Saturday, June 30, 2007

Honestly, how hot is Ava Gardner?

I mean, Sinatra dated her... so you do the math.

No. You do the math, Butchie.

I bring this up because, as part of my new, rigorous practice of setting short- and medium-term goals and then, swimming like a salmon upriver to spawn, meeting them without regard for those obstacles that might stand in my way, I have just finished reading Nevil Chute's watermark book "On The Beach" a good four days before The Year of Magical Painting comes to an end.

The plan is to follow up with Cormac McCarthy's "The Road"--another highly touted story of the nuclear apocalypse.

Although I am also drawn to somewhat lighter fare. That would, of course, be "Lulu Meets God, and Doubts Him"--an insider's catty look at the Chelsea art scene by some woman whose husband sits on the board of the Guggenheim.

It should be noted that planning to read either of these books constitutes neither short- nor medium-range goal setting.

So noted, Butchie.

Are you watching "John from Cincinatti?" It could be the best thing on TV. Paragraphs 2 and 7, highlighted above for your reading convenience, both reference this show.

I'd write longer, but I'm in close liaison with the Mayor's office and can't speak just now. Apparently they have planned a massive fire-works display to honor the passing of this considerable milestone in my journey to become the pre-eminent portrait painter of the 21st Century.

Go figure.

After some effort...

After some effort, my move to Brooklyn seems to be progressing:

I'm reminded of the joke about the chicken and the Barnes and Noble store. To wit: what did the chicken say when he found himself in a Barnes and Noble?

Anyway, enough progress was made for me to scoop up my youngest daughter and go to Lincoln Center to see the next-to-last day's performance of Swan Lake by the ABT. Wow, what a sumptuous spectacle that was. Really, just stunningly beautiful. And around the middle of the fourth act, just when I was feeling a great kinship with my boy, Eddie Degas, the prima ballerina, a woman named Michelle Wiles, tripped right in the middle of her solo and fell smack down on the stage.

And I'm not talking about missing a step and fluttering off in some unexpected direction, ballerina-like. I'm talking about hitting the canvas like something out of the World Wrestling Foundation. Whammo!

Anyway, Ms. Wiles, showing a significant level of pluck, popped back up and continued her solo in a more than satisfactory manner. And at the end, I am telling you, the place went bananas.

Which brings me back to painting. I can't, for the life of me, get the title Ballerina with Banana out of my mind. Perhaps when I'm done with the cheerleaders.

This would, of course, be something by Eddie D:

This would, of course, be titled Painter with Banana:

And this, I want to tell, is the beginning of Cheerleader with Banana:

I mean, you have to start somewhere.

But the real question is: Can you feel it? The answer, at least on this end, is: Yes...I can feel it. I can feel this painting coming the way, when you are bodysurfing, you feel the pull of a big wave before you actually see it. It's the way all my paintings come at me. First I come up with an idea, then a name that makes me giggle, then I prattle on about it for a couple of weeks, biding time until I start to feel the pull of the water.

Then the wave comes.

I could not be more excited. I might actually make my July 4th deadline.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I depart now for Leesburg

Are you aware that there are only 10 days left in the Year of Magical Painting? This, I want to tell you, is something.

Likewise, are you aware that this is the 284th post in the Year of Magical Painting?

Likewise, are you also aware that I will spend three of these ten last days in Leesburg? I depart shortly after pushing the "publish" button on this post.

After that, I can assure you the spectacle will begin. The short term plan? To complete one more painting before this year is up.

It will be a reclined nude painted on four 22"x30" panels of watercolor paper ($5.99 each. Sheesh!). A quadryptich, if you will. It will be titled some variation of Cheerleader with Banana, if for no other reason than to get that particular notion out of my system.

I also plan to read "On the Beach" by Neville Shute, because...well, you can't paint all the time.

We will likely next speak on Wednesday.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

This is to this as that is to that

This is a photograph by Jim McHugh of David Hockney painting in his studio.

Hockney is to teal what Max Beckmann was to black. This is Max Beckmann below, only he's in a brown mood.

If you read all the brown in this painting (titled "Self-Portrait with Horn") as black, you will, by then revisiting the above theoretical equation, get a better understanding of Hockney and his teal.

Back to Hockney--he is also clearly a blue guy, as opposed to a green guy, although his greens can be stunning. Quick note: my theory that painters are either blue guys or green guys, much the way guitarists are either stratacaster guys or telecaster guys, was explored exhaustively about 100 posts ago. FYI, I'm a green guy.

Here's another shot. I can tell you from experience that, while painting, he is certainly thinking: "How many beautiful women do I have to paint before I can sleep with one."

Actually, he may not be thinking that.

Quick additional note: as titles go, Self-Portrait with Horn is not such a long jump from Cheerleader with Banana.

