Maggie

I had been in the middle of a full sized Cinefield® when my computer of six years gave up the ghost. This rendered my needed printer into an expensive paper weight. I switched to doing a painting. This is 11×14 watercolor & tan paper.

“Maggie” 11×14

errata thought on the elderly: In media & especially television, a shorthand for “old people” they often will reference big band music (usually Duke Ellington or Benny Goodman). A few Rolling Stones albums just hit their 50th anniversary mark. If you do the math, an “old” person was not swinging their gal arround on the dancefloor to “Take the A Train” but rather Hendrix’s electro lament for a decades turmoil & new found freedoms.

Paris Painter 3 : Man About Town

This season, I was really able to trim down the amount of equipment I brought with me. For painting, I had my custom cut 4×4 in both standard white watercolor paper & brown multi media paper. The plan was to buy a standard block once here.

I actually enjoyed challenge working small, and people liked the weird hanging chads too. So I decided to stick with it, forgoing other paper.

With smaller paper you have less space to create tension & release. The density I prefer in my compositions also trickier to achieve.

Here is my portrayal of flesh which I never tire of doing, a night scene trying to show shadow without blatantly showing darkness of a room and detail from a favorite statue in The Luxemburg gardens. All are 4×4

Why So Cereal

“You made me beautiful” she said upon seeing the finished piece.

It was, but I just painted what I saw. With all my portraiture I go for a sort of raw reportage. If I see it, it appears in the piece. I never airbrush out (so to speak) any imperfections nor do i exaggerate any by way of settling scores. To me, all truth is beauty.

I always want people to be able to return to a piece and see new things. This is why traditional beauty has always bored me. The little quirks and imperfections make it real, make it interesting. The organics of a piece is often helped by only using people I know as subject matter. The trust allows for natural body language and facial expressions. There are some great yet unknown painters out there whose work’s power is diminished by coming across as overly academic or all the cheesy glam poses. I don’t worry about the beauty aspect, but rather the realness.

This piece is 11×14 inches. Watercolor on brown paper.

Another song About a Girl

Once again I tried to change things up a little. I used a heavy stock brown paper 11×14 inches landscape oriented.

Throughout my oeuvre I had done paintings of close up of body parts. The challenge of this to varying degree is that if one does a super close up of an arm or belly without the outline of limbs/silhouette, it’s not necessarily easy to know what as a viewer, one is seeing.

Without visual guidelines, it’s tougher to show volume & mass of a body. This is one of the challenges I enjoy. If I can make the viewer feel the curve of a part without showing the edge, then it’s “easy” when doing an entire body or section.

Another aspect of this which I enjoy is that even when really nailing the volume and mass effect of the skin, there’s a sort of abstract property to the piece. I like the concept of a viewer enjoying these types of works just for the colors and effects rather than the “Does it look like this person?” aspect which can occasionally be a distraction. This piece is not as tight a zoom as I sometimes do for this type of work.

Another Song About a Girl 11×14 Brown Paper & watercolor

Some Girls

I had many balls in the air these past few weeks including my first smaller trip outside of the city. Slowly, I worked on a painting where I tried a few new things. I am pleased with the results. The camera i had gotten during the pandemic as to be able to properly capture my work ended up being more of a nemesis than help. Despite having done all kinds of research beforehand, it was only after the fact i found out how notoriously difficult that it was to use. I sucked it up and went for a consult, the store owner was helpful, not trying merely make a sale. I ended up with a Sonny which is amazingly easy to use and feels good in my hand too. This is first painting i have used it on.

“Some Girls” 9×12 watercolor & Paper

Lipstick

After all the time spent on my last CINEFIELD®, it felt great to get back to painting. I feel all the mediums in which I create are of equal value even though some of my audience only knows me through one of them.

“Lipstick” 9×12 Watercolor on paper

In the Car

I have started reading The William H Gass reader. Right out of the gate I found myself deeply enjoying it. One of the first essays is on books which were touchstones for his life as an author. Early on he makes a point of drawing a distinction, it is not supposed to be a “best books” list but rather ones which resonated personally for him and which served in his journey into becoming an author.

He mentions Flaubert’s Bouvard et Pécuchet. Of the trinity of Flaubert, Balzac and Zola I had always held him in the least esteem (with Zola being, in general, one of my favorite authors). Right before returning to France a few years ago I read the excellent bio on Cezanne by Alex Danchev. Cezanne talks so passionately about Flaubert, i felt the stirrings of considering giving him another try.

That season I kept meeting Helene and Charlie for drinks and book talk. Her admiration of the trio was the inverse of mine. Her description has stuck with me:

“With Balzac, it was all money, money, money if only I had the money. With Zola it was sex, i need power to get sex, I use sex to get money to get power to have sex. But Flaubert, there is an author, the sentences each meticulously crafted.”

I decided to give Flaubert another try. I went to Gagliani and bought Sentimental Education and Bouvard et Pécuchet. I read Sentimental first. It was good, i definitely had more appreciation for Flaubert than I used to. It was Bouvard though which sealed the deal for me. I found the book darkly funny in the way early Celine had been.

