Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December Frost

December Frost
  oil on panel  14" x 14"

It just seems these old trees have witnessed time stretching back for decades - they are evidence of energy and moisture and time accrued. The struggle to record the gesture and weight, to come to terms with the space and volume at times seem to be a kind of homage to the trees and the time they represent. This brings to mind a quote of Willem de Kooning's, "It seems that a lot of artists, when they get older, they feel their own miracle in nature, a feeling of being on the other side of nature."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

October Day
  oil on canvas  28" x 44"
It has been a couple of weeks since my last post - we've been to two weddings and a funeral and of course Thanksgiving with family and so on.  Plus, I have been framing work for two up coming exhibits - I'll have three paintings in the December / Holiday show at ArtSquare in Leesburg, Virginia. Everyone is invited to opening night, next Friday, December 9th - starting at 6:30 in the evening. Also in Leesburg,  I'll have 15 paintings at the Loudoun County Courthouse beginning January 10th through the end of February. Lots of new things there - which I am now wrestling into frames!  So very busy and glad of it, I guess - I'm looking forward to it all slowing down soon and a more regular pattern of painting and posting and writing about it all.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Early October Day

Early October Day
  oil on panel  12" x 18"
A little, non-descript corner of a field that seemed to me to hold all of Autumn within it's space. I'm always drawn to the ragged edges of the land - the places not filled in and neglected - if one looks closely enough the old fence lines and depressions left from old buildings' foundations can still be found. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

View of the Potomac From Murray Hill

View of the Potomac From Murray Hill
 oil on panel  12" x 16"
A new perspective of the river from high on a bluff - I'm more used to floating in my rowboat down there among these islands. This view was afforded my workshop group a couple of Saturdays ago by the nice people at Murray Hill, a beautiful estate right on the edge of Leesburg, Virginia. We had the run of the place for two glorious days and it was very special. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fall Day, Near Leesburg

Fall Day, Near Leesburg
  oil on panel  9" x 16"
A simple visual poem attempting to capture a day full of movement and color and change. The best paintings, it seems to me, are the ones in which the painter suspends any drive to control or order the world and commits to simply struggling to grab hold of a small part of the chaos. Willem deKooning was an independant and contentious fellow, never trusting artist-types who espoused an abstract / transcendant theory of what paintings should look like. Instead he wrote, 'the best we can hope for is to bring some order to ourselves'. He never could say where his work would go until he entered the process - the commitment and faith in the process without regard to finished product. Such work looks to me to carry an intensity and freshness that is intrinsic and everlasting. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Lake Afternoon

Lake Afternoon 
  oil on canvas  9" x 12"
  Another one made standing on the dock, trying to breath the space and light right on to the canvas - without worrying about what things are. Sound crazy? Well once one detaches oneself from judgement, hesitation, fear of failure or imitation - and one embraces the moment and the place as revealed in value, color, and shape - the impossible can happen and the spirit of that place appears as if by magic. Hope this one takes you to the lake on a late afternoon in September, on a magical day.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Road In Maine

A Road In Maine
  oil on canvas  28" x 38"
When I look at this one now, I wish I could go back and stand there on such a day. Maybe that is the large part of making a painting - one tries to compress a process measured in hours down to a precious moment, even as every molecule in the field of vision constantly changes. Maybe also, getting lost in the process of painting for a few hours allows one to forget the passage of time that will not allow that moment to happen again. A painter must always move forward while fighting to hold on to something already gone. I had an opportunity to look at some of Edward Hopper's paintings a couple of weeks ago and I think that is the impact of his work - the essence of an awareness of irretrievable time past.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Moosehorn River, Late Afternoon
  oil on panel  12" x 15"
Funny thing, the refuge is mis-named, Moose have antlers not horns - probably left over from early white settlers' mistake. The river meanders past where I had settled to work over a couple of days - I could look in any direction and see another good subject. After normal everyday electronic saturated life, the absolute quiet and huge scale of the space were intense - and hard to leave after a few days. Hope these paintings bring a little of that peace home with me for you. Of course, if you're ever interested in owning any of these works, simply get in touch.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Moosehorn Afternoon

Moosehorn Afternoon
  oil on panel  9"x 12"

