Friday, November 30, 2012

Pussy Riot

I think MSNBC, plus a bunch of other media outlets, should just grow up and, when announcing news related to Pussy Riot (the all-female Russian punk trio, two thirds of which are currently serving time in the Gulag after engaging in some civil disobedience), call them by their name rather than "All-female Russian punk band," which is how they were described on the crawl below Morning Joe today.


There -- I've said it.  And I'm okay.  And yet "dick" and "dick-head" have become standard usage on network primetime television.

If I was a woman I'd be outraged.  First that Pussy Riot has even been jailed in the first place.  And second, that people won't even use their proper name when talking about them.  And third, that in today's world women, once again, have to take second place to men in the social acceptability of vulgar anatomical terminology.

I, a man if ever there was one, certainly am.  And I think somebody should notify Lilly Ledbetter.

Brief aside:  Matt Lauer gets a pass.  Insert bawdy, mean-spirited theories about why the Today show is now in second place here.

This whole Lindsay Lohan business

Here's another Richard Phillips painting of Lindsay Lohan ...

This is a screen cap from his movie of her ...

I'm unmoved.

All that aside, my youngest daughter went through a stage where, whenever we went to the video store (you can tell it was a while ago) to rent a movie, she wanted to see Ms. Lohan's primus opus, Parent Trap.  So I've seen the movie maybe ten times.  Maybe more.  And young Lindsay was wonderful in it, and this whole Lindsay Lohan business makes me, in some marginally connected way, very sad.

Given this, and after reading some truly nasty reviews, I taped Liz and Dick, the biopic recreation of the Taylor/Burton relationship, to see for myself.  Lohan is, of course, Liz.  And then, during a quiet moment, I watched it.  And it was horrible.  Terrible.  Insufferable.  And why anybody thought anybody gave a damn about Liz and Dick lo these many years later escapes me.  But that's another matter.

Did you see Michelle Williams in that Marilyn Monroe movie?  Wow.  I thought she was fabulous.  From the first seconds of the movie, I thought she was fabulous.

From the first seconds of Liz and Dick, all I could think about was how long I had to watch it in order to be able to say to you, dear friends, that I'd (likely on your behalf, since I doubt any of you watched it) given the flick a fair shot.

Ten minutes was my number.  After which I washed my eyes out with antibacterial lotion.

It's fun to compare the painting and the screen shot though.  To quote the woman named Astrid in my lengthy metaphor of several days ago, "Man, that guy can't paint worth a shit."

Thank God the painting is five yards wide.

It's okay for me to say this, since people say mean things about me all the time.  Consider this comment from the Dealbreaker coverage of Portrait of Matthew Martoma, In the Style of Roy Lichtenstein.

"This is fucking terrible."

Is it?

I kind of like it.  And I haven't even put the gloss varnish on it yet.

Another guy wrote "More Pollock than Lichtenstein."  Which is, of course, true.

Somebody I know wrote me and said he would have preferred that the face look more like Martoma's.  Which also holds water, although I explained in response that it was a conscious decision not to even try for a resemblance; to make it more of a general statement (despite the specific title).

Me?  To me, it has all the stuff in it that I was shooting for:

--Interesting bits of newspaper peeking out (although I'd have liked one significant peep on the bottom half of the painting).
--The caption turned out well.
--The sense of infinite depth that I like to have at least somewhere on my paintings (in this case, almost half the damned thing, but there you are).
--Compositional strength.
--And enough random acts of violence that I can privately enjoy but which will not be immediately evident to anybody who didn't paint it.

I'm also quite fond of the little blue and white tip of a wave that can be found exactly at the 3-o'clock mark.

So I'm pretty happy with it.

Also, if you look directly below the face, about where a collar bone might be, you can see two long, almost horizontal lines.  These are wrinkles from where the newsprint exerted its own will.  I love stuff like that because it gives the appearance of the painting having been slapped together when, in fact, it wasn't.

Immediacy is the quality I'm searching for.  Those wrinkles give it some immediacy.

Which I like.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Portrait of Mathew Martoma, in the Manner of Roy Lichtenstein

This is a better photo ...

 It once looked like this ...
And was obviously inspired by this...
And how much fun is that?

I'm taking bids on this painting, which is somewhat unusual.  It measures 5' x 5', acrylic on canvas (with newspaper).  Contact me at

For a quick look at other work, go to

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mathew Martoma

Mathew Martoma walked into court today; was then released on bail.

Mixed media.  5' x 5'.

Now taking offers.

Environmental Catastrophe in the Studio

Now I know what Tony Hayward feels like ...

I spilled this much white primer on the floor of my studio.

