I feel, for me, that painting the human figure from life is the best way I can express myself. Is it better than working from a photograph, I will let others judge.

The direct experience in painting from life is almost inexpressable. You are not painting an interpretation of a thin sheet of paper or a digital image but from an interaction with a real live human being. It is difficult, expensive and frustrating. The reward is something that may be light years beyond the original concept, something that takes flight in our imagination that is not shackeled so often to re-imaging the photographic source.

It is a difficult thing to do, it requires many years of dedicated training and work to be able to paint or draw the human figure with any degree of ability. Our culture does not allow this today but celebrates the shortcuts and calls it 'personal expression', no matter what kind of garbage or personal neuroses is displayed upon the canvas. We have lost the quest for exquisiteness in our work.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Dancer

"The Dancer" Oil and Wax 29.5" x 53"

The Dancer -close-up

Somehow throughout all my angst over the election of our next president I managed to finish a painting. The model is a terrific young man from Chisinau, Moldova- a country bordering Romania and Ukraine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moldova  He is actually  a championship ballroom dancer and loves our political comedy especially Saturday Night Live and Steven Colbert. This election has given us a great deal to talk about during painting sessions.

The background is a colorized 18th century print. I painted the squares on the floor- aaargh!

This painting was an experiment with a new color method- no earth tones- only pure color. I was quite taken with Katherine Kehoe's work in the December 2016 issue of the Artist's Magazine. She does not use any earth-tones or black, just pure color. So I thought I would have a go at it but keep the black.
My palette: colors left to right - all Micheal Harding except for the Vasari Cadmium red light: Cremnitz White in walnut oil, wax medium,  genuine Naples Yellow Light, Cadmium Yellow, Magenta, Amethyst, Ultramarine, Viridian and Ivory Black.

I mixed up a batch of background colors to add to my batch of skin-tones. It was actually easy-peasy once I got the hang of it. As to the blacks, I use Vasari's Mars black in the first layer- it is deep, opaque, fast drying and velvety- it is best as an underlayer as it will crack over slower drying paint.
Afterwards I used the more transparent Ivory black, because it is deeper.and darker.

The ribbon on the ruff  (which took a week) was painted in pure Amethyst- a terrific new color from Micheal Harding. The highlights were painted in Cadmium Red Light.

One thing that always astonishes me is how, no matter what directions my paintings take they all have the stamp of me even if I am aiming for say- Botticelli or Manet. We cannot escape ourselves it seems, even in paint.

To see Katherine Kehoe's vibrant work:

Monday, January 2, 2017


Velasquez "The Triumph of Bacchus"1626–1628 The Prado

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! Felice Navidad! Happy Honnuka! Feliz Natal! щасливого Різдва! Buon Natale! メリークリスマス! С Рождеством! Vrolijk kerstfeest! God jul! Veselé vánoce! Mutlu Noeller!

This has been a crazy year on our beautiful and beleaguered  planet. I know I have not included every language but just searching for each countries' words to celebrate the holiday season reminds me that all peoples seek the same thing for their families.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Kathe Kollwitz

Self  Portrait
The events of recent months have forced me to examine art and my place in it.-what it is to me and its value if any. I don't believe it should have one. I have seen people joyful over completing a painted fish on a dish from a craft kit from Kmart. Religion uses and has used imagery to frighten people into obedience. Each age either forces one to confront or use (or abuse) "art"  in a different way. It can be frivolous or other. We are awash in seductive imagery, hundred of images are vomited up every day on our iPhones, television sets, billboards, newspapers and of course the internet. Museum basements are bloated with canvasses that are no longer in fashion. Flea markets abound in "lost masterpieces". Each image that we see captures and controls  us for a few seconds- but how many do we remember.
History and the passage of time are the greatest of art critics.

Some artists do- at least for me, cut deeply through the clutter. This Kathe Kollwitz self portrait asks more of me than simply to admire its facility- It asks of me how am I living my life- not what meaning I find in life because that is a chimera, but what am I doing here now with what I have. What is.

Kathe Kollwitz was not only an exquisite draughtsman- she resisted the Nazis and died in Germany just before the end of World War 11. She was a woman of courage who had endured the loss of a son in World War I.

 3:AM December 8th  2016, it was announced that Donald Trump won the election. It is impossible to write about the darkness I felt and my fears not just for my country- but for the planet. One recent event has somehow rekindled my dwindling hope that there are people of courage and good faith in this country- the magnificent environmental and sacred sites protest by the Standing Rock Sioux that is enduring despite zero temperatures and a blizzard- though they won a nominal reprieve from the Army Corps of Engineers. It  was 2000 American war veterans that showed up to defend them that many think turned the tide. In one of the most moving scenes I have ever seen, one of the veterans- Wesley Clark Jr, son of the NATO high commander Wesley Clark Sr got down on his knees to ask the Indians forgiveness. This makes all and every protest art I have seen or heard of reek of insincerity and downright cheesiness.

