Saturday, December 27, 2008


I'm back, safe and sound! Thanks to everybody who dropped in to have a look. I've been very attentive to my other blog, and haven't posted here at all; I've found that it's hard enough to keep 1 blog going, let alone 2. I don't quite feel ready to pull the plug here, but I don't believe I'll be posting here in the near future. Instead, I'll be regularly updating State of the Art.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

From one hiatus to the next

And now for a long, long overdue update.

It’s been rough going lately. A family member became ill and died this fall. That was of course bad enough, but it happened outside of the country, which became a logistical nightmare. Things have somewhat returned to normal, but this entire year has been tough, with several major disruptions to our lives. I’ve been simply exhausted, and getting back into the flow of regular painting and blogging has been surprisingly difficult.

A number of people have written to me asking where I’ve been. Thank you: This has meant a lot to me. I believe I’ve now responded to everybody; if you did write me and didn’t hear back, I sincerely ask forgiveness.

So… I’m going to end the year with one more disruption, but a good one this time. As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to go to India, but the planets never properly aligned. Last week they did. An opportunity has come up for me to go and see the ordination ceremony for a friend of mine who is a Buddhist monk. I hesitated since it was such a last-minute thing, but my partner Sean has practically pushed me out the door (apparently I haven't beeen much fun to be around lately).

My flight's tomorrow evening, and I'll be there for a month. I’ll be spending 10 days at a monastery outside Bangalore, and after that I’ll be playing it by ear. Tentatively, I’m thinking of a short trip to Mumbai, then longer stays in Jaipur and Varanasi.

I should be in places with decent internet connectivity, so in theory (and I can’t stress the theory part of it enough), I should be able to do a few posts while I’m there… IF I can get my act together and keep it together. I’ll also be bringing paint (watercolors!) .

Do I plan to get back to regular painting and blogging? Absolutely. Assuming I can still lift a paintbrush in a month, I’ll be throwing myself into work; hopefully refreshed and newly-inspired.

Thanks to everyone for keeping links here and checking in on me!

Best wishes,

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Porcelain and Copper

When I left off work yesterday, I naively assumed that I'd be able to finish the copper piece and the slate tiles in a few hours, and then move on to the next painting.


The porcelain, which at first glance has a lot more detail, was actually the easiest part to paint (excluding the black background, obviously). The copper has so many fine gradations, and the highlights were so complicated, that it was simply much more work than I anticipated. It was a very long day.

The most fun turned out to be the slate tiles the objects are resting on. I included these in another recent painting, and found the time spent delving into some of the textural details almost self-indulgent.

I'll take a final photo and offer it on eBay probably over the weekend.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

In Progress

Today's in-progress piece. I did the underpainting about 2 months ago, and it was done in full-color (colorwash; there's a recent post here about the comparison between that technique and grisaille).

As I was getting ready to start on this, I was struck by the charm of the transparent washes of color. They seemed to have a light and warmth that is hard to capture with opaque applications of paint.

I'm going forward with a full, opaque layer of paint with this one, but in the future, I'd like to experiment with allowing some of the underpainting to show through... if even on the edges.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Website upgrade

After painting pretty much non-stop all weekend, I wasn't in too much of a mood to hold a brush. So, to clear my head of turpentine fumes, I spent the last 2 days updating my website (and some other business-related drudgeries).

I'd let the site virtually stagnate for the better part of a year, and hadn't even checked up on it all that often. When I did, the design just struck me as kind of tired. It also didn't really put my best foot forward, since the painting I do now is quite a bit different (mostly better, I prefer to think) than what I did a year ago.

That's hopefully all fixed now. It's got a totally new design that I'm pretty happy with, and showcases all my latest pieces:

Back to painting tomorrow.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Racing... very carefully...

In progress: Chocolate and Foil

I've been really negligent about sending my "monthly" newsletter, and this month I've vowed that wouldn't be the case. Yes, it's already the 24th. Anyway, I've decided it's GOING to get sent tonight, no matter what the hour. I did want to have a couple of larger pieces available, hence the effort to get this one and the previous sushi painting completed. It will be tight, but it should be possible to finish this by the end of the day. I'm rushing... as cautiously and deliberately as I can.

When working in the studio, I usually listen to podcasts or to audiobooks from Librivox. I love the Librivox concept, and can't say enough good things about it. Yesterday and today I've been listening to Ben Franklin's Autobiography. He's sort of a patron saint to me; I read the text version years ago, but it's great to hear the audio version again.

