Friday, September 19, 2014

Two Good Things: Cataract Surgery and an Article

I've been reluctant to mention this, but over the past year or so I've been having problems with painting from life.  It's hasn't been so bad to paint from the brightness and saturated color of my iMac monitor, but trying to work from a still life or landscape has been awfully hard. Turns out it has been the fault of my eyes- I've had early onset cararacts. It may have been caused by years of painting outdoors in full sunlight.

I just had surgery on the first eye, and am excited and eager to paint, but need to take it a little easy this week. It feels like my eye and brain and trying to catch up with each other.

Meanwhile, Bucks County Magazine just published a nice article about my work, written by Michele Malinchak. You can read part of it here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

View of Old Quebec from the Saint Lawrence River

pencil, pen and ink wash on paper

This view of Quebec City shows a slice of both the Upper Town (Haute-Ville) and Lower Town (Basse-Ville) as seen from the Saint Lawrence River. You can see here some of the beautifully geometric buildings from the University of Laval's School of Architecture.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


oil on board 8"x6"

This woman is studying a Van Gogh painting of sunflowers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I like the way her blond hair in a bun blends in with the flowers, seemingly adding to the generous bouquet.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Girl Among Orchids

oil on board 7"x 5"

My mom gave me the idea to take pictures of people in public gardens, so I took a trip to one of her favorite places, Longwood Public Gardens. This girl is inside the huge glass conservatory, admiring the orchids in the Orchid Room.

My mom has always been super supportive of my work. Tomorrow we'll celebrate her 83rd birthday- Happy Birthday Mom!!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mother and Daughter

oil on panel 6.5"x 6.5"

This young mother and her daughter are waiting to cross a street in Quebec City. The late afternoon light on them was so beautiful. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Girl in Madagascar

graphite on paper 9 3/4" 6 3/16"

This drawing is based on a photograph by world-traveling photographer Steve Evans, taken on a visit to Madagascar. I was quite taken with this girl's beautiful eyes, and her open, unselfconscious expression. 

Steve generously allows artists to use his photographs as reference material, as long as he is given credit.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Stabled Horse

oil on board 6.5"x 6.5"

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer Plans

oil on board 5"x7"

At times this was really fun and satisfying to paint, but also very difficult. The patterns in this young woman's hair were wonderful to capture, but overall it sure took a while to get a good balance of light and shadow. The shadowed skin tones needed to be deep enough to keep the backlighting dramatic, but also have a glow from the reflected sun on the waters of the Casco Bay. But now I'm happy with it!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bird Watching

oil on board 6"x 6"
click here to bid or purchase

Last month on a business trip, my daughter found this kitten wandering the streets of Atlantic City. I told her that no, he couldn't stay, but since then have become very attached to him. We still haven't named him! 

Usually I paint on flat hardboard panels, but this one is on a 3/4" cradled panel, which doesn't necessarily need a frame.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


 oil on board 6"x8"

The rhinoceros is so endearingly ugly. I like these lines about a rhinoceros by the poet Edward Hirsch:
You lumber around in your skin of armor
Like an exiled general or a grounded unicorn.
 Usually I like to paint on an untoned (white) surface, but this time I began by drawing with a thin red wash. I worked hard here to define the big shapes without dithering around with the hundreds of creases and wrinkles.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Industrial Landscape, Quebec City

pencil, pen and ink wash 6"x9"

Monday, June 23, 2014

Saint-Sauveur, Quebec City, Summer Afternoon

pencil, pen and ink wash 7"x7"

The current theme in my other blog is the cityscape, and posting so many great paintings of various mighty cities has had me eager to paint another city scene. This is a view of the Quebec City neighborhood of Saint-Sauveur, with its church of the same name towering over all. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Studio Table and Shelves with a Distant Landscape

oil on linen mounted on board 16"x12"

I like painting interiors that show a peaceful indoor scene as well as a small slice of a wider life glimpsed outside. Here my white studio table and a close up of some Ikea shelving are filled with my ever-present and always patient still life paraphernalia. Out the window is a landscape scene that I tried to make seem as inviting as possible. 

I worked on this painting throughout the month of May. At times it was a challenge to keep going, as for a few years now I've been so used to finishing off paintings in 2 or 3 days. I started out feeling so excited, then after a while began to have little dips of boredom, but then would get re-interested. Overall it was much more satisfying for me to work this way.   