So much that my solution is gonna be just to let it dry there.  Does that make me a bad person?  If any ducks wander through, I'll clean them with dishwasher liquid.

Actually, I'm a Palmolive guy.
Yeah.  You're soaking in it.

Otherwise, it's just going to be one big white spot.

One Last Little Bit About Formula 1

This is how weak a person I am.  This is how much I'm the shadow of a man, rather than a real man.  I doubt if I would do well in actual warfare.

I watched the first five laps of the Brazilian Grand Prix (on tape -- it was finished in real time) and found myself writhing around in my chair to the point where I said to myself, Man, you have got to get a grip!  Then it occurred to me that I should just go online and see who won.  That would make the race a more relaxing experience.

Moments later, having gotten the extremely unpleasant gist of the thing, I found myself staring at the still-paused television image for several seconds.  Possibly ten or fifteen.  And then I just shut the thing off and went downstairs.

I still haven't seen the race.  That is how weak a person I am.

Portrait of Mathew Martoma (nee Mrs. Whitney)

Further to this picture ...

In my own defense, I knew that I was repeating the word "State's" on the fourth line before I painted it.  The decision had already been made to white out the third line and just have it read "than turn."

It now looks like this ...

The eye is so used to viewing perfect type and layout that a level of perfectionism (or at least as perfect as the type on Nightly Prayers) is required.  I think I'm gonna have to white out the first two words of line 1 and move them a hair to the right.   And everything's gonna have to be cleaned and straightened, etc.

Then the line around the balloon and the three little bubbles leading to the head of the old man in the sea.

Then, as if all that wasn't enough, back to the painting.  Because it needs quite a bit of black, and some heliotrope.  And a signature.

I Love Ballet

Or is it the ballet?

Regardless, look at this ...

And this ...

Imagine being able to do that.

My vertical leap isn't what it used to be.  I can tell you that.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Steely concentration being the name of the game ...

If you don't stay focused, you can sometimes mess up the lettering.

This is the result of a perfect storm of tiny missteps and errors.  The fan you see is rushing to dry the paint so I can, before popping out for a glass of port with a buddy, cover line three in white paint.  Then, presumably, it'll be dry when I return to the studio.

It will then likely need a second coat.

The current thinking, by the way, is this:

I don't care ...
I'd rather sink
than turn

I will then repair to the television to switch back and forth between the Giants game and the Knicks game.

Tomorrow (or perhaps later tonight if the Packers are walloping the Giants), I'll re-letter the third line.  And maybe move the second one a bit to the left (although that's gonna be a pain in the ass, let me tell you).  And the whole balloon itself will require a bit of this-ing and that-ing, not the least of which will be attaching its little tail.

Or, in this case, those three little bubbles.  Because it's being thought, not spoken.

Note to Knicks fans:  Tomorrow is the rescheduled date of what was supposed to be both teams' opening game -- Knicks vs. Nets at the Barclay Center.  People were paying thousands of dollars for those seats thinking they'd be witnessing history.  Then the storm shut down NYC.  Ouch.  On several levels.

The act of lettering is funny.  It's the exact antithesis of throwing paint from the end of a stick in hopes of creating an image.  Jackson Pollock could no more have done that lettering than flown to the moon.

Reconsideration some time later:  Actually, that's exactly the lettering that Pollock would have done.  Repeated words and screwed up spacing.

The Good News and The Bad

The good news is that you won't have to listen to me prattle on about Formula One racing anymore.  The season's over.

The bad news is that Alonso came in 2nd and Vettel, after crashing on the first lap, came in 6th.  I'm sure I don't have to do the math for you.

Suffice it so say my depression is vivid.  A whirlwind of colors.  But there are no yellows or pretty greens, friends.  No.  My colors are dark blues.  Deep greens.  Heliotrope.

Music is playing.  But not Mozart.  Not Franz Liszt.  No.  My music is all Wagner.

I write this from the darkness at the edge of town.

I may not come back.

Holiday Gifts

Pardon the shameless commercial message in a blog that is so pure in vision that we don't even have Google ads.




Enough with the all-caps.  It's like I'm shouting.


You're shouting again.
But you're right about the set of four.  They look fantastic in a group.
Do you own any?
No.  But I've been to your living room and seen a set there.
Great looking, yes?

I wonder if it's raining in Sao Paulo

Is it just me, or does this picture make you want to simply weep with ecstasy?

This is the exhaust manifold from Jim Clarke's Indy 500 winning Lotus.  It would be a cool painting, wouldn't it?  The Formula One version of the same car looked like this, perhaps in 1967 ...

What a beautiful car.

If you're really feeling it, check out this video.  Wonderful look at both of the above, narrated by Ashley Judd's husband.

