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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Study/Lorenzo Il Magnifico

8 inches square, oil on panel

I have been looking at Don Baccardy's work, a California portrait painter, prolific too, so there is lots to look at. He comes from drawing, definitely - line, line, line with all its energy and force and also he is casual, another plus. He did the official portrait of Jerry Brown, Ca governor) and it is hilariously straightforward and unassuming, with Brown looking bewildered. You can imagine this hanging with all the other heavy official paintings of bureaucrats in suits. Brown is also in a suit, but a rumpled one. I read that they finally hung the painting  alone in the basement stairwell. And Baccardy made some comment like, if you knew what the other portraits looked like you would understand why I am not upset. All delightful, and I admire his work.  But in amongst his paintings are a few of them that deal more with value than line, but both really, and these are the ones I think are the greatest. All this is interesting because I struggle so with values, I didn't know that the sort of painting I like best is based on values, which when they are correct convey a believable sense of form in space. And so it feels like you are telling the truth - but not with words.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Ruby with Broken Leg and Cone

12 x14 in, oil on panel

She has lived in this cone for weeks. It is hard plastic, so unfriendly. I am suffering over this cone.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Ruby with Broken Leg, 2

12 inches, square oil on board

Hurting and on drugs! Awful. Cast comes off Wednesday.

I'm using different brushes, old ones, even though I have new bushes with perfect edges...trying to save them for the last bit of the painting when I need precision, and possibly taking care of them better so they laaaaassst. So - working with the old brushes makes me draw more and simplify shapes, I'm surprised how helpful this is. Also out of paint and having to substitute, for instance Naples yellow for yellow ochre -- a world of difference, but I am getting better acquainted with what can happen. It's so wonderful to be painting, OY!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Ruby with a Broken Leg

Back in the saddle at last.  12 x 16 inches, oil on panel.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Maren with Bow, 8 in square, oil on panel

This was done from a Christmas photograph, and so -- many challenges, oy! In particular, the edges, some merged and some stingingly clear against the dark. I looked at lots of portraits for help, or permission, or whatever jolt forward I could get hold of.  Some of the most helpful were: Jennifer Balkan, Suzanne du Toit, Frank Duveneck, and the most awe inspiring that brings me to my knees, Rembrandt's Portrait of a Girl in a Gold Braided Coat. That painting is so amazing it makes me afraid to paint anything.  Best to ration your exposure, like look at it at night, and then there will be some hours before you are at work again.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

L. with Pot and Bird, 22 x18 in, oil on panel

I  learned a lot on this one. The portrait was mostly painted first and then seemed to need the bird. I crowd sourced the bird (for approval) on instagram. Everybody liked a different bird. but it was helpful to see all the variations...I am a new user, so still stumbling along there. I painted 8 or 10 birds on her shoulder in various degrees of color intensity and personality intensity. Then I removed the bird altogether and it seemed empty, so back it went. And now I have a sort of narrative painting and I don't want a narrative, however -- it seems like maybe this one could be such mysterious narrative that is could be ok. Maybe a FELT narrative. That might be like an alternative fact, though.

Also I learned that that when  painting goes wrong, or anything else for that matter, it is a good idea to go directly to youtube and watch episodes of Tapeman, you feel much better immediately and it frees you up to make changes and not be too serious. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Maren, New Born 12 inch square oil on panel

In this painting I had an opportunity to execute (!!) a move I learned last year in Joseph Todorovitch's class. I asked him about laying in a highlight and he informed me that the whole surface of the skin had to be prepared to accept it, so it had to be worked up in graded values to the pitch where it took the highlight at the top of the light scale. That entire conversation made me see the surface  of skin differently,  also for me it it was an opportunity to further break the brush stroke, which I prefer. T.'s work is in the category of "naturalism",  where everything is smooth and perfect.

This baby is 2 minutes old and being held by the nurse, ...I would like to have seen the rest of the nurse....her hand is so long and flat. I bet  all the nurse's bones are long. Anyway, newborn babies are fun to paint while they are still in the mashed form and a little swollen.  Hard to get the photo though - most people are apologetic or thinking it's something not to show around.
I used more color and purposely stepped outside of my palette, ( alizarin, yellow ochre and ultramarine) adding cerulean to get a  glowing blue green. I've been reading about people's palettes, most painters seem to  pride themselves on a smallish one which is supposed to insure color harmony.  Oy, another frontier.

Friday, January 13, 2017

SP, Blow 12 x 16 inches oil on panel

My intentions were to go for color, and worse still, pattern in the background. As I got going it seemed that the folds of my nightgown, which I had tied around my head, made a busy enough area, so I let it go.  Maybe you have to hold the intention of pattern in your head in a strong way and not let the painting take you where you are not wanting to go, maybe even do the pattern first and outsmart yourself.

For years I have been trying to figure how to do Van Gogh, how to have the color and the form too.There is a majesty  about  just the skin itself  that might supersede color, maybe you have to give first importance to the skin until you get weary of it, and then you can go for the color. Might be a good problem for exercises.  I have a little postcard of a baby's head by V.G. in my studio, the whole thing is mint green, the baby AND the background, and it is just jaw dropping good.  There are not that many paintings of babies that I remember as good, or remarkable,  but his are always positively gripping.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Eye Surgery. 16 x 10 inches, oil on canvas paper

It is what it is.