The Moosehorn National wildlife Refuge is close by our lake, its a huge swath of land that runs parallel to the lake along the side towards the Canadian border. I would guess the refuge is several miles long and two or three wide - it is a real treasure - with nesting bald eagles (they swoop our lake for fish) and big old black bears (I've seen two over the years up there) and all kinds of various wildlife. Lucky for me there are a few paths that lead in to the Reserve and one even has a covered platform for watching birds (or painting) - this one was done looking North from that platform on an afternoon last week. The time went by without notice, though at one point a beaver swam by and circled once, then disappeared. I had to hustle my clean up routine and pack up and hike back to the car when I finished, late in the day. Don't particularly wish to see any bears close up at feeding time!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lake Morning

Lake Morning
  oil on panel 9" x 12"
A brisk morning out on the dock, looking down the lake shore. Times like this make me realize that every painting I make is in some way, a celebration of the marvelous experience of being alive at that moment. I am seldom happier than when up on a lake in the far eaches of Maine. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Small Town Summer
  oil on canvas  28" x 50"
This one has just seems to capture the absolute quiet of a lazy summer afternoon in a small rural town. Maybe a lawnmower in the distance, maybe some kids playing in an empty lot - otherwise quiet and close and hot. This one is a little more controlled than some others I've done but I like to just let the way a place affects me have the last say on what happens in the work - that and some sort of intuitive feel for what looks right and visually effective - its like the Richard Diebenkorn quote to the effect -'painting is an art where one recognizes what one has never seen".

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

August Evening
  oil on canvas  50" x 58"
The connection between poetry and painting are as close as any two different art forms can be.  The search for exactly the right word or set of words echos the search for the right color, the right value. Both forms struggle against the limitations inherent to their scope and tools and process. It is those same limitations that shape the end and give life to what artifact is left at the finish. The goal of each is to allow the ones who discover that work after the fact, to engage - to enter in and experience the place and the mood found within, on their own, with only their eyes and heart to guide.  I feel I’m standing on the edge of those fields Sherwood Anderson writes of every time I read this little poem.

Evening Song
Sherwood Anderson

My song will rest while I rest. I struggle along. I'll get back to the corn and
   the open fields. Don't fret, love, I'll come out all right.

Back of Chicago the open fields. Were you ever there—trains coming toward
   you out of the West—streaks of light on the long gray plains? Many a
   song—aching to sing.

I've got a gray and ragged brother in my breast—that's a fact. Back of
   Chicago the open fields—long trains go west too—in the silence. Don't
   fret, love. I'll come out all right.

Monday, September 5, 2011

"River Day"

River Day
  oil on canvas  48" x 60"

“A painter shows you what he painted, but an artist shows you why he painted."

It might be dangerous to post a painting with this quote attached to it because one can never be absolutely sure sure of having shown the 'why'.   I don’t have a strategy about demonstrating emotion or spiritual power when I paint - that would be a disaster drowned in sentimental nonsense.  I don’t want an illustration or a narrative to make it easier for me or the viewer. At the same time, I can’t think about avoiding these things as I work. 
All I can do is become absorbed completely in attempting to come to grips with what is before me while allowing the poetry evident in the natural world to appear, as if by magic. 
If I give myself totally to an engagement with the process of reacting to shape, space, color, form, shadow and light, I will have done all that can be done. 
I’ll have to leave the judgment of whether it mostly ‘what’ or mostly ‘why’ in the result, to some one new to the work, who looks at the work.
The French poet, Paul Valery, gives me an out for even trying to explain the impossible.
“We must always apologize for talking about painting.” 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Two Paintings For The G.W. Exhibit

Autumn Fields, Loudoun County
 oil on canvas  52" x 60"

 oil on canvas  52" x 52"

These are two of three paintings that I'll have at the Alumni Exhibit for the George Washington University - being held at their Northern Virginia Campus. If this painting is anything at all, it is the tangible record of simply letting myself enter in to a celebration of being alive in one place at a given moment - a kind of transcendance out of oneself, into the place. Abstract or representational, the best painting allows for this - it is what de Kooning was talking about when he said, "The best we can hope for is to bring some order into ourselves".  Perhaps on my best days this is accomplished.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

