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July 31, 2008

Babbie went hiking in the morning and got back with just enough time to eat lunch before heading to Great Barrington for her weekly shift at Volunteers In Medicine. Usually she fixes a supper that I can take out of the ice box and heat up so it's ready when she gets back. But she didn't have time.

So I did some volunteering of my own.

"I'll cook supper," I told her.

She gave me a look. About the only things I make are chicken jumbolia, gumbo, steak and my own  invention - mushrooms, honey and bourbon with cajun sauce. We eat it with the steak.

"This should be pretty easy," she said, showing me the recipe.

So she told me how to wash the white beans, tear the spinach, find the chicken stock, substitute tomatoes for plumb tomatoes and add mushrooms to the recipe - her own touch. The dish takes six garlic cloves and she warned me to only use three if they were extra big.

So after wrestling with setting up an extra large canvas - which involved gessoing two pieces of canvas together - I wrestled with supper. It was on the stove when she got home. It was very good, she said. The kitchen smelled of garlic. And I was pretty pleased with myself. I'll have to cook more often.

P.S. I shot the wine glasses before I went into cooking mode.



July 29, 2008

On Thursday I painted one that was a disaster. I overworked it. The colors turned to mud. On Saturday I painted this one. It is not a disaster and that pulled me out of the funk that Thursday's had put me in.

This is 54"x54.25". One of my few square canvases. I think this is Jeanne d'Arc (Number 13). But I've got to go back and start counting. It may be 12. It may be 14. I think I'm going to start giving them names, something I've talked about before.

The names would be quotes from the archives of her heresy trial in 1431. For instance this one could be Jeanne d'Arc ("I shall be delivered.") Below is a detail. If you feel like playing a game, try to match the detail to its place on the painting.

Yesterday Babbie and I drove down to Hudson to see Christine Heller and her show at the John Davis Gallery on Warren Street. She is very good. (There's a link to her website at the bottom of this page. And here's a link to her amazing show at the same gallery last August 31 and 29) At the same time we delivered two of my paintings to TSL for a show in September.




July 27, 2008

Sorry to spring the blurry photo on you. But I just spun and shot when I saw the bike riders on North Street last Thursday. There were maybe a dozen riders and they looked like they were having a great time.

This is a phenomena set up by the Copperworks at 34 North Pearl Street, Pittsfield. (North Pearl is the street behind St. Joseph's church.) If this looks like your cup of tea, you might want to check it out this coming Thursday. Here's the invitation:

"Thu, Jul 31, 6pm – Fri, Aug 1, 12am   Bring the bikes!!! Have a bike that needs repair? Have a need to get together with people who like bikes? c'mon over and talk bikes, maybe even ride... (all types of bikes, all types of people. You don't have to wear spandex, you don't need to ride a BMX. Just bring the bike love."

Who and what is Copperworks. Not completely sure. But the idea is to create a multigenerational artistic community center. Take a look at


July 24, 2008

This is Jeanne d'Arc (Number 9). I think. I've got to mark the canvas when I paint it. But I don't. As a result I forget the sequence.

It's a small one - 36"x24" - and a nice one, I think. The paint is smooth, not rutted and knarled like it gets on some of the big ones. And I'm proud of myself the way a put the yellow in a subordinate role. I had laid down fairly wide swaths of it, but decided tone things down by covering most of it up.

I promised James I would show him some details from (Number 5). So here's one from the bottom of the painting. It's wild the way the paint breaks up, combines and changes color.

Bill and I were going to go to Saratoga to see the horses run yesterday. We postponed it for a week because of the rain. That gives me time to perfect my longshot betting system, a system that so far hasn't paid off.



July 22, 2008

We got walloped by a torrential downpour the other day. The windows steamed with the sudden drop in temperature. After a few minutes the rain stopped  and the sun came out.

We had a feint rainbow in the other direction. But I thought the sun on the steamed, streaming panes of this living room window was a better shot. The figure sitting by the window latch is a carved wooden zebra.

I painted another canvas yesterday, working in what I jokingly call my outdoor atelier. (See July 4) As hot as it was it was pleasant under the canopy. And a breeze was blowing. Once a gust blew yellow acrylic across the canvas as I moved the paint-laden stirrer to the picture plane.

That wasn't the only incident with yellow. I managed to spill a new quart of it amid all the paint cans on the broad bench I'd made a couple years ago. What a mess. But you're not supposed to cry over spilt paint.