How many times I have thrilled, I mean really gasped out loud --  to see that line that Freud can paint on the top of the lower eye lid. It is usually pinkish or reddish, it gleams on the edge of that flap of flesh that embraces the lower part of the eye,  and all the complexity of the eye ball and lids pass into my understanding, and also its aliveness, its wetness.  I am waiting for that day to come for me. I have painted it, and wiped it out 10 thousand times. Maybe his models had more protruding eyes,  his lights were better, they all had allergies.....I don't know the answer. I wanna see that line and paint it and have it work.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Little Italian Dog. 6x8 inches, oil on panel

Happy New Year !

May Leonard Cohen be resting in the arms of angels...

and -- "May peace and peace and peace be everywhere" --- The Upanishads

Friday, December 9, 2016

Drawing Class Christmas Cookies: 3x2 inches, royal icing on sugar cookies

Another year under the belt.  These are my offering to the drawing group Christmas bash, at which there are multiple models to draw from and plenty of food and drink. Ah, Los Angeles...

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Mug shot 106: Casper (Oil on linen, 16 x18 inches)

Although I have not posted at all since May I have been painting consistently but wiping most of them.  This one though is a commission and I used real linen and worked larger, life size -- so I knew I had to  take the painting all the way to the finish line.  That  sort of altered the way I tackled it.  Also I did a few preliminary oil sketches to get familiar with everything and  had a wee bit more confidence when I got down to business.  I just loved his face, his  level gaze. And the plaid, the plaid!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Portrait of A. After a Bad Haircut, Mugshot 105 (12 inches square)

This one was touch and go. A.had just got a bad haircut and was very upset, crying, and her nose and eyes were red and swollen. I was immediately in a hurry to get it down ( and yet not seem heartless)  but keep her in her engorged state as long as possible.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Mugshot 104: Portrait of the Immigration Lawyer (12 x16 inches oil on panel)

This is the nicest guy ever, the guy you would want to be your lawyer if you HAD to have one. He attends  the same drop in life drawing session I go to, and agreed to let me shoot him under the model's light -- which as you can see is extreme from the top down, a very friendly situation for painting. There was a painting on the wall  behind him which I took out and then put back because  -- well, this guy can really draw and yet is a lawyer, and I think all lawyers should have to take some life drawing classes along the way and learn to see human beings with some tenderness, and when I am dictator.....
But really, this painting is all about the plaid shirt.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Mugshot 103: Protrait of G. (As Frida) 8x10 " oil on panel

This is a second painting of an earlier photograph from 2 summers back, may not be the same pose, but same sitting. 4 Italian women took me to see the Kahlo show in Rome and I asked them to dress up as Frida (afterwards) and I shot them to paint. This was based on Ellen Heck's Forty Fridas show - heartbreaking beautiful.  I found painting the women much more difficult than I thought -- I didn't quite have the skills to get what I wanted, and what I wanted was a good Ellen Heck. I am laughing to realize that now. However I have continued to paint them and slowly they are coming into my own version of them. This is G., a proud beauty. There was so much definite pink and green in her skin because of the lighting -- we were in front of a balcony of course, with the sunshine streaming  into the darkened room -- and then I had to figure out how to lay the pinks over the greens and vice versa and preserve each color but match tone.  Really interesting technically to do, and fun to try to get it.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Still Life With Plates, 36 inches square, oil on canvas

This started out in realism and finished itself in abstraction, my old home.
I  have a thing about plates, dishes --- I love them. Also fun to work biggish  again, to really swing the arm and use fat brushes and palette knives and work in a frenzy, collapse into a chair and evaluate for a couple of hours. Realism is  a different way of working (for me so far), a lot of technical stuff (and some of it crap I think, but which?)  needs to be established and then I think, transcended. Oy, I don't know the answers.

Mugshot 102: The Italian (12 x 12 " oil on panel)

Well, I have been doing a lot of painting but no posting because I have been taking a class with Joseph Todorovitch and learning new stuff, therefore I've been in that in-between place where nothing is any good, nothing really resolved because, well, the whole experience rocked my world.
I recently decided I would finish everything up, starting from the left off place of not knowing what to do, and just taking the whole thing gently but firmly to its logical end. New stuff seeps in somehow,  but it's the old bicycle thing, all the parts working smoothly without wrenching effort, and then you're simply riding, fantastic
Do more painting is the thing to do, and make more of an effort to paint for pleasure. So in these paintings next up,  it's what I did for fun.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Mugshot 101: Mario/The Nose

I've done this motif several times, trying to work my way through it, to learn about the space, color, landscape (aaaugh!) clouds, lots of new things, but fun things. This still isn't what I want...I wanted something that is  more abstract and modern in regard to color and space. Still this was fun to execute. And I can see better what the problems are that must be dealt with in the planning stages. Upper one is mine and the lower is by Piero della Francesca, known in Italy as "The Nose". Correct title is: Portrait of Federico da Montefeltro, c. 1485.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Mugshot 100, Tessa in the Bath

This was a quick sketch at the end of the day.  I used big brushes and lots of paint and medium and worked like a house afire and did not let myself put the  details or highlights in until the very end, also tried to get the big spaces covered right away, including the background. Now I know to get my background color in early, otherwise I have color troubles, things don't relate. In this one I wanted the stark white of the bathroom behind her so that overall the painting is quiet, bathroomish. She was crying hard because her sister was taking up too much room in the tub, so her eyes are red and she is aggrieved. It was really fun to paint...I'm getting faster, finally!

