Monday, November 7, 2011

The Poor Carpenter

A poor carpenter blames his tools. Everyone has heard that old axiom and I know I have used it often when a fellow artist or a student complains that they can’t get the brush stroke they want because the brush “won’t behave” or that they had a difficult time getting their drawing down correctly because of a rickety easel, etc. I’ve never had too much patience with these claims, in part, because I was taught and make every effort to keep my equipment in as close to new condition as possible. I am very diligent about washing my brushes and “training” them to keep their original shape. I have a checklist taped inside my easel which I go through before I go out to paint to make certain that I have everything I need. I am compulsive to the point of wiping off the threaded ends of my paint tubes before I screw the tops back on!

However…(and I can hear you thinking “here we go!”) I got stuck with some bad gesso! I can also hear you now saying “Hey Paul, a bad carpenter…” but it is true! Really! For those of you who don’t know, gesso is one of a number of a “grounds” that are applied to the surface that an artist works on. In my case it is the material that makes my canvas white. I have used the same brand of gesso for as long as I can remember and, for this reason, never look at the jar when I pick it up off of the shelf at the art supply store. However, this particular jar was of a different formula and consistency than my usual. It seemed a lot thicker when I was applying it to my canvases but I didn’t think much of it.

My troubles began when I started painting on these panels. I just could not get the paint to move the way I usually like it to move. It seemed as though when I applied a stroke it would just sit there like a dull lump and I couldn’t get it to move. Being of a self critical nature I began to wonder and then to really fret about what I was doing wrong. I had suddenly parted with my hard earned skills! I was a hack who could no longer paint!

After a fitful night sleep I arose the next morning, got out of bed and immediately went down to see if the painting was as bad as I had thought it was the night before. I’m sorry to report that it was even worse. I dropped into my chair and started to wonder what other profession might suit me when something about the canvas caught my eye. I noticed that all of the paint I had applied only the day before was already dry! This is highly unusual for oil paint which normally takes a few days to start to set up. I reached out with a finger and started trying to smear some of the paint around but it would not budge. Immediately it dawned on me what the problem might be…the new “formula” thicker gesso had leeched all of the oil out of the paint leaving a dead, immoveable, dried crust behind!

Hope began to swell in my bosom and I excitedly grabbed my gear and a few older panels and went out to paint the two paintings that follow.

The Old Sentry12 X 12 oil on canvas. Click on the link to view purchasing details for this painting.

Sunday Morning~Locust Valley12 X 9 oil on canvas. Click on the link to view purchasing details for this painting.

I felt as though a bad dream had ended, that I had been paroled from crappy painter prison! Suddenly my skills had been returned to me, all was right with the world and I began to wonder if a good carpenter ever blames his tools?

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Change and the Stobart Palette

I believe it is a good idea to shake things up every now and then. Unfortunately what I believe and what I practice are sometimes two different things. What I should say is that I think change is a good idea but I rarely, if ever, practice it! I am what you would call a “set in my way” kind of guy. I think it is a family gene or maybe just a “German thing”? I am way too regimented and I’ve tried to figure it out and break away from it but this old dog isn’t usually interested in any new tricks.

The great English painter John Stobart has been a hero of mine ever since Mr. Stevenson introduced me to his work way back when I first began to study in the mid 70’s. Much to my delight Stobart self-financed and produced a series of programs that were broadcast on PBS in the early 90’s. Entitled “John Stobart’s Worldscape”, the series followed him around the world, usually in the company of a guest artist, painting on site wherever they ended up. What a treat and a gift it was for me to be able to learn directly from the man himself how he produces a painting from start to finish.

Stobart’s palette consists of only five colors and white. For the artists out there the palette is as follows; Windsor Red, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Burnt Sienna, French Ultramarine Blue and Permanent Green. He uses a titanium white. His style of brush is a bright of which he only uses one size which is about ¾” wide.

Now, as Stobart has long been my idol, my palette is not much different than his. In fact, the core of my palette is his palette with some additions I have made over the years…a different red, a pair of extra yellows and a different green, etc.

Recently I again watched every episode (as if I had never seen them before!) and immediately started thinking about how his palette makes so much sense…three primaries and a pair of convenience colors…nice, simple and direct. Following is one of Stobart’s magnificent harbor paintings for which he is justifiably famous. As you can see…quite a bit can be accomplished with only five colors!

I decided, as a kind of tribute to my hero, that I would spend some time using only his palette and his style of brush. As mentioned above, I don’t much care for change, and to suddenly be standing out in the field without my usual palette, to which I have grown very accustomed and fond, was a bit off-putting. Imagine a piano player suddenly confronted with a keyboard with no black keys. Why did I think this was a good idea!?