July 20, 2008

I painted this Thursday and Friday. The weird thing about this picture is that the red is a lot darker in the painting than it is in the photo. Maybe it's because I was shooting in strong sunlight. Anyway you get the idea.

This is another in the Cathedral series. Not entirely new, but an overpainting of an earlier Cathedral. About the only thing I didn't change was the background. Before it was quite simple. It has more elements now, for better or worse. The painting is 50" x 36" in acrylic glass enamels.

We saw a fine movie last night, Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. A.0. Scott of the New York Times called it "fierce and lovely" when it came out last year and he was right. It's a true story of the successful and flamboyant editor of France's Elle magazine who has a stroke in his early 40s. This leaves him so paralyzed that the only way he can communicate is by blinking his left eye. It's called locked-in syndrome, and Babbie has taken care of a number of patients who were in this terrible strait. The glorious thing about this movie is that the hero manages to write a book. He dictates with his eye with a system devised by his therapist. She recites the alphabet and he blinks when she hits the right letter. Then she'd start reciting the alphabet again and he would blink again. In that laborious way he was able to build words, sentences, a book and free his imprisoned spirit.

For Schnabel, perhaps better known as the painter who plastered plates all over his canvases, this is his third movie and its a beauty.


July 18, 2008

Look at the crowd Third Thursday brought to North Street  yesterday. I took this near Panchos.

Hard to believe but this is North Street last night. The life, the vibrancy, is back after a long absence. Third Thursdays are drawing crowds. Last night's was the biggest I've seen yet. That's why I'm putting out this Special Edition!

On an ordinary evening on North Street there would have been about three people in this shot I took at 7:30 after struggling to find a parking space in the big First Street lot. Obviously people are hungry for interesting things to do. The Third Thursday, a street fair that combines music, acts, food, drink, magic and people watching, is filling the bill in its second year.

It's wonderful to see this happening. Downtown has been so dead so long. It reminded me of the old Thursday shopping night crowds that died in the 1970s. Al Bogdan's annual Ethnic Fair packed them in too. I think that was the early 70s. But as the stores abandoned the street for the shopping centers and the mall, so did the people. It's lovely to see them back. Here are some more shots from the 64 I took last night.

Third Thursdays didn't just happen. Based on similar events in other cities, Pittsfield's was championed by City Councilor Matt Kerwood, Berkshire Museum Director Stuart Chase, Cultural Development Director Megan Wilden, and gallery operator Leslie Ferrin. Downtown Inc. was an early supporter.

"We felt there was now a critical mass there to make it successful," Megan said.

Her office has led the effort since then with the help of a committee.


This little girl is getting an American flag painted on her face at Third Thursday.


Looking past a beautifully customized Mercury, I think it's a 1949, is this group examining a classy hotrod.  If you were wondering, she didn't pull the rip cords.



July 17, 2008

I love the things the paint does when it slides down the canvas, things that happen because of gravity, physics, chemistry, the nature of paint. Luck.

This shot is from one of my recent Jeanne d'Arc paintings. And it's what has me hooked on the drip paintings. All the wonderful accidents that I set in motion but whose outcome I can't predict or reproduce by conventional painting methods. The difference between doing these and my figurative work is night and day. It's not that there aren't accidents in my figurative stuff. But they tend to be fender benders.

In the drip paintings the accidents are wild, full bore. Demolition derby. Total wrecks. One band of fast-moving paint overtaking another, rolling right over it, incorporating its color, and that combined drip continuing down the canvas until it catches up with another one. And as the painting progresses, dozens of these are happening all over the canvas. And I keep adding more paint here and more there and the sliding paint has its will.

It's an alchemy I never had in my painting before. It's intoxicating. It's not that I'll never go back to figurative. Just not now. For now the highs have it.



July 15, 2008

Kate, who owns a baby shop in Brooklyn, found this on the secret beach in Wellfleet were she goes to watch the sun set. We met her because we go to the same beach.

Kate has a dog Zoie who can catch a Frisbee like mad. Running full tilt she adjusts for the wind and the curve of the projectile leaps and grabs it. Over and over. Kate also has a handsome one-year-olds son who has taken over as the majordomo in the household.

