Thursday, November 15, 2012

Morning Lake, Maine
   oil on panel   8" x 10"

"Art very possibly ought to be the supreme achievement, the 'accomplishment', but there is the other satisfactory effect, that of a man hurling himself at an indomitable chaos and yanking and hauling as much of it as possible into some sort of order (or beauty), aware of it both as chaos and as potential."
                                                                                                                      Ezra Pound

     I read somewhere that Henry Moore once described happiness as having something one cannot possibly ever accomplish that one works at with all of one's capacity every day. I believe both Moore and Pound were speaking of the same thing. I would agree with them both.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Stumps, And More

Stump 1
  oil on linen panel  20" x 24"

Stump 2
  oil on linen panel  20" x 24"

" A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, some fantasy. When one always makes your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people."
                                                                                                                 Edgar Degas

     While hiking through a fir and pine forest in western Maryland, hefting my backpack loaded with my painting box and supplies, heading for the rock cliffs along Muddy Creek Falls, I made a discovery. On the forest floor just off the trail, among the gigantic firs, there were a great number of ancient stumps and remnants of fallen trees. In various stages of decay, the great trunks dissolving into red-orange-brown soil and the stumps various shades of blue green moss and lichen and rotting wood. Some were hard or dry enough to stand up out of the decay were bleached cream color with streaks of orange and blue grey.  They were incredible.
        I never made it down the trail to the rocks and falls that day or on several more.  I was enthralled by these relics, each one was evidence of the crashing down of giant trees in the past and the materials of new growth on the forest floor that they were becoming. The evidence of time compressed; past, present, future. Presented here are two examples of paintings wrestled from that forest - and I'm certain more will follow.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

And now, for something completely different.

 River Day
 oil on canvas 30" x 38"

View of The Potomac from Murray Hill
 oil on panel 9" x 12"

Feeling summery-ish? Here's a couple of views of the Potomac on a warm summer day - from two completely different points of view. Someone once said all art is a matter of scale and point of view.I would add the visual sensibility of the artist that enables the everyday to be transformed to the transcendent - the poetry of the moment, if you like. Enjoy!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Along The Shore
 oil on panel  9" x 20"
"I can think of no greater happiness than to be clear-sighted and know the miracle when it happens." Robert Henri
This artist/painter and his book, 'The Art Spirit', has been a guiding light for me for many years. I believe the book was put together by his students after he passed - it is a treasure!
Sometimes when painting the miracle seems rather evasive - at those times one must have a little faith, stop pursuing the 'Art' - and disappear into the process. That is when the happiness returns and the miracles have a chance!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dirt Path, Maine
 oil on linen 16" x 20"

"I am just beginning to understand what it is to paint. 
A painter should have two lives, one in which to learn, 
and one in which to practice his art."    
                                                                         Pierre Bonnard
Exactly!  This one is from the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge near Calais, Maine.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Rowing In / Lake Inlet
 oil on linen 9" x 12"
"I do not care for the subject. What I care for is what happens between me and the subject."
Claude Monet
Some paintings' subjects are just sitting there, waiting for one to see what is before them. The danger is to be completely seduced by the place, by the thing-ness about the place, to the point of simply copying or illustrating the thing. The key to avoiding artless illustration or cliched imitation is in trying to be attuned to the expressive poetry of the place, the space, the quality of light. Often this can be accessed by imagining a painting strategy based on one's expressive intent - the strategy helps to focus on the poetry - the essence of what is happening between the artist and the subject. (Guess that guy Monet knew something!)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Maine Day 1
 oil on linen  8" x 10"

Maine Day 2 
 oil on linen  9" x 12"

OK, on these two linen panels I'm beginning to get a handle on what I'm after - searching out some kind visual form amongst the awe - filled chaos. Visual form is a term that can be substituted with meaning or understanding or even beauty - all dangerously misinterpreted and variable. What I suppose any art form is after is some small statement of the truth, truth based on the difficult task of seeing /finding the essence of being alive at that moment, in that place. Any method, style or persona can work when tempered by deep engagement withe process. Sound like mumbo-jumbo? Probably shouldn't allow yourself to be here reading - for the rest of the visitors, however, I'd welcome your reactions. Enjoy!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bears Den 12

B.D. 12
 oil on linen  16" x 20"