In the end I found that I had to get back to thinking about how color works instead of simply relying on old dogmas I had come to rely on over the years. I think the simpler palette had the virtue of giving the paintings an overall color harmony that had been missing of late. While I did not care for painting with the brights, I think I might just stay with the palette for a while. If it’s good enough for Stobart it is good enough for me!

Fall Crocuses11 X 14 oil on canvas. Click the link to view purchasing details.

Beaver Dam Fall 11 X 14 oil on canvas. Sold.

Charlie Clamming8 X 12 oil on canvas. Click the link to view purchasing details. Just a quick word about this painting...I was working down at Centre Island Beach when who should wander into my view but my father in law's life long friend Charle Cressi. Charlie is in his 80's and has been battling prostate cancer for some time. However, he still gets out and goes clamming a couple of days a week! Clamming is hard, hard manual work...we should all have Charlie's stamina when we get to his age!

Sagamore Morning Light14 X 11 oil on canvas. Click the link to view purchasing details.

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the link undr each painting for purchasing details. The price includes shipping costs.

Monday, October 3, 2011

"...and the forecast calls for..."

I guess the lesson here is that one can never trust a weather forecast! I had a one day plein air workshop scheduled for this past Saturday in Smithtown, NY but we cancelled it because the weather forecast called for a 60% chance of rain and cold damp winds for both Saturday and Sunday. Needless to say I never saw a drop of rain and Sunday was one of the loveliest days I can recall since last autumn.

The element which made both days memorable for me was the incredible sky that the passing cold front left in its wake; massive fair weather cumulous clouds moving majestically up from the south. Nothing makes me more excited to get out and paint than the presence of this sort of very busy sky.

I left early on Saturday morning to head over to Centre Island Beach because I know that it is a spot where I can get a bit of water and some distant trees in the foreground yet have my canvas be mostly devoted to a good sky painting. However, I never made it that far because, as Bayville Road makes a sharp right-hand bend, you get a view across Long Island Sound towards Connecticut and I was amazed at how beautiful this sky was. The plein air mobile made what the faint of heart might consider to be a rather treacherous left hand turn into the beach parking lot. I got out of the car and looked to the west and saw the kind of view I normally only see in my dreams, lots of blues and grays in the water and in the tumultuous sky and a wonderful pink beach house which was brightly illuminated and would serve as a wonderful focal point.

"End of Summer~Stehli Beach" is available for sale. Click this link for details.

Idyllic, right? Well, not exactly. If you know the area then you are aware that I was set up just across the street from a somewhat new amusement park which I think is called the Bayville Scream Park. Among their other attractions they apparently have a pirate themed ride. To lend the proper atmosphere to the ride they have a loud recording of a very British sounding sea captain exhorting his crew to fire upon the dreaded enemy. The recording is repeated…over and over and over again! I began to root for the pirates, hoping they would get in just one shot which would send the annoying British flagged frigate to the bottom of the sea!

Not being one to look a gift sky in the mouth, I ate lunch, did a few errands, grabbed my rig and headed out again. I returned to Rottkamp’s Farm where I had painted last week for just the same reason as before…a bit of foreground to act as an anchor for a sky painting. And finally, early on Sunday evening, the clouds lowered, blocked out the sun and any blue sky, and raindrops began to splatter on my palette!

"Early October Sky" is available for sale. Click this link for details.

In truth, conditions would not have been very favorable for some of my less experienced students. Both days felt a considerable cool wind and the clouds intermittently blocked the sun causing subject matter to be illuminated, thrown into shadow and then illuminated again. Variable conditions while painting outdoors can be maddening even to the most experienced painter. But this was one day I will never forget!

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Reset The Pieces

I have an old and dear friend who throws a large party every year. A lot of you may not know that I also play music. In fact, I’ve been playing longer than I have been painting…so I’ve been playing for a long time! I bring this up because I have been playing with these friends since we were sophomores in high school and, every year, we get together to play at this party.

Now I do admit to two facts, I am a bit older than I was when we started and, since I have been working hard at painting over the last number of years, I don’t practice my playing as often as I used to. So, when the party annually rolls around, I have to get out me axe and limber up my fingers which takes away from time out painting.

Were we any good you wonder? Surprisingly…not too bad! But I guess that’s what happens when you play with guys you have been playing with for the better part of your life. That’s me on the left in the first picture and all 5 of us in the second.