It's slate gray in Troy; I wonder if it's raining in Sao Paulo.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Perhaps I'm not screwed after all ...

The tape reads "I don't care ...  I'd rather sink than turn state's evidence."  The previous version was, I'm thinking, "I don't care how hard they squeeze me...  I'd rather drown than turn state's evidence."  I'm thinking this shiny new copy might read better as three lines rather than two.  Which I certainly think is doable.

Three lines might look something like this:
I don't care...
I'd rather sink than turn
State's evidence.

Also worth mentioning:  the tape is exactly the size of the font, plus leading, I used on Nightly Prayers. Which is clean and readable.  My version of Helvetica Bold, I suppose.  So when I slide the tape around, it's actually an accurate version of a layout.


It's snowing in Troy but it's raining in Sao Paulo.  Misting really.  But tomorrow it's supposed to rain like a sonofabitch.  And tomorrow, as you surely know, is when they run the final Grand Prix of the year.

Our boy Fernando Alonso is in 8th position on the starting grid.  Vettel is fourth.  But consider this:

What, I'm asking, if Ferrari, in its wisdom, has gambled on the rain and dialed in a lot more wing than the Red Bull.  And tomorrow, what if Alonso takes off like a supercharged duck and wins the thing?  And Vettel flops around like a fish out of water?

A man can hope.

I'm Completely Screwed

Which, oddly enough, sounds like one of the captions of my paintings.  Look at this super-old Bernanke portrait:

Ha.  Go figure.  Anyway, consider this ...

This is the top 50% of Mrs. Whitney.  The top half, if you will.

So I've been sitting in the studio, staring at this half, plus the other half, thinking that I'm in love with what the blue ended up doing and where the hell am I gonna put my caption.  Listening to All Things Must Pass, if you have to know.

You see, part of the point of doing things the way I do them is that you don't actually know what the blue is going to do.

Quick note to the Jackson Pollock apologists of the world:  You hear a lot of scholarly commentary which notes, in the wise, self-satisfied way pundits have of commenting on something they don't know anything about, that Pollock knew exactly where his paint was going.  This always gives me a pain in the ass because I can promise you it's not true.  He was just flinging the paint.  There was certainly a sort of approximate expectation.  But that was it.  The rest of it was the abyss.  Cue the Schlitz.

I know this how?  Well, for starters, I've probably dripped more paint onto a flat canvas than almost anybody on the face of the earth (It's a pretty small sample, granted.  I mean, who does stuff like this anyway?).  And I have excellent hand/eye coordination, so I figure I'm about as good at it as anybody.  And finally, for the most part, I'm painting while NOT intoxicated.  Pollock was hammered half the time.

So about midnight I mixed some medium blue paint with a bunch of water and just sort of spilled it over the edge of my little white mixing bowl ...

... onto the surface of the painting.  I kept adding water as I ran out, making each pass lighter than the one before it.  Then, because it was gonna take an hour or so to dry, I went to bed.

You know the painting is going well, or at least interestingly, when you go to bed, flap around for a hour, then get up and read until you're so tired you gotta go to sleep.

And the interesting thing about painting on newsprint, as opposed to primed canvas, is that sinking-in, watercolor effect.  See upper left.

All of which brings me to the realization that I really like the blue and I'm not sure I want to paint a speech balloon over top of it.  At the same time, I really like the overall piece -- it's a much closer realization of the original idea I had about my Neo-Lichtenstein series.  Much more so than Nightly Prayers.  And if I don't put in the balloon, it's not gonna be very Neo-Lichtensteinian.  Is it?

So I'm Completely Screwed.

Mrs. Whitney's Turned a Corner

Check this out ...

Bit of a sea change for the caption too.  Am currently thinking:

I don't care how hard they squeeze me ...
I'd rather drown than turn state's evidence

Although just where to write it is certainly a question.

The game, clearly, is afoot.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Mrs. Whitney, ongoing...

I know you people are sensitive.  Because of this I typically clean up these images -- mess with exposure, saturation, etc.  This time around I'm just taking them out of the camera, cropping them and posting them.

I don't usually post this many shots of a painting.  At least I haven't for a long time.  But this one is such a fucking train wreck that I thought you wouldn't want to miss a moment.

I will say this:  the white area for the speech bubble really throws the composition of the whole thing off.  Once it's filled with writing it will hold it's own and balance will be restored.  But at this point you sort of wish it had been left as newsprint.

Does Size Really Matter?

With the Knicks visiting the Jeremy Lin-led Rockets tonight (I can't wait), it seems like the right time for a sports metaphor.

I hope it's complicated.
Complicated?  It's labyrinthine.