For more on Kathe Kollwitz's life and art:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fear and Loathing

Hieronymus Bosch

For the past months, watching the progress of the American presidential election words, my words, any words, about art seemed trivial. To say that I am heartsick over the election results is an understatement. It is like watching a grotesque horror movie in slow-motion.  Many of us felt that money and the banks compromised one side and the other side, riven by fear and hatred, was fed Hitlerian promises of "Make America Great Again" and scapegoated minorities. Many of the problems of blue collar America were indeed poorly addressed by the liberal elite and the whole country, if not the planet is going to pay dearly.

Friends of mine are in fear of losing their health-care- a very real possibility. The young black man at the meat counter of a store I patronize told me he was scared. His co-worker saw frighteningly aggressive displays of Trumpism in New Hampshire after the election. My grand-niece sobbed for days. There will be no relief or help for college tuition for her and her friends in her lifetime.

My present model, a young man from Moldova, perhaps Europe's poorest country, cannot understand why this great and powerful country cannot educate and have healthcare for its people. He has a Romanian passport, many Moldovans do, and as part of of the European Union he can ( except now for England) go, study and work anywhere there. His older sister after being educated at the Sorbonne (free of cost) is heading for a job in Romania. He said that if he wasn't married and to an America woman, he would go there right now.

Yet I am an artist. That is what I do, I feel imagery can address the pain of difficult and untenable situations yet I am loathe to weaponize art to address political grievances. Some of the most transcendent art on the planet was created by people whose lives and times were far more difficult than  ours. I have stopped the car to listen to Mozart on the radio.and  right now I long to be in a room filled with  Monet's waterlilies. How many dreadful paintings must have been done of the Twin Towers that are now moldering in the basements of homes and art galleries? Goya, Bosch and  Kollwitz are among the few artists, in my opinion, that can paint human pain and make it timeless. All too many exploit human trauma - cheap tricks designed only to appeal to jaded critics.

I tell myself that Monet lived through the French Commune, but I fear this may be much worse. I hope I am proven wrong.

Trump is not my president.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Updates to my paper post "From Blue Jeans to Onion Skins"

I noticed a lot of hits on the post below. I have extensively revised it especially as many links were defunct and  I added new information. I hope it helps you on your quest to find and buy the finest papers the planet has to offer before they disappear forever.

One stellar paper-maker not mentioned in my blog is Cave Papers.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Antonio Lopez

Antonio Lopez was born the same year I was. His fashion illustrations appeared in the new York Times Magazine, Vogue and Women's Wear Daily, etc. Like Nicolas Uribe his work sent me into paroxysms of envy. His work was bold, inventive, passionate and sensual. I often wondered just how his beautifully drawn figures, though sometimes almost abstracted were so alive. It turns out that he insisted on live models. This was in the day that most fashion illustrators, including me, used what we called "swipes",  fashion illustrations or photographs that we copied and simply changed the clothes that were drooping on a rack. I thought I was so inventive when I insisted on doing my own photography. Only in one instance, for a few months, an enlightened art director let me draw from live models. I wish I had those drawings.

Antonio Lopez died at a young age from AIDS, during the dark ages of its inception.

Let us hope that the inspiration of Antonio Lopez and Nicolas Uribe, two brilliant Hispanic artists will somehow inject some spirit into the moribund nouveau classical realism worshiped by Fred Ross,The Art Renewal Center and so on. I know I could use a jolt. Fabuloso!

As I post these pictures I can't help but notice just how exuberant, unselfconscious and unpretentious they are.

“Antonio used to say, ‘Don’t waste a minute of your life dreaming of what you want to be,’ ”Ms. ( Model Pat)  Cleveland said. “ ‘Just be it.’ ”


More about Antonio Lopez

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Why I draw first.

The first image I drew of Adam looked like a timid, shriveled vulture, especially after seeing it on my blog. The circular ruff accentuated that unfortunate image. I had intended another colorized print in the background but it overwhelmed the sensitive nature of this young man's face. The lighting from my window forms a beautiful arc of light on his forehead and cheek, so I made the figure bigger in the space to focus on that pattern.

I don't know if this story is true, but I read somewhere that when Marilyn Monroe was to make a public appearance, she put on her jewelry and then removed the pieces one by one until she was down to perhaps ear-clips. She preferred the attention was on her, not her jewelry.

Planning a painting is learning how to let go of the inessentials.