Monday, December 31, 2012


                                                                                                January 1, 2013

On the calendar page, jailed numbers are forced to do time. In a painting, time stretches out, and light on a face can last for centuries. Artemisia Gentileschi was able to achieve this, as others have before and since. 

The paintings included here all had other incarnations: they were started, then set aside, and then re-started after a lapse of time. In contrast, the drawings spiraled-out from a single point, over minutes or hours, in a single day.

Please note that the last of these drawings, “Leaflin In a Wool Cap,” will be included in the exhibition, “The Drawing Salon” at the Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery, UC Santa Cruz,  January 20-March 10.  There will be a reception on Sunday, February 10, from 3-5. I hope to see you there.

Happy New Year!


"In Red & Black"-oil on canvas, 24" x 20"

"Eduardo, Drawing"-colored pencil on paper, 12" x 9"

"Hieratic Robe"-oil on canvas, 48" x 36"

"Dancing Child"-colored pencil on paper, 12" x 9"

"Pink Cake"- oil on canvas, 24" x 24"

"Leaflin In A Wool Cap"-charcoal, tempera & acrylic on paper, 26" x 20"

Friday, November 30, 2012

"Purple Skirt" : The Evolution Of An Image

The source for “Purple Skirt” was first a sketchbook drawing  and then a 10” x 8” acrylic study. The awkward, intricate geometry of the image continued to hold my interest; but it took several years to get back to it, to extend it into a larger and, hopefully, more complex  painting.

Version 4, as purely flat as it is, sets the basic composition. Here I leaned heavily on contrasts between the Venetian red gesso and the ochre and yellow in the figure and window-frame. This was the basic-research part of the painting.

Purple Skirt-4

Version 7 was a start on the ambiguous and atmospheric quality of the final painting, especially the treatment of the head.

Purple Skirt-7

I could have continued in the direction the painting took in version 9. Here the weight and posture of the figure fall in a natural manner.  I had to leave these attributes aside in order to get the surface quality that became my central concern.

Purple Skirt-9

In version 10, the lemon yellow of the couch-back gave me an idea of how to build the color. I eliminated the yellow in later versions (there ended up being a dozen more variations), but I did keep the paint-handling the color had suggested.

Purple Skirt-10

When I was done with version 12, I had most of the basic elements in place, but a long, hard slog was necessary to reach the finish-line.

Purple Skirt-12

The final painting has the kind of surface physicality that I’m fixated on. It’s what I’ve been calling, "saturated transparency," for lack of a better term. I hope I can carry it through to future paintings.

"Purple Skirt"-oil on canvas,  36" x 36

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October Drawings & Paintings

It’s been a productive month for me, with three new large paintings started and one completed, a dozen paintings on paper and a sketchbook full of drawings. The interaction between drawing and painting continues to unfold in ways that are still unpredictable to me. 

"Maria-Purple Dress 1"--9'' x 13" acrylic on paper

"Laptop"--12" x 16" colored pencil on paper

"Halter Top"--18" x 16" pastel, charcoal & tempera on paper

"Street Viewers"--12" x 9" colored pencil on paper


"The Shawl Backdrop"--16" x 12" tempera & gesso on canvas

"Short Coat"--12" x 9" colored pencil on paper

"White Dreadlocks'--12" x 9" pencil & charcoal on paper

"Skeptical"--12" x 9" colored pencil on paper

"Man With A Noble Nose"--10" x 7" pencil on paper

"Maria-Purple Dress 2"--13" x 9" acrylic on paper

"Nude On A Couch"--18" x 16" mixed media on paper

"Leaflin"--36" x36" oil on canvas

Sunday, September 30, 2012


I have been using drawings and color sketches as sources for larger paintings, but some of these studies never make the transition. I take them out to look at occasionally and think about the paintings I’ll do in the future—whenever that is. A few I return to over and over again. This is a selection from that group.

"Closed Pose"  12" x 9"  tempera & crayon on paper

"Leaflin With Her Necklace"  28" x 20" acrylic on paper

"Against White"  12" x 9" acrylic on paper

"Z  Pose"  28" x 20" acrylic on paper

"The Tattoo" 18" x 13" acrylic on paper

"Red Couch Nude"  13" x 14" acrylic on paper

Friday, August 31, 2012


Work continues on the large-scale figure paintings, but this month I thought I'd present a group of sketchbook-size drawings. Some may become the raw material for a painting; all of them are examples of my current drawing practice.