River Shoreline
 oil on panel  5” x 9”
“Art is what everything else isn't”.  Theodore Roethke
If one attempts to make a painting without care for the edges of things, without the linear definition of where one thing stops and another starts, one is flirting with disaster. But it is the kind of disaster that appeals to me. It is a disaster born out of losing the explanation of what ‘things’ are, what people expect to make looking at the painting easy. It is a disaster made of uneasiness, unexpectedness, uncertainty - a willingness to make a mess and intuitively react. It is a disaster built on a foundation of trusting the arrival of a viewer who would rather explore on their own in order to discover, rather than have everything prepared and explained for them. In this case both painter and viewer become unseen and unknown partners in an immersion in the true nature of the world, where all matter and energy are in constant flax and we can only struggle for understanding in small increments.
What a wondrous disaster to let go of the preconceived and embrace the unknown!
At the same time, this exuberant detonation of ‘thing-ness’ must be tempered by a disciplined practice of absolutely honest seeing - which can only be found in abandonment to the structure and essence of the visual world filtered through the sensibilities and spirit of the artist. It is only on this razor-blade edge between the chaos of unknowing and disciplined searching that art can begin to emerge. 
This brings to mind this quote,
“The difference between painters and artists is that artists make decisions that get them closer to an emotional response to the subject.”   T. Allen Lawson

Thursday, August 4, 2011

  oil on panel  8" x 11"
Donald Hall, in his marvelous book,"Life Work", asks 80 year old Henry Moore what Moore thought the secret of life is. Moore, at the height of his fame as perhaps the greatest sculptor of the 20th century, had remained a humble man who avoided any interruption to his work that he possibly could. 
At this point I'll quote directly from the book.
'With anyone else the answer would have begun with an ironic laugh, but Henry Moore answered me straight: "the secret to life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life.  And the most important thing is - it must be something you cannot possibly do!".
Wow - something you cannot possibly do as the center of one's waking moments, the focus of all one attempts. Pretty daunting at its face value but what Henry Moore was getting at is really something joyful and enchanting - the idea that happiness or satisfaction for a lifetime is found in the work of making art - of complete engagement in coming to terms with the swirling visual world as one discovers it each day. The impossible task of compressing time and space and light into tangible evidence that might mark the way for someone else to experience that  journey - and thereby to make their own discoveries. So here's a moment on a blistering day that I found under a huge old oak tree that sits just outside my studio. Perhaps just a marker along my time spent in a small way along the path Henry describing.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Frontal Rocks
  oil on panel  6" x 8"
Tens of thousands of years of geological time staring me face to face. Sort of puts one's cares in perspective. The earth endures and is indifferent to us and our tiny slice of time. Maybe that is one of the reasons I'm captured so, to try and come to grips with its majesty and complexity and massiveness and leave a humble visual record as an offering. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Morning Rocks

Morning Rocks
 oil on canvas  28" x 38"
It seems to me that, in order to make paintings that might be considered visually powerful or at least effective, a painter must be a functioning split personality. The French poet, Paul Valery, knew Degas late in the master’s life and paraphrased a key piece of knowledge passed along from the old man.“True seeing is the forgetting the names of the objects seen.”   
Every painter must discover this to be true at some point or the work can never progress beyond imitation or illustration - and into the realm of art - making. 
 Lately I have been reading two books that relate first hand stories about Cezanne and his working methods. In a synopsis of many conversations related by Joachim Gasquet, a friend of Cezanne’s since childhood and a writer and poet, Cezanne speaks of his approach to the complexity of the visual world. While Degas and Cezanne are so different in personality, life style, and artistic approach - they both have come to similar conclusions.
    “Nature is always the same, yet nothing we see endures. Our art must convey a glimmer of her endurance with the elements, the appearance of all her changes. I pick her tonalities, her colors, her nuances,... they become objects, rocks, trees, without my thinking about them,... if I get carried away with theory, if I intervene, then bang! All is lost; everything goes to hell”

