Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Sunday, November 24, 2019

"The Man in Black"

6 x 8"
oil on panel

When I was in high school some 40 years ago, I was obsessed with figure drawing.  I'd cut school, take the train to downtown Chicago, with sketchbooks and pens in hand, and spend mornings in the Amtrak lounge in Union Station then afternoons at the Art Institute of Chicago.  I drew hundreds of people sitting, eating, standing or lounging until I had to head back home.  

So if anyone wonders where this subject matter of painting people looking at art - I started it years ago.  And sometimes, like with this new painting, it's all about the people.  I credit my mom, an artist herself, with the great pastime, people watching.  

This gentleman caught my eye immediately.  His tall, slender figure was striking.  Especially clad in all black and topped with his handsome felt hat.  I live for figures like his.  

Although minor here, the artwork the man in black is viewing is a relief sculpture of Alexander the Great, done in 1485 by the artist Andrea del Verrocchio, in the National Gallery of Art in DC.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

"Authority Figure"

6 x 8"
oil on panel

This image is one I've wanted to paint for a long time and getting my feet wet with my recently-painted Envoy,  I took what I learned and went ahead with it.

A view from above, in the Reagan National Airport, a gentleman of authority walks thru the sunlit floor.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

"Yesterday's News"


6 x 8"
oil on panel

If you're familiar with Paul Cezanne's paintings, you think of landscapes and still lifes, like the small painting hanging on the wall behind the man's chair.  So it may surprise some, and myself included, this painting the gentleman is viewing is by Cezanne.

The painting The Artist's Father, Reading "L'Evenement" hangs in our National Gallery of Art in DC, and it is a personal favorite of mine.  I love any image of someone reading a newspaper, something you see less and less of these days.  More interesting is the story behind Cezanne's portrayal of his father, Louis-Auguste, a banker, who pushed his son to follow his career in financing and banking, but much to his dismay, Paul wanted to study art and painting, something his father considered grossly impractical.  The result was an emotionally charged relationship which lasted a lifetime.

The clues are in the painting - Cezanne used a palette knife with expressive, bold strokes of paint. You can almost feel the frustration.  He included his own painting on the wall and the newspaper L'Evenement refers to the writer Emile Zola, a friend of Cezanne's who encouraged him to pursue his study of art in Paris and later became the art critic for that very paper.  Paul's father notably read the news and financial section exclusively.

- a thanks to Stefan Draschan for permission to use part of his photo for reference.

Thursday, November 7, 2019


12 x 3-7/8"
oil on panel

Since I've been back to painting, my last three - a museum scene, shadows on a tiled floor and this fish - all have something in common.  They've all required intense concentration.  Intentionally to get me focused again.  That helps me get back to work.

Brett cleaned up and sharpened my palette knives for this new piece.  Palette knife painting is freakin' hard.  It takes the ultimate self-control.  It kinda drives me nuts, but practicing is a good thing.  A fish has texture and I thought this subject would be perfect for this exercise.  And frankly, second to dogs, I love painting fish.

Here's a close-up.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019


6 x 6"
oil on panel

No paintings to feature here but you can argue that architecture is a form of art.  It can produce atmosphere and ambience, it's a variety of form and function and light can transform the space that results in temporary patterns - like on this floor in a terminal of Reagan National in Washington DC. I stood on the balcony above this floor and obsessed at the shadows from people and the skylights above.  I could have photographed there all afternoon.  

No art history today but here's a brief history of this airport.  It was built on a site once known as Gravelly Point, where Captain John Alexander built his home in 1746. His son donated most of the land named after his father and now known as Alexandria.  In the early 20th century, Washington DC had a seriously inadequate airport located near the present site of the Pentagon - obstructed by a smokestack, electrical wires and just one runway that intersected with a busy street with a guard directing traffic between takeoffs and landings and cars.  That's nuts.

In 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt was so tired of Congress dragging its feet on a selection of a new site to build an airport, he announced it would be located on mudflats on a bend of the Potomac at Gravelly Point. The new facility was opened for business in 1941 with Pan American Airlines christening the National Airport. The following years, more hangars, more terminals and air cargo buildings went up - the Metrorail connected in 1977, a parking garage opened in 1991 (better late than never) and in 1998, President Bill Clinton signed into law the bill that changed the name to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, commonly referred to as Reagan National.

So there, you learned something new today.  Why title it Envoy?  It's not unusual to spot U.S. Senators or Representatives, or familiar reporters and national news faces in Reagan National. And I like the word 'envoy'.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

"All in the Family"

3-3/4 x 6"
oil on panel

Lucky me, I got to visit the National Gallery of Art in DC last weekend - the same weekend the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros were in town for the World Series.  At a minimum of $1,000 a ticket, I could only opt for an afternoon at a free art museum but hey, it was great being there again.

If you breeze through the galleries, sometimes you'll miss out on the fun facts of a painting - like Francois-Hubert Drouais's Family Portrait, notably dated April 1, 1756.  You may guess it's Christmas Day because of the gifts and decorations in the scene but no, it was April Fool's Day as we know it now.  Before the Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1582, the medieval calendar marked New Year's Day as March 25th, the vernal equinox - and the 1st of April marked the beginning of spring.  Many people would, and still do, celebrate by exchanging springtime gifts on that day - this informal family portrait showing the little girl giving flowers to her mother, the husband reading a poem to his wife as she points to the daughter as a symbolic gift to her husband. Very sweet.