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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man


November 26, 2008

This is the 25th painting in the Jeanne d'Arc series. It was done a week ago. I have decided to call it: "They preach in public that she is sent from God, an angel rather than a woman."

That quote is taken from the transcript of her heresy trial in 1431. The accusation, one of many leveled against her, was that she mislead the people into believing she was sent by God. This, the court said, was scandalous and "hurtful to the Christian religion and dangerous to the salvation of souls."

The painting is 84"x60" and was made with acrylic enamel and artists' acrylics on canvas. It is the first in the series, I think, in which I didn't use any red or orange. Babbie keeps telling me red isn't very subtle. Either is orange. I learned I can live without those colors. But probably not for long.

P.S. I'm taking a break from blogging for the next few days.



November 24, 2008

Here's a detail from Jeanne d'Arc 25. My second giant (84"x60") in the series. I painted it Tuesday. Felt elated all day Wednesday. And over the last three days I spent hours building a stretcher and then stretching the painting over it.

I made the stretcher out of Swedish poplar and added two wide, hand-me-down cross braces of cedar. The stretcher is 2.5 inches deep, giving it some heft. I painted Number 25 using Number 24 (see my November 11 post) as the support. To do that I simply nail raw canvas over the other painting using pushpins.

I do it that way because I always want to see if a painting is any good before I go to the trouble of building a stretcher for it. I like Number 25. I'll show it to you next time. Here's another detail. Man, I love paint.



November 22, 2008

When Gae came over for supper this week, we sorted through some of my Cathedral paintings, a series I did earlier this year. Here are three she liked. They are leaving against a white wooden sofa, which I made in 1971. An edge of one of my Jeanne d'Arcs is peeking out at the right.



November 20, 2008

Paint. Twenty three cans of it. Stirred - not shaken - and each with its own well-used paint stick. All in readiness to tackle a new Jeanne d'Arc painting Tuesday evening.

And I used a lot of it on an 84"x60" canvas. This was the second one that size in 10 days. You can see the first in my November 11  post. In fact this one is stretched temporarily over the first one until I build a support for it.

In this series I have been using the paint stirrers instead of brushes, applying a stick directly from the bucket to the upright canvas and letting the paint flow.

Not all the paint gets on the canvas as you can see from the chair in front of a section of the new painting - number 25 in the series. Maybe I should go into the camouflage business. It blends in pretty well with the painting.

I think this is the first painting of my life in which I didn't use any red, with the exception of a bunch I did in tones of gray. But I ended up with a little red anyway where gold and dark purple merged. I didn't use any of my beloved orange either. But I ended up with some anyway where gold mixed with brown.

This painting is drying. As soon as I can get it outside to take its picture, I'll show it to you.

In another first for this series, I ran my fingers down parts of the painting to blend colors and change the flow pattern. That breaks a rule I set for these paintings. That rule said no hands, no brushes, just let the paint run its course.


November 17, 2008

Saturday our cat Evalene started throwing up on the rug while I was on the computer. So I dashed over to put her outdoors to limit the mess. But she ran.

My glasses fell off as I was giving chase, unsuccessfully. As I returned to the scene of the crime to clean it up, I stepped on my glasses. So I had to go to the eye doctor's and buy a new pair, which you see here. My question is, should I bill the cat?

Evalene, at the left, tells me I can send her all the bills I want. She's not coughing up. Maybe her word choice wasn't perfect but I know what she meant.

In any case, she considers my claim against her unjust and unfeeling - showing that I was worried only about myself and didn't give a hoot - or should it be a purr - about her health.

The painting in the background is my version of Red Riding Hood when she's grown up, living in London and seeking revenge on werewolves. She couldn't find real wolves in London, could she now, and besides I love Warren Zevon's Werewolves of London. I'm listening to it right now. The poor bloke she's stomping into the Thames is me. The computer took the picture.


A note about the glasses. My oculist has Bolle sunglasses on sale for $35. So I buy those instead of the conventional frames that cost $125 to $175 and more. (And I like them better.) Since I had an unfilled prescription for new lenses, they pushed those in for $80. Voila - a $115 pair of glasses. Pleased I am.




November 15, 2008

This fierce and beautiful sculpture is the work of  Demet Deniz Keyvankli. She is studying for her Phd in the Fine Art Department at Marmara University, Istanbul, Turkey.

