Monday, July 31, 2006

Exhibition Day 2--upcoming

After much soul-searching (Star Jones might say, "After much prayer and counsel..."), I've decided to press ahead with my Tuesday/Thursday evening/Saturday schedule of exhibiting in Chelsea, even though tomorrow's temperature is predicted to be at or above 100 degrees.

I will continue to show "Lilah S. (Ash Wednesday)" for the next two days. After that, I'll change paintings, likely going with "Close, But Not Quite" next--because the art community will likely be familiar with his version of the image--followed by "Michelle A.", which is certainly one of my loveliest paintings. After that, I'll figure it out.

Despite my suggestion below that surrealist painting doesn't float my boat, I may go with "Woman Adjusting Head."

The reason this image looks odd when you double click it is that it was photographed unstretched, stapled on the wall.

Pressed Rat and Warthog

For those of you who don't fully follow the reference to the Cream song in my bio, I thought I would offer the complete text. I always preferred surreal music to surreal art; acid-drenched 60's rock and roll to Salvador Dali's melting clocks.

Pressed rat and warthog have closed down their shop.
They didnt want to; twas all they had got.
Selling atonal apples, amplified heat,
And pressed rats collection of dog legs and feet.

Sadly they left, telling no one goodbye.
Pressed rat wore red jodhpurs, warthog a striped tie.
Between them, they carried a three-legged sack,
Went straight round the corner and never came back.

Pressed rat and warthog have closed down their shop.
The bad captain madman had told them to stop
Selling atonal apples, amplified heat,
And pressed rats collection of dog legs and feet.

The bad captain madman had ordered their fate.
He laughed and stomped off with a nautical gate.
The gate turned into a deroga tree
And his pegleg got woodworm and broke into three.

Pressed rat and warthog have closed down their shop.
They didnt want to; twas all they had got.
Selling atonal apples, amplified heat,
And pressed rats collection of dog legs and feet.

(By ginger baker and mike taylor)

Would It Kill You To Look?

If you look closely at the second photo below (click it twice and it wil fill your screen), you will see three women walking past my painting. What I cannot, for the life of me, understand is why not one of them even so much as glanced at the painting as they walked by. Was their conversation so engrossing that they were completely oblivious to their surroundings?

I mean, why on earth would you find yourself on West 22nd Street if you weren't there to visit an art gallery? The place is otherwise a wasteland. So if you are doing the gallery crawl with your friends, and you walk by a huge (Lilah S... is 6 feet high, five feet wide) painting of somebody's face, all blues and reds and ochres (if that's the plural of ochre), more or less in the middle of the street, wouldn't you cock at least one eye in its direction?

This is not to say that my feelings are hurt. Like it or don't--it's up to you. Stare at me like I'm some homeless guy--I don't care. This is what I do. But would it kill you to at least look? At the painting?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Exhibiting--Day One

Herewith is the blow-by-blow of my first day exhibiting in Chelsea.

Date: 7/29/06
92 degrees, sunny and dry

2:30 Arrival. Takes a couple of minutes to situate myself on the north side of 22nd Street, under the High Line, right in front of the garage gate, re-stretch Lilah S. (Ash Wednesday).
2:35 Two proclaimed out of towners, having just toured 23rd Street, ask me where all the galleries are. I point them first to The Gallery of One (moi) and then to 21, 22, 24, and 25th streets. They like the painting.
3:05 Pigeon shits right on my shirt. I look around at the sidewalk, find pigeon shit is everywhere. They are nesting above me. I move the gallery about 20 feet west.
3:15 A woman is waiting for her friend, right under the pigeon nesting area. I warn her and she moves. She asks if the painting is for sale. I tell her it was ($9000), but that its primary purpose as as a demo of my portrait-painting skills. I give her a flyer.
3:18 Her friend shows up.