But all this is going astray. The thing about this blog is the blob. We all went out to look at it, all two-feet long of it. Kate and Shannon, who took the photo, and Riley tried to move it back into the water in hopes of saving it. But when they tried it looked like it was going to fall apart so they gave up.

Everyone wondered what it was. I figured that it was simple. This is the start of the invasion of the blobs that are going to take over the world. This is a baby. They grow to house size. They destroy humans by simply engulfing them and digesting them. Not a pleasant way to go.



July 13, 2008

After an unexcused absence of eight days, I'm back on line with a shot of Leslie Harrison. She's one of three poets I know personally. The others are Ed O'Chester and Karen Chase.

I shot the picture of Leslie before Babbie, Shannon, Riley and I went on vacation in Wellfleet on the Cape. We just got back. Leslie was a photographer at The Eagle, the newspaper where I worked, for a decade until it was taken over by a chain in the mid-1990s and she quit, turning from photography to poetry in the process. It's daunting, by the way, to take a photo of a photographer.

Leslie early this year learned that her book, Displacement, had been selected as the 2008 Katherine Nason Bakeless Prize winner in poetry. It will be published next spring by Houghton Mifflin/Harcourt. Poets usually publish their work in small, tastefully done chapbooks. To make your debut in one of the two books of poetry Houghton Mifflin will publish next year is like hitting a grand slam in your first at-bat in the majors.

But for Leslie it's been a roller coaster ride this spring and summer. Countering the book news was her mother's illness and death, which was devastating.

Gae and I took Leslie to lunch earlier this month, pulling her into one of the fashionable haunts in Lenox that she normally avoids - I mean this is a woman who doesn't even own a dress much less hang out in places the summer people inhabit. She took it with good grace.

Another thing Leslie does with grace - and verve - is her blog , Always Winter.  Try it if you get a chance.




July 4, 2008

I love paint. Here are the cans and cups and containers I was using outdoors early this week. And below are the stirrers I apply the paint with. And below the stirrers is Jeanne d'Arc 11, the painting I was creating when I was using all this stuff. 

Have a bang up Fourth of July.


July 3, 2008

My friend George after looking at photos of the Jeanne d'Arc series - this is Number 8 - dashed off an email I got a kick out of.

The photos were in an emailing I had sent out in one of my manic moves of self promotion. I hit about 75 mailboxes - twice - with messages about the series. In these emails I said that until this year I had been a figurative painter and a control freak.

Here's what George had to say about that:


So here's Anita and the Polar Bears, a gigantic painting and one of my favorites too. Hannah, also a rerun, was last seen on June 25.

P.S. Jeanne d'Arc (Number 8) is 59" x 42", acrylic enamel on canvas, and was done in June.

P.S.S. I'm taking a week or so off from the blog. But I'll be back with you soon.




July 1, 2008

Here we are at my 73rd birthday party last night. Riley's carrying out the birthday cake. Or in this case the birthday key lime pie that I made, under Babbie's watchful eye.

I wish you could have been there. We had mussel's and Kelly's Orso salad  and Cherry Garcia and Phish Food to go with the pie. Shannon was taking a video and this is a still from it. Rounding out the party were Paul, Julie and Babbie.

For months I had been planning to have a series of parties in June to get together with good friends and feed them chicken jumbolya and gumbo. But invitations never went out. Maybe in August.

I got some neat presents. But the one I'm showing here from Meghan and Michael, who both teach at McNeese State University in Louisiana, is the most colorful. I'll look pretty sharp shooting baskets up at Ponterril's outdoor court today. You should see my hook shot. Pretty deadly.

On the left is Riley with the canvas I was preparing yesterday for my next Jeanne d'Arc painting. I was working under the big top. Hope I can paint outside again today.

Getting back to the party, I'm delighted to hit 73. I love birthdays.

"Wouldn't it be great if your parents could have been here?" Babbie asked me after the others left for home.

"Yes, it would have been," I said.

They were great parents, vivid personalities. They both died at 58. I don't want to end this on a sad note. They would have loved the party. And I was glad that Babbie brought them up. It made them part of the celebration of a life they created.





Seth Harwood, writer

Leslie, poet

Joe Goodwin, painter

Juliane: bimbopolitics

Lisa Reinke, painter

John Mitchell, commentary

Charles Guiliano, MAVERIC, art critic

Saatchi Gallery

Steve Satullo, movies

Christine Heller, artist


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