The next step

I have worked from the live nude periodically since the early 1970's. This blog started 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.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bodysurfing

I grew up in Southern California. As a teenager I spent a good part of my summers at the beach sunbathing, looking at girls and bodysurfing. (It's hard to imagine I ever led such a life). When bodysurfing a good deal of your time is spent treading water, waiting for the next wave. This is a pretty good metaphor for where my drawing and painting are right now. I'm treading water. I'm moving but not really going anywhere.

It would be easy to view this situation in a negative way but I'm actually in a very positive place. As I have mentioned my new studio needs work - lots of work. Problems I expected to resolve in weeks are going to take months. This is a labor of love but it is labor. As a result I'm spending the bulk of my time and energy on studio repairs. My drawing and painting have taken a back seat.

Male Nude, oil pastel, 8 1/2" X 12 1/2", 2014

In the past during times like these my inclination was to forge ahead toward some ill defined goal. I see now that I was often just flailing in the surf, exhausting myself trying to catch every little swell. Treading water is exactly what I need to be doing right now. Staying in place for awhile and assessing the scene around me. I'm waiting for the next well formed wave. It's coming - I just hope I'm ready to catch it.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Making a Living


At this stage of my art career focusing on the figure is an indulgence. I have sold nudes over the years but on the hierarchy of "salable" images they are near the bottom. Let me offer a partial explanation as to how I'm able to pursue my current passion.

In the winter of 1979-80 I found myself newly single and living in an unheated garage/utility room of a row house in Washington DC. "Living" off my art sales wasn't working out so well. My urge to paint was gone. I had more important things to deal with like eating. It became necessary to take a full time job to climb out of the hole I had naively slid into. I made a vow to never get in that situation again. I would keep an income source independent of my art.

On my feet again after a couple of years my desire to paint came back. I would draw and paint evenings and weekends. Then after a couple of more years I switched to a part time job and began painting three or four days a week. This is the schedule I kept for more than twenty years. Early in this period I produced a series of trompe l'oeil still lifes.
                                         
Still Life, acrylic/oil on panel, 11 1/2" X 9 1/4", 1990 

Although difficult I have never regretted the trade-offs this arrangement made necessary. I have to feel a personal connection with my subject for things to work. Not being dependent on art sales has allowed me the freedom to choose my own projects and time-frames.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Self-Portraits (Part One)

Self-portraits, I've done a million of them. (Okay that is an exaggeration but I have done a lot). A willing, stationary, free model - what more could you ask? I seem to do fewer and fewer as the years pass. I much prefer the novelty of new faces and bodies. Over the years I have only kept the self-portraits that I think "work". I won't even guess how many attempts I've made.

The dates are vague on some of these images but I am certain of the artist.

Self-Portrait, graphite, 10" X 7 1/2", early1980's

I'm always surprised when I take my first objective look at a newly completed self-portrait. I Often appear very serious and sometimes even angry. Anger has never been an emotion I bring to drawing or painting. (Some of my models might dispute this but what they are witnessing is more frustration than anger).  I am intensely focused and this is probably what comes out in my expression.

Self-Portrait, colored pencil, 10 1/2" X 8 1/2", 1995

Self-Portrait, oil on linen, 13" X 10", Winter 1999

Below is a rare portrait where I caught a near smile. A forced smile almost always ends up looking plastic or fake. I remember catching this one fairly quickly.

Self-Portrait, red colored pencil, 5 1/2" X 4 1/2", 1980's

For a self-portrait to be successful it has to have an inner life that engages the viewer instantly. This actually applies to all art but is very obvious and direct in a portrait. It either has it or it doesn't.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Ruling Art Class

I'm going to take a brief detour from the figure to vent and unburden my heart. An institution that is very dear to me is going to be no more. The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC is being taken over by two larger better financed institutions and will cease to exist as an autonomous entity. I worked at the Corcoran in the early 1980's. It was the job that saved me. As a preparator I installed exhibitions and did whatever else the understaffed gallery required. My three years there equipped me with knowledge and skills that have proved invaluable in my art career and life. I met my wife there and made life-long friends.

I also saw from the inside the political and business sides of the institutional art world. During this time the age of the "blockbuster show" was going full tilt. Big crowds and bigger gift shops were trademarks of the day. Art became a vehicle for attracting and producing large sums of money to finance not just shows but also pet projects and extravagant futile expansion plans.

One Dollar Bill, acrylic/oil on panel, 7" X 9", 1992
Collection of Charles Tate

Many things happen in life that people have little or no control over. The demise of the Corcoran isn't one of them. I don't pretend to know the private financial situation of the Corcoran. But I know what I saw and heard from good sources over the years. The Corcoran was done in by the people who ran the place. The ruling art class for whom art is just a path to status and power. A shortsighted, feckless board and a string of incompetent, egotistical and often greedy directors brought down the Corcoran. A more thoughtful approach that valued art over the almighty dollar could have avoided this outcome.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Lifeline

I'm in the process of moving to a new studio and find myself on a "forced" break from doing art. Long term I think this is a very good thing. Twelve years of accumulated canvases, frames, art supplies, you name it, need to be packed and moved. Of course I have ten times more stuff than I thought. Added to this my new space has some unanticipated issues. Booking a model or doing any involved painting or drawing right now would be impossible.

Fortunately for me Susan Ishii's Fredericksburg figure drawing group is there with a lifeline. I am keenly aware of how special this group of dedicated artists and models are to me. For almost four years it has been a welcoming, warm environment (really warm - there is a hot yoga class just before us). Usually these sessions are just one of several private or group sessions I would host or attend in any given week. Now they have taken on a more vital role - keeping me afloat.

Profile, oil pastel, 8 1/2" X 7", 2014

Reclining Nude, oil pastel, 6" X 11", 2014

Before this group started I attended bi-monthly sessions hosted by the painter and teacher Ed King. Ed is very dedicated to working from the live figure. Recently I overheard him telling someone how important it is not just to his art but life in general. I know what he means. I always leave a figure session in a heightened state of mind. Tired sometimes but spiritually rejuvenated.