     This is a wonderful explanation of the act of painting, but Cezanne was such a complex man, sometimes seeming to be contradictory about every aspect of his art, it can be confusing to read him. He admonished young artists to think and consider cylinders and spheres and cubes within the subject - this was often misinterpreted - but if you read carefully a division of when to ‘intervene’ with thinking and when not to becomes clear. Preliminary to the act of painting one must stop and think; “Why have I chosen this subject? What have I fallen in love with? Where is the poetry found in this ‘motif’?”  Then the artist forgets what the thing-ness of his subject and proceeds. A split personality in action, eh?  
Yet thinking is essential to color and influence the subsequent immersion in the act of painting. The thing that writers who knew him seem to agree on was this; Cezanne was driven every day to paint and struggle with the difficulties of being this simultaneous dichotomy - one who thinks and feels and fights to record the impossible beauty of his world, The idea that there were no contours explaining 'things' - only elements that danced, ever always changing before him - this was his obsession.  Presented here, 'Morning Rocks',  is my latest attempt to follow, in my own way, the same path. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 17, 2011


  oil on gessoed watercolor paper  12" x 16"

krackle 1
  oil on canvas  12" x 14"

I have a wonderful book on Degas that has really good reproductions of his work, including many drawings and studies one seldom sees in museum displays. The best part of this book, however captivating the work is, are the many letters of his and published remembrances of him by others that knew him at all periods of his life but especially in his advanced years. One of those remembrances concerns a time when Degas and a friend "slipped in to a private exhibit that his idol, Ingres, was holding in his studio for potential buyers and others of note in Parisian society. I think probably Degas use of 'slipped in' meant he and his companion crashed the party - but he worshipped Ingres and his work so I'm sure Degas felt it was justified.
Degas describes the people at the party as remarking on each work Ingres had hung for exhibit - enthusing over how 'the master' had evoked past styles and examples. Degas describes Ingres as quietly and with some discomfort accepting the accolades as if he was tolerating a misreading for the sake of not upsetting his public. Finally someone exclaimed once again that a particular work had explored another style - Ingres simply stated, 'I have many brushes'.  Degas was said to have laughed and repeated this statement many times, thoroughly enjoying the clever remark.
What was Degas enjoying - what was Ingres getting at in his cryptic remark? I think it was a simple statement about not considering styles or end results (the things these collectors and society types were all about) - instead Ingres simply wished to follow his brushes into the exploration of the 'motif'. Tempered by the discipline of craft and technique acquired in a lifetime of immersion in line, form, shadow, and light - as well as a dedication to learning all he could from the masters who had gone before -what Ingres (and Degas after him) was after in any given work was the record of the complex process of reacting to the chosen subject. After all, it was Degas who replied to an elderly matron who asked him if he had lost his mind - "what good is my mind? I have my model, my pencils, my paper, my paints - what do I need with my mind?". 
So here I'm offering two different works - a cliff of rocks from a few years back and a more recent abstraction. They are as different as two works by the same hand might be and yet, are inextricably related by mark, color, space, surface - in fact by spirit. The rock formations and deep forests that have been my most recent obsession can be seen in these two works that have gone before - some observers have the idea that if a painter works in different styles or types, they must be a dilettante - master of none.  All I can reply to such nonsense is, 'I have many brushes' - so I am not caught-up in those concerns.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Rocks (for C.T.)

