Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Angel Oak...continued

     After stumbling upon the Angel Oak tree this summer, and doing some initial charcoal drawings, I decided that I needed to do a few paintings of it. There's obviously something very magnetic about this tree, and being that I periodically have done paintings and drawings of trees in the past, it seemed like a logical next step. There doesn't seem anything less quintessentially Southern than an old Live Oak tree at the end of a dirt road, surrounded by Spanish moss and dappled with sunlight. I'm trying to investigate ways to embrace this dramatic shift in my location, to seek out scenes and spaces that contain a specificity of place. It would seem like complete denial of my circumstances to try and recreate what I had painted in Brooklyn...urban street scenes, old warehouses, or port scenes. Not that those kind of things aren't down here...I guess I want to break free of being "the industrial landscape guy". I was talking to a local artist the other day, and he was saying that I might have a certain advantage depicting the landscape here. He was relating how, having lived here his whole life, the typical Low-country scene is burned in his mind...visions of herons and pelicans silhouetted by sunsets, Spanish Moss covered trees, and marshes with rickety old boats bobbing around. For him, it's hard to 'see' how it actually is anymore; imagery becomes clouded over by cliches. I found that an interesting observation, and also a challenge.
   The Angel Oak is this massive, hulking, beast of a tree. Legend has it that it might be up to 1500 years old, and as you drive down that dirt road, you feel as if you're entering another time and place. There's usually a pack of albino squirrels scampering across the road as I approach, to further heighten the sense of other-worldliness. It's quite a far drive from my house, usually about 30 minutes, which I do after the kids are dropped off at school. The tourists have slowly tapered off as we get later into the season here, and there are sometimes long stretches of time when it's just me and the tree. I actually have gotten used to the people who visit, mostly enjoying the sense of wonder and awe that they display when seeing it for the first time.  The usual pictures are taken, with similar poses, and the people are so polite here that they actually ask to look at my painting.  Of course I don't mind, and sometimes chat it up for a little bit with people...I usually say jokingly, that I'm participating in the Angel Oak Artist in Residency Program.

charcoal on paper, 22" x 30"

   This first one I based off a drawing I did over the summer. I decided to keep the trunk of the tree right around the center point of the painting; dead on and symmetrical. I scaled the size of the painting off the drawing and transferred it at home with black paint on an earth-toned canvas. This was the progress after about 3 sessions, each for about 2.5-3 hours:

21" x 28"

     This is the state it's in now, tightened up a bit, but with the light changing quickly as we approach the winter solstice:

     This one is the clear day picture, which is really tricky to paint because of the shifting light. Dappled light is always so hard to paint from life, so I have to work in different zones of the painting at different times. I can anticipate when the light will shift from branch to branch, so I end up working in a specific order around the canvas. I usually have only a few hours before fatigue or light conditions force me to stop.  The position of the earth has shifted so much over the few months I've been working on it, it's almost a different painting. Today while I was painting, I noticed a crop of ferns had sprouted all over a large part of the tree since my last painting session. It's amazing that something so seemly static, upon further inspection, contains so much flux.

   I decided to start this one for working on overcast days, which in theory should be a little easier, because the light and shadows aren't constantly shifting. This one was done from about 20 feet to the left of the first one, because I liked how it showed the tree's canopy shifted to one side. Most of the branches splay out toward the road and are reaching in the same direction. With this overcast one, I'm thinking that I might add some other panels to the top and sides of the canvas to incorporate the full extent of the branches and the overhead canopy. As I start this one, I feel as if I'm stepping into a long commitment with the painting and the tree...it feels crazy and stupid and complex and beautiful all at the same time. After each painting session, there is always something lacking, something that keeps evading me, which brings me back. When I look from the canvas to the tree and compare the two, there is this massive gap which I'm trying to close. It's impossible and maddening, yet each time I work, it seems to just barely slip away, so that the next time, I'm sure I can pin it down. I want these paintings to have a very specific, over-all clarity; a way to describe each individual branch as it extends into space and how the light fills the gaps in between.
     Fortunately, the Live Oak doesn't drop it's leaves in winter, so it's overall appearance won't change too much. I might be forced to stop painting for awhile due to the cold, in which case I'll have to resume the work next spring.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Wood and Water...some new Charleston Paintings

I've got a bunch of new paintings in the works. I'm so happy that I'm able to paint this late in the year down here. Up north, I'd usually stop painting outside around the 1st week in November, when the temps usually dip below 50 degrees. It's still around 65 or 70 degrees here, so I'll see how long this lasts. I'm loving the light that Fall brings...long shadows tinged with blue and violet.