Sunday morning, thankfully, meant a return to painting and I felt secure in the knowledge that I could safely put my guitar away for another year. And the first painting on Sunday?…a scraper! In fairness to the panel I was painting on I couldn’t get that waste of paint scraped off of the canvas fast enough. I once read that when the great chess genius Bobby Fischer lost a game (which was rare) he would become very agitated and want to reset the pieces immediately for another game. I think I know how Fischer felt and, after lunch and some very unkind words to myself, I set out again late in the afternoon to reset the pieces.

Rottkamp’s Farm is not far from my house. I wanted to head over there because I like rolling farmland and also because we had overcast skies that day and I was in the mood to paint a nice sky. The forecast for the pumpkin crop is grim this year owing to all of the rain we have had…but I managed to find a few which would add a nice note of color in the foreground.

"Pumpkins~Rottkamp's Farm" 9 X 12 oil on canvas. Available for sale. Click the following link:Pumpkins~Rottkamps Farm

To sum up the last four days…a whole weekend with only one painting to show for it. But I am very happy with the result and am happier still that I got to spend some time making music with old friends who are very dear to me.

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Art and Jazz and eBay

What fun I’ve had over the past couple of days painting in the beautiful seaside village of Cold Spring Harbor at their annual “Art and Jazz” event. We painted for two days on the site of the CSH Laboratory which has lovely views of the harbor. On Sunday we painted on Main Street in the heart of town and were treated to the sounds of different jazz bands playing up and down the street. There are worse ways to spend your day...beautiful early autumn weather, great views to paint and roaming jazz bands!

First up is my painting from Friday evening. I loved the way the shadows fell across the beach and I had just about gottten the canvas covered when the sun disappeared behind the clouds! I was left having to finish up from memory. As I was just about done a man and a small boy and their dog arrived giving me a perfect focal point for the painting. The Gods took away my sun but rewarded me with the appearance of this small family out enjoying a nice evening on the shore.

"Father, Son and a Buff Lab" 11 X 14 oil on canvas. Contact me if you are interested in purchasing this painting.

I returned to the same spot on Saturday morning but faced in the opposite direction. I have painted this view before but I like it and decided to have another go at it. Again, the light was coming and going and I had a pretty stiff cool breeze at my back but am happy with the result.

I have a friend whose sister is facing some dire health issues. A fund has been set up to help and I am auctioning this painting on eBay with 100% of the proceeds going to help in the effort. Click the link below the painting if you wish to place a bid. A low starting bid means you might be able to get one of my originals at a low price. Bid early and often!

"Windy September Morning" 11 X 14 oil on canvas. The link to the eBay auction is:

The next painting is a bit unusual for me. I wasn’t overly happy with the view but had only 2 ½ hours before the deadline to submit paintings for the auction. Something told me that I might be able to squeeze a nice result out of it so I started slashing away. I’ve written about this before…you forget about your training, what you think the painting should look like, etc. and just mindlessly throw paint at it. I think this is where one’s experience and individual “voice” take over because I am always happy with the result.

"Art and Jazz" 12 X 9 oil on canvas. Sold.

As always, thanks for your interest in my work!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Earthquakes, Irene and Teddy's Home

Wow! We have finally dug out of what can best be described as Old Testament conditions here in the Northeast. First we had a very noticeable earthquake followed about five days later by the arrival of Tropical Storm Irene. Houses shaking, wind blowing, tree limbs down, no electricity for three days and about three inches of water in the basement. It took a while to get everything straightened out, bailed out and dried out but I was finally able to get back outside to paint.

I started this painting the night before the arrival of Irene. I figured I wouldn’t be able to get out the next day and decided I was long overdue for a studio painting. As I mentioned above, we were without electricity for about 3 days so I had to wait a while before I could get back to the easel to get it finished but am happy with the results. Painting outdoors helps to “inform” anything that might be done in the studio…you learn a lot about how nature behaves when painting on site and can use that knowledge with great benefit in the studio.

"Moored For the Evening" 14 X 18 oil on canvas. Contact me if you are interested in purchasing this painting.

There had been a paint out scheduled in Oyster Bay, which is very near to where I live in Locust Valley, for the day that the hurricane was forecast to arrive. The event was to take place on the grounds of the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site which was the home of Theodore Roosevelt. These are lovely grounds with a nice view of the house, the surrounding fields and orchards as well as a short hike to a lovely view of Cold Spring Harbor. I had not painted out there in years and decided to go scout around for possible paintings a week before the scheduled event. This small study was a result of that trip.

"Eel Creek Beach~Sagamore Hill National Historic Site" 8 X 12 oil on canvas. Contact me if you are interested in purchasing this painting.

