Thursday, December 31, 2009


Hello everyone - be sure to leave comments about the work - I'm hoping to establish a dialogue among painters and folks who love paintings - kind of a virtual artist's cafe. Go ahead, help start the ball rolling - and thanks for visiting.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Autumn Creek
oil on panel
9" x 7"
"Its alright to let yourself go as long as you can let yourself back."
Mick Jagger
The trick, when painting outdoors, is that there are no tricks. Everything is in flux and there are no shortcuts and no formulae. Only the exploration of the truth. This is what attracts me most of the time, this absence of repetition or certainty. One must relearn the whole thing all over again as one tries to let go of preconception or knowledge. It is this plunging -in while abandoning the worry of result or product that frees the painter to the total absorption in the moment, the light, the space, the energy. It is discovering an approach to physics from the non-mathematical side of things. The reassurance comes from knowing of others who have gone before along the lines of a similar quest.
"A minute in the world's life passes!
To paint it in its reality and forget everything for that!
To become that minute." Paul Cezanne

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Down the Road
7" x 10"
oil on canvas
Tangled bramble roses and weeds along roadside ditches on a November day warmer than expected. There is a poetry to be found down there on the rough edge of an old farm. The visual tension between the tangle and the escaping road is enough to keep me occupied and the risk of ending up with nothing is enough of a trigger the painting. Some days I will pace and wander and drive the pick-up all over searching for just such a moment. Often it is a sideways, 'out of the corner of my eye' thing that brings me to a halt.
"Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Lay your shadow on the sundials
and let loose the wind in the fields."
Ranier Maria Rilke

Monday, December 7, 2009

Woods in November
oil on canvas
A breezy and crisp day with the last of the leaves hanging on. Folks are always suggesting scenic places that "I would just love to paint"... or so they assume. Its probably more about what they would like to paint I guess. Willem deKooning is quoted as saying "the best we can hope for is to bring some order to ourselves." I think, in his broken english, he was talking about an understanding of ourselves as measured against life's struggles and confusions.  Along that line, I'm much more drawn to something like the chaos of this little patch of woods as the sun light breaks up among fluttering leaves and bending trees and the tangle of light and shadow, leaf and branch all cry for attention. On such a day one feels time fleeing before winter's approach and how precious every moment is. These are the things I am attracted toward when attempting to make a painting, wrestling some understanding out of the visual cacophany of living things - finding a little order within myself as I struggle to understand what I see.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Island in the Stream
oil on panel
6.75" x 12"
"If you trust in Nature, in the small Things that hardly anyone sees and that can so suddenly become huge, immeasurable; if you have this love for what is humble and try very simply, as someone who serves,
to win the confidence of what seems poor:
then everything will become more coherent and somehow more reconciling,
not in your conscious mind perhaps,
which stays behind, astonished, but in your innermost awareness."
Ranier Maria Rilke

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Single Tree
oil on panel
6" x 10"
Like a dancer caught in a pose, this tree stood where a fence line once ran on a deserted farm near our home. A lovely, quiet spot in the rolling hills of Virginia's piedmont.