21" x 14"
   This is the 3rd one I've done of the four posted marker near the Pitt Street bridge. I decided to switch the orientation of the canvas to a vertical, to emphasis the upward thrust of the scaffolding. This painting went through many incarnations...the tide and the cloud cover fluctuating ever time I went. I've noticed that the tide varies significantly in relation to the equinox (I guess this is something that seems obvious when you think about it).  When I started the painting at the end of September, it was a much lower, 'low tide' than the recent painting sessions I had last week...one of the many things I'm getting acquainted with in this new landscape. One day while working on this one I realized my attraction to the structure; it reminded me of the support scaffolding for the 'Kentile Floors' sign across from my old studio in Brooklyn, the one that I did so many paintings of.

13" x 19.5"
   Started this one of a boat launch, which I thought would be an interesting subject matter. I liked the way the posts formed a small cove in the mid-ground, with the strong verticals and horizontals playing off each other.  I'm drawn to finding these instances of structure amidst the flux of nature; places like this where man-made things are used as a guide or a way to navigate through the elements...docks, posts, or beacons in the water.

15" x 22.75"

   This one is of our backyard, and was done in the early morning, between 8-11 when the light was low and raking through the trees. This angle caught my eye because it had both the tree house and part of our house in it, with a valley of shadow between them, silhouetting this wonderful array of greenery in the background. 

   I'm working on a large painting of the Angel Oak, which is going to be a 'slow' painting...perhaps I'll post an 'in progress' version here soon. I've made a bunch more canvases and have been scoping out numerous spots to paint in the coming months. Check back soon for more updates...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The old Pitt Street Bridge

   I've begun to settle into a groove again with my work. Our routine of getting the kids off to school is getting more familiar, and it usually leaves me with most of the morning to draw or paint. I'm starting to gravitate to certain motifs since I've been here...wood (the oak trees), stone (the patio drawings), and these paintings with water. I did these at a spot about 5 minutes from our house, at the old Pitt Street bridge.  It's a long causeway that used to connect Mt. Pleasant (where we live) to Sullivan's Island (the beach), via a train, long ago. The train no longer operates, and it no longer connects the two land masses, but it is a really beautiful spot, where I like to go fishing, crabbing and watch the sunset.

11" x 16.5"
   I knew I wanted to do some paintings here, but I wanted to avoid the typical, sentimental maritime scene. The landscape here is so different from New York; it's flat, atmospheric, and well,...beachy. This four-posted marker caught my attention. I guess I need some structure to ground me, and I found it in this platform rising over the water. I like the fact that it continues with some of the previous motifs I had been working with, like the wood pile paintings from Asheville and the drawings of the pavers in our backyard. There's something about this ladder rising out of murky water that resonates with me...perhaps it's the religious implications.  Also, one night while watching the sun set behind downtown Charleston, I enjoyed seeing a large group of kids climb to the top of this platform (the bolder ones to the top of the tower, about 20 feet above the water) and jumping off into the water. The parents were there egging them on from a nearby boat, and being that it was high tide, they had enough water below them to keep from hitting bottom. It was such a joyous site, seeing those kids having so much fun...it's the kind of thing you can only do as a child, with an equal mix of fear and rapture.

13" x 19.5"
   I like the patterns that the posts and reflections make in the water; a cat's cradle of positive and negative forms. There's also something quite garish, yet beautiful, about the color of the treated wood sitting in that murky water...it brought back memories of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn.
   The one thing I was reminded of while doing these, is how tricky water is to paint. Not only is the appearance subject to the shifting light and wind, but the tide becomes a factor, too. Over the course of a painting session, the water level would either ascend or descend those posts.  I had to rework the water level every time I painted, which was over 3 or 4 different days...it basically forces the issue of keeping the painting loose and fresh.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Angel Oak

charcoal on paper, 22" x 30"
About a month ago, as my family and I were returning from a day at the beach on Kiawah Island, we passed a small sign pointing down a dirt road. "The Angel Oak" it said, with an arrow. As we passed by, my wife said that she'd heard of it before, that it's a giant Oak tree (Live Oak). So...we turn the car around and head about a half mile down the dirt road.

The kids are beat and whiney, too tired to get out of the car. Faith and I go, to see probably one of the most amazing living trees in the world. It's estimated to be about 300-400 years old; quite an awesome site, with branches drooping down through the ground and back out again. I knew I had found a new muse...