Wait a minute.....
 I just realized I have hit the 100 mark so I went back to find my first mugshot, and here he is, done July 2011. It is a complete mystery to me how I assimilated whatever was necessary for me to be able to paint the one above.... It isn't that I didn't try hard for this one below - in fact at every step along the way I concentrated and gnashed my teeth and thrashed about, tried to ask the right questions so I could get the answers I needed, took classes, looked at painting, stretched as much as I could, painted as much as possible,etc, and did not feel much better about the results. Apparently if you stick at it though, the information enters you. I can think of no other explanation. I regret that I feel it necessary to say that I know I am not  now arrived at any high place, but even I can see the difference between these two, and I'm encouraged!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Cookies for Life Drawing Class, Christmas Party

Royal Icing on sugar cookie dough. 2.5x1.5 inches

Friday, December 4, 2015

Mug Shot: Italian Priest (14 x 12 oil on panel)

As soon as I saw this man I was beside myself to have his photograph. He graciously agreed to pose. I have another shot of him smiling but it is not as interesting of course. On this occasion he was returning to his hometown to receive awards and celebrate his retirement. Thank you, where ever you are.

Monday, November 30, 2015


I got overwrought on a portrait and had to stop and do something fun, or else cut everything up with a chain saw and be done. Hence, this one, 6 x 6 inches, Chihuahua mix -- so feminine.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Mug Shot: Italian Boy

This is 8 x 10 or so, oil on board.  His skin was so colorful, pearlescent.  And there was such sweetness in his face. It is difficult for me to recall an American adolescent, or anyone else for that matter, with such an absence of cynicism.  You never really know about these things, even so - beautiful to observe it.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Mug Shot: Boy in Class

This is the second painting of a boy/man in a painting class I took last year. He was indifferent to everything that went on, never brought supplies, borrowed everything from the rest of us, came late or not at all, was emotionless on the surface. And yet, he had a sort of princely thing about him. He was young enough to have softness in his face still. He seemed strongly rooted.

It has occurred to me recently that I have underestimated how long it would take to learn the skills that are necessary for realism - and I don't even want to do photorealism, or any heroic form of realism....just a straightforward realistic take on the beingness quality of  the model - how to state that? - and also to have the physical presence of paint, lots of paint. So now that I realize I had that (ridiculous) goal, of thinking I would reach a level of competence and could go on to other issues, maybe I will have more room, more ease in the process of doing it. Maybe be more r-r-r-r-r-relaxed.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

L. with Italian Little Pot

Again, 10 x 14 inches, trying to work quickly and state the obvious facts with strength and then not weaken them with futzing, to make a choice to let some things stand without further explanation, oy oy, that is hard.

D. with Italian Frying Pan

This is about 10 x 14 inches, on Italian linen sheets that are gessoed, all in a pad. Much superior to the American ones, easy to work with. Have been still looking at Maria Lassnig's work, thinking how to paint in this more personal way and still have flesh, Lucien Freud's sort of flesh. I haven't a clue how to achieve this other than stumbling toward this idea.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Italian Babies (Gaya)

With Maria Lassnig in my heart, I am soldiering on, looking for a way to use color differently and also psychological acumen rather than precision. Although, of course, it would be very fine to also have precision.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Practice plums 1 6x8 inch oil on panel

I have another jam jar label to do a painting for, so I have done a couple of warm ups. In Italy when the season is finished for something there is no more of it to be had, so I thought to brush up on plum while there still are some.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Mug shot 92? (L. with Pot) 8x6 in oil on panel

Buonasera --

I'm working in Italy in not optimal conditions, but who cares, que sera, sera...
My real camera is not working so I have to make do with the iPhone camera.
I have been looking a lot at Maria Lassnig's work, she has many portraits with pots on the head, and so just for fun ---- my sainted relatives agreed to pose. Fun to do something that is not heavy.
Now off for apperitivi.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Little Lamb Chop

5 inches square oil on panel

I am working on a larger painting and I'm scared. It's going pretty well, actually, but I get nervous.
If I have a smaller painting to work on with fewer issues and some opportunity to make things work quickly, and then possibly post it at the end of the painting day, I'm less nervous about the big painting. And if I do the little painting first and fast and the big painting doesn't work, I don't immediately conclude that I should have gone to secretarial school. This could be neurotic or smart.

This is one of the remaining lamb chops on aluminum foil.