Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Man Awash (30 X 40")

Woman Turning (24 X 48")

Woman in Blue & Green (18 X 24"), sold.

Woman Bathing (18 X 24")

Move Through Blue (30 X 40")

Nudes in water is a combination rich in associations. These pieces are based on snapshots of my wife and me on our way down from a very isolated group of peaks in the Adirondack wilderness, but the man and woman should be read as universal figures. As pictures and forms, these really speak to me and I hope they translate well for people who don't know me (and for people who do!).

From my Figure Painting Class at the Corcoran

In order of appearance:

Sombra (16 X 20")

Gordo (18 X 24")

Flaco (18 X 24")

Joven (16 X 20")

Julia (18 X 24"), Collection of Gavin Dougan

Each of these has merits. The first two were done with a very limited palette, per professor Katherine Knights instructions: white, raw umber, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, blue. On Sombra and Flaco I sketched out the form with a red oil pastel before painting. Flaco was begun with a very limited -albeit expansive- palette of just light yellow, alizarin crimson (which I hadn't used since college), and pthalo blue, and white. That and black are what printers use. We were allowed to expand the palette to inject earthier tones in the final session of the pose, and I did. It's a little overworked, and I decided to stop fussing and start anew on a quick freshy in the last twenty minutes of the pose. The resulting last piece, Joven, is a very rushed, quick-response-no-time-to-fuss-or-doubt effort. It's my favorite of the group because of its energetic strokes and raw coloration. The interplay of colors and the strong lines make my heart sing as much as any piece I have ever painted.

Women on the Sofa

Tres Mujeres en el Sofa (18 X 24"), Collection of Sarai Rodriguez

These are three Andean women close to my heart. I took a snapshot on Halloween night of them at a party and based this painting on the photo. It has merits. I welcome feedback on it and all my pieces.

True Blue Papa

True Blue (24 X 36")

True Blue (Detail)

Papa sat for me back in April, and I put the painting aside to dry in order to revisit its problems later. This is where it stands after getting reworked in early November. I like it and so does Papa.

Railroad Days

West Potomac Railroad Bridge (15 X 60"), sold.

A cluster of bridges, including one for the railroad, one for the yellow/green line, and two for vehicles (I-395/14th Street) run off this southern coast of Haine's Point, with Memorial Bridge in the distance. A great place to paint when the wind is minimal, as it was on this day in early November. I think it's my best plein-air piece of the year. Below is another plein-air study of the bridge from a week before.

Railroad Bridge (16 X 20"). Jost-Iacavone Collection.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Seasonal Meanderings

These are plein-air studies from September, June, and October respectively:

Invitation to Swim, Chapel Pond (9 X 12"), Collection of Mohit Mukherjee.

Jumping-off Point, Friends Creek (10 X 10")

Herring Highway, Rock Creek (16 X 20")

These are larger takes on earlier, smaller studies from last year.

Friends Creek in Fall (30 X 40")

Friends Creek, in Maryland, is where I learned to fly fish as a kid. We used to spend a lot of time swimming in the creek in summer on the weekends, admiring the trout, playing with the crawfish. I'm pleased with the golden tones that come through like guitar chords through the woods, and vertigo-inducing liquifaction of the nearby reflections. The solid, alert presence of the central, pointed rock brings it all together for me.

Winter Ensemble (30 X 40")

The woods below Montrose Park never cease to amaze me, how they go from chaotic green jungle in summer to sparse skeletal remains in winter. This piece is based on photos I took after that first blizzard last winter. It is a musical meditation on vertical wood, depthless snow, suspended leaves, and the sky's descending cobalt teeth.

Creekside Path #2 (16 X20")

I remain dazzled by the golden fires and oceanic waves of snow in this exploration of Rock Creek after last year's blizzard.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

October in Keene Valley

Fall Frenetics (18 X 24"). Preston Collection.

Up in Keene Valley over an extended Columbus Day weekend, I produced a number of good pieces, photographed here in various states of incompletion... or not photographed at all. I like to try and get a week or two in October of solitary, monastic painting time up there in the fall. I hauled my gear up a peak or two this time around, but mostly just enjoyed using the living room as my painting/yoga studio, fireplace roaring and Indian ragas and Beethoven coming through on the sound system. The air is so crisp, waters raging wildly, tree trunks revealing all their musculature and textures, and the leaves crunching like cornflakes under foot.

Summit Spirits on Skylight (in process). Sold.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More Takes on the Bridge Theme

I dug in along the canal today, down from the bridge that- when I was a kid- was the only way to cross over the canal and follow the towpath. That was before all the development on the south side of the canal, development of which I largely approve. The canal's longevity will depend upon people appreciating it, and I'm so glad those attractive offices and apartments have been a success. This bridge was pure, squealing delight for us kids when my dad would take us biking along the canal, and later it represented a bridge to solitude for this angst-ridden mod teenager of the 1980's. Now that the Crescent Trail exists, I usually bypass it when I go biking, but I do relish the challenge of making that turn up the north ramp without putting my foot down. Here's to the bridge of squealing delight and liberation!