Rocks (for C.T.)
 oil on panel  12" x 18"
               The news of Cy Twombly's passing brought my thinking about my work into sharper focus I had been dissatisfied lately - too controlled, too tight, too much dictated by subject - what one artist called the tyranny of the 'things'.  Twombly's life's work of proving gain and again that marks are just marks - paintings are first and foremost just flat surfaces with scrawls and grease and pigment on them - and yet what a visceral effect the scrawls always had on me (the viewer).  I think this effect had to do with the envy/discovery of such freedom of exploration.
               This morning's paper had a column about surfer/adventurer Laird Hamilton. Hamilton is a man who has spent a lifetime finding the bigger, further, faster - riding the heaviest waves and courting fear as one would a pretty girl. The writer, Sally Jenkins, writes of Hamilton's 'ability to resolve it (terror) into grace', his 'agility and strength, courage yet surrender' and most importantly perhaps, 'recognition and release'. Hamilton describes how he functions as 'Its not so much the vastness of the wave, it is more about the insignificance of us. When you become insignificant is when you truly begin to participate. That's when it becomes a harmonious act'. 
             The description of what Laird Hamilton does in a physical, athletic world crystallized for me what I recognize in Cy Twombly's work - a surrender of any notion of control or dominance in order to become 'a harmonious act'; allowing the real experience of living, seeing, marking our place in this world to take over from any notion that we might control or know.   The best art, it seems to me, filters life experience through one's soul and is left behind like crumbs left by children in the dark forest.
So, I will cut loose and embrace the chaos of visual life, like riding an immeasurable, vast rogue wave. This painting, then, is offered to you as one of my markers, a pathway to my record of time and marks and shapes and space.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Rocks Above #2
  oil on panel  6" x 8"
Sometimes, it seems keeping up with this blog and getting my work out in front of the public takes more time and energy than the painting. This is why, for the hand full of folks who actually look at this blog, the posting must seem irregular at best. Well, that's just the organic way it seems to play out and so be it. There are days the work doesn't progress as I'd like and others that I carry the ideas around with me to sort through and figure out.  Perhaps the patience required in following this stuff distills the readership to a selection of only the finest and truest of viewers - those folks who, if we met in real life, would be instantly in tune and good friends. Anyway, I will delude myself and believe this is true.
This little rock painting is a step in a direction that I'm hoping will lead me into a series of works, pushing closer to what I want - an intuitive melding of space, place, and light based on observation, coupled with abstracted color, brush handling, and a push/pull surface vitality. The subject for my jumping off point will be these images of rock cliffs and formations I've found in western Maryland. Maybe more tomorrow on process and progress. Hey, you six or seven viewers - leave a comment and let me know how you think about the work. After all, you are an exclusive club member!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pasture Trees, June 2011
 oil on panel  9" x 12"
I don't like to examine too closely how I choose what subjects I paint. Like a hitter on a streak, I'm superstitious enough to believe talking about the streak can break the streak - and you've got to respect the streak ( see: 'Bull Durham"). The key seems to be, no matter the subject, before beginning one must stop and reflect on what has made one fall in love with this moment, this place. And the answers have to be about shadow and light, color and tone, space and form. Only then can one explore freely, knowing what targets the painting is seeking. Monet wrote once that he was not interested in the subject, only in what happens between the subject and him as he made the painting. 
That is the explanation to how I choose what subjects I paint.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pasture, Clarke County, Virginia
 oil on panel  9" x 12"
The clouds skidding and colliding and reforming overhead, like a high ceiling gone berserk, and the trees swaying and rustling in the breeze, with the heavy bales as anchors to hold the whole scene from tearing up and blowing away - I had to work rapidly, dropping brushes and getting paint everywhere - that is when I realized that my frantic energy and sharp attention simply had become part of the whole, compressed time there - my movements echoed the crazy, bumper car sky as I worked at my task. 
What a glorious day!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Clearing Off
 oil on panel  9"x12"
"A minute in the world's life passes! To paint it in its reality and forget everything for that! 
To become that moment ..."  Paul Cezanne
One last small painting I just realized I had left from my recent days at Manteo. Every morning down there right on into mid-day it was overcast and windy, with smoke in the air from nearby brush fires. This particular early afternoon the day flirted with clearing and I tried to grab hold of the wind and water and sky as they buffeted a small peninsula across the harbor. Isn't that just like a crazy painter, trying to grab the wind and sky - it is just that in my quirky lifetime I have found these impossibilities are the only things that can hold my interest (that and of course, baseball and those I love). 
So on it goes, this attempt to become one with the light and space.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Late May, Near Charles City, Virginia
 oil on panel  12" x 18"
Just one of those days that demands attention, the clouds rolling by and the trees finally full and drooping with the weight of the rain and sun. I pulled off a side road and let the place do the work. This area along Route 5, east and south of Richmond has a great richness in open space and water edged or punctuated with great, large hardwoods and thick lines of southern pines. The entire time I was there no one came by. There is a quote by Andrew Wyeth that goes, " Time is holding its breath for an instant and for eternity. That's what I'm after - that is what I'm trying to paint."
I suppose there aren't too many painters more different from each other in approach and style as Wyeth and myself - yet none more attuned to the same feeling about the work. This whole time and space battle made by a painter is really the work of physicists married to the heart of a poet.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wanchese Airstream

