Friday, November 23, 2012

Alive and Kicking

This time of year, well actually the third Thursday in November, we like to pause between bites of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and jellied cranberry sauce, (there is no other kind) and remind ourselves of what we are thankful for. 

For myself, I am grateful that I've given up trying to appear fit and trim.  Bring on more of that Pecan Pie!  And damn right I want ice-cream on that!

Now that I got that out of my system, I thought I'd give all of my regular readers of Maine-ly Painting (and you know who you are) a nice treat, and show some real art.  Both of you who read this regularly know that I have a deep affection for the great painters of the past.  Be they the 19th Century types like William Bouguereau, Jean Leon Gerome, Thomas Eakins and Winslow Homer, or 20th Century Illustrators like Norman Rockwell, NC Wyeth, Tom Lovell and Dean Cornwall.  But one type of artist I rarely mention are those that are very much alive and producing work that I think is the equal of any artist of the past. 

So without further ado, let me show you some art by some artists that make me want to quit right now.

Leading off is Jacob Collins.  He's a New Yorker who was born in 1964.  He had extensive art training and today runs the Water Street Atelier, the Grand Central Academy of Art and the Hudson River Fellowship.  (More information can be found here)  He's a classical realist in that he uses techniques of the Masters from generations past.  But what I love is the contemporary feel he gives his work.

Check this out:

Man, the treatment of the sheet is worth the price of the painting, alone.  He's no slouch with a Still Life either.  Just look at the glow he gives this orange:

And last but not least, he's a triple threat in that he does exquisite Landscapes as well.

Great--now I can feel inadequate in all three disciplines of art...

Moving on, I bring you Daniel Sprick.   Like Collins, Mr. Sprick predominantly paints from life as well.  Where as Collins uses a dreamy attitude in his work, Sprick has a no holds barred, show-it-as-it-is mentality.  But, if I had one wish to have as a painter, I'd wish for Daniel Sprick's eye.  Just look at the power of observation that Sprick uses in this painting:

Sprick lives in Colorado, but was originally an Arkansas boy, having been born there in 1953.  He had extensive training to develop his talents, and uses traditional methods and techniques-- all of which he's a  master of. 

I'm always blown away every time I see one of his portraits.  Now, a lot of people would look at them and say, "My, that's just like a photo!"  but let me tell you, no photo can reproduce what Sprick sees and paints:

Yeah, just let a camera try that!

About twenty-five years ago, I stumbled upon a book called The Illuminated Landscape.  It showcases the artwork of Peter Poskas and the landscapes he had done of the Connecticut farmland.  I highly recommend you go to Amazon and buy it. Really, you'll thank me. 

Born in 1939, but still going strong, I had the wonderful opportunity to see his work up close and personal in Thomaston, Maine (less than an hours drive from my home) at the Haynes Galleries.  Poskas doesn't have a web-site, so I linked him to that gallery.

As a landscape painter, I can only look at his work and wistfully say, "Why can't I do that?"  He embodies the style and technique that I want to achieve in my work.  Whenever I start a landscape painting, I think to myself, "How would Poskas treat this scene?"  With all due respect, you can have your Richard Schmid's and Scott Christensen's-- I'll take Peter Poskas every time.

And who wouldn't when you look at these beautiful pieces of Art?

Even though I know these images are a tad bit fuzzy, I still think it's painfully obvious; The man knows how to handle light.

I don't have a lot of biographical info on Mr. Poskas, but I do know he used to do a lot of studies plein air in preparation for his studio pieces.  Nowadays, he doesn't do quite so much of that.  Having seen his work in person, I know he paints on masonite panels, just like I do!  So... we've got that in common... 

Just a few miles away in South Thomaston lies a little gem of a gallery that houses some of the best Maritime paintings you can find. (OK, and maybe a few of mine, as well).  It's called Art Of The Sea, and is a representative gallery for John Stobard, another of my painting Gods.

Stobard was born in England in 1932, and found out early on that he had an affinity for history and drawing.  He made his big debut in New York City in 1965 and made quite a big splash.  Pardon the pun... He has since become the leading historical marine painter of our times.  If you want to take a step back in time, whether it be the coast of Maine or out in the deep blue sea, Stobard can take you there in his meticulously researched paintings.

Before they rotted away, these two schooners were stuck in the mud in Wiscasset, Maine:

I saw the painting above personally in the gallery.  Stobard is a master of the Moon light, as you can see from this awesome piece: 

And again, he researched the crap out of all of his depictions of maritime history.  If Stobard paints buildings along the waterfront, rest assured-- they were there.  Heck, I bet he even researched the proper ice to use in the painting below:

OK, maybe I'm joking about the ice part, but he sure did research the vessel he portrayed.  But his work isn't just schematically correct.  His paintings are Art.  Full of color, design and drama.  You don't have to know the history he shows you, just appreciate the scene, beautifully shown.  To me, that's a rare gift.

So there you have it, my favorite current artists.  They are some of the guys that I look up to and emulate.

And they are very much alive.

More than I can say about that turkey I ate yesterday...


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

L 7

After spending an inordinate amount of time this year laboriously working with the glazing painting technique I use on slick masonite panels, I thought it would be great fun to break out the big brushes, palette knife and rough canvas, and have at it.  So what did I just do?

My usual thing on masonite panel.

I can't help myself, I guess.

But I thought it might be mildly interesting to relate how this particular painting came about.  Maybe a 3 on the interest scale of 1 to 100, but mildy interesting, none-the-less.

