013

From Yellow to Blue

For weeks my studio has been suffused with a lovely golden glow as I worked on the four new forsythia paintings (see last post). With the several I already have, that may be enough for the yellow part of my upcoming show. If not I will try to execute another one later. But I am moving into the Blue phase now, which will be seascapes. 

I spent a lot of time staring at the sea this summer, and took a lot of photos. Now I am trying to make those fleeting moments come alive again, and preserve them on canvas. I am working hard to follow my inner eye on this series, and attempt to get what I really see on the canvas. I always feel that I overwork and overmuddy the work. They start out so free and spontaneous and then I don't stop in time. The more I can get happening fast, they better off I am, but because I work in layers, I need the drying time. I hope to do two or three more this size, and then a larger one.

Low Tide at Dawn  20"x20"  oil on canvas
Here is the first one, hot off the easel. I will have a bigger and better photo next post.

Feb 13, 2013


Am I a person who needs a deadline to paint? I seem to work better under a deadline, or anyway I work MORE under pressure. Right now, I am in somewhat of a panic, as I will be having a show in the Glass Rubin Hallway at Dartmouth Hitchcock in March. I only have about half of the work, and that will include removing three from the condo, including a very large abstracted forsythia and a large seascape. I think the title is going to be "From Here to There, in Yellow and Blue." It will focus on a series of forsythia paintings (the "yellow" and the "here") most of them new as the old ones have sold, and seascapes (the "there" and the "now".

Below are the new ones which I think are complete and are ready for framing.Photos are taken with my iPhone, so are not the best!

Bouquet as a Springtime Wind   oil on canvas
Bright Reveille   20 x 20  oil  on canvas
Softened with Buttery Air   20 x 20 oil on canvas
Riverbank Golden Glow  12 x 12  oil on canvas

 On to the seascapes, the first of which has been started.  I will probably include a few winter pieces I have that that will edge into the spring forsythia, and then the summer sea. Should amount to about 14-20 pieces which should be enough.

These are two things I love to paint. Both make me so happy. Up here in the Northlands, forsythia is the beacon leading us ever so painfully slowly into spring, and the only spring color a lot of us have in April, amidst the patches of snow, and the mud. The critters eat the crocus, and daffodils come later. These cheerful, intense yellows that spring up are as welcome as the sun, and in fact seem to absorb the sun into their tiny blossoms and billowy boughs. Forsythia as a subject on canvas lends itself to a loose, painterly style which I like, and allows me to layer, and work with both color and texture. The first and third ones above are fairly traditional, but beyond that they are edging into abstract impressionism.

 Why have I not been in my studio very often? I have not got a good answer, except that I had not been feeling well for well over a year. Part of it was random, and sometimes debilitating pain, and part of it was extreme exhaustion. I finally got myself to the doctors --- my internist, then rheumatologist and orthopedist.  After many blood tests, many xrays, and many discussions, I finally had some answers.

1. Escalating osteo arthritis in my hands, big toes,  
and knees, which I could have told them! My fingers begin to look like my mother's.  But happily, none in my hips.
2. Chronic, rather severe, Bursitis in my knees and hips, something I did not know. AND they told me the reason I cannot walk more than a few blocks is because of THAT, not because of my long-term stenosis. 
3. Most interesting, they believe I have fibromyalgia, causing the random pain from pressure points on my body which comes and goes, and the exhaustion. And what is that?? 

