No, I'm not a lush...although I am typing this while at the bar around the corner, sipping a gin a tonic. The photo was shot last week, when 3 coworkers met me here for holiday drinks. The menu has something called "Flights" where you decide on the type of alcohol and the bartender brings 3 samples of his favorites. He sits, pours and spends time with you, talking about each of his choices. One coworker chose rum, and his partner who joined us chose bourbon. It was a fun little bit of education.
I've been busting my butt between work and the studio. It's the last week of the calendar year and it means donations ramp up at the foundation. Tonight I worked an extra two hours and decided to take the night off from painting. The timing is good because I have 3 very wet paintings and need to wait a bit before going back into them.
Between work, the paintings, a couple different art projects with deadlines and other personal stuff...life is full. It feels good to get away from the office, away from the studio and out of the house. Alone.
And you can't go wrong in a pretty little neighborhood spot with very nice staff, free wifi, great ambience, and only six bucks for a drink and a yellow tail, cucumber, green onion and sesame sushi roll.
My longtime readers know I haven't put up a tree in about 8 years. December 2007, I was captivated by a little hot pink feather tree with white lights and so it became a part of my studio. I keep it up for the winter months...to light the dark with a blast of funky color and smiles.
There is a box in my closet that holds my ornaments. I haven't opened the box since my last green tree, but know I will again. This year I had hoped to put up a tree but between work and painting, it didn't leave time and extra energy.
In the box you will find little red balls, and 1/8" satin scarlet ribbon that I turned into elegant little bows. The balls and bows add a uniformity of color and shape, and with little white lights on a small natural tree create a comforting space for the ornaments to hang.
The ornaments are precious to me. I began collecting them in the late '80's. Each is different. Some weren't even created to be ornaments but I knew they belonged on my tree and so would attach string or ribbon to hang.
Right now without seeing them I couldn't tell you which was the first one. But I remember while wandering through a store in Vermont it strongly called to me. It felt very personal and resonated with something inside. That simple act began my tradition of finding an ornament that reminded me of a person or time in my life.
I don't have ornaments for all the people I loved/love. It's not something I can force. I've never gone on a hunt for a specific ornament. When I wander through a store an object may draw me to it and I will clearly see its association with a person and know it is meant to be part of the tree. I remember not having an ornament for my oldest friend which bothered me but I decided to be patient...and 6 years later, I stumbled upon her ornament - the object that would remind me of her each holiday when I place it on the tree. It was perfect. And that is how I acquire each ornament.
It's not a process I rush. I wait. I trust. And I try to remain present. In that space, surprises arrive. I never know when I'll bump into something that is meant for my holiday tree of memories.
I haven't purchased an ornament in about 8 years. Two christmases ago, I was wandering a store with a friend and saw this little pig in a plane bearing a gift.
It hit me hard because it was so perfect for a special and deeply personal time in my life.
Even thought I was dealing with devastating grief, I needed to buy it. This little object has been sitting in a tray on my kitchen counter for the last 2 years. Most of the time it was covered with wrinkled paper, scrawled with numbers that I pulled out of my pockets each night.
A little while ago I noticed it and knew it was time for it to go up on a tree...to be experienced and allow myself to feel all that needed to be felt when I look at it. Because I don't have a holiday tree up at home, I brought it to the studio. So this week, it's been hanging on the little pink tree, which is also perfect because the studio is my safe place. My haven.
Happy Holidays all! My wish for each of you is to have blessed and joyful magic.
Another long day in the studio. Yesterday I worked 4 paintings and today, 3 illustrations and one painting. Here is another new one from the "Bleeding Vessels" series...16x20, oil on canvas. The surface, especially in the darks, isn't captured in the painting. It really needs to be seen in person. Click on the painting to make it bigger.
I have a lot going on and blogging has taken a back seat. This week is my holiday week off from my day gig. So now that my legs and hands have healed some from the fall, as of yesterday I'm back in the studio and hope to make a dent in this pile of wonderful drawing papers. Still working on the book illustrations. I keep telling the author I'm not an illustrator and he keeps saying he understands. He doesn't want an illustrator but says he chose me because he likes the free and raw quality of my paintings. He wants that same feel in the images.
