Thursday, January 18, 2018

Seeing Through Stuff

This afternoon I went back to the scene of the crime and made this charcoal drawing.  The view is the Mass MOCA complex from under the route 2 overpass in North Adams.  I am attracted to it because of the fence, the snow, the canal, the wiggly junk trees and the industrial buildings, which all create a fascinating composition.  I've always like seeing through stuff to see stuff beyond.  Today it was no longer snowing, and the temperature was a breezy 23 degrees.  I would prefer a more detailed drawing but I think this will do for the next step.

Under and In The Snow

Here's an ugly little painting that I did yesterday afternoon while under an overpass of Route 2 in North Adams with painter John MacDonald. It might have been cold, but blowing snow on the panel and the palette is more difficult to deal with. Actually the painting is fairly representative of what I was looking at, a view towards MassMOCA. I plan on painting there again, but not while it's snowing.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Picking About The Gravel

A painting for the trees and snow series, an 8x10 oil on panel.

From my reading on John Keats, I've found that better words for "negative capability" might be "sympathetic intuition" or "sympathetic imagination."  Walter Jackson Bate wrote in his book called Negative Capability: The Intuitive Approach in Keats the following:

"The Imagination ... looks inward, grasping by an effort of sympathy and intuition the hidden intention and reality of life; and what it seizes, synthesizes, and creates 'must be truth -- whether it existed before or not.'"

This leads him to say: "For the poet is the object, endowed with a means of expressing itself" and "... the poet is the object, and the force at work within the object is also at work within him."

As an example, Bate writes about the poet, and quotes Keats:  "if a sparrow comes before his window... 'take part in its existence and pick about the Gravel.'"

Is it too presumptuous for the painter to say "I am the trees and snow"?  How closely do you identify with what you paint?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Hidden Hopper

In this painting the trees in the foreground screen the Hopper and Mount Greylock, and the downhill road leads on behind the trees as well.  This painting is a 12x16 oil on panel.

I'm still reading Walter Jackson Bate's biography of John Keats, a great young man faced with immense obstacles, who possessed an enormous gift.  Bate was also a wise man:

"In reading a poem, in contemplating any work of art, we may genuinely feel that active coalescence of the diverse.  But when we come to speak about it, we have to proceed consecutively: one thing has to be mentioned before another; in the process of noticing them individually, we find some considerations striking us more than others, if only because in our own phrasing of them we begin to tap essential concerns within ourselves; and we are led by the momentum of our own cooperating eloquence to narrow our interpretation. (A great work, of course, not only permits but invites that eager subjective response to different parts of it.) Moreover, the existence of previous commentary further specializes our attitude if we feel called upon to contribute our mite.  For in the heat of debate, or even in the honest desire to return to the amplitude of the work of art, our recoil from what we consider to be partial, single-minded interpretations encourages us to champion those details that we feel were overlooked, and to contradict or minimize considerations that we might otherwise have wished only to supplement."

Friday, January 12, 2018


Wednesday I was wandering around Field Farm on Sloan Road in Williamstown, MA.  The day was sunny and there was still plenty of snow on the ground.  Of course I headed directly for this spectacular view of the Hopper and Mount Greylock, which I have painted many times.  The Hopper is the valley at the center of the background mountains and Greylock is the peak at the right.  The compositional elements are so nice: the large barn repeating the upward thrust of Greylock, but also its triangular shape being the opposite of the Hopper "v", and the similar but different outlines of the road and the telephone pole forms, not to mention the contrast of warm and cold and soft and hard.   The painting is a 12x16 oil on panel.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Negative Capability

A Brooklyn painting from the "late day" series.  The grid is more apparent in this one.  Though it has a couple vehicles and two "figures" not including the dog, it's also quite abstract at the same time.  A 9x12 oil on panel.

In my reading about John Keats, I've encountered his "negative capability."  It sounds like something one wouldn't want to admit to, but it's quite positive, a term meaning a sympathetic openness to the world based on particulars and concreteness.  It's appealing to this painter.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Third of Third Painting Series

This Brooklyn painting is the third in the series that started with the junk yard dog painting of Dean Street.  I call it the Brooklyn late day series.  This painting shows a view of Washington Avenue.  It's a 9x12 oil on panel.  So I am juggling three painting series at the moment: Red Hook, Late Day, and Trees and Snow.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Beauty Can Hurt You

One more 8x10 oil on panel of trees and snow before I switch off to another previous series.

The book I am reading at the moment has these words: "Beauty can hurt you, you have to deal with it in a cautious manner.  You feel like dissolving into nothingness."

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Trees and Snow

A third trees and snow painting: an 8x10 oil on panel.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Looking Into The Woods

Another 8x10 oil on panel from the just started tree and snow series.  Actually it's a slightly different view of the same location as yesterday's painting.  I used to call these "looking into the woods" paintings.  They are views from the side of a road.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Not a Battle Horse or a Nude

This 8x10 oil on panel of trees and snow is the start of another series of paintings.  I'm reusing panels of discarded old paintings.  I like working on the old paint buildup and previous brushwork.  Maurice Denis, the French painter, once said that a painting, "before being a battle horse, a nude woman, or an anecdote of some sort--is essentially a flat surface covered with colours, put together in a certain order."  So when I look at trees and snow, a very common sight now, I also see a collection of paint marks put together in a certain order that also resembles trees, snow, rocks, branches, etc.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Classon Avenue

A late day view on Classon Avenue towards Dean Street: a 9x12 oil on panel.  No better way to start the new year than with a new painting.  Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Dean Street and the Junk Yard Dog

A view of another area in Brooklyn, Dean Street, where there are old warehouses, empty lots, littered sidewalks and junk yards: a 9x12 oil on panel.

When I was there a few days ago, I saw a dark gray cat cut across an empty fenced-in lot.  Then as I turned the corner, I  saw the cat go into the junk yard across the street.  The cat immediately ran out of the junkyard as I approached the gate.  The most sorry looking small bull dog came out in pursuit, but stopped immediately upon seeing me.  The dog seemed to have one eye half-closed, a large scar on his face, and a bulls eye ring around one eye.  He (assumption) looked at me suspiciously for a second, and, while I wondered if he was going to attack me, he quickly ran back and disappeared into the junk yard.  As I continued on my way, I wondered why the cat had entered the junk yard to begin with. Certainly both animals were locals aware of each other's existence.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Surreal Red Hook and John Keats

A surreal Red Hook painting, the eighth in the series.  Not to worry; I'll be moving to a different location for the next one.  This one is 8x10 oil on panel.

I'm currently reading the fabulous biography of John Keats by Walter Jackson Bate.  In his late teens, Keats knew he wanted to be a poet, but he did not know what to write about.  So, at first, he wrote poetry about writing poetry.  How modern.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

If Only They Kept Coming

The seventh Red Hook, an 8x10 oil on panel.

I've just finished reading Night Studio, a memoir, written by Musa Mayer, the daughter of the painter Philip Guston.  One enviable takeaway for me is the constant and exciting creativity that came upon Philip Guston in the last twelve years of his life.  No matter what you may think of his paintings and drawings from this period, he kept finding and inventing new visual ideas pulled from his own experience.  It's as if he didn't know they were there, but when he started tapping the source, they kept coming and coming.