The Sagamore Hill event finally got underway on the 9th of September. I had spotted this view the previous week on my way up to the beach and decided to stop this time and have a go at it. This photo was shot before I added some cool red wildflowers in the foreground and in the left hand shadows. Unfortunately I did not re-shoot it after the changes because it worked much nicer…so much so that the painting sold at the opening the following night.

"Up To The Barn" 12 X 12 oil on canvas. Sold

Friday afternoon found me back not far from where I painted in the morning. I was hot and tired but cannot resist great light on the trunk of a tree. This began as a study of the trunk and tree but grew into something that has a nice warm and peaceful feeling to it.

"Sagamore Maples" 11 X 14 oil on canvas. Contact me if you are interested in purchasing this painting.

I planned to paint with my buddy Anthony Davis on Saturday morning. We arrived at the site early and made our way down the lovely wooded path to the beach. I immediately gravitated to the spot I had painted the week before. The overcast was just starting to break up and I was treated to one of the nicest skies I’ve ever had the opportunity to paint on site. In fact, this was somewhat of a backwards painting for me. A sky that active won’t stay still for long and experience told me that I wouldn’t have much time to get it down on the canvas. I laid in a wet line where I knew my horizon would be and then set about laying in and finishing the sky in one shot then moved on to get the distant headland and the near shore.

"Saturday Morning~Sagamore Hill National Historic Site" 12 X 16 oil on canvas. Framed and available for sale from the Oyster Bay Historical Society. Contact me if you are interested in purchasing this painting.

Next week will find me taking part in a paint out in beautiful Cold Spring Harbor. Hopefully there will be no more natural disasters and I will be able to have some nice paintings to share with you then!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Trying To Keep Up

I’ve been painting a great deal of the time since I returned from Easton and, in fact, now have a number of new images I’d like to share with you.

“Sea Cliff” 11 X 12.5 oil on canvas was painted this morning in the lovely village of Sea Cliff, NY. This was a kind of scholastic homecoming of sorts for me as I studied with Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson just around the corner from where this was painted. Despite the mounting August heat I was very comfortable while painting this one because I was able to get a parking spot beneath a tree and the parking space was so wide that it accommodated my car, my self and my easel. You can see by the foreground perspective that I am standing in the road. “Sea Cliff” is available for sale.

“Hempstead Harbor” 8.5 X 14 oil on canvas was painted this past Saturday morning down at Garvies Point in Glen Cove. I began at 7 AM and was finished at about 9:15. I tell you this because I want to help you get a picture of an artist standing alone working on the somewhat quiet, still morning beach…where I was approached by a Jehovah’s Witness who attempted right then and there to save my lost soul! I realize that I am out working in public and people are interested in what I do and I genuinely don’t mind taking the time to chat. But do not interrupt my work to try to push your religious views on me. I will be very rude to you! “Hempstead Harbor” is already sold.

“A Walk On The Beach” was painted on a very hot day on the northernmost tip of Caumsett State Park. It is what I feel is a typical view of what the North Shore of Long Island looks like and is still available for sale.

“Sunday Morning Field 5” 11 X 14 oil on canvas was painted last Sunday down at City Stadium in Glen Cove, NY. I was riding around in the plein air mobile looking for something to paint when I was taken by the red uniforms of the kids (yes, both teams wore red) against the green trees. I spent a great deal of my youth down at this stadium playing Little League baseball and am always amazed by how little the place has changed in 45 years. It is always such a nice feeling to be there. This painting is sold.

“Front Lit” 9 X 12 oil on canvas was done as a demo for my regular Thursday night class. It was done quickly and very loosely and I was very happy with the result, in particular the warm feeling of the light on the green foliage. “Front Lit” is still available.

Weather permitting I plan to head out tonight for my first nocturne of the year down at the Long Island Rail Road station in Locust Valley and, weather permitting again, might head out to the Hamptons tomorrow to do a small commission and try to get in some other painting while in the area. Check back soon to view these pieces. And thanks, as always, for your interest in my work.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Plein Air Easton 2011

(Warning…long blog post…but a good one!)

Photograph of me working on "Old Point Dawn" which appeared on the cover of "The Star Democrat"...a local Easton newspaper.

Easton! How I love the sound of that word. Every year the town of Easton, Maryland hosts the biggest, most popular and well run plein air event on the East Coast. 2011 was the 7th year of the event and the Avalon Foundation has every aspect of running this mammoth undertaking down pat. No issue is too large or too small for this great organization.

