Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Borderland

A 9x12 oil on panel of a large boat at the public pier in Gloucester, MA.

The borderland--that's where, if one knew how,
one would establish residence.  That watershed,
that spine, that looking-glass . . . I mean the edge
between impasto surface, burnt sienna, thick,
             striate, gleaming--swathes and windrows
             of carnal paint--
             or, canvas barely stained,
             where warp and weft peer through,

and fictive truth: a room, a vase, an open door
giving upon the clouds.

A step back, and you have
the likeness, its own world.  Step to the wall again,
and you're so near the paint you could lick it,
you breathe its ghostly turpentine.

Words from the poem "The Life of Art" by Denise Levertov.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Here is where the ladder stands today

This barn is found at the end of Hopper Road.  The hay bales are brought into the barn loft on a mechanical roller through a side opening, but retrieved by hand by climbing the ladder and tossed down to a waiting truck.  The ladder presents a painting problem: how should it be painted if the painting approach is somewhat loose?  It has to be as convincing as the splotches of paint that represent the truck, but not too convincing.  Anyway,  here is where the ladder stands today.  The painting is a 12x16 oil on panel.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Gloucester Boat in the Air

When you see something like this boat in the air, you have to stop and look.  I recently saw this boat at the Gloucester Marine Railways at the end of Rocky Neck Avenue in Gloucester, MA.  There's something magical about a boat in the air, like the boat that Seamus Heaney writes about in poem viii from "The Lightenings."

The annals say: when the monks of Clonmacnoise
Were all at prayers inside the oratory
A ship appeared above them in the air...

The painting is a 12x16 oil on panel.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Late Afternoon Mountains

Here's a depiction of the Greylock range from Sheep Hill in Williamstown, MA that is striking because of the not-quite-horizontals that take you from the foreground path and weeds to the mountains.  This is a late afternoon view with the sun coming from the right about to drop below the trees, none of which is visible except indirectly through the long shadows sloping down the hill.  The painting is a 12x16 oil on panel.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Insanity and The Dome

We've all encountered somewhere the quote that "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."  It might apply to artists as much as to anyone else.

Yesterday I went, again, to the top of Sheep Hill, and painted the mountains, this time looking north towards Vermont, towards a mountain called "The Dome".  Can you see it?  The painting is an 8x10 oil on panel.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Mountain Week Continued

Another painting of the Greylock mountain range from the top of Sheep Hill that gives a sense of the variety available from this spot.  I did this one on Friday on site when the sun was irregular with an overcast sky. The steep, layered hills intersect at fascinating angles enabling dynamic compositions.  This painting is a 9x12 oil on panel.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Mountain Week

This week I've been doing small oil paintings of the mountains at the top of Sheep Hill again in Williamstown, MA.  The site varies constantly especially at this time of the year.  Visible are the Hopper, Mount Greylock, Stony Ledge, and Mount Prospect.  The painting is a 9x12 oil on panel.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Suggestion

This painting has reached that stage where I can add more detail, or repaint it, or just leave alone (at least for now).  I'm going to leave it alone.  My goal is to suggest more than is actually there in the painting.  The site is the view up the hill behind the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA.  The painting is a 12x16 oil on panel.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Old Tree on the Clark Hill

On the high hill above the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA there are a number of fascinating old trees.  This is one of them with the shadows of another. Given that they take such a beating during winter, one has to wonder how they ever grew there to begin with.  They form interesting patterns with the sky and mountains.  This is a view north and the mountains are in Vermont.  The painting is a 12x16 oil on panel.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

What I Saw and the News

One day last week, even though it was late in the afternoon, overcast, and getting darker, the sun kept appearing for seconds at a time at long intervals.  I walked up the dirt road hoping to see something even if for the briefest moment.  This is what I saw.

One more quote from the book What Painting Is by James Elkins, which doesn't have anything directly to do with paint, but it does have to do with art and the world:  "It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there."  It's a line from the poem "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower" by William Carlos Williams.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Mud and Transcendence

Another view of Rue Celony in Aix.  The experience of Rue Celony has to be contemplated in paint over time.  It's not something I can absorb and understand all at once.

Here's another interesting passage from the James Elkins book What Painting Is:  "What matters in painting is pushing the mundane toward the instance of transcendence.  The effect is sublimation, or distillation: just as water heats up and then suddenly disappears, so paint gathers itself together and then suddenly becomes something else -- an apparition hovering in the fictive space beyond the picture plane.  The boiling point, just before the substance evaporates, is the crucial moment, and it is vexed."

By the word 'mundane' Elkins means that paint stuff, which comes in tubes, and is formless when spread on a palette, and is like mud.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What Painting Is

Yesterday afternoon I also did a second painting of the mountains from the top of Sheep Hill: this one a 9x12 oil on a linen sheet.  As I placed and moved the paint around on the linen surface, I thought of the book that I've started to re-read,  What Painting Is by James Elkins.   He writes, "Paint is a cast made of the painter's movements, a portrait of the painter's body and thoughts.  The muddy moods of oil paints are the painter's muddy humors, and its brilliant transformation are the painter's unexpected discoveries.  Painting is an unspoken and largely uncognized dialogue, where paint speaks silently in masses and colors and the artist responds in moods."

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Mountains, Mountains

This afternoon's weather was delightful, so I went to the top of Sheep Hill to paint my favorite view of the mountains, Greylock, Prospect, Stony Ledge and the Hopper, which is not a mountain but a distinct space in between the mountains.  Recently, I was in Provence where Mont Ste. Victoire seems so high because it stands alone, but Mount Greylock is actually a few feet higher, 3,317 vs. 3,491.  This painting is a 12x16 oil on panel.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Another Angle

Believe it or not, but he told me that he's smiling.  Actually, he didn't tell me any such thing.  He just wanted to pose from a different angle.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Face Paint

You're probably getting tired of seeing this guy by now, and it's only been three portraits.  He keeps pestering me now to paint his portrait.  I have to admit that there are so many variations possible for a portrait.  So I can't say what will happen next.