Monday, November 14, 2011

Green Hill Winter Show

Last weekend I drove up to NC to deliver two pieces for the Green Hill Center's Winter Show, with the additional pleasure of visits with a couple of old friends.  I had planned to take Black Slip (Green Couch) and a newer one:

Furniture Polish (2011), 16'x18", oil on linen
I sent images (rather late, I'm afraid) and received a reply from Edie Carpenter, who is the Director of Curatorial and Artistic Programs, asking if I would hold this painting and substitute another for the Winter Show. She is organizing a show for the fall of 2012, tentatively called “Home-work:  views of 21st century domestic life” and she said, "Your painting of the woman polishing the table, in addition to many of your other works, would be great for this thematic exhibition on home life."  She asked for up to six paintings created since 2000. The exhibition will open the second week in September and run through the first week in November.  I'm thrilled (of course), and excited, and somehow relieved, because I have another external goal to work towards, with a theme that suits my work perfectly and leaves enough room for me to develop some ideas. The framework is somehow liberating.  

Friday, November 4, 2011

M_ Music

Signed, sealed, delivered.  (M_ Music (2011), 16"w x 18"h, oil on linen, commissioned)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Process, the bad and the good

Every mark I make, each brushstroke, is provisional.  I draw with the pencil in one hand and the eraser in the other.  As for painting, though when asked I'll state with confidence—bravado even—that "I paint in layers," many of those layers are corrections on top of corrections; my inner mantra has been "I can fix it later."  Surprisingly, I think this uncertainty is more due to lack of confidence than skill; it's so hard for me to believe I could make the line/stroke I want to make with the accuracy/weight/hue/value/chroma I intend, that it's only in a spasm of "something must be done, now" that any mark gets put down at all.  And then it's an approximation, but seeing the approximation, I can relax (a bit) and discover how to tweak it closer to what's needed.  It can be awfully demoralizing, though, and slow.

This seems unpleasantly confessional.  I write it as a way of reminding myself that no process, no matter how habitual, is set in stone, and to reassure myself (and anyone else who may notice) that the piece will still get done.  The only good I really see right now, in the obnoxious adolescence of the current painting, is that the approximations are getting closer and the process is becoming more streamlined and at least a tiny bit less angst-ridden.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Afternoon Drawing

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours drawing with my friend Ciana Pullen--she drew me and I drew her:

It was wonderful to have enough time with the sitter. Figure drawing has accustomed me to trying to get everything down in 20 or 30 minutes, so I accept all kinds of errors in a mad rush to the feet. In this drawing, though I had time to get proportions and angles right, I still hurried into it and then spent too much time making corrections that a little care in the beginning would have prevented.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Liquin as Varnish

I've expressed my distaste for Winsor and Newton's Liquin in the past, but on no firmer grounds than that I hated the smell and the color it dried in the bottle. Today I ran across (at the Rational Painting forum) this quote from David Pyle, Director of Communications & Technical Education at Winsor & Newton: Because Liquin is used as a medium by so many artists to speed the drying of the paint layer, it has been an easy conceptual leap for many to presume that a layer of Liquin on top is just as good as Liquin added inside. It's not. Since its introduction in the 1960's, Liquin has been, and always will be, intended only for use as a medium. The problem with Liquin isn't the clarity or the resiliency of the film (it has both of those in abundance); it's that it dries too darn fast and to a solid and highly impermeable film.

If used to seal a still-wet paint layer, Liquin will fully block any further access to the atmosphere and the oxygen that is absolutely essential to the drying of the paint film. Without oxygen, the oil is incapable of forming all those nifty linkages that turn it into a highly durable layer. The paint layer will never fully dry, eventually proving unstable in a number of ways. Moreover, Liquin isn't soluble or removable (at least not in a way that leaves the painting beneath intact), making it virtually impossible for a conservator or restorer to work on the paint film when needed at a later date.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Piccolo Spoleto 27th Annual Juried Art Exhibition, part 2

The awards reception was last night. Some very strong work, especially the photographs. Yellow Bathrobe took second prize, which makes me happy.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Piccolo Spoleto 27th Annual Juried Art Exhibition

Coordinated by the Charleston Artist Guild and sponsored by the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs, this exhibition will showcase works of South Carolina artists. This year’s jurors are Alex Powers (painting/ 2D) and Rick Rhodes (photography). Charleston Visitor Center, 375 Meeting St. Admission: free. May 27-June 10; Daily, 8:30am-5pm. Awards reception June 5, 5pm-7pm.

This is the painting I've entered: Yellow Bathrobe (2006-09), 12"x16", oil on linen on panel.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wish You Were Here

I won't show my entry as part of the fun is the anonymity. But... here is another from the same series (as so few people see this blog anyway!) Doorway, 4"x6", graphite on paper (which is very hard to photograph).

Monday, April 11, 2011


Once again I will have work in this one-night show--two of the French Postcard series (Two Women and Green Hair).

Lots on in Charleston this week. It's the Sesquicentennial of the beginning of the Civil War, which, as I now know, began right here on April 12, 1861 with shots fired from James Island at Fort Sumter. In the morning we'll get up early (way early) for the commemoration.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Another Lost Hour

Last week I finally finished and delivered a commission, a new and larger version of my painting Lost Hour from 1997. Here I am with a tiny brush adjusting one last edge--or possibly I am completely repainting, yet again, the red shoes.

I don't have a very good image of the original Lost Hour, only a jpeg of a scan of a faded slide. The request for a new version took me aback--how was I to recreate a painting from almost 15 years ago? How faithful a copy was wanted? Although I was able to find a few of the reference photos, they were only snapshots; the negatives and enlargements disappeared years ago. I no longer live in the trailer nor own the furniture, and the model (ahem) has changed a bit, too. And, finally, the biggest stumbling block I faced was emotional--I'm not the person who made that first painting. That painting was a challenge I set myself: To do a figurative painting--a genre painting even--to bring my love of Vermeer's work in some small way into my own life, to show my own life as if it were some 20th-century reflection of 17th-century Delft. Hubris, I know. But Lost Hour set me on the path I still follow (with, of course, some side trips and lots of directionless meanderings in the woods). Would any of that bravery and excitement remain now?

To find a place to start, as a change to my usual working process I first did a complete and to scale graphite drawing. As well as allowing me to work out perspective and composition issues (more or less), the drawing eased me into the mood of the piece. I could "build" true windows and a different bed, feel the light flowing into the room, bring in a chair and some different objects, and consider the psychological moment. It helped me to be there, to rediscover the feelings that prompted me to paint the first one, and to make this one its own painting, its own story and not simply a copy.

Here is the finished painting: Lost Hour 2, 18"H x 22"W, oil on linen. I cannot fully express my gratitude to Becky and Lloyd, for their enthusiasm for the picture, their faith in me, and their apparently limitless patience. I hope not to test it again.