So you're happily married to a woman named, let's say, Nikki.  Then, as marriages do, things fall apart.  You can apply blame, but you choose not to (although, just between you and me, you mostly blame her meddlesome parents).  Sadly, the marriage becomes unbearable.  Horrible.  You get a divorce and flee for your life.  Thank God there are no children.

Ten years later you are still so scarred you say to yourself if you never saw another woman it would still be too soon.  Then one day you're standing in the Gagosian gallery on 24th Street staring at a huge painting by Richard Phillips of some famous model ...

Out of the corner of your eye you notice someone else is standing in front of the painting.  A woman.  A beautiful woman.  She turns and says, "This guy really can't paint worth a shit, can he?"

In case you're not in the loop with Richard Phillips (and there's no shame in not being in this particular loop), he's the guy who shoots pretentious short videos of Lindsay Lohan which are labyrinthine metaphors about the perils of fame (short versions of which can be seen here and here), then takes stills from the movies and turns them into colossal paintings.  Here's another one, taken I think from the first video ...

Anyway, the woman is a knock-out.  To see her in sunlight is to see Marxism die.  Green eyes.  Long blonde hair, pulled up into a loose bun held together by what appear to be a couple of chopsticks; chunks of hair coming out of nowhere, artfully askew.  She's wearing skinny jeans, a pair of black patent leather Christian Louboutin MaryJanes and, surprisingly, a Number 33 Patrick Ewing jersey.  If she moves just the right way, you glimpse one of those theatrical bras that prolly cost more than her shoes.  You're thinking perhaps La Perla.

"No he can't," you respond.
"He's one of those guys who thinks that lousy painting somehow improves if it's executed on a massive scale," she says.  She has a Scandinavian accent.  "Men are such idiots," she adds.
"He does have a nice, kind of air-brushed touch with the flesh tones," you suggest.
"Yes he does.  But that's not enough to save the paintings.  Plus, painting celebrities is like -- how do you Americans say it? -- shooting cheese in a barrel."
"Fish," you say.
"Fish?  Yes, of course fish."
She looks back up at the painting for a long time.
"I like cheese," she finally says.  "I like the soft cheese that drips all over your fingers and when you're finished you have to lick it off."

Her name is Astrid and you, against all odds, fall deeply in love.  And suddenly New York is magical.  The air smells great.  The city is beautiful in ways you never quite realized before.  Likewise Astrid -- every day a revelation.

Six months later she announces that she's been offered a position as one of the cheerleaders for the Houston Rockets and that it's an offer she can't refuse. You think about asking her to marry you, but you realize that you would likely not be happy, long-term, with a woman whose number one career goal is to be a Houston Rockette.  

"What about the Knicks City Dancers?" you ask.  The moment the words are out you realize how pathetic it sounds.
"They didn't make me an offer," she replies.  Then, with one of those gestures that fabulously beautiful European woman make, she turns and walks out the door.

A few days go by and, amazingly enough, you realize you are more or less okay.  The city still smells good.  You decide to spend the summer sailing around the Aegean Sea.

The next fall you're standing in the Gagosian gallery on 24th Street staring at one of those huge Richard Serra sculptures ...

Out of the corner of your eye you notice someone else is standing in front of the sculpture.  A woman.  A beautiful woman.  She turns and says, "Richard Serra makes me wish I was a lesbian."

She's a knock-out.  Brown eyes.  Long black hair, pulled up into a loose bun held together by what appear to be a couple of chopsticks; chunks of hair coming out of nowhere, artfully askew.  You're not sure, but there might be a feather in there somewhere.  She's wearing skinny jeans, a pair of Tom Ford padlock ankle-strap pumps, and, surprisingly, a Number 17 Jeremy Lin jersey.  If she moves just the right way, you glimpse one of those theatrical Agent Provocateur bras that prolly cost more than her shoes.

"It really does look sexy, doesn't it?"
"I think it's pornographic," she replies.
She looks back up at the sculpture for a long time.
"I'm so turned on I can barely function," she announces.  "Would you like to get a beer?"

Her name is Shanice and you, against all odds, fall deeply in love.  And suddenly New York is magical.  The air smells great.  The city is beautiful in ways you never quite realized before.  Likewise Shanice -- every day a revelation.

Six months later, you're still in love.  And during the quiet moments of the day you sometimes think of Astrid.  If it wasn't for her, you wouldn't be whole again.  If it wasn't for her, you couldn't have loved Shanice.