Of course when a painting takes so long, it's important to spend time carefully planning out the composition. Perhaps next time I'll use fewer horizontals, and I'll spend even more time on preparatory drawings. Here is the sketch I completed before starting the painting:

Thursday, May 8, 2014


oil on board 

Here's another older work, a view of the-once-industrial-but-now-trendy Philadelphia neighborhood of Manayunk. I spent at least two months on this, but only two and a half hours at a time, and of course only on sunny days. 

Earning money from one's art is such a tricky thing. I remember exhibiting this painting in a Philadelphia gallery and asking $900 for it. The painting didn't sell, and the gallery owner told me that I was asking too much, considering I was so young and unknown. Yet if it had sold, she would have taken 50%. After the cost of the frame, I would have made $400 for a painting that took 30 or 40 afternoons of work (I sold it later privately).

This is part of the reason I began in 2008 to paint small and finish my work in a day or two and charge low prices that made it easier to find buyers- I simply couldn't afford to support myself as an artist otherwise. But after a few years of this, I'm back to square one. I'd rather spend longer on my work, and make the best paintings I can. So it's back to a steady part time job for me....

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Painting Planning

It's been a wrenching process to get away from the Daily Painting mindset. I often hear a nagging voice in my head asking when I'm going to post something on this blog, but right now I want to paint the best I know how, and I don't think my best work is stuff I complete in a couple days.

I'm going to show you a couple of my older paintings of interiors with still life that I'm using as guides for my current work, although I don't want to replicate the style too closely. These two images are digital files from old slides:

Studio Interior oil on canvas 

Studio Table and Plant oil on canvas

I've been doing a lot of drawing, trying to work out ideas for longer-term paintings.  I'm in the midst of a painting now that I'm excited about, but I've had a few false starts. 

Another thing- I'm chucking my camera for a while. From the working drawing to the painting's end, I'm not relying on any photographs. Not that that's a terrible thing, but I believe working from life gives a painting a more personal feeling. 

Here are some current drawings/ideas for paintings:

 Thanks for looking!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Towards South Philadelphia

graphite on paper 13"x 8.5"

This is a view from the top of the old PSFS building at 12th & Market Streets in Philadelphia, looking towards South Philly. I'm so entranced by this tremendously sweeping view of the city I lived in for 20 years. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Couple Blowfish Drawings

  Blowfish in my Studio 12"x9" graphite

That Blowfish Again 9"x12" graphite

Here are two drawings of a little studio presence, a blowfish I got in Florida years ago. The first one I completed in about 3 or 4 hours, but the second one took about twice that long. 

I recently started an evening job, which has been helping me to feel more free in my work. I've been drawing just for fun lately, not caring so much whether what I'm doing will result in a sale or not (which is a quick way to kill your creativity). I'm not even sure if I should post these as for sale or not!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Halved Acorn Squash

oil on masonite 8"x6"

Whew.  At last I'm coming out of a major block against working from life, which started several months ago. I'm not sure if it's because I was getting too used to the convenience of working from images, or the increased possibilities of interesting subject matter, but I sure have been having trouble setting up a still life and feeling like I care.

I love painting vegetables, fruit and flowers, fish and seashells and other typical still life subjects, but I realize that in order to feel strongly enough about these small things to paint from them, I need to really push unusual viewpoints and dynamic lighting- whatever it takes for me to feel like they have something to say. Notice I wrote "they", not "I", because I honestly feel like this beautiful acorn squash is the one talking here. 

I find the great photographer Edward Weston's images of vegetables to be especially inspiring. Here are some of his sensual interpretations of common vegetables:

 Cabbage Leaf 1931

 Pepper 1930

White Radishes 1933

Friday, March 21, 2014

Dream Cityscape

graphite on paper 10"x10"

This is part of an unknown city with a major thoroughfare snaking its way to a graceful bridge over an unknown river. I wanted it to seem dream-like. 

Every time I begin a graphite drawing I feel vaguely guilty, because most people want to see paintings. I've had this itch, though, to continue my theme of aerial views of various cities, and I can best express what I want to say in graphite.

There is something about a view from a great height that really captures my imagination. Looking down with a birdlike- or even godlike- view of a complex city seems to me to be like being able to contemplate the course your life has taken with sudden clarity. When I draw these kinds of scenes, lines from Jane Hirshfield's poem It Was Like This: You Were Happy always come to my mind. Here the speaker has at last been able to look clearly, but without regret, over her life:

Now it is almost over.

Like a lover, your life bends down and kisses your life.

It does this not in forgiveness—
between you, there is nothing to forgive-
but with the simple nod of a baker at the moment 

he sees the bread is finished with transformation.
Meanwhile, my Mom's been encouraging me to paint the more cheerful subject of flowers, so I'm off to the market to have a look.