I came across her work on facebook. There you can view her "The Story of a Sculpture," a photo essay on the making of this piece. Take a look at it using this link. She takes you from a foil covered manikin to the finished sculpture. It's fascinating. She covers sections with wire - which she welds or solders in place. The burn marks add to the work's complexity.

Deniz says she wants the work to have the look of ruins. Finishing it, she says, would leave no riddle to be solved.

Deniz, who is 30, has written her thesis on sculpture from the modernist period to the present. If you can, take a look at her 3D video of her thesis proposal for a large sculpture of suspended iron rods.

The photo on the right is of the work before she starts attaching the wire. And on the left is the completed sculpture.



November 13, 2008

This is supposed to be a vertical painting. But try as I may I can't get the darned thing to stand up. In overruling me the computer may be trying to tell me this one should lie down on the job. Everyone's a critic.

Since its already after 1 a.m. and it actually looks good this way, I'm going to run with it. Whatever way you look at it, this is Jeanne d'Arc (Number 23) 'Go Boldly in the Midst of the English.'

Even though I showed you (Number 24) in my November 9 post, this one was painted first.

I used extensive diagonal elements in this one, which is new in this series. There are two rectangles of collaged canvas on the painting. They're hard to see but you may be able to make them out at about the one-third and two-thirds points. That is not new.

This painting is 41"x59.5".


November 11, 2008

Here's the 24th in my Jeanne d'Arc series, titled ( But the fire of her pride ... renewed by the breath of devils, suddenly burst out in poisonous flames ). This is the large canvas - 84"x60" - that I showed you November 9. The first in the series was painted in late May.

The long title comes from the words of the trial court after she recanted the confession she made after being found guilty of heresy and sentenced to burn at the stake. The confession said, in part, "I confess that I have most grievously sinned in falsely pretending to have had revelations and apparitions from God, His angels, St. Catherine and St. Margaret."

But the next morning she recanted, saying she had only confessed because of her fear of being burned to death. The court had offered her life imprisonment on bread and water if she confessed.

Babbie took this shot yesterday afternoon, an overcast day that was so chilly I pulled up the hood of my jacket. Tackling this canvas had been a little daunting because of its size and the quality of the stretchers that had been given to me as a gift.

But late Friday night into early Saturday morning I tackled it. And I made a small painting Saturday morning with the recycled paint that dripped off this one. (See my June 16 post if you're interested in seeing my high-tech paint retrieval system.



November 9, 2008

There's a story to this stretcher. Charles gave me the stretcher bars on behalf of the newsroom as a parting gift when I left The Berkshire Eagle 11 years ago.

All that time the stretcher bars have been leaning unassembled against the wall in the bedroom where I store paintings. (Stretchers are the hidden framework that supports the canvas.) I would get them out now and then but would always put them back. They are 84"x60" and they are beautiful, heavy-duty pieces. But a painting that big wouldn't fit in my van. I've done some paintings even larger than that. But they're a pain to haul around. I had to rent a truck to haul two huge paintings for my show in Lenox last year.

Usually I make my own stretchers out of Swedish poplar I buy at Home Depot.

In any case on Wednesday I decided to take the plunge. I assembled the stretcher and stapled the canvas too it. The upright brace I'm holding was one of a number of salvaged stretcher pieces that Debbie gave me last year.

When you get the canvas on good and tight, it's like a drumhead and it makes a hollow resonating sound ever time you tap it.

After it was ready to paint on, I froze. I couldn't decide what to paint. It was too good a stretcher to waste on a mediocre piece. Should I continue the Jeanne d'Arc series on it or do a large portrait I'd been thinking of?

I was still afraid of it Thursday and did nothing. Friday evening before supper I gessoed it with a bronze toned paint to which I had added gold powder so it would sparkle a little.

After dinner I fell asleep on the couch and then we watched the movie Get Smart on DVD. the TV series of the same name had been a favorite of ours in the old days. I had a crush on Agent 99, Barbara Feldman. Ann Hathaway was great in her roll. We laughed a lot.

After that I developed a little courage and went down to tackle the painting. This was going to be a masterpiece Jeanne d'Arc, I decided. I was going to be a little looser with the drips and sling some of the paint. So I turned on a hard rock station and went to work. I got a little too into slinging paint and now I have royal purple blotches on some surrounding paintings.