Plein Air Easton is a competition with a $20,000 prize fund so it attracts some of the best painters from around the country. This year even included two wonderful painters from the UK. Admission is juried and I am proud to have even been juried in to the event for 2 years in a row.

The artists arrive on a Sunday evening and have their panels stamped. As I said before, this is a competition and any paintings that are to be considered for an award must be produced during the 4 days allotted for painting and must have a competition stamp. Actual competition begins after the panels are stamped and some artists could certainly be found out on the street on Sunday night!

(Please note that some of the images that follow were taken with my cell phone camera which is not the greatest quality camera but they are the only decent images that I managed to get from the event.)

The competition began for me early on Monday morning at a place called Tilghman Island which is a working fishing village at the end of the peninsula. I started painting at about 7:30 and 2 hours later had my first canvas packed up in my wet panel carrier.

“Crow Brothers III” 12 X 12 oil on canvas.

This was a good start for me. At last years event I scraped off both of my Monday paintings but I was pretty happy with this one. A number of people make their property available to the artists to paint on and, from Tilghman, I took a short drive to one such property, the magnificent Grafton Manor. Here I battled the rising afternoon heat and managed to come up with my 2nd painting of the day.

“Monday Afternoon” 9 X 12 oil on canvas.

Easton MD is on what is referred to as the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Plein Air Easton runs during the 2nd to last week of July and, as such…it is HOT…and it just keeps getting HOTTER! Temperatures were in the high 90’s with humidity around the same and dew points in the mid to upper 70’s! My plan, which I was somewhat able to follow, was to paint early in the day, head back to my host family’s home during the mid-day hours and then head out again in the evening.

Tuesday morning found me back early at Grafton Manor to have a look at a quintessential Eastern Shore motif which I had stumbled on the day before but felt would look better in the morning light. It seems that everyone along the shore has erected osprey nests just off of the shoreline and these ospreys barely tolerated my presence for the 2 hours it took me to paint them.

“Eastern Shore” 14 X 11 oil on canvas.

My plan to paint a stand of pines along the Choptank River on Tuesday evening was thwarted by Mother Nature dropping a strong thunderstorm on me. Ah yes…the vagaries of painting out of doors.

Wednesday morning found most if not all of the artists taking advantage of an invitation to paint at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum which has a wonderful collection of old working boats and buildings just begging to be painted. I arrived early enough to still have the sunrise in front of me casting warm orange glitter on the calm water.

“Old Point Dawn” 12 X 16 oil on canvas.

No rain on Wednesday night so I managed to grab my pines which I loved in the late day sun. (Unfortunately, this is probably the worst photographed image of the lot but it is the best that I have of what I felt was my favorite painting of the week).

“Trappe Pines” 9 X 12 oil on canvas.

Painting within the Easton town limits was a requirement on Thursday and, fortunately for me, this field of banded Galloways is just within the Easton town limit. I remembered some paintings of the cows from last year and had ridden past them a day or two earlier, excitedly making a mental note to stop and paint them on Thursday morning.

“Banded Repose” 9 X 12 oil on canvas.

The event hosted a lunch for us on Thursday at a facility called Londonderry which boasts a picturesque river, manor house and some lovely gardens. Unfortunately I do not have an image of the painting which I did there.

Plein air events such as these are made possible by the very generous hospitality of local people who are kind enough to open up their homes to us for the week. I have stayed with the same couple for the past two years who call a magnificent waterfront estate home. I was particularly fond of their herb garden which lines the fence along the driveway. I have never seen rosemary like this in my life!

Every day when I left I lightly rubbed my hand over the tops of this bush for good luck and for the added pleasure of smelling the fragrance on my hand for the rest of the day! It is traditional for artists to leave behind a painting for their hosts as a token of appreciation. I painted the sunset from their lawn and left that behind for them. Unfortunately I do not have an image of this painting because it was my second favorite of the week.

Paintings are delivered to the Academy Art Museum on Thursday evening for the competition which opens during the collectors preview on Friday night. There is a great feeling of relief returning from the drop off as most of the week’s work is complete. We are allowed to submit ten paintings for the show (I only managed to get seven done). Two of the ten are chosen by us as our competition pieces. These are hung one above the other and in alphabetical order by artist through two rooms. I think there were 56 artists which means there were a total of 112 competition paintings hanging! The judge then makes his rounds of the room selecting from the displayed work which he feels deserve the awards. As these paintings are sold they are immediately taken off of the wall and replaced with another from our stock which were stored in two libraries upstairs.

The opening commences at 6PM on Friday night when the artists and their guests arrive. This is the first time we all get to see what we all have produced during the week and we are asked to vote on what we feel is the best piece produced by a colleague…The Artists Choice Award.