Friday, June 22, 2007


I've been thinking about backgrounds quite a bit lately. Typically my backgrounds are just plain black surfaces. For "The Annotated Murdoch" the same idea applies, except the background will be white. The better for passersby to do their annotating.

And that's not really true. If it's going to be white with a bunch of writing on it, that's a far cry from black with no writing on it.

That said, the idea is this: Are you familiar with the arithmetical notation that involves counting in groups of five; each group of five being shown as four downward lines and then completed with a diagonal slash? It's how prisoners count the days in solitary.

I think the next time I paint a big head, I'm going to make those the background. Subtle, though. Maybe pthalo green on black. Something like that.

Of course, irridescent gold also calls to me. Which would kind of be like giving Gussy Klimt the cheese. In a way.

Spikus Girlfriendicus

I had the most productive evening last night. Closed the deal on a new subject--the girlfriend of my former roommate, Lawrence; otherwise known as Spikus Aurelius. This would, of course, be Spikus Himselficus:

Kerryn (interesting spelling, pronounced as if it were Karen), Spike and I lived together on the upper West Side until matters of grave importance summoned me to Upper Virginia. The rest, as they say, is history.

Anyway, I haven't figured out what to do with Kerryn. One school of thought says to paint her nude in more or less the same pose as Spike's, with the words "Spikus Girlfriendicus" emblazoned across the torso. She may throw a veto in the works on that one. Another, slightly less amusing approach might be to continue my embryonic Cheerleader series by painting her, sans beer cans, eating a banana.

These are all thoughts. Obviously.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Something to shoot for

It's always good to have something to shoot for. This, I suppose, would be that.

I love this painting. I think it's called "Three Women at a Fountain". Done by Picasso in his beefy-but-still-realistically-depicted phase. This must have been before he met Dora Maar.

I saw on television a couple of nights ago a documentary on Picasso's making of Guernica. Spoilt, to a degree, by the annoying man who hosted the thing and likewise by the over-arty direction, it was, nonetheless, worth watching. So the next day I telephoned my friend Dave to call to his attention the fact that it would be repeated the following morning; albeit at four in the morning--about the time my friend Earl usually calls me from a bar--but that's what they make tivo for.

Note: the uncapitalized use of the word denotes the entire category of DVRs, not the particular brand.

Dave, who is in packaging, stands the best chance of any of my friends to actually see Guernica, given that he will find himself in Spain in the not too distant future. Seems like it would be worth a visit to me, although if I were picking one museum--and only one--in Spain, it would likely be the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Which is stupid, because no matter how wonderful the outside of the damned thing looks, it can't be better on the inside than the Prado.

The phrase Goya... Oh boya! jumps to mind.

As fond as I am of Dave, can there be a more loathesome business than packaging? Particularly those blister packs in which come things like USB cables purchased at Radio Shack. Tell me they can't think of a solution that is equally effective from a marketing and/or security standpoint that, at the same time, doesn't require a tool to open. A tool!

Or the glue they used to seal the inner bag of dried cereal. Raisin Bran, for instance. I've been having some trouble with my left hand lately, and the strength of the seal almost exceeds my ability to open it without a tool. How badly, one has to reflect in times like this, do you need to eat Raisin Bran? Particularly when the Original Style Shredded Wheat comes in easy-tear paper bags.

Those I can open.

Or here! Here's another example. That annoying adhesive strip that you have to peel off a CD jewel box before opening it. What's with that! I mean, didn't I already unwrap the fucking thing? Why do I have to do it again? What purpose is served with this second strip that couldn't be managed in a more consumer-friendly manner.

Me? I'm a neatness freak (only in a certain few parts of my life). So I can't bear to leave any of that adhesive strip on the case. I have to peel and pick and gnash (my teeth) until it's all removed. No wonder people don't buy CDs anymore. My favorite band, The Floating Men, have completely stopped releasing music on CDs. They are only available on iTunes.

As for the packaging industry? They likely suggest that they are simply doing their clients' bidding.
"Hey, they make us put those strips on the damned things. We don't like them any better than you."
Faaaa. That rings with the same post hoc insincerity that Polish citizens copped when asked about helping (and/or ignoring) the holocaust. If you want to get a bead (or at least one person's bead) on the relative attitudes of war-time Poles, read "Lost. Six of Six Million." Phew.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

And Just A Bit More on this Kate Moss Business

The current object(s) of my obsession are the six painted-white bronze sculptures of supermodel Kate Moss on view at the Mary Boone gallery in New York. Previously shown quite a bit in the UK, this show has already garnered quite a bit of attention, despite having just come to NYC. That said, here's a three way view of one of the works:

This one below was also done by Marc Quinn, although it is not a sculpure of Ms. Moss. I don't know who it is, but I do know that the medium is described in the accompanying literature as "polymer compound and animal blood."