3:20 I take this photo. Look how nicely the blues in both the painting and my foldable chair pop.
3:28 I wonder if my sitting right next to the painting is inhibiting people. Kind of like the gallery person who breathes down your throat as you look at the art. I'm going to stick with this for now; continue to reflect.
3:31 Unsolicited comment: "It's pretty," a young woman says to me. I respond, "Ya think?" She laughs and keeps moving.
3:35 Long conversation with a couple from Seattle (I think). Possible interest. I give them a flyer.
3:40 Waiter from Elmo walks by with two friends. Nice chat. Lilah is one of his co-workers.
4:05 Woman on bike (no helmet) stares at the painting as whe rides by. Shouts, "That's great. That's GREAT!" This is pleasing.
4:05 It would be interesting to videotape this.
4:15 The guy from the parking garage opens the gates and displaces me.
4:15 Nice woman chats with me as I move my stuff. She's a portrait painter from Mexico.
4:20 A truly beautiful woman says, "Wow--like Jackson Pollock..." She then adds, "Almost," which takes some of the wind out of my sails.
4:25 Garage gates close again. I move my stuff back.
4:30 Asian woman, @25 years old, jogs by, staring at painting. Wearing black shorts with "NYU" written across her butt.
4:33 A tall black woman walks by, says in a very quiet voice, "very nice," but never stops.
4:47 I need a sign next time. I'm thinking: "Portraits by commission. Summer Sale on NOW!"
4:55 The NYU girl jogs back the other way. Time to close up for the day. You can see from the picture below how much the sun has moved.

Odd experience, all in all. I'd give it a c-plus if I was assigning letter grades. I think that once street traffic picks back up in a month or so it will be better. Still I did give away 5 flyers and got one person who thought she might be interested. We'll see.

One thing: I am considerably more famous now than I was yesterday. Having baited my hook for Leviathan, I must now be patient.

Friday, July 28, 2006


Tomorrow I embark on my first exhibition day in Chelsea. Let the quest begin.

I'll likely take Lilah S. (Ash Wednesday) and some prints of other portraits. I wonder what will happen.

Lilah S. (Ash Wednesday)

This is my painting of Lilah S.

I completed it on Ash Wednesday, 2006, and although Lilah didn't have ashes on her forehead when I photographed her, I did like the idea of slapping them on to celebrate the event. Both events, really--Ash Wednesday and finishing this lovely painting.

The only problem? She made such a face when I told her of my plans that I decided to put the whole thing (the ash thing) on hold. I got the impression she was uncomfortable with the idea, which left me in a bit of a quandry.

That being--who's steering this boat? Comments are welcome

This, by the way, is what Lilah looks like. Be still my heart. Also note the absence of ashes.

Getting back to the painting, I like the look in her eyes. It seems to say, "I appreciate you returning my lost wallet, but I'm a little disappointed that you took all the cash."

I have some other thoughts about her eyes which I'll share at a later date.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Coming Soon--Stephanie C.

In about a week I'm going to begin painting Stephanie C.

She sat for me a couple of weeks ago. I particularly liked two shots.

This one...

And this one...

I'm going with the second.

Click Twice

No matter how you slice it, the images you see on your computer screen are not as satisfying as the real thing. But you can get a better feel for the detail of the paintings by clicking on the images imbedded in the blog: Once, for a full-screen version of the picture or twice, for an even larger version.

Good News and Bad

The good news is that I'm holding a Summer Sale. The bad news is that the sale ends on my birthday--September 30th.

I typically paint in two sizes: four feet by five, and five feet by six. They cost $6,500 and $9,000, respectively. For the summer, though, I will be charging $3,500 and $7,000.

With a Volkswagon Rabbit going for North of fourteen
grand, one has to wonder, what price immortality?

What I Do, And How I Do It

Several years ago I started experimenting with drip painting for a project I called “Paint Like Pollock.” Yet what began as a bit of a gag proved, somewhat to my surprise, to be a compelling artistic experience. There was a “God is my copilot” aspect to throwing paint on a canvas that I found daunting on one level, freeing on another and inspirational on a third. But honestly, how long can you keep painting fake Pollocks?

