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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man


March 30, 2008

Here's what I started - and maybe finished - yesterday. In this shot the poured paint is wet and still migrating. So today or tomorrow Cathedral (Number 13) may look a lot different.

And that's without me touching it. The pooled painting I showed you March 26 went through major changes the first two days as the thick enamel dried. So we'll see what happens.

One thing that excites me about using this high gloss enamel is the possibility of a mirror finish - at least in places. The black is so reflective that if you look at it carefully you can see the rolled canvases that I store between the joists in the ceiling. That mirror surfaced area will contract somewhat as it dries. This painting is 36" x 24".

P.S. I heard the cherry blossoms are out in Washington, D.C. It will  be awhile before we see them here in the Berkshires. We have a fresh coat of  frozen snow on the ground.



March 28, 2008

This is Cathedral (Number 12). A pretty big one - 51.5" x 49.5". The inspiration was photos of the Duomo in Milan. It is on canvas with acrylic enamel and acrylic.

It may not be done yet. I'm not satisfied with the fire at the top of the central spire. But on the other hand, that's one hell of a painting, isn't it? Is it a warning sign when you fall in love with your own stuff?

So far my favorites are this one, Cathedral (Number 8), see March 12 post, and Cathedral (Number 4), see February 13 post. I'm fickle so that can change fast. What about you? Are there any you like? Let me know at [email protected] .


March 26, 2008

My mother would have been 100 today if she hadn't died of a barbiturate overdose 42 years ago.

My father died six months later. I used to say I  was orphaned at 30, which isn't like being orphaned at 3 or 13. But it was a terrible loss, nevertheless. And I did feel orphaned.

For years any time something good happened - buying our first house, the birth of our third child, Babbie and the other nurses going out on strike at Berkshire Medical Center - I longed to tell them all about it. There was a big hole.

There were things I wanted to make up to them, to talk over, to explain that I hadn't been mature enough to deal with when they were alive. I wanted to tell my mother how sorry I am that I hadn't interceded on her behalf when she begged me to make them stop giving her the electric shock treatments. They hurt so much. She said it was like being electrocuted. In those days I thought the doctors knew what they were doing.

The image at the right is a passport photo of my mother when she  was 18. In this case I blew it up on a Xerox machine until it was larger than life sized and wrapped it around a 10-inch-diameter tube. I showed you this one relatively recently and apologize for running it again so soon. I had wanted to put in a painting I did of her. But I can't get my scanner setup working with the new computer.

I'm digressing. Must be the influence of Richard Ford, whose "Lay of the Land" I just finished. I wanted to tell you about the painting at the top. It doesn't seem to fit into the Cathedral series. But it grew out of it. For the Cathedral paintings I've been pouring paint down a slanted canvas and then tilting the canvas to control the direction of the drips. This time I decided to pour it onto a canvas lying flat let the paint pool and merge . A lot of interesting things occurred. I had some control but not much. I usually try to avoid that. Changes in the surface kept happening for a day or two as the thick paint dried.

It is 18" x 14". I continue to use the acrylic enamel. I just noticed that there's an editing mark on the painting's lower right corner. I'm afraid I'm still a novice on my new photo editing system - Aperture

(Something has slowed this computer down to a snail's pace. I type whole sentences before they appear on the page. It's not a great way to write. Marita told me that the dance video I attached to the March 24 post could overload this blog, which is always in a state of near overload because of all the pictures I use.)


March 24, 2008

Yesterday we had brunch to celebrate Babbie's 72nd birthday. Saturday evening we had dinner at the Dakota - a real birchbark canoe suspended over our heads and a bison checking out our table manners from the far wall - for the same reason. Until June 30 Babbie and I will be the same age.

Babbie was pleased because two of our kids, Shannon and Eric and their spouses, Paul and Michelle, made both meals. She was sorry our youngest son Michael and his wife Meghan and their baby Roan couldn't make it from Louisiana. But Riley, our 8-year-old granddaughter, and Paul's mother, Julie, were on hand for the festivities. We had a great time.

So what's that got to do with this picture, and just what is it? Well, Michele did the main batch of dishes and then I did the desert plates and pans. When I was done and the dishwater drained I was confronted by this rainbow in the sink. So I got my camera. It was created by the strong sunlight filtering through the liquid detergent bottle on the lip of the sink.

In April Babbie, Riley , Shannon and I are flying out to see the Louisiana branch of the family. Roan will be a year old then. Someday I'll tell you about all the things he can do and say and how he chases the cats, stacks blocks and is an all-around wonder child.

P.S. Riley's top three restaurants underwent a reappraisal after Saturday's meal. The Dakota moved up a notch to No. 2, dropping  Burger to 3. The Wicked Oyster in Wellfleet remains No. 1  and Bagles , Too continues as No. 4. I'm not big on Burgers but the other three are all favorites of mine, too.