If nothing else, his encouragement of constant industry makes me feel better about working all weekend   :)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

In Progress

In Progress: Chocolate and Foil

The painting in the previous two posts is complete. I plan to take good photos of it, probably tomorrow, and post it on my other blog.

I decided to continue with the larger pieces that were left unfinished a few months ago. This painting of a chocolate bar and it's foil wrapper is 10 x 10 inches. I have to say that the foil is one of the toughest textures I've attempted. The variety of curves and creases form an enormous range of edges to paint.

It was fun though.

Friday, August 22, 2008

In Progress

In Progress: Two Ikura

I've been down with a cold the last few days, so not working as fast as I might like. Still, I have managed to make some headway with this one. Not entirely sure that things are sitting quite right on the surfaces; the board might not be forming a flat surface for the objects to rest on. I'll probably finish the unpainted areas before making any judgements about the defects...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Almost like painting murals

In progress: Two Ikura

About 6 months ago I started a series of "bigger" paintings which I didn't finish. I decided to have another go at them this week just to see what would happen. This particular giant is 10 x 8 inches. Outlandish :)

Monday, August 18, 2008

No mas...

That's it. That's the last of the underpaintings for a while. Gotta be; I'm starting to feel like I'm channelling Mark Tansey. That's all well and good, but... well... I miss yellow... and blue... and green... and...

In all seriousness, doing this many intricate grisailles in a row has got me thinking about a series of true monochromatic still lifes. That's for another time, though.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Studio Tours

I thought this was pretty cool. John Annesley, who owns an art supply company in California, has a gallery at his site dedicated to artists who use his products. He's also visited the studios of quite a few of these artists and taken lots of pictures. Click the studio tours link under those artists' images. Always fun to see other artists' workspaces.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Under the Underpainting

Thought it would be nice to give a flavor of the grisaille while in progress. The first step of course is the drawing. Depending on the complexity of the composition, it can be simple, or highly detailed. Since this particular painting is not overly complicated (at least by my recent standards), the drawing did not need to be very involved.

You'll notice the hatched areas of the drawing indicating dark masses and shadows. I only recently started doing this. Especially with complicated compositions, I found it incredibly difficult to look at 10 roughly parallel lines, count in from the edge, and try to remember the pattern of shadows, highlights, and middle tones I needed to capture. I don't need to make things any harder than they already are...

Anyway, after finishing the drawing, I apply a damar retouch. When working on the grisaille, the paints are heavily thinned with turpentine. This dissolves some of the damar layer, and the entire surface dries to a beautiful, almost enamel-like finish.

Julia the Spy

Documents released today reveal that Julia Child worked for the predecessor of the CIA during WWII.

Like most people who have lived in Cambridge over the last 50 years, I have a Julia story. I'd just moved into the area for grad school and needed something from the hardware store for my new apartment. Ahead of me in the checkout line was a tall elderly woman... it was her. She turned around and smiled very sweetly at me. I only smiled back and said nothing, thinking she probably heard enough from gushing fans while running errands (someone later told me that she actually enjoyed that aspect of celebrity).

Anyway, the most interesting part of it all was what she was buying. Three claw hammers. Three.

Always thought that was a bit strange...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


In Progress: Camembert

Today's effort is the underpainting for a piece I've looked forward to for a long time. There's just something about these small wooden cheese containers that begs to be painted. Throw in the brightly lit tin foil (that flourish on the left), and I have no control.

Painting lettering has always seemed one of the trickiest things. The moment I start to read what I'm painting, it's doomed. The only way is to put out of my mind what I'm working on, and simply paint the shapes.

In a nutshell, I think that's how anything is successfully painted, but with lettering, it just seems more acute.

Also, last week I was contacted by a grad student at RISD asking permission to use my images for a project. The result was terrific; I blogged about it here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Loose values

In progress: soda bottle and chinese plate

Today's effort was doing the underpainting for another one of those ridiculously complex paintings I mentioned yesterday. This one is an antique soda bottle in front of a highly detailed chinese plate, both resting on a floral print cloth.

While working, I did find myself thinking about the nature of underpaintings. I do find them necessary for the way I work, but I'm also wondering how good they have to be. Being sort of a perfectionist (at least in the studio), my first impulse is to do an absolutely flawless underpainting that reflects the gradations in value 100%, etc, etc, etc.

Not so fast.

The underpaintings exist to give body to areas painted with transparent pigments, and also to provide a map, a guide for the final painting. From this perspective, grisailles do have to capture shape and probably volume with high accuracy. It's likely, however, that a rough approximation of value will suffice.

So with this underpainting, I was a lot looser with value while staying true to design. It certainly made the work go faster; I'll be curious to see what happens when I get to the final painting stage.