Wow.  That was beautiful.
Thank you.
But complicated.
It's supposed to be complicated.
Can you help us out here?
Okay.  Nikki represents the Knicks, from about 1999 to 2011; Nikki's parents are the Dolan family;  Astrid represents Jeremy Lin; Shanice represents either Raymond Felton or Mike Woodson, I'm not sure which.  Does that help?
Very much, although it's an imperfect metaphor.  For instance, the Dolan family still owns the Knicks.  But I'm moved.
Deeply moved.  It's metaphors like this that make me wish I was a lesbian.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Interesting development

After all that complaining, lo and behold:  it's Thanksgiving and I just finished throwing paint on Mrs. Whitney.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

And just one last thing before I go?

Here's a cropped detail ...

What's fun about this whole painting-on-bits-of-newspaper business is that the stuff on the newspaper, for good or for bad, ends up informing the image.  That is to say, the "eye" on the right side of the image isn't painted -- it's that partly-obscured woman's shoulder.  And the left side of the mouth, the gray part that's defining the upper lip to a bit?  That's also just something that's coming through.


And this, friends, is why you people spend so much money on your Year of Magical Painting subscriptions.  For insights like this.

Happy Holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving

I depart now for New York City.  To celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family.  I was going to take the bus but found that MegaBus had opportunistically upped the fare so substantially that it made me angry.  So now I'm taking the Batmobile.  Which, given the feeding habits of its massive German V-8, will cost significantly more than the bus.  But it's the principle of the thing.

I leave with some trepidation.  Not because of any holiday-related anxiety -- I like the holidays -- but rather the sense that I should stay home and keep painting The Old Man in the Sea while the juices are flowing.  I can easily predict a scenario in which I don't get to do any work on the thing until Sunday.  Or Monday.  Which is annoying because, as noted in that Byrds song about the Bible, there's a time for everything.

I'm paraphrasing.

Anyway, I'm a guy who can comfortably go for days without painting (some painters can't).  But when the call for action is sounded...  When the clarion fills the valley...  When the hills are alive with the sound of music...  When you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about your painting (which is a good thing, not a bad thing, provided you can get back to sleep) ...

Suffice to say I'd rather be painting.  Now I'll just be thinking about the goddam thing and stewing.

Like prunes.
Exactly.  I'll be stewing like prunes.

Mrs. Whitney, Volume 3

... or, otherwise, "The Old Man and the Sea."

At a certain point, you start to figure out what the hell is going on.  Not the least of which being that the protagonist, whom we'll name Joan, looks more like a man than a woman.  I don't actually care about that.  What I do care about is all that crescent-shaped space to the right of Joan's head.  To me it feels like opportunity calling.  The thinking here is that the crescent will end up being the darkest, densest  part of the painting.  Many of my favorite paintings have parts of them that are deep-Pollock.  Patches of complete, bottomless abstraction that make you feel like you could fall through them.  This, we are hoping, will be that.

And then you get the nice contrast with the face in white.  Which, truth be told, could be an inch or two lower and to the right.  And the waves all come together somehow.  And the speech balloon becomes rounder and shifted more towards the corner.

And there will be cause for rejoicing and Thanksgiving.

p.s.  That's a cellphone Joan's talking on.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Can This Possibly Be a Good Idea?

If you look closely you can see the sketch ...

And now the paint ...

Can this possibly be a good idea?

Now that I know what I know, can I possibly make this work?  All I'm thinking about right now is not blacking out out all the newsprint, whereas before I was thinking about filling it all in.  Also, I'm doubting that that copy bubble is gonna stay like that.

Looks like a deKooning.
Don't be fooled.

Mrs. Whitney, Volume 2

Also, if you look at it, can you see a kind of rotational vortex created by the different shapes and colors of the paper?  Or is it just me being delusional?

Mrs. Whitney's All-American Salon

You know, the Whitney Museum gets more than its fair share of shit.  So somebody should say something nice about Mrs. Whitney.  This from the NYTimes.

In the first decade of the 20th century Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, a New York heiress and sculptor, noted that her sophisticated friends made a fuss over new art from Europe but ignored new American art. As an American artist she had a problem with that and decided to try to alter the balance of attention.

I took the liberty of underlining one phrase.  "Heiress and sculptor..."   Wow, I'd love to have one of her pieces.

Anyway, in the upper right hand corner of this painting, formerly titled "First Bear..." and now titled "Mrs. Whitney" ...

... you can see an article about her and her eponymous museum pasted to the canvas.  

I'm loving this whole collage thing, although, as noted before, collage always struck me as a second-rate bit of business.  Since I'm just using it as background, it's okay.  Last thing a person wants to be is second-rate.  Or third.

You realize that suggesting that collage is a so-called second-rate bit of business is a form of bigotry?  Of small-mindedness?
Yes I do.  I'm probably wrong, but I'm typing as fast as I can.  But I will say this...
That's it's unbelievably messy.

Okay.  Enough.  