At 6:45 un-ticketed guests are asked to leave and the collectors (who have bought tickets costing $150 a piece!) are allowed in. Next to Christmas Eve this has become my most favorite time of the year. The people of Easton love this event and are very generous in their support of it. Red dots, which denote sold paintings, begin to explode all over the walls. My competition pieces sold simultaneously at about 7:15.

By the end of the first night I had sold 4 paintings!

Saturday is the Quick Draw. We have from 10AM until 12 noon to paint within a specified area of town. The Quick Draw is another very exciting event for the artists and the locals who can wander around and watch us work. For the second year in a row I am proud to say that I sold my Quick Draw before it was finished! At 12 noon it is brushes down, get the painting in a frame and rush over to Harrison Street where we all set up shoulder to shoulder for the paintings to be judged and awards handed out.

“Green Market II” 12 X 12 oil on canvas.

I am sorry to say that I was not able to equal my success at the Cranford event by winning an award. However I am very proud to say that my last available painting sold from the Academy on Saturday night! Eight painting in five days and all sold. I believe that I was the only artist who sold out which meant I didn’t have to wait until 5PM on Sunday to pick up any that were left over. I went to the hosted brunch at another magnificent estate on the river, returned to the house to fetch my belongings and bid farewell to my hosts and was on the road back to NY by 1PM on Sunday afternoon.

Plein Air Easton 2011! There is nothing to compare to it and I hope to be able to return next year for PA-E 2012!

Monday, June 13, 2011


I am just back from participating in Cranford New Jersey’s “Paint The Town 2011” Plein Air Event and I won’t drag out the suspense until the end…I was awarded the competition 3rd prize! More on that later.

The Cranford event this year boasted a very strong roster of accomplished award winning artists from all over the East Coast and as far away as MN. We arrived on Tuesday afternoon, checked in at the event HQ, got our canvases stamped and then checked in with our host families.

Wednesday was the first day of painting and it was a hot one! It was the first of two “Extended Region” days which meant that we did not have to paint in the Cranford area. The organizers arranged for a bus to take us in to New York City. The bus dropped us at 77th Street and Central Park West. Almost all of the artists gravitated toward Central Park. Below is my painting of Bethesda Fountain which is just about in the middle of the park off of 72nd street.

Thursday was “Extended Region” day 2 which allowed us to paint at numerous locations on the Jersey Shore. It was even hotter on Thursday than it was on Wednesday and I arrived on the Asbury Park boardwalk at 7 AM in the hopes of finding some shade and some cool breezes off of the ocean. That part of my plan worked well. What I did not anticipate was the presence of many hungry horse flies that had a particularly strong appetite…for me! I managed to stick it out for two and a half hours painting the view looking north along the boardwalk. I titled it “Greetings from Asbury Park” after the Bruce Springsteen album. This is the painting which won 3rd prize.

After finishing up at Asbury Park I headed north a bit to Belford which has a lovely harbor full of working fishing boats. This is a 12 X 16 that I did as quickly as I could because the heat was becoming too much to bear!

Saturday was the “Quick Draw” where we were given 2 ½ hours to complete a painting in a small radius in downtown Cranford. Those of you who know me well know that 2 ½ hours is a long time for me to complete a painting on site. We had to deal with the first rainy day of the week but I managed to get a nice result painting the spire of the Presbyterian Church against the gray sky. The painting sold before I could get a photo of it but a local man shot it for me and will email it to me. I’ll include it in a later post.

All of the above paintings are available for sale from my website

Monday, April 25, 2011

Dancing Trees

Spring! Is there a more welcome word for someone who paints out doors? While I did do my share of painting out side this past winter, and did enjoy it very much, there really is nothing like the prospect of bright colors and warmer temperatures to get the heart beating a bit faster.

Two weeks ago I was interviewed with regards to a plein air event where I will be participating in Cranford, NJ. We thought it would be nice to get a couple of pictures of me set up outside with my gear while flailing a brush around. We took a two minute drive to Bailey Arboretum which is basically around the corner from my house. The idea wasn’t for me to actually paint but to just get some posed plein air shots.

It was a pretty gray day but I was immediately taken with the fresh bright moss at the base of the trees along the pond and made a mental note to return the following week. I went back late in the afternoon on a bright sunny day and loved not only the bright moss but the shadows moving across the tree trunks. I have already posted this painting to my Facebook page and many people commented that it looked as though the trees were dancing. I like to think that I am always open to suggestion so “Dancing Trees” it is!