P.S.S. On March 26 I removed the video that was here because it was slowing down my blogging software. But it's still playing when I pull the page up on Netscape. So I guess I didn't remove it.



March 22, 2008

Here's another in the Cathedral series, the first that doesn't depict a church.

It's 30" x15" and employs the hieroglyphics I used in some of the Dresden paintings. Originally it had a gray-bronze background like the one in the March 20 post below. Then I went over that with oil pastels and oil sticks.

Yesterday I made a new small painting, pooling paint on the surface while the canvas was lying flat. As colors shoulder up against each other or are poured on top of each other, they do interesting things. The alchemy continues until the paint dries.


March 20, 2008

This is Cathedral (Number 11). Is this blurry or are my eyes shot? Babbie says that this one, like Number 10, is too in you face. It's certainly in your face. But is it "too"?

Anyway, it's 36"x24". Yesterday I built a big, heavy duty stretcher out of poplar strips and salvaged stretcher strips. So I'm getting ready to plunge into another large one.

This was done with acrylic enamel and oil on canvas. Didn't get it right with the first pours so I had to do some repainting. Originally the church walls only came to the top of the thick black line. But that looked weird. So I poured more paint to lengthen them. I had trouble getting the effect I wanted with the red, yellow and orange in the flames. So a number of coats were poured. I finished it a couple days ago. It took a while to dry. Below is a detail of the painting.



March 18, 2008

Meet Cathedral (Number 10). A little too red? I know. But I'm addicted to red - and orange - although I have periods of relative subtlety. I tell people blue is my favorite color. I may lie to myself about that. I hardly ever use blue.

Here you have both. This one's a little different in that I used oil stick for the entire background, oil stick over acrylic enamel and used oil-based paint to pour the flames. This one is 36"x24". Number 11 is drying in the studio.

After working small for a week, I need to get back to big. That means either building a new stretcher or stealing a stretcher from one of my old paintings.


March 16, 2008

This is Cathedral (Number 7).  It's another small one, 30"x18", acrylic enamel on canvas. I used a pallet knife to scratch the cross into wet bronze paint covering a gold undercoat. The fire and cathedral outline were poured.

The red circle was cut from the bottom of a yogurt cup I'd been using to mix and pour paint. I finished what was to be Number 11 about 1:30 a.m. Saturday. But I don't like it. I don't know if it can be salvaged.

But Cathedral 10, also done last week came out well. I'll show you a photo of that one soon.

The portrait on this page is a cropped still from a 1995 video by Maja Bajevic who was born in Sarajevo. It's a powerful portrait. It looks like she's smeared mud under her eyes. It comes from her video, "Here's to Looking at You, Kid." Work by the artist is being shown at the Fodazione Bevilacqua La Masa in Venice in case you're headed in that direction. I saw the portrait on an internet service, e-flux, that sends out several notices a day of art events taking place in the world. You can subscribe - it's free - by going to But I find it a way to learn about artists I often hadn't heard of.


March 14, 2008

Here's Cathedral (Number 9), a work in progress. Or maybe it's done. It's small, 36"x24", and the paint is acrylic enamel and acrylic.

It has me wondering. Do I keep the copper colored dervishes on each side or paint over them with the background color, called deep bronze? When I left the painting at 1:30 yesterday morning, it did not have the side drippings. I had mixed the paint but I couldn't bring myself to risk it. Fourteen hours later I did. I poured the orangish-copper paint down one side, then after that was under control, more or less, down the other. If you're not sure, does that mean you should automatically rework it?

In my March 10 post, I wrote about the vast but diminishing woods stretching out from our front door and how I was worried that we were about to lose another 77 acres of it - acreage directly across the street from us.

Well it turns out I was right to worry. A lawyer representing a developer has been in touch with me. They plan to build something like 115 single-family houses there. Even when you know a punch is coming, you're not quite prepared for it when it hits. This land, consisting of fields and woods that roll down to the lake, is beautiful. From many places you get spectacular views of the mountains and the lake. We've roamed it for 43 years.

The developer is going to call a meeting to present the project to the neighborhood. One hundred and fifteen units is a lot better than the 375-unit timeshare project we defeated a couple years ago. But it will be sad to see the open land vanish.



March 12, 2008

This is Cathedral (Number Eight).  It is 62"x44" and was painted on canvas with acrylic enamel, oil stick and oil. 

Cathedral Eight is the one I've been trying to show you but couldn't because I was having trouble getting my act together on my new computer. I had finished it eight or nine days ago, in a version that looked very little like this one. It had a dark lilac ground. An artist, Paul Graubard, told me he didn't think it fit into the Cathedral series.

I kept thinking about what he said and realized he was right. So I worked on it some more and came up with the version at the left. I used thinned oils to cover the lilac and the left side of the church tower. The original background was the purple on the tower's half.