"Near Sleep"--tempera on paper   

"Abbey Man"-- pencil on paper

"Maria In August (1)"--tempera & acrylic on paper

"Leaflin Looks Left"--tempera & acrylic on paper

"Eduardo At Mark's"--charcoal & white chalk

"Maria In August (2)"--tempera on paper

"Leaflin Looks Right"--shellac-based ink & acrylic

"Mark In His Garden"--pencil on paper

Sunday, July 29, 2012

PAINT & WORDS: A Journal  Of Ideas & Images

                On "Swimmer's Shoulders"
                                                                         (Written entry follows the images)

Swimmer's Shoulders--version 1

Swimmer's Shoulders--version 2

Swimmer's Shoulders--version 3

Swimmer's Shoulders--version 4


Swimmer's Shoulders--version 7



"Swimmer's Shoulders" (Artist & Model series), 60" x 48," oil on canvas


This painting was developed from drawings--invented and from the model--as well as from reference photographs. It’s a studio construction, made in studio dreamtime over many 5 to 7-hour sessions. The title comes from a phrase the model used to describe herself, though she isn't an avid swimmer.

After the initial composition was set up, a simple profile of the main figure just seemed too constrained, and the pose changed considerably along the way. The yellow light on the window frame led me, in some strange way, to the strength of the head, but I can’t fully explain how . As with more and more things these days, the connection in paint is clearer to me than the connection in words.

I’m always drawn to landscapes (and landscape-based abstractions) that let the eye shift from traditional perspective to flat patterning and back again. I gave myself a similar challenge with this painting: to play the volume of the main figure off the contour-driven elements of the room. I had mixed success, but the painting does seem to conjure up its own ambiguous space.

With the exception of the double portraits, most paintings in the Artist & Model series reduce the artist to a background figure or the image in a mirror. It’s the classic manikin or homunculus, a little man of the mind. This feels appropriate for the self-involved, compulsive behavior I often fall into in the studio.

There are two other “Artist & Model” entries now in progress. When they’re done, I'd like to work on some variations in composition and tone. The figure paintings will continue, but it’s likely the homunculus will go on hiatus--though, whatever happens, he’ll still be there in my mind.

Saturday, June 30, 2012


(Written entry follows images).

Red Couch-Version 8

Red Couch-Version 15

"The Red Couch" (Artists & Model series), oil on canvas, 60" x 48"


Dark Stockings-Version  4

Dark Stockings-Version 10

"Dark Stockings" (Artist & Model series), oil on canvas 36" x 36"


The new paintings are working in a way I’ve long intended, but the process of painting has become harder for me to fathom. Some of the pieces are large and studio sessions for them are long, but the change in process can’t be entirely attributed to scale or time. Here I take process to mean something in addition to method, something that is more—for lack of a better word—internalized.

The method itself has remained much the same for the last few years: drawing--but not often painting--from the model; drawing at the beach, in cafes and on the street; assembling photos and drawings as sources for studio work. What has become insistently clear in the last few months is the crucial role played by elements in the title; the problematic, the abstract and the personal. These days they seem almost as essential as paint and turp.  And they’re elemental in my heart, not just in my head.

I used to think the stubborn difficulties in painting were purely signs of faulty construction or weak skills. And it’s clear to anyone who cares to look, that plenty of those basics are still missing from my work. Like most people, I rarely feel the need to seek out hardships. Smooth sailing and grace notes are welcome here--but the problematic moments in painting are something of equal value. As they stand in your way, they also turn you. They can shout all day long, “Not this way! Not this way either!” They can exhaust you—sometimes I think the prime purpose of these perceived barriers IS to exhaust you—to the point where it’s almost--almost--impossible to hear, “Yes , this way.”  

To be truthful, sometimes you never hear it.

I realize now that the abstract qualities of a piece, far from being something I invented, are the tools I need to complete the work. The most meticulously “realistic” portraits rendered in square blobs (Chuck Close) or thick lines (Alice Neel) are evidence of the long-running relationship between the abstract and the practical. I’ve come to see that, for me, there is nothing more useful than abstract color or form to construct an ear or enlarge a cloud or to translate an ambiguous light.

The personal element is the most mysterious one. It acts as a kind of clairvoyant shopping list. What I want to know and what I never want to know are present there in equal measure. This can’t be psychologized or art-historisized away, it can only be experienced, like these lines from George Oppen:

“In dream an old man walking,
An old man’s rounded head
Abruptly mine”