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Primary Ingredients

A word of warning…never set up to paint the ingredients you plan to use for dinner that night!

I have grown to really love cooking. I love all of the shapes, colors and textures of the ingredients and the feel of the tools. I love all of the preparatory work and the act of cooking and then sitting down to eat what I have made.

It occurred to me that a “food” still life might be just the ticket. Everything is gray and brown out doors and after looking for someplace to paint on Saturday and early Sunday I decided to instead move indoors and set up a still life.

I had already been shopping for what I was going to make Sunday night and had many different ingredients to choose from. I grabbed my cutting board, my old Chicago Cutlery knife, some fresh parsley and a lemon, a tomato and garlic and set it all up in my studio.

The problem was that I had intended to get the painting done “alla prima” or in one sitting thus making my ingredients available later for dinner. Unfortunately this was not the case but I thought this was OK as all I really had to replace was the lemon. I ran to the local food market just as they were getting ready to close, bought my replacement lemon, and headed for home confident that my troubles were over.

Wrong again! I started to get set up when I remembered that my cutting board and favorite knife were still set up downstairs and could not be disturbed. So, no problem, I can improvise. I used the back side of my wooden pizza peel as a cutting board and my less than favorite inexpensive Sabatier knife. Everything was moving along fine until I came up about a tomato short of the required 2 cups of diced tomatoes. As the local market was now closed I had no choice but to raid my still life for the necessary ingredient.

Monday morning found me at the market early to purchase my replacement tomato and the painting was finished without further inconvenience to either my self or any of my “models”.

The title of the painting, “Primary Ingredients”, refers to the fact that the three so called “primary colors” red, yellow and blue are all present here at full strength.

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Alone On The Beach

Here I am pushing winter aside again on a day when I hear that some of my FaceBook friends in Vermont are suffering through 2+ feet of snow! There is nothing like that happening here today but it is still not ideal outside painting weather.

This painting was started last summer during a one day trip to the Fire Island National Seashore. It was a great day with an even greater sky and I love a sky full of summer day cumulous clouds. The conditions didn’t allow me to finish it on site that day but I finally had the chance to get a little more paint on it as well as pick out some of the sand particles that had blown into it while on site.

My family and I used to vacation on Fire Island when I was younger and, in some ways, I think I have been painting this particular view in my mind for many years. It’s nice to finally see it on canvas!

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Winter Recedes

The winter of 2010/2011 marks the first time I drummed up the courage (and invested in the clothing) which allowed me to get outside and paint in the cold and snow. And we had cold and snow this past winter…plenty of both. All in all it was a great experience and I don’t regret a single moment of it.

But I love to see the grass come through the melting snow! The promise of warmer weather; no more snow shoveling, no more cold, getting the herb garden going and grabbing my gear to head out to paint while feeling the warm sun and the warm breezes and breathing the fresh un-frozen air. Plein air painting is a year round pursuit and I love every aspect of it. I just happen to prefer the warmer weather.

We are not there yet but the accumulated 30+ inches of snow that we received this past winter is melting, leaving wonderfully juxtaposed patterns of cold white and warm fallow orangey greens. It is nature’s annual promise of better things to come.

This wonderful view is not a bucolic farm field in upstate NY. In fact it is far from it. This is just off of the South Service Road and within sight of Route 495 better known to us locals as the Long Island Expressway. The LIE bisects Long Island horizontally and runs straight from the Queens end of the Midtown Tunnel (which runs under the East River straight into New York City) all the way out to Riverhead which sits in the crotch of the North and South forks of the Island. One of those little jewels of old Long Island farmland which now overlooks one of the busiest highways in the country.

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.

Monday, January 31, 2011


40F! On the last day of January! Painting weather, so, naturally, I headed out to Caumsett State Park on Lloyd Neck to paint with a couple of my painting buddies. I even left my heavy insulated coat at home because I just didn’t think I’d need it which turned out to be true.

The hard part was getting to where I wanted to paint which is about a mile, or halfway to the beach, up what’s called the Fisherman’s Road. However, the Fisherman’s Road had not been plowed which is great news to the many, many cross country skiers and snow shoe enthusiasts but not welcome news to a somewhat overweight ex-smoker of over 30 years further bogged down with an easel a backpack and wet panel carrier.

We followed the tracks left by the snow shoes which were somewhat packed down but every ten feet or so one or the other of my legs broke through the packed snow and I sank in to about knee depth. Believe me when I tell you that it doesn’t take long before you get tired of this happening. I feel like I pulled the muscles in both legs!

