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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.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lamb Chops

6x8 oil on panel

Some fun must be had between the slogging bits. Meat is as much fun to paint as pastry and less dangerous.  With meat though, if you are going to eat it, you have to race - I figure it's ok to be under the lights for 1 hour, more than that and they are sacrificed to art.  The lamp causes them to constantly change, slumping down and beginning the colorful disintegration. This can't be thought about too much or you can't eat them. And it's very hard to throw out lamb chops. I found a pack of 5 at Trader Joe's at a very good price, so I can have a couple of more goes.

The second is a little color swatch of Veronese green. I didn't have any thalo green to compare -- V. green is much less agressive. But not shy, either.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mug Shot 91, Tessa

8x6 inches, oil on panel

This is an important thing I have learned during this stint with the Russian painters:  get a base layer of paint down first and paint everything else into it. I have been fitting the pieces, the many thousands of pieces of tone and half tone, into the whole, like a puzzle. At the moment my opinion is that flesh is painted best (in oils) with this approach, because the nature of the oily fat paint is already so close to the look of skin. Not that you can't get some chop to it...some blocky bits which lay on top of each other and are not blended. I am anti-blend, don't know how this is going to work out.

I have been looking at Frank Duveneck's work this week, just below mine -- such confident brushwork. Just enough, almost underdone. You can see that every thing is worked into an average skin color, the brushwork is economical and direct.  This photo of course doesn't do it justice, the paint is sumptuous.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Mugshot 90, Student

This is a fellow painter in my class. I took photos of anybody who would let me do it, everybody wincing. Harsh light from the top is the painter's friend, if not theirs.
Thank you all for those encouraging comments on my last post, I appreciate it!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Mug Shot 88,

8x10 inches oil on panel

I have been painting like mad but not posting because I have been taking painting classes and doing exercises on all the off days. As usual, I find when I take a workshop I can do nothing, can't control anything, can't get any effect, and  finally cannot find any joy in painting at all. This time though, because the classes have lasted about 6 months, I calmed down enough to stop expecting any results and learned how to put the paint down differently, which is what I was after. My instructor painted in  an academic manner and was articulate about the processes, also was a really nice guy and let me pick his brain. I took in lots of little paintings and he pointed out the problems and we talked about how to solve them. When you boil it all down, it always  is the same, you have to see differently, but once you do....Yes!  I think I have turned a corner at last. One of the many corners.
Because I have been having trouble getting a good solid sense of form, I shot some photos with an overhead LED reading light shining down on me, so I could get a distinct light/dark pattern and painted from it. That move is a big help before you even get going.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mugshot 87, H. C.

8x6 inches, oil on panel

This is a commission executed during my Russian Period, under the influence of the Russian instructors  in the classes I am taking presently, who put the flesh down in gradations rather than slabs, as I do when left to my own devices. It's very pleasant and meditative to work this way, although I can't easily get into that frame of mind. I'm hoping to habituate myself to this method through repetition. My instinctive way is more of a chain saw approach, to whack it together rapidly --not that there's no subtlety, but more of a discovery process, more muscular. I always laugh when I see that word used to describe painting, but how to get at these issues with words? The cess pool of words --- that's some  French painter's phrases, can't remember who, but yes.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Self Portrait in Black Hat 1

9x12 oil on canvas

Because I am taking a class from a figure drawing association where they teach you how to draw and paint like Rembrandt, and all their work looks like a Rembrandt, and who doesn't like Rembrandt?, and even if you don't want to paint like Rembrandt, you want to know the method so you can do your own thing hopefully at that level ... anyway, all this pressure is making me want to paint like anybody but Rembrandt and to use any palette but his. So I whipped out my splurge tube of Old Holland Veronese green and built myself a palette of this with Winsor red,  Raw Sienna,  Alizarine, Cad yellow, also Ultramarine, and yes even some sap green so I could get a good black. Here's the thing: I'm just going to have to figure out how to do it with color. I can't be making brown paintings. It was exciting to use this fabulous green -- and because I was semi-hysterical overreacting while I was painting I figured out just from vigorous blundering how to tame the green, how to mix it into everything so there was some harmony, but the painting, whatever the quality of the image is, has color that (in my opinion)works, and does not read as brown. Bwa-ha-ha!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Pomeranian Twins

14 x 16 inches, oil on canvas

Here they are, the Pomeranian Twins.  This is the latest addition to the crew of dogs rescued by
the Dallas couple.  A few years ago I copied some paintings of Queen Marianna by Velasquez because I fell in love with (among other things) the steady gaze of the young queen, so grave and patient. The gaze is the same here. And both Queen M. and the Pomeranians had good bling to paint, always fun.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Jean on the Pillow, 2

16 x20 inches,
charcoal on butcher paper

This is another go with the Natrim charcoal. It did not stay up on the surface on this paper as it did on the Mi-tientes so it was hard to manage. With drawing, the paper becomes a concern, how to keep it intact, keep its surface receptive, get the charcoal to come off, not too much, not too little. (Unlike painting, where you can happily work the surface to death, scrape it down, still viable.) This is a different method of drawing than I have used before, because only the big shapes are established in the beginning, so there is a lot of adjusting and fitting pieces together while the charcoal is still light. Maybe everyone draws this way, I don't know.  It's certainly an easier way to quickly get the whole figure in proportion. But there's a guy in my drop in life drawing class who starts with the tip of the model's thumb and moves the entire figure out from that point, everything in its perfect place ---aaaugh! Well --
crawl, walk, run, I say.

Friday, January 16, 2015


oil on canvas, 10 inches square

I have painted 13 or 14 dogs belonging to a couple in Dallas, and this is a new one in the gang. They collect sick animals that have no hope, pay for their outrageously expensive surgeries, and then give them a new life in their home. At Halloween they dress everybody up and take pictures. This is Daisy, new to the family but I think elderly. Two more are coming, twin Pomeranians wearing crowns. Really fun to paint - I love doing them.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Jean on the Pillow 1

20x16 inches, charcoal on paper

This is the first of my efforts with the Natrim charcoal, expensive Italian charcoal in long squared off bars. They come in different hardnesses and you have to sharpen them to a 3 inch gradually tapering point. They are temperamental, in that sometimes the density of the charcoal is too high and you can't get a mark out of them. The desired effect as I understand it, is to get a very even patch of mark making, a perfectly flat area. So you have to learn what the charcoal will do, how it can be built up in flat tone. Then the gradual darkening occurs over this tone, by gently adding more charcoal, because if you did the first layers correctly you will have a smooth surface which will hold more and more... This is almost more painting than drawing. Mark making is not the first priority, although there is a bit. I got way too dark here too fast.

My most favorite and entirely delicious movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, just got 9 Oscar nominations, which makes me so happy!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mugshot 86: Aubrey

8x6" oil on panel

OK, back in the saddle after the Christmas frenzy. I am involved now in two outside activities, a drop in life drawing group and an actual class at Los Angeles Association of Figurative art, Exploring Portraiture. I'm doing lots of drawing, so pleased about this because it is the most obvious way to improve. In the portrait class, the method of drawing requires attention to the masses and the forsaking of line, the line, the beautiful line, which I love but might be the enemy of painting. Maybe it's just MY enemy because I have relied overmuch on it. Anyway, the important part of this is to see the masses and how they connect. Now I'm practicing mass-seeing at the bank, the grocery store,  the conversation where I'm trapped.