Wanchese Airstream
 9" x 12"
"The work is the man." Edward Hopper

In a pretty busy small commercial fishing harbor, across the road from the water and warehouses and piers, sat this old beauty in a field of sand and overgrown weeds.   Edward Hopper said that "the work is the man"-  I was never quite certain about his meaning until I had it pointed out to me by a bad morning.
We had gone to paint at the fishing harbor a week or so ago. All morning it is overcast and threatening rain but we're there to paint, so I start a painting. This morning's painting is of a couple of fishing boats along side a dock, piles of stuff on the dock, buildings going off into the middle distance - all blue and slate and subdued greens with a soft gray sky. It would not come together - just kicked my rear all morning, the magic just never came. Now, almost every painting goes through a period when it seems lost but this one remained lost. After 3 hours of gray I realized why it didn't work - I wasn't in love with it - I never had a trigger to see me through the process.   Well, I was discouraged and tired and about as gray as the morning.   I'm hauling my gear back to the truck and while standing in the bed of the truck I turn and across the road is this old trailer in a field of sand and overgrown weeds. I scrape off my palette and squirt out some paint and dive in. - and I am saved! In an hour and a half I slash  and flail and forget my discouragement and disaster from the morning - I have a reason to make things happen. Once again I have to teach myself why I paint - the intensity of a visual incident. A reflective surface, the juxtaposition of shadow and light, a pattern of shapes and color that describe space and form - these are the elements of physics and time, of visual life itself, that can make the insane process of making paintings come alive. Thats what it takes for me - thats how the work describes and defines me.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Rocks Above, Swallow Falls
  oil on panel  12" x 18"
When human frailty in the form of pain or age rears its ugly head and when the energy level is less than hoped for and the focus wanders and balks - if then, one can simply pause long enough to look up, to see the complexity of the overwhelming, fantastic visual world we are standing in - troubles and time and the anchors of our thin existence dissolve like fog before the sun.  
Why do I make these paintings? This is why. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April Sky Study
 oil on panel  6" x 8"
  The thing about painting in the field, alla-prima, is the terrible battle between what is actual and what one is able to latch onto as everything changes. After all, we are trapped by gravity on a spinning ball of rock and dirt and water as it hurtles through the vast and cold space! The planet is spinning so fast we can't comprehend it and every living thing is struggling through its life cycle and straining to gain nourishment and warmth from the sun's light. It is a mess out there. The primary business of making a painting 'out there' is to try to grab a moment of the real during a process that takes an hour or two, or more - compressing that time and distill the essence of that time frame into that chosen moment. The stuff of physicists, philosophers, and poets - but in visual form having the capacity to delight and transcend. Wow! So, here is an attempt at such magic - just looking up on a glorious day and attempting the impossible.

Monday, April 25, 2011

  oil on canvas  14" x 18"

Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of 
haste.  It's what everything else isn't.  Theodore Roethke

Well, as often is the case, the poet has said it all. I haven't posted in a few days - we were up in Western Maryland last week and we went hiking around Swallows Falls. All along the hike there were these rock formations hanging above us - dramatic and fascinating. Here's the first in a series - hope they're what everything else isn't.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Afternoon Fields, April
  oil on panel  7" x 10"
Sometimes a day so wonderful just brings you to a sense of how lucky one is to be alive, in this time, in this place. On this glorious day, standing before my easel in the field, it was like living in the middle of Beethoven's 'Pastoral', what could be better?

April Creek
  oil on panel  7" x 9"
Got this one between rainy days and the sky just won't give over to a clear day. This little creek is one I have painted from several different spots over the years. We have had years when the whole thing just dries up and thin puddles of trapped water get stagnant while sand and rocks dry out in the sun. It seems that after this winter's snow and rain she's recovered (after four years) and the blue herons are back as well. Being aware of the rhythm of nature and the smallest changes are one of the benefits of being a landscape painter - everything is a possibility and so I'm always looking and imagining - makes for interesting driving on these dirt roads. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