Bridge to Younger Days (16 X 20"). Collection of Thomas Wentworth.

Taft Bridge, from Rock Creek (16 X 20"). Sold.
The Taft Bridge is the Connecticut Avenue bridge over Rock Creek Park. It's arguably the most elegant and lyrical of Washington's big bridges. It went up when my dad was a kid, and he grew up calling it the "million-dollar bridge", because it was reportedly the first bridge built in Washington that cost a million dollars. It doesn't exude quite the power and majesty of Key Bridge, but I'm always impressed by how it works with the landscape and how the landscape works with it. This is a big part of what excites me about bridges. They represent such artificial impositions on the landscape, and yet the landscape adapts and ultimately doesn't give a damn. And bridges make such a difference in terms of improving the quality of human life. One notes this when one goes to a country like Laos which has almost no bridges. If the people knew what they were missing, they might rise up and complain. But they don't and so haven't... and ironically are a happier people than we are... but I do think they'd find more delight in a few more bridges.

In process, after leaving Jack's Boathouse

Now complete

KeyBoom! (30 X 40"), sold.

This was started the day after KeyBam! was done. Paul of Jack's Boathouse and his staff were very generous and accommodating of this scruffy painter who wandered in. Jack's Boathouse is an amazing resource, by the way. For $12/person/hour you can rent a kayak or a canoe and cruise all over the river. People file in on their lunch breaks, and they are set up in a jiffy and on their way. No hassles, no standing around. Very well-run outfit. Get thee to the river!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Take it to the Bridge!

This September I've been taking the easel to some bridges by our house here in Georgetown. First I did two studies of a little wooden bridge over Montrose Creek that has funny criss-crossing jumping-jack construction. It's in shady, lush woods that drop down to Rock Creek. Study #1 looks upstream, and the next day I came back and painted looking downstream. The light was so smooth and neutral, with occasional bursts of yellow to break it up.

Montrose Bridge #2 (16 X 20")

Montrose Bridge #1 (16 X 20)

Then I found this great spot on a dock right under Key Bridge where, if it isn't too windy, I can really get the full effect of that monumental, jazzy, sensuous beast. Wow! I banged out this study in just a few hours and was very pleased and came back the next morning with greater ambitions and a much larger canvas (30 X 40"). It was nerve-wracking working on a larger scale down there. The wind gusted periodically and finally the sun grew too strong and I lugged my piece back to the studio where it now languishes, awaiting either a rainy day or very serene conditions by the river. I guarantee it will be grand when it's done!

KeyBam! (18 X 24")

Yesterday I went back to Mt. Zion cemetery, on 27th & Q Streets, NW. It is a traditionally black cemetery owned by Mt. Zion Baptist Church. The cemetery is pine-shaded and is now being tended after decades of neglect. It contains a vault overlooking Rock Creek that is reported to have been a station on the Underground Railroad. The big trees, wild breezes, and the presence of so many long-overturned and forgotten tombstones give the place an otherworldly feel. My grandmother and her sister are buried in the traditionally white Oak Hill cemetery, visible through the trees, across a ravine, and over a fence from Mt. Zion. This painting was done facing toward my grandmother, who rests right across R Street from her old house.

Through to Grandmother, from Mt. Zion Cemetery (16 X 20"). Collection of Silvana & Abraham.

These will all be hung, with a number of others, at the office of Hancock Legal, PLLC, at 1803 Connecticut Ave, NW, on the 3rd floor. There is an open house scheduled for October 1, and my old friend Manuella Hancock invited me to take advantage of the space and the discerning audience due to descend for her open house. Let me know if you want to come, and I'll put you on the list.

Monday, June 28, 2010

New Work from Keene Valley

One June Evening, 22 X 90", Collection of Noel C. Miller
A storybook realm of possibilities runs through this triptych.

Johns Brook, George's View #1, 18 X 24", sold.
A swiftly executed study done down by the McC lean-to.

Johns Brook, George's View #2, 24 X 30"
The more ambitious follow-up, done at the same spot two days later. A little more robust and sensual than the quick and clean original effort.

Climbing (Climb On), 18 X 24, sold
Frosted Mug is a classic Adirondack rock climb that I first top-roped in 1990 (very ineptly in every sense). As the the nineties went on I grew to confidently lead it maybe five times without hanging. There was an August or two when I used to do laps on it on my own with a microscender. Now I go back to it, get spanked, and struggle to the top. I still struggle to the top, but I know there will come years when I won't be able to and may not even be willing to try. Anyway, this painting was 100% executed at the base of the rock climb that means more to me than any other rock climb. As with a good poem, Frosted Mug takes on new significance with each run through.

Morning Light on the Brook, 20 X 20". Sold.
Sometimes when I have a really good painting that I wish I had another version of, I'll make a painting based on the first painting. This is one of those. It's a move I took from the Van Gogh play book. The first one is small and fresh, and it's part of my personal collection. This one is bigger and richer.