I was in the zone. I spent three hours painting. But the only measure I had of time was the addition of paint here, paint there, some black next to the smoky charcoal, some yellow, some red, another red, some orange, some purple, a darker purple, some gold, some orange. I watch the liquid colors run down the upright canvas, merging, curdling, forming new colors, long fingers of color. Then I throw on more paint. And so over a period of several hours the painting builds.

In each painting I do there are a number of paintings because you hit points where you have something that looks good and you could leave it. You stand back and look and consider. Then you plunge on. Sometimes when you think about it, one of those points was the stage where you should have stopped. But there will always be another painting, another chance.

I'll put the finished piece on the blog soon.



November 7, 2008

Here are some photos of Lita Lundeen from my shoot of the Silver Swimmers at MASS MoCA. This was in the dressing room. That's me at the left.



More of my photos of the Silver Swimmers appear on my posts of October 27, 29 and 31.



November 5, 2008

America crossed a deep racial divide last night. Before Barack Obama's arrival on the political scene, the election of an African-American as president was not something I had expected to see in my lifetime.

If it had been up to Caucasians, he would have been defeated. Only about 43 percent of white voters went for him. But that doesn't make the majority racists. Among recent Demoratic contenders John Kerry only won 41 percent of the white vote and Al Gore managed just 42 percent. The rest had gone to Bush.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” Obama told a Chicago crowd estimated at 125,000.

"It's been a long time coming. But tonight, because of what we did on this date, in this election, change has come to America.”

One hundred and forty three years ago, in this nation, he could have been a slave.

Although I'm a Democrat I would have voted for John McCain over Gore in 2000 had he won the GOP nomination. I didn't agree with McCain on much, but he was a maverick then and Gore was a salamander.

By this election McCain had traded in his independence to secure the nomination and I was with Obama from the beginning. McCain was gracious in defeat last night, praising Obama and talking of the historic significance of his victory.

As Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post summed up the 72-year-old senator's concession speech: "McCain reminds us of our great good fortune. In America, it really can happen. An African American can rise to the top. And an American hero can concede without rancor. So it goes in the land of the free and the home of the brave."

The photo of Obama in Chicago last night was taken by Ozier Muhammad of the New York Times.



November 3, 2008

Halloween can be pretty scary. This self portrait is testimony to that. Would you let your child take a treat from this man?

This was the face these three trick-or-treaters saw when they came to our door Friday evening. They should have fled. But they didn't. They entered the house, along with their mother, and Babbie gave them candy.

That was at 5:30. I kept my hat - actually it's my granddaughter's - on for another two hours hoping more kids would come. But none did. Babbie and I were disappointed. The kids make Halloween one of our favorite nights.

In our neighborhood, most of them have just gotten too old to come around anymore.

At the right that's Medea looking up at the bat hanging from the ceiling, it's wing covering her big brother's face. Her other brother is Spider Man. Their mom, Edita, is sporting a great witch's hat complete with fringe and a purple cone.

Yesterday we went to a memorial gathering for The Eagle's great editorial writer, Roger Linscott, who won the Pulitzer Prize for the paper in the early 1970s. It was a lovely tribute to a man who was an Eagle legend. He was 88 when he died. We saw a swarm of people who we don't run into as often as we'd like to, including my great friend Dick Weil, who flew in from St. Louis. We'll get together today.

When we were young reporters Dick and I had desks that were pushed together and we worked face to face like that for about six years until he went to work for the St. Louis Post Dispatch. He went on to become its managing editor and then executive editor.

At The Eagle as soon as the paper came off the press every afternoon, Dick and I would grab a copy and side by side count how many stories we each had in that edition. Usually it was a lot. He held the record with 22. You have to understand that some of those stories we churned out were only a couple graphs long. Part of our secret was often putting in hours at the typewriter the night before.

Quantity was our mantra. I fantasized that if necessary just he and I could have filled the paper's extensive local news hole.

Back to Halloween. Here's a picture of the other person who greeted guests at our house. That's the bedraggled remains of a stylish wig she used to wear with flair when wigs were the rage for a while in the 70s. As you can see, Babbie's weathered the years well.

P.S. It looks like Stefanie, below, is looking up at us and finding it all very funny.



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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