April 6th, On The Way To John's
 oil on panel 7" x 12 1/2"
On a chilly, breezy April day I found this spot on a back road just shy of the West Virginia line. When I was setting up my paint box in the bed of my truck the couple that farms this place drove up and stopped and asked me what I was up to. I told them it was so pretty there I was going to try and make a painting. They said OK and drove on down to the farm house. A little later a truck stopped on and the driver came over to see what I was up to and commented - he seemed to like it.  By that time the breeze had changed to a steady wind and I had to hold the paint box with my left hand to keep it steady while painting with my right. Just another joyous day outside trying to come to grips with a painting.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Early Spring Afternoon
 oil on panel 7 1/2" x 9 3/4"
I was heading out to the studio to gather up my kit and hike down our quiet dirt road, to find a spot from which to paint. I was taken by the yellow forsythia and my old aluminum row boat with its faded blue cover. That boat I will take out on the middle Potomac river and throw down my homemade anchors near the shade of a river island and work the shadow and light into some sort of paintings. In 1875, Monet had moved his growing family out of Paris up along to a rural village along the Seine. He made a series of paintings of the construction of a bridge; piles of lumber, the superstructure going up, the view downstream from under the bridge. Seeing a picture of Monet painting on the Seine in a small boat rigged up as a studio inspired me to buy this boat. In these early paintings, he wasn't yet the colorist painting the haystacks or the cathedral facade, in these works he worked boldly with slabs and shapes of paint in descriptive color and capturing the luminescence of the river in changing light. Though I've only seen these paintings once at a retrospective at the National Gallery, they remain my favorites, except perhaps the late, huge paintings of water reflections and lily pads. So, as I set up in the side yard and built this little spring painting, I kept the memory of those paintings in mind and maybe also my image of the artist himself, working along the river, reveling in the light and the paint.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Morning Sky, April First
  oil on panel  8" x 10"
The day started with patches of sharp blue peeking through big, wet clouds, so I strapped up and hiked down the road to a small turn-in along a farm field. As one tries to catch a swirling, moving sky, speed and memory and flexibility are most important. You can get set up and begin as the sky you loved stretches and runs and skitters away - but you can follow along with it and use visual clues to anchor down the first impression - even as the whole thing dissolves or (in this case) fills in. as I reached some kind of conclusion the sky covered over metal gray, the wind came up from a breeze to a stiff breeze and I realized it was only about 40 degrees out there - the pack up and hike back up the hill was made in record time.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March Marsh
 oil on panel  9" x 13"

March Marsh, March Marsh, bet you can't say that ten times fast.  
There is a wonderful book in a series, "Monet By Himself". Its a compilation of his letters and selections of his paintings and at least half of the letters deal with his difficulties with the weather and how it affects his work. This Spring's weather has brought me to understand these difficulties more deeply. The weather has been much colder than normal and it seems every day begins overcast and clears and clouds over again. Don't get me wrong, it is my joy to paint out in the field - but this spring is testing me. Then a day comes and you get a good light and no wind and things are looking terrific -  and every where I go is posted 'no tresspassing' or with stone walls right up on the on the roadside so that no one could stand there and no place triggers a compelling visual moment and my doubts creep in as I push my truck around these dirt roads aimlessly.    And then a discovery.   A place that is a frayed edge, a place no one cares for enough to post or wall in and the light and space is magic once more, even with the steady noise of traffic nearby or the pink flags marking the land for the coming bulldozers. For a compressed moment all is visual exploration and the struggle to find and process understanding and form.
The joy is returned. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Early Spring Cedar
        oil on panel  7 1/2" x 11"
I have rigged up a backpack with my new small paint box and brushes and everything else I might need, so I might hike in to places where my pick-up truck won't or can't go. So this is a first - this painting was made just a short hike down our dirt road to a little section of a farm that borders a tangle of undergrowth and wild cherry, oak, and maple trees. The cedars scattered along the fence line are deep green against the red and gray and tans of the just starting to bud woods. I carried my whole kit in my pack and it worked out nicely - the little 9" x 12" Guerilla Paintbox performed well.  Can't wait to hit the trails along the Blue Ridge Mountains with my new set-up.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fence Line, March 22

March Fence Line
 oil on panel  7" x 10"
Just an overgrown fence line at the edge of the woods on the first day of spring. The rain was approaching and the trees in the background were beginning to show signs of budding. I'm pretty sure the vines on the fence greened up during the time it took to make the painting.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Early Spring Sunset

Early Spring Sunset
 oil on panel 6" x 8"
A fallow field just beginning to show some green and the rain storm starting to be pushed off by a brisk northwest wind - all these elements conspired to give me a brief chance at bringing the space and structure within my grasp. The wondrous thing about such an image is that it requires absolute speed and focus without any of the devilish analysis that can paralyze.  These kinds of paintings must be a leap of faith, just trust your instincts and go for it. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wood Pile