"To be an artist is not a matter of making paintings or objects at all. What we are really dealing with is our state of consciousness and the shape of our perception. The act of art is a tool for extended consciousness" 
Robert Irwin

One of the best things one learns (and constantly re-learns) when trying to make a painting, is the deciding of what is important and what is peripheral. To sharpen one's visual perception to the point of understanding what one sees without attaching names or objectifying it. This goes back to something I often repeated to my students - 'first find the poetry of what you are seeing and then choose the elements that will get you to that poetry'. One must always remind oneself to stop, don't rush in headlong, and contemplate what visual incident triggered the poetry of the moment - 
what are you in love with - then work like hell to grasp it while it is still present! 
This visual poetry is unnamable and yet absolutely necessary.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bears Den Study 1

Bears Den Study 1
  oil on linen  9" x 12"
These studies allow me the freedom to battle with the surface quality and texture, color and value, the form and shallow, constricted space - allowing abstracted qualities to balance with the actual subject. Fairfield Porter, the American painter, wrote that the important thing about representation in painting are its abstract qualities and in abstract painting are its real qualities. I try to pursue that idea in my work.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Studies From Bears Den and a book to straighten things out

 Bears Den Study
  oil on linen  9" x 12"

March Morning at Bears Den
  oil on linen  12" x 16"    
I've been kicking around an idea for a book lately - a book about how learning to draw could save our entire nation. No sense in spending ones time on small ideas. Anyway, it came to mind when considering how we might get things started in a better direction for us all - as a former teacher of 32 years, these things do occupy my mind from time to time - and I figured we need folks today to be creative, hard working, and willing to take risks and explore. When one learns to draw and really see it involves abandoning preconceived notions, remaining humble and open, and completely committing to the process of exploration while ignoring what anyone thinks the result should or should not be. Just so happens this style of thinking and doing and even living are also found in the best of our science research, mathematics, and medicine. It even works for all the art forms and especially in education of our children! So, if everyone was taught how to truly draw and see and joyfully engage the task while embracing chaos and accepting failure as opportunity - WOW, it just might straighten out this old world.
Of course, it also would lead some folks to make a bunch of paintings of rocks and trees and stuff.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bears Den 9 and Bears Den Study: Passage

 Bears Den 9
 oil on linen  12' X 16"
Why am I fascinated with these rock formations, probably part of the rubble left behind when the Appalachian ridge pushed thousands of feet up tens of thousands of years ago? Every aspect of these rocks speaks to the passage of time - the posture or gesture they have fallen to; the broken and worn surfaces; the way trees have managed to grow in amongst them. The form of the large rocks define space and weight against the background of the forest's chaos - and I enjoy the way color is suggested by the mineral make up of the boulders as well of the lichen and moss clinging to them. These rocks and this place of vistas and enclosed crevice, caves and flat-rock expanses, seems to have captured my complete attention. I suppose I'll just keep at it until I have exhausted my interest!

Bears Den Study: Passage
 oil on linen panel  9" x 12"
Someone asked me why I made these paintings, as no one they knew would be likely to buy a painting of rocks for their home - I guess intimating that selling the things would be the purpose for making them (they were well-meaning and probably concerned for my future). My stock answer has always been that 'I would be making these sorts of paintings whether anyone ever paid attention or ponied up and bought one or not'. That is true and while there have been shows where what I'd painted coincided with what folks wanted to buy - it has never been my motivation. Always it is the light and shadow, the form and space, the challenge of visual exploration, and the sheer joy of being alive at that moment in that place.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bears Den Study, no. 7

Bears Den Study no. 7
 oil on panel  6"x 8"
Sometimes the painting dictates what you do - sounds weird but it is absolutely true. I pulled out a small panel, thinking I'd work fast and bold and try to get the essence of the place, the light, the space, in just a few well chosen strokes. Instead as I fell into the exploration, the intricacy of the forms slamming together and the power of weight and forms took over. Each mass had to find its place as it described the place of the form adjacent - it became a puzzle to solve carefully. I'll post the other studies over the next few days and look at how I arrived at each one.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

 oil on panel  9" x 11"
Haven't posted in a while - I've been painting all along but time and some health issues and a general lack of anything much to say all conspired to keep me away from the blog. This little study from last summer seems to catch the heat and atmosphere of an August afternoon - but the process of making it had none of those things in mind - it was just immersing myself in the visual structure and color and letting the 'chips fall where they may' - that's the challenge and the joy.