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.

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.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Nicolas Uribe

Simply the best.
No contemporary figurative artists get me seething with jealousy like Nicolas Uribe.
There are many that have well honed skills, nice, very nice,too nice, from slick to brown and brooding, but ultimately lacking in surprise and depth. His color is impeccable.  He is an absolutely rare and brilliant painter.

I won't say more about him, because unlike too many artists, he does not need volumes to describe what he does. His work itself is prose and poetry.

He simply kills me.


Thursday, June 2, 2016

New Picture- Adam

Just a beginning of a new direction. A guy!
This is a pastel and charcoal on light green Fabriano Ingres paper.
He will have a Pierrot collar but I really wanted to discuss the difficulty of drawing hands, especially on seated figures.

Hands and bodies move, seated figures are the hardest to align,so the best thing is to use plumb lines- weighted strings with fish weights held vertically at the looking point in a sight-size set-up-https://www.sightsize.com/past/robert-douglas-hunter/  and draw vertical lines from various points,(eyes, nose ears ) on the models head to the hands to line them up properly. I also have a T-square that I line up with a vertical element in my studio to place the horizontals- end of hands, knees, etc. The difficulty is compounded by the foreshortened arm. On my painting "Aylla", it was easy, I had pins  placed on the black chair that she put her fingers next to. I cannot put pins in Adam's legs ( he objected), so I have to continually readjust them. It takes patience, but Adam has amazing long fingers and beautiful hands - I want to capture this aspect of him.

Models move and it is imperative to get them in exactly the same place over and over again. Some models cannot do it and it is difficult for a beginner. That is why I always start a drawing of a new model before I go to a canvas. Adam is a photographer and Pratt graduate who understands and the exigencies of working with models, but even he was unprepared at how difficult being an artist's model would be. Models, and this includes Adam who was surprised at the physical pains that come with sitting in one position for long periods of time.

I was not trained in the sight-size method. At the Boston Museum School, we were left alone with the model and expected to carry on as best as we could. The sight-size method is increasingly being taught in the Classical Ateliers sprouting up all over the world. Learning Classical Realism at the Ateliers has its pluses and minuses. You do learn to drawn mimetically, but I think at some loss of expressiveness. I saw drawing I did when I was twenty three before I had learned the method. What I noticed was that what it lacked in accuracy, hands too big etc., it gained in  vivacity. Although I think  that the ateliers that have sprung up like mushrooms over the last decades are a net positive I think too many atelier students are coming out looking like clones of their teachers who are looking like clones of their teachers. I am not the first to make this observation.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Toot Toot!

My own horn.

I am featured in the splendid June/July issue of The Artists Magazine. The last time I was in I was in the over 60 category 5 years ago. I guess they figured they better feature me before I croak.

The author Judith Fairly did a fabulous job making sense out of the gobbledegook of our interview, it really captures how and why I work.There are step by step diagrams of my painting practice. The whole piece was so well done. It includes a broad range of painters from Andrea Kowch  to the charming collages of Marcus Ratliff. I am placed embarrassingly before the article on Degas' monoytypes. The magazine gets a lot of squawks from the "realist" community because it does nor adhere to a strict policy of realists only- thank GOD! It makes for a more interesting magazine than its earlier incarnation before Maureen Bloomfield.  I of course will get billions of copies.

A pretty realistic view of  where I work

A bit tarted up!