This is a daunting task. I don't do well with commissions. It's so much easier to just paint and then if someone likes something, they can buy it. It's an entirely different matter when I'm asked to manifest someone else's vision and is the reason I changed my major from commercial design to fine arts back in 1984.
But I refuse to let this beat me. And I took the job because I knew in my gut it was a challenge I needed.
So I've been pulling ideas, and working quick drawings. Now all I need to do is find the right paper. I've been testing them and hopefully this pile will work.
In addition, I'm still painting the still lifes and even began another piece in an older series of portraits. My holiday week is a studio week with time off to celebrate the holiday with good friends.
Last March, during question month, Ryan from the east coast asked me what/who inspires my work. It was one question I hadn't yet answered but fully intended to.
Last Friday evening, while attending the event where painters presented 5 influences to other painters, I was again thinking about Ryan's question in conjunction with what would I share at such a gathering?
Well there are more than 5, and because I don't have to deal with the time constraints of last Friday's format, I've included extra images. Most of these jpegs do get larger if you click on them and it's worth doing.
Before we begin, I will say that one of my big influences was working and managing a photo lab back east for 8 years, from 1984 to 1992. We did one hour processing and custom professional hand work in color and b&w. It was a great education because I saw so many images and what hit me early on was light. Light is critical. The majority of what I saw were pretty photos...what I call calendar photography. Every once in a while something striking came through. And so...I paid attention.
Over the years I've seen how that shapes how I work. Now, onto the painters...
John Singer Sargent The first artist is one who I've considered my art god since 1994. While doing a painting fellowship in 1995 I had Sargent's images spread out in front of me. I'd paint, stop and study his work, return to the canvas and paint some more to then again stare at his marks.
His color. His light. And I believe he's the master of whites. There is so much color in his whites. It's lush. All of his work is special but this painting made a powerful impact because it was the first time I saw the abstraction in his work. I was taken with the boldness of the red.
While at the event last Friday night, I knew this would be the first painting I showed. When I returned home there was an email from a friend with a link to a NYTimes article about this very painting. Synchronicity!
Henri Matisse - "Carmelina" The reason I'm showing this one is because it's the first painting I saw in person that moved me to tears. It was at the MFA in Boston, in the mid-nineties. Even today, I still can't put my finger on why it touched me. It just did.
Emily Eveleth About that same time, again in Boston, I walked into the Howard Yezerski Gallery and was encompassed by massive donut paintings set in an Italian landscape. I can't find those online, but here is some later work which I enjoy even more. Eveleth's paintings are always in my head.
Her work was the first that I found blatantly sexy in addition to being captivated with the light, the mark and her use of whites. To this day, I use these as my guide for what is erotic in art - Provocative. Imaginative. Visceral. Visual without being boring. Raw.
Manet I've always loved this painting mostly for how he paints his bottles. I've seen a few of his simple still lifes and his touch is magical.
Antonio Lopez Garcia His work is very emotional for me. There's a grace and beauty he can find in the mundane.
Amy Sillman The second time I've cried while looking at art was when I first saw her work in April 2006. Approaching a gallery in Chelsea I could see her paintings from the windows. Before walking into the space, tears began to fall. My face was wet and I was blown away. Wandering through the rooms, looking at these big, canvases, color and mark was liberated from the surface and permeated the space. In being with them, I felt I had come home. As my friend and I left the gallery, I told him that her paintings were what I would be doing if I was brave enough. He smiled at me and then said "now let's go see some bad art."
Richard Diebenkorn Isn't this the most beautiful painting of a pair of scissors? You need to click on it to see the brushwork.
A very different Diebenkorn but it too moves me.
Nathan Oliveira In the last 6 months I've been studying his work quite a bit. I'm jealous that he can allow big spaces of color. When I attempt that, I feel naked. One day, I'll do it. Also, yesterday I realized that Oliveira's work reminds me of Giacometti's drawings and paintings. Alberto Giacometti was my second art god while I was in school.
And here are others:
Timothy Harney Jim Dine Robert Motherwell David Parks Franz Kline Sigmund Abeles Edwin Dickinson Jenny Saville