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Monday, November 30, 2009

Life Lessons...

Raking   watercolor/graphite   21 x 13.25
I love learning. And I prefer learning life lessons from experience rather than through books. I prefer the learning that self-corrects after mistakes that are made. And I love drawing and painting from life rather than from photos. Life observation teaches about the sculptural qualities of the human form, the human face. This is my preference and I'm sticking to it despite the current wave of artwork, especially award-winning artwork, that is obviously done from photos or even (cringe) photos projected onto canvasses. (Now, of course, being that every yin has a yang, and every tradition spins over into a "new" revelation, modernism is quite accepting of the work that results from copying, rather than observing from nature. Case in point: experiencing sports through realistic digital simulations on your own television; i.e. bowling, skiing or playing football. )

In one of our last painting classes for the year, we painted from a model, a raking man. It was a challenging exercise for both the model and the artists. Things that move. Things that force you into capturing the essence early on. For me, the spirit of the figure is more important than the mistakes that are inevitably made. I noticed that the weight-bearing leg changed from artist to artist as the model shifted weight to avoid fatigue. I believe that all of the paintings of "raking man" were successful in their honesty and in their attempts to understand. This painting session was an hour and a half............well spent. And, come to think of it, never say never, I adore Guitar Hero.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Genesis   oil/canvas   20 x 60 x 1.5
Genesis is unlike anything else I have painted up to this point. But the seed for this work has been in my brain for more years than I can remember. It is currently on exhibition in Kaleidoscope 2009 at Summit Artspace. Some viewers have asked, "Is it Lakemore?", "is it Barberton?", is it Firestone Park?", is it "North Hill?". The truth is all of the above. It is also Pittsburgh and Gary, Indiana. These are the neighborhoods at the core of every Midwestern city. These are the houses that were inhabited by the rubber workers and the steel workers. These are the homes that my grandparents lived in, the homes that we visited on holidays. I can remember looking out of our car window during the dark season en route to visit my grandmother. These are the neighborhoods that I saw. And these neighborhoods existed before we understood the notion of "suburb".

The image in my mind included more roof if viewed from above on a hill. But when I went looking for reference material, I realized that the viewpoints of my mind existed only behind the chain link properties of the expressways. Stopping on the expressway in the snow, climbing chain link fences and exploring expressway land seemed impossible. So my references were gathered from many places and put together in my own neighborhood composite drawing and resultant painting. It was a painting that just had to be.

It just could be Hazel Street near City Hospital in Akron.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Gourd Fest   watercolor   8 x 12
Most of the time, I advocate painting and drawing from the inside-out. This whole process delays boundaries.....form follows function. This notion has also been touted as a way to design homes according to the owner's activities and preferences.

The opposite tack is to set limitations ahead of time. I have always associated this plan with illustration and design. Setting and knowing your boundaries comes first. Card design, for example is almost always a 7 x 5 vertical format. You can be creative, but your creative impulses must fit inside the boundaries. Same with framing. I have a myriad of frames that are the most unusual of sizes......all because the cropping of said painting was the preference.

It is always more economical to use standard sized frames that follow the harmonizing golden mean ratio of length to width. Ho hum. That standard rectangle looks pretty boring after a while. Occasionally I will pick up a vintage frame....only if well constructed and has an aesthetic that I enjoy. No oak. No gold. No metal. I prefer dinged up pine, frames with paint that is not perfect, and, of course, the hand carved and raw looking frames from Mexico. Painting with a particular frame in mind is difficult, as the boundaries are set in advance, including those of the mat skimpy stuff either. Such was the case with "Gourd Fest". It was designed to fit into hand-carved Mexican frame and, as far as I am concerned, pleasingly echoed the shapes and rhythms of the gourds.

All who saw it loved the combination. Except artist and framer himself who said he had never seen such an atrocious combination....ever. I guess it's like getting a haircut. When changing beauticians, the current is always shocked at the horrors perpetrated by the former.

I like the rhythm of "Gourd Fest". I also like the rhythms in the framing as well. Of course, you can change it if you wish. Individual aesthetics. "Gourd Fest" can be seen this Friday evening at the ASA Studio, located on the third floor of the Summit Artspace Building, 140 E. Market Street in Akron. Our studio will be open during the opening of "Kaleidoscope 2009" from 6-8 pm in the Taylor Gallery on the first floor. Check out that Mexican frame. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Books...two-point perspective drawing
The air is cooling down and the time is ripe for reading. I read first thing in the morning while I enjoy my cup of puts my brain in a receiving mode and lifts my spirits. I plow through all kinds of books, mostly non-fiction. Recently, I returned a biography of Thomas Jefferson after two renewals, yet remaining largely unread....I tried and tried, but just couldn't do it. The author reveled in minutia, writing chapter upon chapter detailing all of the books in Jefferson's library. Lots of lists. Very little interpersonal stuff. My brain craves distillation....that which is sifted and sieved into importance. I felt a sense of defeat. I started thinking about the books that are so very spiritual to me that I have them in my library and return to them time and time again.