So I'm not the only one who's borderline crazy. I wonder if it's Quinn who does those frozen blood sculptures. This may, in fact, be a sculpture of Britney Spears. I know that Quinn did this one, titled "Britney Giving Birth":

The color of the material seems related. For reference, this is an actual photo of Ms. Spears, heavily pregnant.

Ms. Spears, despite what you think about her, is an interesting looking woman. Structurally, her nose and brow closely mirror that nice woman who posed for The Statue of Liberty.

Anyway, did I tell you that I ground up the pharmaceuticals that my father left behind and blended them into my portrait of Old Bobby Lee?

This is Quinn's watercolor of Moss:

Which, I guess, is why he's a sculptor.

I May Be Channeling William Blake

Is it possible that the spirit of William Blake resides within me? He was a certifiable lunatic, so that fits. He could paint like nobody's business, in a slightly bizarre manner... so that fits. And he was a lovely poet--and I am very much a man in touch with my inner poet.

I am, of course, reminded of this:

She walks in Beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which Heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

It would be a better post, I suppose, had Blake written it. T'was Lord Byron instead. Which is sad. I must have been thinking about the previously mentioned Danielle, who either a) never visited my website, despite my urging, or b) visited it but chose not to step up to the plate, portrait-wise.

Alas. A fair lass. A faerie queene, if that's not too much. Alas.

I walk in depression, like the night.
But hey, man, you can't make these people schlep to wherever you are, sit around while you screw around with your lighting, emote in a manner conducive to capturing the so-called moment, all for a lousy 50 bucks, plus an 8x10 glossy. They have to want to. And if they don't, then you move on.

Maybe it was this I was thinking about:
Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
This would, of course, be Blake. Did I tell you I got a call from the first love of my life? Her name was Sara Shelby, and she was the love of my life from perhaps age 12-14. We grew up next to each other on the shores of Bay Head, New Jersey, one summer month a year. When it became age-appropriate, we used to sneak away after dinner and make out under the lifeguard boat.

While this all well and good, and it was certainly good to hear from Sara, there is one catch. That being that she's been dead for a good ten years now.

Anyway, she called me in the middle of the night (I would like to stress that I didn't call her--that would be insane). We didn't speak long, but once I figured out who it was I asked: "Where are you?"

"In the insurance building," she responded, somewhat enigmatically. Then I looked up and saw such an image that only William Blake could have done it credit. The insurance building was a single square column, like a single WTC building, wreathed in clouds, glowing in its own way. Are you familiar with the color heliotrope? Well, I don't usually dream in color (I'm a structuralist, not a colorist), but my mind was full of heliotrope.

Did you know that when his brother died, William Blake, who was sitting at his bedside at the time, believed that he saw his brother's spirit emerge from his body and rise to heaven.
Now this, I want to tell you, is the real Trenchtown Experience!
I wonder if Dad told her to call.

I depart now for Leesburg, Va. with the hope of getting almost everything squared away.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Now we're talking...

I had THE most productive night tonight--enough so that I feel obligated to report in at 2:02 am, an hour at which the darkeness on the edge of town ripens to it's fullest mahogony, a time at which typographical errors fly at you the way bums used to hit you up for money or a dime bag on 42nd street in the mid-80s.

I mean, it's fucking late. At least for me. But still, consider the following:

First, I embraced my new-found productivity--the by-product, if you will, of the lengthy inactivity brought about by my father's demise and subsequent activities related to squaring all his stuff away--by lining up another Elmo employee (Rob the host) for a painting. I am anxious to do a show of nothing but paintings of Elmo employees.

Secondly, and vastly more important (while we are speaking of mahogony), I ran into a woman named Danielle this evening, some time later than the point in the day at which I reviewed the sculptures of Kate Moss at the Mary Boone Gallery on 57th (as if this would be any less inconvenient a location!) , and I thought, roughly, the following:
I didn't expect, on an overcast day in June, to run into someone I'd rather paint than Kate Moss, but life is a funny thing, so go figure.
Further to this: I found myself gobsmacked by the intensity of the Kate Moss sculptures. I mean, gobsmacked. In fact, I plan to go back to see the show one more time. It is no more, or less, than this:

Six life-sized sculptures of my girl Kate in extravagant yoga poses, wrought in clay, cast in bronze, painted the most extraordinary shade of white.

The close-up of one would be this:

So--given the extraordinary beauty you see laid out before you (and I am, gentle reader, an acknowledged expert on beauty)--to suggest that this comes in a distant second to the incendiary loveliness of this woman who I just met this evening and already can think of nothing other than painting her picture is no mean suggestion.