Beer Walls from Round Mountain, 16 X 20".
I hauled my new French easel up the Burns Weston trail and stopped at the lookout over the canyon below Chapel Pond where the Beer Walls reign. This is the result. It has many redeeming qualities, but I'm not convinced it holds together completely.

Brothers in June, 18 X 24", auctioned for North Country SPCA.
The Brothers ranks among my favorite hikes, and this piece was painted from my family's porch. It's a familiar scene and one I have painted many times before. I love it!!!

Trinity Falls in June, 11 X 14".
A theme to which I love to return, this was my first painting up here this year. It had issues, including torrents that resembled speghetti... but the elements shaped up into a compelling, cohesive interpretation of what I consider the fountain of the waters of life.

Baxter, 24 X 36".
Baxter is the peak I have climbed more than any other. Three to Ten times a summer. Maybe 100 times total. This painting has great flow of hemlock shadows, pine-scented pinks, and sturdy grays. I frankly think I knocked this one out of the park. Many thanks to the Ps and to Kerry W for use of the perch.

Porter Between Showers, 18 X 24. Sold.
It's hard to know when to stop painting. The first two people who saw this both asked if it was finished. At the time... between showers, high up on Beede Road... I thought I'd really nailed the combination of mist, mass, and muted sunlight. I'm still deciding, but I'm reluctant to dig back in. It has some of the flat, understated magic of a Milton Avery or Georgia O'Keefe. For me, it GLOWS and PURRRRRRRS through the mist.

Brook's Rim, 12 X 24".
Where I start and end most days in Keene Valley. These pools hold the waters of my life. This water is about as clean as water gets these days and these rocks lock in each day's solar radiation. Put them together with your body and you enter the kingdom of heaven. The transcendental effects of the brook came and went and came and went as I worked on this. The day had no shortage of wind gusts and quick showers. I like the result, but I'd like to try again on a bigger scale.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

April and May around Washington

These are plein-air pieces from this spring, all of watery subjects: Rock Creek, The Severn River, and the Tidal Basin.

Rock Creek below Montrose (16" X 20").

This is a great spot for kids, dogs, and ducks to splash around. Shad used to run the creek when I was a kid, and I am told that eels from the ocean still do make appearances. I felt the spirit of August Lundberg peering over my shoulder as I put the finishing strokes on this one. I was not conscious of his influence on the piece until it was basically done.

Boats at Rest (16" X 20")

I drove over to Sherwood Forest on the Severn River (by Annapolis, MD) to paint with Michael Gaudreau, a painter friend with whom I showed last summer at the Corscaden Barn. This rack of resting boats included two canoes, a kayak, and a sunfish. The forms are very universal and could easily pass for insects, seeds, or metaphors for our own bodies, souls, plans, or memories.

Cherry Blossom Rundown (18" X 24")

Rundown indeed! Maribel and I thoroughly enjoyed basking in the blossoms and people-watching on the Friday of the National Cherryblossom Festival here in the Disrict. I decided to get there early on Saturday and crank out a study of a monument in the morning light peaking through the lissome trees' veils. The tidal basin was swarming with people as I set up my easel and just focused on the tree forms, the Washington Monument, the curve of the water, and the petals all around. I thought I had finished when a passerby remarked that it was strange I hadn't included any of the thousands of people in the scene. I realized she was right. I had unconsciously ignored the humans in favor of the trees. But it seemed that almost everyone else was also doing their best to look past the passing swarms of gawkers. The characters I distributed into my little scene have that same "ships passing in the night" feel to them as they float blithely through the pink netherworld.

Papa in March

Papa in March (16" X 20")

Papa recently retired from 44 years of government service plus two years on the USS Essex. He kindly agreed to sit for me one day and this was the result of our efforts. We started after a breakfast in his bay window and finished in the late afternoon, with the light on the opposite side of his head from where it had been in the morning. The compassion, wisdom, and fortitude of a seasoned magistrate shines through here, though Mama says the old man just looks worn out and in need of a haircut.

Adirondack Explorations

Trinity Falls from Above (22" X 28")

Phelps Brook runs very close to my family's house in Keene Valley, and Maribel and I listen to it each night and morning from our sleeping porch. Trinity Falls is a name I came up with for a a little series of precipitous cascades that ends in a secluded pool. Year after year I go there to be renewed by the elemental purity of these waters. I have painted and sketched the falls on many occasions, but this off-kilter view from above may be the most exciting treatment yet. It is monumental and solid, yet it rushes and spins, provoking vertigo in the viewer the same way that Niagara Falls or the Empire State Building do; only this is a very intimate, secret spot for tapping nature's creative power. I plan to construct a frame for this that gives the forms some breathing room. I'm also planning to paint the falls from the next pool down from them, looking up from the abyss.

Range from Nundagao (30" X 40"), sold

Nundagao is an exposed ridgeline that provides spectacular views of the Great Range. This painting is based on a series of photos I took one very windy, dynamic day in November when my uncle David and I ventured out into uncertain skies. The landscape in November becomes a study in dead grays, burnt sienna, black, and leftover golds. The sky alternated between snow flurries and sun rays. The viewer of this piece seems to hover, riding the wind above blowndown birches.