There is a part of me that likes this whole collage thing so much, it would be fun to just drip something abstract over the top, gloss varnish the hell out of it and call it a day.  Maybe next time.

First Bear...


I love that opening, don't you?
I do.  It's the first line of Seamus Heaney's Beowulf translation.
Thank you.
Not you, Heaney.

Anyway, so here we are ...

(insert photo of 5x5 canvas with newspaper glued on)

And here are these ...

(insert photo of yellow Playtex gloves)

I'd actually show you the photos, but my computer is running so slowly I don't have the patience to wait for it to process the files.  Neither one is particularly interesting, particularly the paint-speckled gloves.  The point is this:  I'm a man who likes to get in amongst my materials.  Last night I was ripping chunks of newspaper apart, slathering them with gesso, and slapping them on the face of the canvas.  More or less willy-nilly.

At some point I stood away, thinking I was done for the night and having no inkling that San Francisco was going to slap the Bears as hard as they did.  The idea was to go upstairs and join the game in progress.  But when I turned it on and saw it was already 20-0, I decided to catch up on the last couple of Homeland episodes.

Except that I couldn't get any of the stuff off my hands.  Something about the mixture of the acrylic primer (which I mistakenly referred to as gesso earlier) and the newsprint had created a sort of papier-mâché coating on my hands.  And let me tell you, it was mighty hard to get off.  In fact, it's still on.

Brief personal aside:  Look at how my auto-check formats the phrase papier-mâché.  Ha.  I could no more figure out how to do that manually than fly to the moon.  Lovely.

Anyway, even after a shower this morning I still have white stuff on my hands.  Thus the gloves.

Which I hate.

A woman in the group studio I belonged to in Brooklyn several years ago (see photo a couple of posts earlier) once told me I should not directly expose my fingers to some of the pigments in the paint.  That they were toxic.  That is to say, don't squirt paint from the tube onto your bare thumb and then rub it on the painting.  She suggested gloves.  Which is anathema to me.  How the hell did she expect me to achieve the thumb-rubbed effect without rubbing with my thumb?  I told her not to worry; I always licked my thumbs clean after applying the paint.

Mmmm, Shiny

This should give you a sense of just how glossy Nighly Prayers is...

I know a lot of you think I'm a genius.  And sure, that's fine.  And this picture certainly supports your position.  But the truth of the matter is, I just slung the thing down between two work supports and shot the picture.  The fact that the two big pools of light perfectly bracket the two faces in the painting is simply an accident.  Shit does, sometimes, just happen.

I'm very fond of the photo though.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Five by Five

What does that even mean?  Five by five?  Something to do with signal to noise ratio comes up on the web.

That's military jargon, though I've read it in an old CB operations guide. There are two scales to measure how well you are hearing someone on the radio: Strength and clarity of transmision. Since its a five-point scale, a signal of 'five by five' would be the optimum values. Something worse would be 'two by two' for instance.

I remember the term from the pilot in Aliens when they were dropping out of space to first land on the planet.  Wearing teardrop aviator shades.  Very butch.  "Five by five," she says, suggesting that things were going well.  Fifteen minutes later she gets sawn in half by an alien, so I guess "going well" is a relative term.

But none of that is meaningful here.  Five by five is the size of the canvas I'm stretching for my "First Bear..." painting.  You can see it right there, leaning against the wall.

The feel of it is wonderful.  I've been stuck with 4'x5' canvases for so long.  The extra five square feet feel great.  I can't wait to slap some newspaper on it.

Six by five is even better, but the Bear painting needs to be square.  It will, after all, be a reinterpretation of this ...

Which for reasons known only to me, and now forgotten, has been flipped across its vertical axis.

All that said, I'm awfully fond of this painting.  Which isn't square.

Shown here flipped.

I like it better the regular way.  Six by five.  If you click on it and try to find the 12-inch grid, you can surely do so.

Hint:  the best place to find it is in the lower left corner of the un-flipped version.  Just below her lip, you can see the intersection of two lines.  The vertical line goes up through her mouth, up her flume, to the bottom of the tip of her nose.

And just while we're screwing around, look at this picture of a studio I used to have in Brooklyn.  Wow.

There's Big Michelle on the wall, unstretched.  Over on the right, on the easel, was a commission, half done.  Self portrait in the middle, top.  Annotated Murdoch leaning against the wall.  Forgiving Nixon is the small, framed one above the lamp.

Wow.  How much fun is that?

Now I'm feeling wistful.  Bob Dylan, when asked about Mr. Tamborine Man (maybe) three or four decades later, said something like "I could never write that song now."   Oddly enough, I'm listening (because I'm as old as the hills) to the Byrds singing My Back Pages, which is the Dylan song that includes "I was so much older then; I'm younger than that now."