Friday, November 13, 2009

November Oak
oil on canvas
16" x 22"
When we first came to live in the old church, I was just blown away by the ancient old oaks that stood guard all around our little home. They towered over us and swayed with the wind and shaded the entire acre and a half and were almost too immense to comprehend. So I set up my french easel out under them and began painting, looking up at the cold late autumn sky through the muscular branches. I never tire of them and when I'm feeling blocked or unsatisfied with my work I find I can go back to this source and rediscover what my painting needs to be about - light and space and place and form. This one dates from our first year or two there, maybe 1986.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Under Route 719
oil on canvas
14" x 18"
Right on the north end of town there is a wooded creek that snakes along between the old part of town and the newer business strip of autobody shops and bus terminal and carpet places. It is a wild sanctuary that no one wants - a kind of flood plane that has a mix of wild meadow and woods and second growth and thick white pine stands that were planted to sheild buildings along its edge. It is a favorite place to paint because no one bothers me and the varied subjects have been wonderful. So here I am one summer day at the least picturesque place along the stream - the pre-cast concrete spillway under a local road. Once upon a time this would have been a sturdy stone structure echoing the craftsmen who built it - now it is what it is. Yet I found the play of dappled light and shadow, the dark little stream and the steamy summer light cooling in the shade all transfixing. I always find the discarded edges around our modern life spaces hold the most interest.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Creek Bank
oil on panel
Down in a nearby creek and examining the overhanging bank - marveling at the glow created by the light reflecting off the water as the water undercuts the trees and tangle of growth above. I suppose from such things the Grand Canyon was created.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Late Afternoon
oil on canvas
14" x 18"
There are usually black cattle dotting this hillside. One hot day I had parked the truck up against the fence line and had worked most of an afternoon looking the other way toward some old dilapidated barns. I'll set up in the bed of my pickup so I can see over the fence line and the tangle of briars and weeds. As I was closing up for the day I happen to glance up the opposite hill, I was caught by the quickly receding light as it broke through the lower parts of the big trees along the field's edge. I scrambled the french easle and all my stuff around 180 degrees and put a small canvas up and worked like crazy to get the essence of that sideways glance. That seems to be a reoccuring theme with me - trying to catch the moment that one is captivated by out of the corner of one's eye. It is more than a little nuts to try and make a permanent, tangible visual statement based on something fleeting and uncertain. Its also the great fun of the whole enterprise.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Creek Mudbank
oil on canvas
12" x 18"
A small stream nearby that can get pretty low in the height of summer. I set up in the gravel in the middle of the stream and looked back toward the mudbank, where the roots of a tulip poplar were exposed and the woods crowded the edge of the stream with a wild tangle of undergrowth and mature trees.
I have a wonderful little book on black and white photography titled something like 'Beauty and Art'. The writer is dead-on when he says that an artist's primary task is to bring 'form out of chaos'. By form he means understanding or a moment of clarity, or even a moment of quiet significance in the most ordinary setting. Just the sort of challenge that will get my attention every time.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Islands In The River
Oil on Canvas
7" x 10"
I spent some days making monochromatic studies. I was intrigued by the idea of conveying the space, the place, the moment in time strictly in terms of value. Sort of limiting my method to increase the expressive potential. I'd recommend it to any painter as a way to get down to the barest necessities and eliminate a lot of extemporaneous and unneeded. But color is always there, waiting for you. Inescapable.
Degas always said he believed in working from memory - forcing the artist to focus only on the things remembered as the essence of the real. Of course, he also made those georgious wax figures and horses to assist his memory - along with the life-like drawings. Seems he was playing both sides of the street, so to speak. I love being out in the world working too much to go the memory route - so I'm always testing ways to eliminate as much as possible while still grabbing hold of the moment.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

October Oak
oil on panel
6" x 8"
Our home is an old church built in the late 1860s and my studio is an old one room school house also on the property. The church was in use well into the 1930s. A local farmer's funeral was the last service observed there. It was winter and the horse drawn hearse foundered on the muddy, snowy road and the men had to lay down logs to corduroy the worst part.of the road. The school house was built for black children who weren't allowed to go to the white schools, and was the last one room school in use here in Loudoun County, just shy of the mid twentieth century. One breezy fall day day a couple of years back, a sedan stopped in the dirt road that fronts our place and an elderly black lady got out of the car and stared at the studio.
We invited her to come up the little hill and go inside the old building but she said she couldn't make it over. She just wanted to look at it one more time. It turns out the lady was the last teacher at the school.
I've heard stories that she walked four miles from Purcellville every day to teach those children.
The school/studio and our home are surrounded by eight 200 year old oak trees, huge and majestic. They have been silent witness to all the struggle and joy that have played out in this place. Sometimes when I'm stumped about what to paint and the sun and wind through those giants reminds me, I go out under the oaks and look up and listen for the ghosts as I work to capture a moment.
If I'm fortunate the painting carries the essence of the place.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Junkyard Late Afternoon
oil on canvas
12" x 16"
I've never been interested in a pituresque scene. Never been much interested in a nice view. I am always drawn to the juxtaposition of opposites and the visual dynamics encoded in shadow and light, as well as relative color intensity. Once a place and subject present themselves I simply need to become lost in the process and let the subject take care of itself. I used to do a lot of paintings in old junkyards because no one would bother about what I was up to and it was a wonderful source of the machine made subjects being slowly taken back by nature.There aren't many such places left as the suburbs gentrify the countryside. The old cars have been compressed and trucked away for salvage.

Summer Day Near Town
oil on panel
8" x 11"
I was standing knee-deep in grasses and saplings, trying to get the sharp sky cutting through second growth trees as the breeze made them wave and flutter. There is something that attracts me to the chaos of nature at the edge of towns or farms or other places people have carved out. I guess it is all about the juxtaposition of order hard won and free-form tangles and energy. This one allows the free and energetic to dominate.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pears with Silver Dish
oil on panel
The eternal battle to grab shadow, light, color and space. Perhaps a draw.