What is interesting to me is that when this book is discussed it’s merits are often described via a shorthand of being “funny” ala wacky Swiftian satire. I think people perceive it this way because it and Sentimental Education form perfect bookends. The later is more outwardly “dark”. I like it, but really it is just a romantic era story of squandered potential and the dried up promises of bygone youth. And, of course, the usual chess like romantic patterns of the main characters. Bouvard is actually a darker novel.

Gass has very much same assessment. His articulation spot on and obvious, but not until you have heard him say it.

I would never argue interpretation with someone on art unless they were 100% wrong. With my own work, unlike when I was first starting out, I rarely talk about it. Fascinating though that art can have completely differing interpretations. Is one person wrong or are they merely noticing and emphasizing in talking of it, a different aspect than someone else?

The pandemic has effected people in drastically different ways. I am not talking about how they directly handle it i.e wearing a mask, not wearing a mask et al. Rather, the sea-change that has come over people in regards to their personal philosophy. For some it served as grim reminder that life is fleeting so live while you can. For others, it has served to bring on a sort of cautious vigilance less something else unexpected further swat us down.

A type of cabin fever-life is too short bubbles up in many and temporarily dictates their actions. I find myself getting notes, photos, movies which when looking at, I keep this in mind.

One of the photos which I recently received had an interesting compositional point of balance. I decided to make a painting of it. As i worked on it, I found people all had different interpretations on it. “Hot” “Silly” “Weird” “Beautiful”. Like Bouvard, it has a little bit of everything in it. The main overriding intent is not for me to say as why would I want to make anyone wrong and temper their enjoyment.

“In the Car” 9×12 watercolor & paper

Birthday

I have noticed lately that there are a lot of museum shows & installations “walk through a van Gough painting” type of things using projections and other tech. I am sure this will attract revenue. For anything which is lazy, bad or dare I say plebeian, there are intelligent people out there ready to supply articulation as to justify it. The gimmick as (art) museum show; “This will attract those who don’t usually go to museums.” It is not so much bringing culture to those who normally would not bother but rather a transmutation of it into something akin to the latest block buster movie.

The problem with this is that it makes the artist/work besides the point. It is spectacle as focus and not artist work/intent. The deeper problems with this, as it is many people can not stand in line to get their coffee without keeping their head bent down in their phones as to be blasted by digi-sensations as to distract them from their five minute wait. A Picasso-laser show type thing is further contributing to a complete lack of the public’s ability to “merely” stand and look at a work of art. All art regardless of era and medium has a component of contemplation to it. We are perhaps a few years away from people going to one of the great museums of the world, standing in front of an immortal piece; a Renoir, a Velazquez et al impatiently waiting for the razzle-dazzle to begin.

When reading about art, depending upon where you live, there is a lack of the ability to go out and actually see the painting or works by a specific artist. The internet is good to look something up and get the gist of it, but it can not compete with the real thing. There is a difference. Looking at works mainly online, going to mutli media mutations of an artist’s work have changed what looks “right” or “good” to a modern art audience. They do not want to see brush strokes or other evidence of an artist’s hands which are a part of their voice. A smooth machine like perfection as encountered online, on postcards is what is now preferred.

One could imagine Soutine talking to a gallery owner or museum director and being told “Don’t worry, we will smooth down the rough edges digitally…”

You can’t fight progress nor the populist bent but merely offer an alternative for this willing to explore. The ability to portray flesh in all its beautiful imperfections is something I will never tire of.

“Birthday” watercolor on tan paper 11×14

Pour Vrai

Life as we know it has remained if not completely on hold, then altered. The rhythms & goals now a familiar stranger. It had rained off and on, so I did two Cinefield® pieces while waiting for my necessary to paint sunlight. The weather finally obliged me and I went to work on a new piece. With the changes of season the ideal times to paint & to photograph the finished paintings change.

Of course I have this memorized, it has become reflexive, a sort of muscle memory of light utilization. One thing which has always served as a reminder of shortly being about to change my painting hours are activities that I am doing beforehand. Coming back from my Parisian residency heralds a shift, etc etc.

Without all my usual activities as prompters, I found out upon completion of this piece, that I have hit a optimal hour to work change. It was an odd sensation, a bitter taste in my mouth. I will be the first to recognize that many have it far worse than I. It once again firmed up my resolve to put my work out there, not as any kind of cure nor solution but to offer up to all, a brief respite from what ever trials are currently being face.

Pour Vrai 9×12 Watercolor & Paper

Blue Nails

Traditional ideas of beauty bore me. They blur together into a generic oh-la-la which is not remembered five minutes after it is no longer present. For me, the true, the real, will always be beautiful.

The real serves to facilitate emotion which will not appear prop-like nor freeze dried. When i first started delving into the world of social media I was at great pains to explain that with my pieces which showed real bodies as we all have or encounter, I was not mocking nor satirizing. I do not feel this need any longer and I suspect that what each viewers reaction to these bodies is, says something about them.

Times are still tough for us all. Art & culture serve to offer a way of reminding us of what we all have in common. It also is a place mark for what waits once we do not need to devote the lion’s share of our time to the bad. I do not look forward to returning to “normal” or “how it was” as those times were not great for everyone. I look forward to the time when we can give attention towards helping each other be the best versions of ourselves. In the meantime, I offer up my beauty for all.

Blue Nails 9×12 Watercolor & Paper