You're going with a semicolon there?
Yeah.  It seemed the right thing to do.
Hey -- it's your blog.

The Band Plays On...

This picture amuses me.

Even though it is taken in 2008, and that's Kimi Raikkonen sitting in the car, it gives you a sense of what a pit stop in the middle of a race looks like.  These 18 guys, not including Kimi, can change all four of his tires in less than three seconds.

Do not try this at home.

Amazingly, the quest for the F1 drivers' championship is extended to Brazil, the last race of the season. Sebastian Vettel, passed in the last quarter of the race by Lewis Hamilton, about whom I'm feeling very warm and fuzzy currently, came in second.  Fernando Alonso, in his shiny but disfunctional Ferrari came in an heroic third.  Thus Vettel leads by 13 going into the last race.

First place counts for 25.  Second 18.  Third 15.

The electrical system on Mark Webber's Red Bull (which is absolutely identical to Vettel's) is always pooping out.  Why can't that happen on Vettel's car for once?

A man can only hope.

One of the reasons Alonso was able to come in third was some interesting behavior by Ferrari management designed to get him off the slippery side of the starting grid.  His teammate, you see, had actually qualified ahead of Alonso.  Which was highly unusual but fortuitous in this case, because all a mechanic had to do was saunter over to Felipe Massa's car and, with a pair of wire snippers, cut the FIA security seal on the transmission.   Which he did.

Ferrari promptly reported the broken seal to the race director.  According to the rules, breaching the seal calls for an automatic 5 grid spot penalty.  So Massa started 10th instead of 5th, and Alonso moved up one place on the grid.  Which, because they alternate left/right, happened to be on the clean side of the track.

Complicated, yes?
Everything about Formula 1 is complicated.  Why shouldn't this be?
Good question.

Anyway, next week Alonso has to win the race and Vettel has to come in 5th or 6th.

A man can only hope.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Does this happen to you?  You're feeling a bit peckish.  You're wandering around, sort of fitfully cleaning up the kitchen, reflecting on the relationship between a man and his stomach.  You open the door of the ice box and see the jar of mayonnaise (which, apparently, is spelled with two Ns and just one S), and suddenly you realize you cooked an artichoke last night and it's just sitting there, under some foil, waiting to be eaten for lunch?

And that qualifying for the Grand Prix of the United States is about to start?

This, dear reader, is surely anybody's recipe for ecstasy.  At least until Sebastian Vettel qualifies first and Fernando Alonso qualifies ninth.  And then you just want to vomit?

And then somebody is moved to the back of the grid for some miscellaneous penalty and Alonso gets moved up to 8th, which is about the same as 7th or 9th, and which is definitely not first, except that 8th, unlike 7th or 9th, is on the dirty side of the track.  Which actually makes it worse than 9th since when he hits the gas at the start of the race his wheels are gonna spin like crazy while everybody on the clean side of the track is gonna take off like a scalded cat.

And then you really feel like vomiting?

Wow.  Thank God the Jets are playing tomorrow.
You're just fucking with me, aren't you?
Yes I am.

The solution is to come down to the studio to stretch a canvas that will, on some level, be something like this ...

As filtered through this ...

I love that blue hair.

Will Barnett, Dead at 101

This is a life worth aspiring to.

At least the part about still painting at 100; getting a medal from Obama for something or other; sitting around the old apartment drinking coffee with the little woman like you were 70 or something.

Click here for a slide show from The Times.

What the hell am I going to be doing when I hit the C-note?  The vision flashing through my mind is that I'll be living in my daughter's basement (the basement that she, as an act of love and generosity, has made her husband, the arbitrageur and weekend handyman, transform into a relatively lovely living space for me so I don't have to go to some home but about which I complain continuously in a mean-spirited manner).  If I close my eyes I can see it as clear as day:  I'm sitting in my favorite chair, banging the tip of my cane against the basement ceiling, shouting My diaper's wet! over and over again until somebody comes downstairs.  Ha!  Half the time it's not even wet -- I just want to see if she still loves me.

Brrrrrr.  God help me.

Anyway, back to Barnett:  I like this one...

I like how the subject is slave to the line, not the reverse.  That is to say, I've got this idea about an oval and some rectangles and some straight lines and, by God, I'm gonna fit a woman combing her hair right in there, regardless.

I also like this one.  A lot ...

Who doesn't like a cat?

Adios, Campagnola.

For you completists, I'm listening to an album by a woman named Sera Cahoone.  The album is titled Deer Creek Canyon.  Moody, introspective folk songs.  Acoustic guitar and, every once in a while, a violin.  A pedal steel guitar.  Other stuff too.  It's really lovely.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Details of my birth...

