The next step

I have worked from the live nude periodically since the early 1970's. This blog started August 9th, 2012 in my second year of working almost exclusively from the figure.

In the fall of 2015 I reintroduced still lifes and an occasional cityscape into my painting repertoire. Rather than abandon this figure blog or start a new one I decided to add them to the conservation.

All drawings and paintings posted on this blog were done entirely from live models or on location.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Do places actually possess spirits or energies? I'm inclined to think they do. Sometimes there is an undeniable chemistry between a person and a place. I have been in my current studio for twelve years. It is located off an alley and consists of three small rooms. A large skylight in the main room leaks but for me the space has always had a romantic energy - a good karma. Since my first day painting there I have enjoyed every minute. My work wouldn't have progressed to where it is without this studio.

Studio Door, oil on linen, 13 1/2" X 16 1/2",  2010

This self-portrait is the first painting I did after moving into the space in the winter of 2001. I put a mirror on the floor so I could capture the cracked skylight. Over the years to keep things fresh I have used every inch and angle of the rooms many times.

Self-Portrait (Studio Interior), oil on linen, 17" X 14", 2001

The problem is after so many years it is becoming increasingly difficult to draw inspiration from the environment. What once felt freeing and inspiring has become constricting and predictable. My sense is I've "used up" the space. So now I have the nagging feeling that it may be me and not be the space that's used up.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Energy In the Room

I have discussed how much I enjoy working in group figure model settings. The weekly sessions I attend had been on break for the holidays. Two weeks ago we started up again in a new space - a large open room that usually hosts yoga classes. The new year and venue have brought out large crowds of motivated artists.

The start-up routine is familiar. Lots of commotion, people greeting each other, moving chairs, setting up easels, sharpening pencils. Enter the model, off comes the robe and everyone goes to work. You can feel it - there is an energy in the room. One can't help but absorb some of that energy when working with a group of motivated souls. Here are two thirty minute efforts from the first two "yoga room" sessions.

Nude Study, oil pastel, 9 1/2" X 8 1/2"

Reclining Nude Study, oil pastel, 7" X 10 1/2", 

It fascinates me how we are all in the same room seemingly doing the same thing. But in reality everyone is working in their own private world, focused on the task before them with motivations and methods as varied as the personalities.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Saying it Doesn't Make it So

First with a journal then with this blog I thought I had found some sort of panacea. Clarity comes from writing things down. By articulating my methods, motivations and fears I would find a more direct route to success ... I could finally stop repeating my mistakes. Now the realization has hit me that just because I have written something doesn't mean I've internalized the lesson.

I was starting a private painting session recently. There I stood at the easel brush in hand afraid to make the first mark. I had just posted an entry about not being afraid to fail. My model had to give me the pep talk. "What are you afraid of? There's nothing at risk here."

Nude, oil on canvas, 6" X 6", 2013

Every time you face a blank canvas it is in some fundamental way your first time. You can bring a lifetime of knowledge and skill to the moment but the canvas doesn't care. This time is not like any other. You have to figure it out anew in real time. This revaluation is either depressing or exhilarating. I'm not sure which.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Accepting Failure

In his novel Howards End E. M. Forester says "Even the most successful career must show a waste of strength that might have removed mountains ..." In any worthwhile endeavor failure is a given. Without it there can be no success. Over the years I have thrown away hundreds of unsuccessful drawings and paintings. It's like sifting for gold. You have to discard pounds of dirt to discover those few precious flakes. 

Here is an abject failure from a recent group session. I tried something new. I used an earlier drawing of a reclining nude and added the figure behind. The scale of the back figure is too big and the composition makes no sense. Taping this drawing on the wall of my studio the next day I broke into a big smile - what an absolute failure - good for me!

Sweet Failure, oil pastel, 9" X 13",  2013

Fearing failure is not the same as accepting a failure. Fear of failure can keep you from starting something. Refusing to accept a failure can keep you from moving on.  I recently came across a watercolor from the 1990's that I was never satisfied with. I actually dug out some watercolor brushes and paints and spent an afternoon trying to "save" the painting. Of course I didn't save anything. Accepting failure can be hard but it is necessary. It's almost always best to move on - that's where progress lies.