Every once in a while I take my lunch on lovely summer days in the shade of a big ol' maple tree in my back yard.  We built a stone patio around its base, and there's almost always a pleasant breeze gently wafting through, and it's just a nice place to take a break away from the heat of my studio.  But no matter how interesting the book I brought to read with my lunch (yodels and ring-dings) is, I almost always wind up staring into the leaves above me and enjoy the color play of light as it shines through the verdant canopy and illuminates the branches.  It always makes me think of one of the great landscape painters of the 19th century, William Trost Richards, and more explicitly, this painting:

You know how it is.  We painters see something interesting to us and we say, "Someday, I'm going to paint that."  That's how it was with this painting, and my maple tree.

Now, I'll send you back in time to Memorial Day of this year, when I was wandering around the Boothbay, Maine Botanical Gardens in search of a painting.  I wrote about it in this blog post.  Before I eventually found a site I wanted to paint plein air, I did some sketches of other spots.  One sketch I did was this one of a boulder sitting all alone in the woods:

It is exactly that: a sketch.  It's also a little incomplete looking because the bugs were eating me alive as I had both hands occupied in doing it.

So as I was pondering the ever-present question of What To Paint? a couple of weeks ago, and rummaging through my sketch book, my mind combined all of the elements I mentioned above.  The tree.  The old painting.  Summer. Lunch.  Ring-Dings.  That and one other thing--

I had a 12X12 inch frame kicking around that I wanted to use.  So I went square.

So instead of rough canvas and palette knife, I used a panel and my usual technique.  Here is the picture after I had it drawn on the panel, but before I hit it with paint:

And there you have it, all the inside scoop of where this painting came from.  Nothing deep and emotional here. 

And for an old L7 like me, that's just the way I like it.


Thursday, November 1, 2012


For those who know me, (and you know who you are, even if you refuse to admit it) it is no surprise if I admit that I'm not really an emotional kind of guy.  I'm just a meat and potatoes, black and white, tell-it-like-it-is sort of person.  The pool of my emotions runs about ankle deep.  It shows in my paintings, doesn't it?  Needless to say, there's not a whole lot of "I wonder what that means?" in my pictures.  There's a simple reason for that:

Re-read the above.

But I do see beauty in much of what I observe.  It's just that I prefer to show it to you as faithfully as I can, and not try to interpret it for you.  I'd rather let you feel your own emotion.  My feeling is that if I think something is cool, then you probably will too.  You know, a "Hey-- Check this out!"  type of approach.

I am not unique in that like many painters, one of the things I think is really cool is the interplay of light and shadow.  It strikes me as somewhat humorous (and a tad bit pretentious) when I hear painters say that they "paint light."  As opposed to what?  Darkness? But I digress...  Anyway, I've long been intrigued by the play of light that comes filtering in through my studio windows.  I liked the way the color of the light affected the color of the shadows.  But I couldn't very well just paint a window, could I?  I needed to have something to show the affect.  So I thought about having someone standing there and looking out the window.  Sure, it might be a figurative painting, but in my mind it would really be about the colors of light.

As I have mentioned before, I am a huge fan of the great illustrators of the past.  I like the paintings they did that tell a story.  Therefore, it isn't enough for me to just show a bored model staring off into space, looking like they are in a catatonic trance, or worse-- dead.  I like for them to be doing something.  When I put a figure in my painting, I want you to be able to guess not just what they are doing now, but maybe what they did before, or what they might be doing after.  I want them to be part of a larger story. 

So that leads me to the idea of the painting above called Homecoming.  It started life as this thumbnail:

I envisioned this as an older gentleman looking through the blinds.  I had bought some vintage clothes recently, and I wanted to paint them.  So what better excuse than using them in my painting of a window, right?  Nothing deep about that.  Problem was, I didn't have an old guy to wear them.

So, I'm thinking to myself, "where can I get an old guy to pose for me?"  And that led me to a Doctor I know.  You wouldn't know it, but the old duff I painted is actually a well respected surgeon!  But you'll also notice that he's not wearing my old clothes.  That's because he posed for me on a hot August afternoon at his place on the coast.  I figured I'd dress him in the painting, if you know what I mean.  I originally wanted a somber kind of picture, but Doc was in a jolly good mood, so he kept smiling while he posed for me.  I also figured I'd change that in the painting process.

Now, all of this was back in August.  I had to set this on the back-burner due to my foot surgery, and a couple of commissions I was asked to do.  I've also spent a large amount of time preparing for my mother to move in with Ellen and me here in our house.

And then, the whole meaning of this picture changed.

You see, my mom lives by herself near Philadelphia, about 400 miles away from me and the rest of her children and grand-kids.  We all would get down there as often as we could, but that only meant maybe two or three times a year.  Mom's older now, and living alone is becoming more and more difficult.  And maybe, deep down, I was thinking of her in my thumbnail of someone waiting at the window.  So her coming back home is a good thing.

And that's what my painting became.  It went from a painting about how light affects an old man looking out a window, to the joy of an elderly man as he sees a loved one coming up the walk-way to is house. The window is dirty; there's dust and cobwebs on the glass ornament, but there is pleasure in his expression.  Something good is happening.  I didn't need the props, his face tells the story.  And maybe-- just maybe-- his apparent delight is really an expression of my mom's feeling of joy at coming to live near her family again.

Hence, Homecoming.

Well, this painting's in the books. I'm already gearing up for the next picture.  I'm thinking it will be of a lonely boulder nestled in the deep dark, menacing woods.  You know-- really emotional.

Because that's how I roll...