I'm reminded of Robert Barskey's famous quote:
To see her in sunlight was to see Marxism die.
I don't know how he might have run into the object of my healthy obsession, but I can only assume he was referring to my latest potential subject.

Because manomanomanomanoman, what a moment on canvas that would be.

And in the end, what is painting, really, but the healthy realization of health obsessions? I mean, why do it if you can't DO it? If you can't find something that really grabs you and grab it back, metaphorically speaking.

I mean, really... You should see her.

Here's the bottom line: People wander through your field of vision all the time. Some go completely unnoticed. Others register something. A third group captures your attention, but not with the vigor that requires action. The fourth group grabs you by the short-hairs and makes you say "Yo! Let me paint you!"


And then you give them your website and hope they call; hope that this now-gaping hole in your whatever can be plugged with a Canon 620, a six by five foot sheet of canvas, and some paint thrown thereon.

What are the chances of all this coming together? Low, I'm guessing.

But if you don't try...

Remain Calm

It is possible that the recent dearth of posts represents the longest "blank" period in the history of The Year of Magical Painting. Well, that, I can assure you, is now over. I'm brimming with stuff. Literally brimming.

That said, I've got to run some errands, so you'll just have to remain calm for now.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

GNSP Reprinted

I thought I'd repost, while we're on the subject of Dad, an appropriate post from a month or so ago. For those of you not paying attention, GNSP is an acronym for Good Night Sweet Prince.

It should also be noted that the photograph was taken about two weeks before Dad died.
I had my camera with me, I was talking to him, he dropped off to sleep, and I shot the picture. I'm sure it's the last photo taken of him and it's really, at least to me, lovely.

The post went like this:

Good Night Sweet Prince...

A call came through my cell phone last night around 1 a.m. That late, I figured it could be one of only two things: a) my friend Earl calling from a bar to discuss American Idol or b) a nurse from my father's nursing home calling to tell me he had died.

It was the second.

But don't be Blue, Stephanie. After a bit of sad reflection I've come to recognize this passing, because it is so right for so many reasons, as a cause for celebration.

So hereafter, at least in some circles, April 19th will be forever called Allen Raymond Day.

Me? I got out of bed, drove down to the nursing home and sat next to Dad until the people from the funeral home came to pick him up. Resting on the table next to the bed was perhaps his favorite book---Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The large type version.

I sat close to the bed, in the stillness of the nursing home, just one light on, and read the first chapter as I waited. Some guy named Bingley had apparently rented the big house down the road from the Bennets. Who knew?

Actually, I knew. What a beautiful book.

Like "Call me Ismael," or "It was the best of times...", the beginning of P&P is one of the most famous opening lines in literature. It goes:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
A few days earlier, having checked this very book out of the library, I had read this sentence aloud to my father. It made him smile like a madman.

Me? I once described the writing of P.G.Wodehouse (Dad's and my shared all-time favorite) as what Jane Austen would have written were she dropping acid.

That night I watched about an hour of "The Mask" dubbed into Spanish. This, too, was like dropping acid. I found it very comforting.

Likewise my memory of my father's now-peaceful face as he lay in bed next to me as I read my Jane Austen.

Good Night Sweet Prince.

Uncle Randal Falling in the Water

Dad's memorial service went extremely well. I am certain he is pleased. Herewith the talking points I used for my eulogy. As is always the case, there's a fair distance between the stuff you write down and the stuff you say. Case in point, my opening comment was going to be something like:
It's 2:30 now. If someone could give me a signal around quarter of four, that would be great.
Actually, although I could have gone on for quite a while, I was concerned about time so I dropped a couple of items, including the part about Uncle Randal falling into the water.

More on that later. Here's the outline:

· Spent the last four months taking care of Dad

· Story starts with me, a year ago, deciding to become a painter

· Allowed me to move down here

· Spent more time talking to Dad than the rest of my life combined

· All we did was talk

o The war—what scared him

o Books—His two favorites: P&P, Willa Cather-My Antonia

o Cooking—microwave hollandaise

o His parents and family; The Corrigans

o Drinking

§ Bloody Mary story

§ Bay Head

· Pumping out the boat

· Uncle Randal falling in

o Best day of all. I remember that smile

· In his last week, he smiled twice

o Opening line of P&P

o Fudge from Betty

· Two days later, the phone rang at one in the morning

· Show up at Heritage Hall

o Peaceful for the first time in a long time

o Read the first chapter of P&P

· Looking through his stuff

o Story about the boat (in the vagrant mood)

o Clerehew

o Double dactyl

· Leisure world community—what a good son

o Half the credit is mine

o Not a lot of money but two great daughters, a best friend, a lot of great paintings and, most of all, those four months with Dad.

· I am grateful for those four months.