Wood Pile
 oil on panel  8" x 11"
The hard slanted light of early March falling across the sections of a downed tree - a jumbled line of shadow and light that seems to catch the essence of this day. Spring is coming despite a call for snow this coming Monday - we're hoping for the crocus to show any time now.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Early March Oak
  oil on panel  6" x 8"
One of the ten 150 year old oaks that surround our place - all of them are a source of visual incident on any given day, in any possible light.  As distinctive and majestic as they are, when I look at the drawings and paintings I've based on them, the work seems to reflect my mood and situation more than the 'thingness' of the subject. This is how it ought to work.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Far End of the Lake
  oil on panel  7" x 15"

This one was done yesterday from a charcoal sketch done up on Lake Pocomoonshine in Princeton, Maine. While sticking to the veracity of the sketch, it doesn't fill in every detail - and that is a good thing. Interesting to note here that Degas believed one should work from memory (after careful study of subject) - he thought that when working from a well prepared memory of a subject - all the peripheral material was discarded and only the essence of the subject remained.
I find it is certainly easier said than done - but still doable. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Last Light, February 27th
  oil on panel  6" x 8"
A painter I've admired for years once told me something that has stayed with me for sixteen or seventeen years. I happened to meet Eugene Leake one Saturday morning at the Grimaldis Gallery in Baltimore. I had come up to see his paintings in a one man exhibit at the gallery when he came in - I introduced myself and he talked to me about his work  - he said he had come that morning to look at the paintings, after all the  pressure and hoopla about getting everything ready and hung and theopening and such - he had come that quiet morning to see his work and rediscover who he was, so he could get back to work. 
      This past Sunday dawned clear and promised to warm up into the mid forties - the first good painting day in months. I paced and worried and wondered where and what I could go and paint - I was at a loss and I knew I didn't want to waste the day.  I needed some way to get going, get back to work. It finally dawned on me - what I often did when I was stuck and uncertain (every year at this time) I went out front of the studio and house and looked up into the 200 year old oaks that surround our place. There it all was - form, space, color, shadow and light - the things painting has to be about before it is about any subject. as I became lost in the moment and place and the struggle to get a handle on those vital elements I realized all that I was doing was rediscovering who I was - what I loved - so I can get back to work. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Top of The Cliff
  oil on panel 8" x 10"
If one is trapped long enough indoors with only indoors things to paint, sooner or later one will resort to imagery drawn from sketches, old paintings of lesser success, or even successful ones of a different size. Thus a rocky promentory somewhere in Vermont, with high summer foliage and sunny summer skies, comes to life in the wintry studio (we had some more snow last night). 
One clings to sanity any way possible.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bag 2
  oil on panel  10" x 14"

Well the death rattle has passed off me and I am able to stand upright for more than a half hour without exhaustion. So over to the studio and back to my Giant Food giant leaf bag. I layed it down and went into battle - keep it simple; allow seeing to take over; find value structure and form - who would think one could spend a joyous afternoon with a paper bag? 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pasture Creek
  oil on canvas  28" x 40"
This one just went up in the George Washington University Alumni Exhibit at the Virginia Campus. A little taste of high summer in the midst of the melting ice and mud of late February. I have slowed to a standstill this week, afflicted with a monster cold and feeling punky. It is seeming to lift now and the weather man is dangling better weather in front of me like a leather chew before Angel, the wonder dog. (She's a wonder because we puzzle over what she thinks and does) Back to the hot tea and tissues and hopefully, fresh work for next week.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Brown Paper Leaf Bag
  oil on panel  11" x 14"
There are former students who, during their time in my class, have been traumatized by this sort of bag. As I ignored cries for mercy begging to have bags set before them no more, I assured them that 'a lifetime's joyful work' might be found in bags such as this. The form, the varied surfaces, the opportunity for color exploration within the neutral brown, ... one could go on. They didn't believe me so, thus is launched a series of bag works. I'll show them!    Tomorrow, multiple bags.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Winter Geranium
  oil on panel  8" x 10"
I'm not certain why I placed this pot of Geraniums on the striped cloth but it must have something to do with a desire to set chaos up for myself and fight my way through to some semblance of understanding.
Otherwise it would be cry for help by someone unbalanced. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Dark Vase
  oil on panel  6" x 9.5"

Ok - here's the second one of the crazy vase - different color / tonal feel to it but still the same source for potential instability in the painter. How can you trust someone so unbalanced? 
Thats it for this week - enjoy the Super Bowl commercials and see you here on Monday.