I was born in a crossfire hurricane.

Actually, that isn't true.  I'm the picture of an unreliable narrator.  I don't even know what a crossfire hurricane is.  Does it, for example, have to do with guns or weather?  And besides, the real objective here is to pay homage to the new Rolling Stones documentary on HBO titled "Crossfire Hurricane," not to actually give details of my birth.  To give it the cheese, if you will.

Just when you think you know just about everything about the Rolling Stones, along comes a film chock full of footage you've never seen and comments you've never heard.  It was lovely.  High recommendation.  Four and a half tongues.  Bravo.

And as good as Crossfire Hurricane is, it still isn't as good as Skyfall.  Which gets five stars.  Not just because it's an outstanding James Bond movie but because it's just an outstanding movie.  Period.  Good clean fun from start to finish.

Me?  I'm of the age where James Bond was someone I pretended to be while playing in the back yard.  And those early Bond movies were fabulous (to my mind at least).  And then they all turned to shit, basically, with the attention spent on (not so) amusing gizmos far outweighing things like plotting.  Or casting.  Or acting.  Invisible cars?  Please--what a load of crap.

This stopped, for the most part, when Daniel Craig took over.  Casino Royale was great.  A Quantum of Solace perhaps a bit less so.  But Skyfall, his third, is an absolute James Bond masterpiece.  Not to spoil things, but there comes a moment about half way through the movie (you can tell it's coming a mile away, so I'm not really giving out house secrets here) when he unveils his old Aston Martin DB-5.

And I swear, dear reader, I almost burst into tears it was such a lovely moment.

When was the last time you teared up in a James Bond movie?  Either I'm too sensitive or else I'm getting soft.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I've gotta up my game

This from the Daily Beast...

What fiscal cliff? Christie’s held its largest-ever postwar and contemporary sale Wednesday, with art collectors from around the world shelling out record prices for works by artists like Franz Kline, Jeff Koons, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The auction brought in $412.3 million, surpassing the already-high estimate of $411.8 million. The night's big seller was Andy Warhol’s “Statue of Liberty,” which fetched $43.8 million. And you balk at paying $4 for gas.

Manoman.  I got an email a couple of days ago offering $30K for "The American Investor", a painting that's priced at $225,000.  At first I was annoyed.  But hey, you can't take these things too personally.  We corresponded and may, after all, end up with a transaction.  But it won't be for the painting in question.

In the meantime, this just went for Forty Large at the Christie's auction...

Fine.  All the best to Franz Kline.

And even though I like to say it's not a contest (although, obviously, it is), I submit this as Exhibit A for the defense...

This is a great painting, assuming we are using great in one sense but not, necessarily, another.  I should call Franz Kline and find out who's doing his PR.

Alternatively, maybe I should start painting black over top of white, rather than the opposite.

Could it be that simple?
I doubt it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Quick statistics

The Year of Magical Painting has existed for 2,320 days.  This is the 1,805th post.  What's that--like two a day?  I'm exhausted.

According to Google, the most viewed post yesterday (5 times!!!) was titled "The Left Nostril of Maria Bartiromo", from September 20th of 2007.  Honestly, what are the odds of that?  How does that even happen?  Why isn't the most viewed post the most recent one?

Interestingly enough, the nostril post focuses on the early, not used version of Big Maria that had "Todd, your boss is on the phone..." written in the arch above her head.  It eventually ended up as something along the lines of "If I see that bitch Erin Burnett on the Today Show one more time I'm gonna freak out."

Which really was outstanding.

This is the post in its entirety ...


The Left Nostril of Maria Bartiromo

This is, of course, a shot of it, along with the rest of her face as it stands now.

But we get ahead of ourselves. This, you may remember, is where we left off.

This is where we were this morning, after having done plenty of whiting (blacking) out.

And then later, this (although it is possible that the images directly above and below are, in fact, identical):

Ditto this:

Don't move too quickly. Take a look at the nose above. Like Mary Poppins might say, change is in the wind. Or something like that.

Now look at this:

Thank God we got rid of that weird goober of a right nostril. But look at the left. I was sitting there, experiencing self-loathing, when suddenly I realized her right nostril was too fucking low. The whole thing needed to move up about a quarter of an inch.

And now we've gotten rid of the "Todd" verbiage. Things are looking good (in my humble opinion). I'm starting to think about exhibition dates. Possibly next week. Still to come is new copy (reading: "If I see that bitch Erin Burnett on the Today Show one more time I'm going to freak out!"). The area above her head will, I'm thinking, remain black. You can see how we modified her veil(s).

It's better in person. But then, isn't everything? Or, at least, aren't a lot of things?