Letters to a Young Poet by Ranier Maria Rilke is a series of 10 letters written over a period of 5 years to a young soldier named Franz Kappas with the intent of critiquing this man's poems. Rilke was 27 at the time. Rilke's intimate words reveal what it is to be an artist.....and what it is to be a person.

The Art Spirit by Robert Henri is a collection of Henri's words, taken from the notes of his students. Lucky for us....his students were paying attention. This work is based on his in-depth considerations of their paintings. "Art, when really understood, is the province of every human being".

The Alphabet versus the Goddess: Conflict Between Word and Image by Leonard Shlain considers the paradigm shift that occurred as a result of literacy and considers the differences between left-brain-knowing and right-brain-knowing. It is provocative, disturbing and and inspiring. (Shlain also wrote Art and Physics).

Words are a concoction of the L-brain but the powerful feelings that remain are processed in the R-brain, the intuitive brain. These three books are close to my heart. Also close to my heart is Laura, my wonderful daughter-in-law.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Have you ever felt that everyone who drives slower than you is an idiot? And those who drive faster than you are maniacs? This simple truism makes me chuckle and reflect, both, every time I think of it and can be attributed to one of my sons. This whole notion points out the simple tendency of human beings to be egocentric, to feel as if their own thoughts and actions are the rational, the just, the true. Others to the left and others to the right are suspect. This same idea is applicable across the board, revealing prejudices and preferences. Preferences are long as they don't turn into prejudices. Art is full of it. The notion of contemporary art versus traditional art. Those who profess to be a part of a contemporary art movement would like to think that they are a part of something special, something that others just don't have. Traditionalists feel the same way in reverse. When, in actuality, we are all contemporary artists by definition and what goes around comes around again and again. What is old becomes new. Retro. I am continually faced with my prejudice against work that is over-reliant on photos, when, in actuality, there are some really fine works done this way, albeit a bit too controlled for my liking. Yet another step removed from the actual experiencing of the thing. OK. I guess what I am getting at is trying to catch myself in these prejudices so that I can let them go. Trying to relinquish any notion at all of the labeling of good or bad. We all drive at the speed that makes us comfortable. It's all good.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hey, kids, let's have a show!...

Superkids...a collaborative work
"Hey, kids, let's have a show!", is one of those phrases permanently embedded in my memory bank......from watching all of those Spanky and Our Gang movies. Who wouldn't just love seeing Darla, Alfalfa, Spanky, Wheezer, Darla, Farina, Porky, Mickey, Buckwheat,Chubby and Stymie in a production of their own making? Yesterday was the "take-in" for Kaleidoscope 2009, a show sponsored by The Alliance for Visual Arts in Akron, a group comprised of over 500 working artists. The gallery at Summit Artspace was a-twitter with excitement and conversation. Characters just as interesting as the Our Gang Kids brought in amazing work throughout the day in preparation for the judging which will take place on Friday. Colors, patterns, shapes, sizes, and visual feelings galore. Kaleidoscope 2009 opens on Friday, November 20 from 6-8 pm. The public is invited. The exhibit runs through January 2 in the new year.

"Super Kids" is one of a group of 5 collaborative paintings done with art students from Field High School several years ago for permanent display in the new wing of Akron Children's Hospital.

Hey, Kids, let's have a show! Indeed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Viewpoint 2009...

Trusting Chef Roger   oil/canvas   48 x 24 x 1.5
"Trusting Chef Roger" has been included in, and received second place in, Viewpoint 2009, a national exhibition sponsored by The Cincinnati Art Club. (I am so happy that I attended college close to Cincinnati and learned how to spell it then) It is always gratifying to receive validation from someone else for our work. As we work mostly in solitary conditions, I think that sometimes we are too hard on ourselves......and sometimes too easy. The exhibition is open through November 22 and is only open on Saturdays and Sundays from 2-5 pm. Too Bad. The club is located at 1021 Parkside Place in Mount Adams.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Games of Chance...