Fibromyalgia is a common and complex chronic pain disorder. It is a syndrome rather than a disease, a syndrome  being a collection of signs, symptoms, and medical problems that tend to occur together but are not related to a specific, identifiable cause. This medical syndrome is characterized by chronic widespread pain and allodynia, a heightened and painful response to pressure and pain, causing long-term, and frequent flare ups, of body-wide, flu-like pain, and tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues.  Painful areas are called trigger or tender points in specific areas of the body.  Some studies have suggested that people with fibromyalgia may perceive pain differently in their brains than healthy people. Fibromyalgia may involve too much activity in the parts of the central nervous system that process pain (the nociceptive system). Other symptoms are
~High sensitivity to temperature, bright lights, loud sounds and odors, all of which can  bother you much more than they do everyone else; 
~Stiffness upon waking or after staying in one position for too long;
~Dry, burning eyes (especially in morning); 
~Anxiety  and abnormal serotonin metabolism (why I am on happy pills); 
~Numbness or tingling in the face, arms, hands, legs, or feet; 
~Reduced tolerance for exercise and muscle pain after exercise; 
~Muscle knots, leg and foot cramping, weakness and feeling of swelling (without actual swelling) in the hands; 
~Ringing in the ears, dizziness.

 All of the above are part of my life. There are others which are not, including depression, thank goodness!
Anyway, surely much more than you want to know, but it is rather interesting, and who knows, may explain some of your OWN problems, or those of someone you know!

So what do I do about this, since, because I am on Coumadin for life because of my Pulmonary Embolisms, I cannot take pain killers..... Well, they suggest Physical Therapy for the knees, and exercise for everything. I have been going to water aerobics 3x a week and will start the PE soon. I am on a diet, although they did not mention that; am also looking into acupuncture; and have started some therapeutic neuro-centered  massage.

But the real wonder has been GIVING UP GLUTEN. (I am also eating no soy, no diet sodas, even organic, no processed foods, and very little red meat, and for weight loss, nothing white when possible.) I have been gluten free except for two slices of pizza at my son's and some squid tempura at a restaurant  for three weeks, AND, much to my surprise, I am am greatly improved!  I am truly shocked that I can get out of bed in the morning or after a long car ride, without staggering, fearful of falling,  and holding onto things. I can go down stairs with much less pain. I have had NO muscle cramps. And NO debilitating fibro flare ups like I did over the holidays. So I am a very, very happy soul, busily finding non gluten substitutes for bread, pasta, etc. and feeling so much better. 

So much so, that painting is a joy again, and not an exhausting chore!

Feb 6, 2013

Water Works
  “For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), It’s always our self we find in the sea.” – e.e. Cummings

At the end of summer, you can feel the inventions of fall in the air. The first day of fall with glorious weather, and I should be outside, but I am involved with a fairly large piece in the studio this week ... 48 inches wide. It is at the layering stage, and I am on about the 4th layer. It begins to take shape, but I am constantly fighting to keep it loose and abstract. It is of course for sale, as everything I do is, but I plan to hang it in our bedroom at the condo until my show at DHMC next year. I also need to get a much better photo of it, this one is very fuzzy.

The piece is a seascape, my favored métier these days. Perhaps because I am happiest when on the seaside, I am happiest when painting it. Also, it is what the Nantucket gallery wants from me.

I also reworked a painting I did earlier this year. I had been happy with the over saturation of color, and toned down the sky and water. Maybe I ruined it, I don't know, but it seemed a bit garish to me.

 I spent hours sitting on beaches this summer,looking at the water and the sky, studying each wave, different from the last, seeing how they catch the light, how they are affected by the wind; watching the horizontal patterns of the layers of waves, the sweep of it all -- just listening to the waves, the gulls, and breathing in the salty air. I took a lot of photos in Nantucket and, during Labor Day week, at the Jersey shore in Barnegat Light, and hope to get a series out of them.  

Nothing is the same as the ocean...ponds, pools, rivers, lakes, all nice, but none of them can compare.They have no energy, no soul. No excitement. I go whenever I can to the ocean for relaxation, rejuvenation, revelation, and peace. That was our last vacation in a year of many ---- Santa Fe, France, Nantucket and Barnegat Light. We were joined for half of the week by our daughter, son-in-law and grandson, and some very good friends. Then we had a few days by ourselves before saying goodbye to the ocean until next summer. I will revisit in in my studio, and in my dreams.