Sunday, December 30, 2007


I spent the last few weeks reading about the history of symphony conductors, making ornaments out of felt, beads and embroidery, and baking up a storm.

Entering the world of gallery representation and art shows shook up my internal emotional compass. It's exciting and nerve-wracking and exhilarating. And I discovered that it's deeply gratifying when a someone buys my work.

The best result of the turmoil was that it helped me clarify my motives and direction as a painter. I'm certain (today) that I want to honor exploration over branding, to acknowledge my paintings are an expression of gratitude, a kind of visual praise for the chance to be a witness in the world. They are a valentine to life, to being itself. I'm seeking the visible point where the spiritual and physical intersect in ways that are intimate and personal. That's all.

One more thing, my family gave me paint, gift wrapped every which a way! I played with new colors today. Today I got back to the easel, returning to the large cloud canvas. I have finally covered every bit of the canvas with paint. It's still far from where I want it to be, but I feel like I got to the starting post.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Virgin complete

The Virgin is complete, and varnished (retouch varnish at this stage). The edges are gesso'd black, though I am toying the the idea of trying gold leaf around the gallery wrap over the black.

She'll go to the Swan House gallery tomorrow. Today I drew the bracelet, then redrew it when the best composition didn't quite click.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Make it work

After looking at my works with a critical eye, I decided to hit it hard and finish the Virgin painting and the fish knocker on the green door.
The Virgin needed stars on her gown, a little work on the darkest values, and some subtle candle flame work. The fish needs several more layers, unless I want to suddenly switch to impressionism, but I plunged in all the same. I could be done by Monday, if I persist.
Learning that two parties are taking in place in the gallery over the next two days was very motivating. I used a medium that is supposed to accelerate drying. I'll see how effective it is and
take jpgs of the paintings in the morning. In a perfect world they will be dry, I'll be able to use spray varnish, and I'll drop them off before lunch.
More likely the Virgin - still wet- will go up anyway and I'll come back by with varnish next week, when I bring the finally dry and completed fish. Meanwhile they will have the two paintings I listed yesterday - Othello and the Lion.
It's a familiar pressure, meeting a deadline, and it really works for me.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

First Swan House Sale

Just got the email - the Heirloom Tomato painting sold, and they've asked me to send another small work over. The max size is supposed to be 8x8" but I have offered them what I have on hand - a pair of Venetian doorknockers, an Othello and a Lion of St Mark, that are 8x10." Nothing ventured, etc.
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Serenbe's Gallery Swan

I thought I'd mention that one of my small works was loaned to the Serenbe community's Gallery Swan for their holiday show. It's another of the little paintings I wrote a haiku title for. I set it up after auditioning several oyster's at the Fish Market, looking for the right one to paint. I wanted to paint ice and will likely explore that again - I loved looked for those subtleties. I think it's the juxtaposition of pearls and oysters that sparked my imagination.

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Take grit and patience,
turn it over and around.
Out of pain – beauty.
6x6 o/c

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sky paintings

Working on clouds at dawn. There's a pair - one vertical, gauzy and with lots of salmon pinks, the other a complicated mackerel sky, dotted with little clouds. A departure from my highly detailed, precise works of objects - pens, books, maps, and plates - close enough to touch. Like stretching after a run, though I think it will keep me limber. And one of the great pleasures of being a painter is painting what tugs at your heart and your eye.
Here's the first one - got a ways to go, but I'm confident I'll get there.
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The mackerel sky isn't far enough along to post.

Monday, November 19, 2007

blue skies

It's been a week of meeting ferocious deadlines and my keyboard has had more of me than my brush, until yesterday.

I started a big painting of the sky quilted with the clouds at dawn. I did a careful gridded drawing because it's fiendishly complex, then put together three variations on blue and painted the negative space - the sky- leaving the white canvas beneath the cloud shapes. Used big brushes and at the end of the day my arm ached. It was great. I got lost more times than I can say. Finally worked out I could use a wipe board marker on the acetate grid over the reference to isolate the area I was working on. Got the major shapes roughed in except for the bottom six inches which I'll have to improvise due to the sketchy nature of the photo reference.