Not wanting to abandon the drip technique, I took a 180 degree turn from Jackson and started creating highly representational poured paintings. As I focused on large-scale portraiture, I fell into what might be called a Chuck Close/Jackson Pollock fusion. With all my paintings, the paint is either poured or thrown to create the image. Brushes are used only for the large color fields (usually backgrounds or to correct grievous errors), although I do sometimes manipulate the paint once it has landed on the canvas, using either a stick or a rag. The canvases typically receive the paint un-stretched, on the floor. Later they are stretched and final touches are added.

Most recently, however, I’ve been pouring my paint on already-stretched canvases inscribed with a charcoal grid. This grid idea is very much a nod to Chuck Close, so it is no accident that the first grid painting I completed is a portrait of him entitled “Close, But Not Quite.” The grid in this painting is readily apparent (Scroll down two posts to see this painting).

In “Michelle A.”—another grid painting, shown above—it is less noticeable, but traces can be found on her cheek and chin. In each case I lay down the paint on a given square while the adjacent surface of the painting is masked from view. This creates a disconnect, square to square, that I think adds to the controlled chaos, the vitality of the image. This disconnect can be easily seen in the rims of Close’s glasses, for example. Then at some point I begin dealing with the canvas as a whole, bringing the squares together, to a greater or lesser degree, and resolving the image.

When people ask me what I like about my paintings, I usually mention how the works react to changing light conditions. Well lit, a typical painting of mine glistens as the high-gloss whites and yellows catch the light. At dusk, the whites recede and the surface takes on a softer, richer glow as the earth tones expand. In a dark room they are positively otherworldly. I also like that the technique more than justifies the paintings’ scale (typically six feet by five feet). It, in fact, demands such size to accommodate the imprecision of the gestures. But most of all I like how such a crude method of painting can yield such a sensitive product. Look closely and you will see how filigrees of silver, white and yellow meld with rich reds, blues, greens and browns, combine with debris from the studio, a little cabernet sauvignon or a clementine pit, sometimes some bourbon, tossed or spilt, and build, layer upon layer, to finally resolve into a compelling whole.

Re-jiggering the calculus of the drip technique has created what I believe is a unique and recognizable portrait style for me. But beyond that, it allows me to walk in the shoes of painters I admire very much; to investigate Close, Vermeer, Duchamp, Pollock up close, but remain, at the same time, my own man. I am currently working on a painting entitled “White Rothko” which is a monochromatic, dripped interpretation of his signature works that has as much to say about Jasper Johns as it does about Mark Rothko. This is a great privilege and good fun at the same time. Titian beckons, but I’m not sure I have the energy.

This is the last Freebie

This is the last painting I give away, at least for now. It is a wedding present to (and portrait of) my friend Howie Levine and his wife, Linda. I actually painted it from a previously taken photo, so he was unaware he was being painted until the portrait itself was presented. Which made for some considerable giggling at one point in the proceedings.

Working from an existing photo is not my favorite approach to portraiture, however. I much prefer the one-on-one experience of photographing the subject. The bonding that goes on during that session carries over into the painting.

Howie's painting started life looking like this:

At one point, it looked like this:

For the life of me, I couldn't get the eye on the left side of the picture to work. I tried and tried--dripping, manipulating the paint with the edge of my stick, pushing it around with my finger--everything short of picking up a paintbrush...and nothing worked. Finally, in frustration, I took the flat end of one of those stirring sticks they give you when you buy housepaint and scraped the still-wet paint into the black halo that now encircles his eye. And bang, it was done. It ended up looking like this:

They seem pleased with the result.

Chuck Close Must Be Freaking Out

If I'm to become the pre-eminent portraitist of my time, I'll have to somehow get past Chuck Close to do so.

Because it's a friendly competition, I painted this picture of Chuck. I call it "Close, But Not Quite", which does make me laugh.

Although I used a grid technique for all my painting, I left it more conspicuous in this painting than I usually do, as a bit of homage.