The next day I decided it needed more work. I decided to set

I decided to set fires at the base of church. After I poured the red oil-based enamel straight from the can, I mixed some orange. Then came a lucky accident. When I poured it on the upright canvas it flowed down the surface like water - fast and uncontrollable because of over thinning.

I thought I had ruined the painting. But when I stepped back to look at it, I liked what I saw. I mixed more of the orange and used it to make the veils that spread over a good deal of the surface now.


March 10, 2008


This is the edge of the forest at one end of our Beautiful Field. From our house it's a 10-minute walk through the woods - a woods that is being hacked into by housing.

Hundreds of acres of forest remain in this woods that starts across the street from our house and stretches down through the old Piggery with its fields, up a steep hill and along a ridge line all the way to the mall road.

When you are deep in it, you can't hear the sounds of civilization except for an occasional airplane.

But the Walden Village condos have cut into this undeveloped land just off Route 7 and now the Kawalszyk Brothers are building 50 houses next to Walden Village. That project cut into the woods and the trail we take to get to the Beautiful Field. More houses or condos are scheduled to be built across the street from us. In the photo at the left, our Prius is parked just off the road. The shot was taken from one of our windows after a recent storm.

We fought off 375 timeshares there a couple years ago. Now rumors are flying about high-end housing going in. Development on

that parcel, which rolls all the way to the lake, seems inevitable.

Presumably the housing will be set back well back from our street because our houses are not high end. So I hope this fringe of trees which is only 200 feet deep until it broadens into a forest a little further up the street, is spared.

In the Beautiful Field I have made love, sat on a box in the snow and sketched my favorite birch in the row in the photo, walked with my dogs and my family, absorbed the view and the tranquility and imagined building one low-lying home there.

I wish this field, so solitary and lovely, a long life. But I don't think its chances of survival are good.

P.S. I still can't show you my latest Cathedral painting, which underwent more changes yesterday, because our new iMac won't let me upload from the camera. So I can only use images already in my files. Hope we get that solved soon.



March 8, 2008

I was going to show you a new Cathedral painting today. But my new iMac isn't letting me upload it from my camera. This  is the substitute.

Anyway, since this blog is Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man, I slip in self portraits now and then. So here you have me in all my 72-year-old glory. I shot this one at 2 a.m. one morning in January.

Some news. If you get Berkshire Living magazine, the March-April issue features my blog in its CLICK PICK column subtitled BEST OF THE WEB. It's on Page 17 and was written by Alison McGee. I was very pleased. The picture is of Paul Graubard's painting of his wife Karen Chase and of the model Rebekah. Here's a link if you'd like to see that post.


March 6, 2008

Some people look at a lot of contemporary art and say, "My kid could do that." But it should be obvious even to them that this work by Nathan Sawaya isn't exactly child's play.

Sawaya works with Lego's. He says he has 1.5 million Lego Bricks in his studio.

Above, that's Sawaya with his piece Blue. At the right is Yellow. The New York-based artist has been making sculpture from Lego's since 2000.

I read about him in the other day. These are both pieces in a traveling show of his work that is called The Art of the Brick.

It will be on view at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center in Stamford, Connecticut, through August 17. I plan to drive down. is a pretty good way to keep up with events in the art world, if you don't already subscribe. It's free.



March 4, 2008

                                                                                                                   Hilary Swank by Norman Jean Roy, 2004, for Vanity Fair.


This is primary day in Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island which made me think of Hillary Clinton, which brought me to the other Hilary - Hilary Swank. She's also running hard.

This wonderful shot was taken by Norman Jean Roy for Vanity Fair in 2004. Ms. Swank is one of my favorite actors. I didn't realize she was an athlete, although I should have after watching Million Dollar Baby.

The photo is included in a show now on view at the National Portrait Gallery in London - Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913 - 2008. It runs through May 26. According to the museum website, the  show brings together 150 "portraits of cultural icons from the magazine's  vintage and modern periods with sitters ranging from Claude Monet, Amelia Earhart and Jesse Owens to David Hockney, Arthur Miller and Madonna..."

Roy shoots for a lot of the glossy magazines. Other than the fact he's a star photographer I haven't found much biographical information about him except this from Women's Wear Daily a couple years ago:

"Norman Jean Roy has joined the ranks of fellow photographers Annie Leibovitz and Patrick Demarchelier. After regularly shooting covers and features for Vanity Fair, GQ, Men's Vogue and Glamour, Roy has signed a corporate contract to shoot for several Condé Nast glossies, including Glamour, Vogue, Men's Vogue and Vanity Fair."

There's been a gap in my posts - this is the first since February 29 - because I ran into some complications transferring stuff from my old iMac to my new one. But I'm up and running.






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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