I have that soaring feeling that comes at the beginning of a project when it's all possibility and no limitations.

Monday, November 12, 2007

painter interruptus

Settled in to work on the fish, spent a hour mixing colors - the hue of the scales required more willingness to look than to think. My mind would say 'green' but the truth was closer to ultramarine and orange with a dot of veridian. I'd worked on the top fins and the golden side scales and the wonderfully odd pale blue that mottles the head, and was adding the verdigris that delineates the edges of the side scales when I had to put down the brush and go to the keyboard to meet a deadline.
One of the unexpected things raising three children has taught me is that I can be interrupted. I will return to my work and it will appear to be seamless, whether it's in words or oil paint. And sometimes the unwanted break results in a better perspective on what the work needs.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Learn as I go

I might as well confess now. I had every intention of working on the fish, but I went back to the Virgin to adjust one contour - and ended up reworking the candles, adding the flames, re balancing her face and roughing in the purse, so here's what I learned. Post what I've done at the end of the say, not what I think I'll do at the beginning. Lesson learned. So I won't speculate on what exactly I'll be doing tomorrow. I'll update rather than predict.

I will add that I paint on several different canvases - I usually have three or more in progress, at different points in development. Partly because oil takes it's gracious time to dry. Also I like to change focus after an intense period of work. It's like stretching or yoga - it keeps me limber. So presently I have Table 1280, Atlanta of the Table for One series, a large-ish (30x40") vertical of clouds at dawn, the small 8x8" fish and the Virgin. And three easels.
Good times.

A painter's Sunday

It's a glorious day here. Autumn is in session and I am going to work on a small painting of a doorknocker from Venice. It's part of a series I can't keep away from. I took dozens of photos of Venetian doors once I noticed every one was different. There are themes that repeat - variations on the lion of St Mark, Othello, and fish. Each one is different - they didn't run to the hardware store, they visited the local metal smith and placed their order. These small sculptures embody the spirit of the place, so this series is Genus Loci.
The image above one already completed. When the one I'm painting today is further along, I'll post it here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Swan House Gallery show - "Little Things Mean A Lot"

These small works were painted for the Swan House Gallery show. My secretary drawers yielded objects that resonate with meaning for me: the gold pen given me at the outset of my writing career, one of my sketchbooks, a lucky coin, and the pocket watch that belonged to my grandfather. I chose a single heirloom tomato and a bone-handled knife for the pleasure I take in red and sharp edges. I wrote haiku titles to scratch that writer itch.
For the 6x6" o/c the title is:

Time is not money.
If your day is spent drawing
it turns to pure gold.

Here's the 5x7" o/c title:

Heirloom tomatoes
Red and swollen on the vine.
The taste of summer.

The Virgin

This virgin is from a photograph I took of a painted wooden statue in a niche across from the Brancacci chapel in the Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence. I love it because she is wearing a crown and holding a purse - no halo, no baby. The crown is metal and obviously an add-on, the purse is even odder - made of cloth and ribbons.

I started thinking back on Madonna portraits - the goldfinch, the rose, the holy spirit in the form of a white dove. What would be really interesting instead of the purse would be a dimly visible white bird in a cage. In Renaissance paintings she is always bowing before the angel and the dove. What if she caught the bird instead? Or used a caged bird, like a magician's trick, to awe the crowd?

I finally figured out how to mix a particularly intense sleeve shadow, did a world of scumbling (what did I do for fun before I discovered scumbling?) and it all sharpened and deepened.
I'm going to try a sketch of the cage, keep it all very shadowy & see if it will work. It might not. And I'm going to let the current layer paint dry for at least a week before I do anything to the canvas, so I can lift it off with turp if I have to.

First impression

I'm transitioning from a long writing career to one as a painter, and I’ve been working on a series of still lifes as a way to explore the idea of work that’s both image and narrative. Each canvas is an intentional chapter in a visual autobiography. The surface layer that demonstrates my concern with matters of color and composition is also intended to raise questions about the reliability of mimesis and perception. But the thing is, I love to paint.