If you read my blog often then you know that I don’t mind exerting unusual effort to get to a good painting spot and yesterday’s location did not disappoint. Great color and composition awaited me as did those wonderful two hours of painting in the muffled silence of a winter’s day.

However, there then loomed the prospect of the walk back…

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Clear Creek

This was fun for me to do. It was painted from a photograph taken by my friend Jack Sasson who lives in Colorado. Our families have been friends since before I was born. In fact I still call his folks Aunt Hilda and Uncle Jack. Jack shoots great images out in Colorado and he and I recently hooked up on Facebook where we get the chance to mutually admire each others work.

I am also friends with a number of plein air painters who live near where Jack lives. Because of the way Facebook works the painters were able to see Jack’s photos and have taken to inviting him along when they go out to paint. I am thrilled to know that they have all gotten together but just a bit frustrated that I can’t join in! I was in Colorado once and remember it being one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I look forward to the day, hopefully soon, when I can join them.

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Plein Air Still Life

I would like to be a better still life painter but find that I suffer from one major drawback in this area…I hate setting them up! I hate finding elements that I think will look nice: perhaps tell a story, getting everything arranged, getting the light just right, etc. It all feels phony and contrived. I much prefer to stumble on elements that are in their natural setting, that have a perfect light upon them and that do tell a story simply because they are where they are supposed to be and at the precise time when they are supposed to be there.

I wondered if the fact that I can’t really be bothered to take the time to compose and set up the elements to make a perfect still life suggested that I had a streak of laziness running through me. But I have decided that this cannot be the case as I am willing, instead, to wrap myself in every warm garment I can lay my hands on (including my father’s old sailing coat which is a USCG approved personal flotation device and, as such, is the most wonderfully insulated coat ever conceived!) and head out into cold temperatures and even colder wind chills in the hopes of stumbling upon my perfect plein air still life.

I think this is why I have been doing all the tree paintings of late. The primary reason is that I love trees, I love their character and the way light hits them and how they all have such stories to tell. I have also decided that I am tired of always looking off into the distance for a wide panoramic view when there might be something just as beautiful right at my feet.

I set out a bit late in the day this past Saturday to do some painting. As I drove to my location there was a nice warm sun throwing great light and shadow on the trees and the snow. However one glance at the sky was enough to tell me that the sun wouldn’t last long, that it was just a temporary break through some gathering clouds. I had to get off of the plowed road and hike through some knee deep snow to get to the location that I felt offered good prospects for a nice painting. I had just about finished setting up when I noticed this wonderful warm glow in the sky beyond my horizon trees and I worked very quickly to get that established before it disappeared. I only had about an hour on this small painting as when the light started to diminish so did the temperature!

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Full Time

Noted landscape painter Stapleton Kearns recently wrote something to the effect that if one is an on site landscape painter and one only works during the warm weather months then one is only working part-time!

I loved this quote and took it as a challenge. I read the above in an article Kearns had written in one of the art magazines about painting outside in the winter. In the article he made many suggestions, both of a technical and practical nature, to help make what could be an arduous and very uncomfortable experience more comfortable and productive.

I followed a lot of his advice, not the least of which was the purchase of a pair of boots which are so well insulated that they claimed to keep my feet toasty warm in temperatures as low as -94 F! I also purchased my first ever pair of glomitts which are a kind of mitten that folds back to expose finger-tip-less gloves.

Clad in my new boots, my fathers old sailing coat (which is actually a well disguised personal floatation device and, as such, is incredibly well insulated) my earmuffs and my bright orange wool cap I set out last Sunday for The Planting Fields Arboretum which is not far from my house. My thermometer read 29 F which is not too cold…well within the advertised range of my new boots…but there was a stiff breeze, which I estimate to have been in the 20MPH range, bringing the wind chill down into the teens.

All in all I was outside of my car for two hours. I painted for about an hour and a half. Unfortunately the view which really inspired me also called for me to face straight into the cold northwest wind but, if I like what I see, I set up and paint it and worry about the comfort consequences later.

I am happy to report that my feet never came close to feeling cold. In fact the only parts of me that did get cold were my face and my fingertips and the fear of frost bite finally caused me to pack up and head for the warmth of the car.

But what a brilliant experience I had! Standing out in a field alone, painting on a cold January morning with a beautiful snow covered view stretched out before me. This is something I have thought about mustering the courage to do for quite some time and I am so glad that I finally did it. Thanks Stape, now I’m a full-timer!

Shown here are the sketch (above) which I did on site that morning and the same view worked up in the studio (below) which I painted while working from my sketch as well as photographs shot that morning.

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.