Winter Games   watercolor   13.75 x 10
I have never professed to be lover of games of chance....the lottery, for instance. I can't tell you the number of times I have cursed under my breath waiting to put $20 in my gas tank while being delayed by a lotto-lover who just can't seem to make up his/her mind. And wait, the lotto-lover has $2 left over.....what other tickets can he/she buy with that leftover change? What are all of the possibilities? Eeeeee gads. And yet, couldn't that very ticket be the winner? Couldn't that very ticket be the one that will change a life....make it easier? Couldn't that ticket be the one to insure an easier life path from here on in? Couldn't my intuition provide the winner numbers in the winning order? Doesn't buying the ticket spark some excitement within me that spices up the status quo of daily life? Just the very purchase of the ticket soothes my soul.

I sense a pattern here. Couldn't that very painting be the winner? Couldn't that very painting be the one that will change my life....make it easier? Couldn't that painting be the one to insure an easier life path from here on in? Couldn't my intuition provide the winning colors, the winning composition? Doesn't painting that picture spark some excitement within me that spices up the status quo of daily life? Just the very painting of it soothes my soul.

I guess I am a lover of games of chance.

I guess I do believe in games of chance.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hidden Symmetry...

Hidden Symmetry   oil/canvas   48 x 24 x 1.5
For the past 20+ years we have lived in a large-in-area-small-population farmy to breathe. There were two steeples on a charming but decrepit barn on the way home that beckoned to me. Not just to me, but to everyone. Rumor had it that the owners were going to restore the barn. In fact, I believe that at one point, it was jacked up. The years passed and the rumors persisted. Although I am mostly a figurative painter, I am attracted by architectural detailing and those pieces parts that are handmade. So my motive is not so much nostalgia, but the desire for communities, as well as individuals, to celebrate their diversity. Walmart and other retail giants are slowly but surely creating communities that are homogenous. Any road trip will tell you that. Finally, Rick shot some photos for me and I painted both spires individually, a bit like figure paintings. Three weeks hence, the spires were removed from the barn and laid in the yard. I don't know where they are now.
My goal was to complement the extreme textures of the slate roof tiles with the smooth quality of the sky. Rooftops for me represent a conjoining of the earth and the sky, a puzzle piece that symbolizes also the metaphor of finite/infinite; man-made/nature; imperfect/perfect; and the list goes on. As I painted the steeple, I also realized that this damaged element was still upright, still under the influence of gravity, still vertical. I liken this to the resiliency of so many people I know. So many people I respect. Hidden symmetry.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Other...

Kitty   watercolor   10 x 13.75
As a child, I wasn't certain whether to be scared or thrilled at Halloween. But the prospect of becoming something else was just too exciting. In painting class, we, too, become the "Other". We come to class prepared with a mask, draw names, and sit across from our chosen partners. The object to paint a portrait that isn't so intimidating....just the learn the facial planes....and have some fun without the pressures of correctness and likeness. Of course, there always other lessons involved: painting hair as a mass; things that are in front of other things; and always the illusion of the third dimension. Spooky. Fun.

My partner Kitty Waybright had created a homemade "kitty" mask. My task, as I saw it, was to keep the mask in front and on the surface. Pushing the reality of Kitty a bit back. To keep it a bit ghoulish, I altered the color palette and pushed a bit towards a yellowish-green, a color that isn't so natural. I like it. I like the fact that this is an adult woman in a cat mask. I also like the colors. Thank you Kitty. Meow.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Open your eyes.....or windows

Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won't come in.
Fenetre   oil/canvas board   8 x 8
Alan Alda

I have always loved the spiritual quality of windows and doors. That follows my natural inclination to personify inanimate objects, such as houses and cars. What child hasn't made a face with windows and doors on house drawings? Perhaps I saw Fantasia one too many times. Whatever. In the feng shui world of harmony, windows and doors are key ingredients to creating a harmonic interplay between the indoors and out. In my painting world, I try to create harmony between the subject and its background, or counter-space, by creating "windows" or openings between them to ease those transitions. In other words, I don't much enjoy too many hard edges. Andrew Wyeth's windows make us, the viewers, into voyeurs. His windows and doors have a mystical quality. The home of first place Team Germany in this year's solar decathalon had few, if any, windows. Good for net energy. Bad for feng shui.

Today begins my annual CLEANING OF THE WINDOWS....not an easy task in this old house of 6 over 6 panes in each one. It is fulfilling, however. I like the reflective quality of clean glass during the dark season. I plan to challenge my assumptions as I work.