Pines Overhead
oil on canvas
9" x 12"
On a day when I was despairing of finding anything to paint I found these pines near a busy road and a bike path on the edge of town - no place picturesque or special, just some trees that had survived about 20 years judging by the size. It isn't funny how something on the margins of the everyday
can encompass a precious moment in time.

Late Afternoon on the Potomac
oil on canvas
9" x 12"
The river can be a tunnel for wind but also for light and shadow because of the rows of trees that line it on both banks, once I get away from any towns or bridges. This is the shady side of one of the many islands that can be found in the river above White's Ferry. The quiet and peace can be magical in the late summer, punctuated now and then by the rumble of a train passing on the Maryland side.

Above The Fence Line
oil on panel
7" x 22"
A late Ausust day on the edge of an old farm already being torn down and cut up into lots. The wind and sky seemed to be full of nostalgia for what once was and full of portent of what was coming. OK, maybe I was overreacting to something inevitable.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Treetops and Clouds
oil on panel
9" x 12"
A late summer morning with a hint of fall yet to arrive. The rapid execution didn't allow for any thought of subject, instead a total absorption in the light and shadow of the moment.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Late Afternoon
13.5" x 9.5"
oil on panel

We were on a lake with family and the kids were still small then and just having a great time swimming and paddling around in the canoe and rowboat and picking blueberries - this was just a quiet moment after dinner and just before gliding out for some fishing just at dusk.

Edge Of The Farm
8.5" x 11.5"
oil on panel
This was done during a time when a local farm had been closed down and sold for development but the project was held up in court for a couple of years - so I had an idyllic time just driving my truck in amongst the ghostly barns and sheds and setting up where I pleased and painting. This was a corner near the fence line and I was in love with a silvery old tree that swayed and creaked in the summer winds.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Brisk Day On The Lake

oil on canvas
6" x 14"
Out on my row boat on a day when we'll have white caps later because the wind is coming up and the day has the feeling that is quintessential Maine for me. I guess that is what I was after more than anything elese.

Monday, October 12, 2009

From Down in the Creek
oil on panel
9" x 12"
It is part of the difficulty of the whole enterprise, this painting from nature, the question of what, where, and why. Henri Cartier-Bresson said that "It is putting one's head, one's eye and one's heart on the same axis", one of the best explanations of this controlled madness that I've yet found. Which arrangement of shadow and light - which unusual point of view - which simple thing will trigger the beginnings of a painting cannot be foreseen and, for me,  it is never just a pretty scene. One has to be willing to go out each day and venture into the uncertainty, searching.  Like a prospector, if a good vein is found in a place, no matter how ordinary or unusual, the painter will mine there as long as he can make it pay out. I've been back to this little creek many times in all times of year, always finding some small visual incident that captures my attention.
I'm sure I will return.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Blowing Up
oil on panel
8" x 12"
The weather blows right up the lake from the east
and the clouds are racing and scudding and piling up over head.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Summer Trees
oil on panel
6.5" x14"

Along an old fence line on an abandoned farm, everything about high summer seems to be here.

Barns and Sheds on Field's Farm
oil on panel
8.5" x 11.5"
I was caught by the dramatic left to right slant of the land and the big oak to the left as the buildings appeared to stretch out with the topography. I'm a sucker for big old trees.

Summer Sunset on the Lake
oil on panel
10" x 12"

Out in my aluminum row boat, anchored against the current in Lake Pocomoonshine.  My son kayaking nearby, casting for small mouth and drifting past to see my progress. Racing the dusk and its attendant mosquito swarms. Dropping brushes in the boat in the hurry to grab that spectacular moment even as it slips away - I guess that is one of my primary motivations - to try and compress time, space, and energy - a physicist with a brush.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Approaching Storm
28" x 28"
oil on canvas
"Let me seize the air pulsing down these hills,
kissed by a moment's cold frolic,
thoughtless of the strangling calendar.

Let my feet swirl freely among the blonde tangle-grass,
my head planted among intemperate clouds,
at one with my precious delerium.

Nothing lives as sweet as these hours poured out upon the land,
standing at the edge of mystery while boldly greeting the day
with my imperfection, held out as an offering.

I am never far from these fields,
held as they are in my deepest times.
Their wind-sounds find me in the night,
slant light running loose
among shadows in my eyes."