The first time I went back, I haul all my gear out and bring it over to the base of the tree. While checking out different angles to draw from, the lady who runs the gift shop comes out and says I have to set up my equipment outside the canopy's perimeter. This threw me off, because I was planning on doing some drawings up close to the tree, cropping the limbs as they splayed out from the trunk. Sometimes it's better to work under certain limitations though, so I stepped back further away, using the trunk as the focal point.

charcoal on paper, 22" x 30
One of my favorite angles depict the limbs being propped up at various spots by metal jacks. I was attracted to the un-naturalness of it; how 'artificial' this made the tree seem. The supported limbs are meant to preserve the tree from collapsing, along with various limbs being held up with cables. Part of this is meant to preserve it from storm, but it's also prolonging the tree's lifespan. It made me think that without our help, this tree probably would have started crumbling and breaking long ago...it keeps on growing and living in exchange for our use as a 'shrine'.

charcoal on paper, 22" x30"
I plan to go back and start a painting soon, but for now I'll leave you with this very wise, beautiful, and witty story, from the 3rd century BC:

    A woodworker named Stone traveled to Ch'i. When he got to Ch'u-yuan, he saw a great chestnut tree that served as a village shrine. Large enough to shade thousands of oxen, it was a hundred spans around and rose high as a mountain, it's lowest branches some eighty feet above the ground. More than a dozen of these lower branches were large enough to be hollowed out into boats. Sightseers were packed together like at the marketplace. Woodworker Stone barely gave it a glance, continuing along his way without looking back. But his apprentices couldn't keep from gawking, then had to run to catch up. One said, "Since we took up our axes to follow you, Master, we've never seen such beautiful material. But you didn't give it it a second look! You went right on by. How can this be?"
   "Enough!" Stone cried. "Don't talk about it. That wood is trash. Make a boat from it and the boat will sink. For coffins, it rots too fast. For utensils, it's too brittle. It keeps too much sap to use for a gate or door. Make a pillar, and it will attract worms. It's not good timber for anything. It can't be used. That's how it got so old."
   After the woodworker returned home, the great tree appeared to him in a dream, saying, "You compare me to cultivated trees, the hawthorne, the pear, the orange, all the shrubs and trees that bear fruit? When their fruit is ripe they're stripped, peeled, and generally abused, big branches broken off, little ones dripping sap from wounds. They have a wonderful ability to make a miserable life of usefulness. The string of their days and years cut off, they are beaten and torn by unruly saps. So it is for all things in the world. That's why I strive to master the arts of uselessness. Although it nearly killed me, I've got it now. It's really useful to me. If I were of any use, do you suppose there'd be any chance for me to have grown so large? You and I are both things. Why pass judgement? You're a man born to die. Are you mere trash? Why call me trash?
   When the woodworker Stone awakened, he told his apprentices about his dream.
   "It it's trying so hard to be useless, why has it become a shrine?" they wanted to know.
   "That's a secret," Stone replied. "Don't mention it to anyone. It's just pretending. This way it can also be protected from people who don't appreciate uselessness. It it weren't portraying a shrine, it might still be cut down and cut up. It hides its difference from others. You might honor it for the nobility of its intentions, but that might be going a bit too far."

* from the Essential Chuang Tzu, translated by Sam Hamill and J.P. Seaton, Shambala publications 1998

Thursday, August 18, 2011


11" x 16.5"

I just got back from our yearly visit to Cloud Nine Farm, in Asheville, NC. We spent 10 days there, enjoying the cooler weather and relaxing with family and friends. I brought my paints and a few canvases, and was able to finish these two. I decided to work early in the morning, from about 6:30 to 8:30 am, because the light was less harsh, and it wouldn't take away from any of the family activities we had planned later in the day. There's something wonderful about getting up at dawn; a certain quietness that is only broken by the sounds of the birds and cows. 

These paintings depict the timber at the entrance to the farm; stacked logs and various wood debris in different piles. Most of the timber was from another spot on the farm where I did a painting the previous year. I went back to that spot and saw the cavity where those trees once stood. I probably could have spent the entire summer here, painting variations on this same theme. Surprisingly, I found it to be a continuation of the drawings I did of our patio before we left; building materials in different states of completion and 'finish'. Both of them I did over consecutive days, each one taking about 4 hours in total.  I love how I was able to capture the full moon in the distance on this one, and how it echoes the circle shape of the log ends:

12" x 18"

Friday, August 5, 2011

Backyard landscape

Our backyard has been going through some major upheaval lately. We're in the process of laying down a new patio, which has included: digging and cutting through some major root systems, moving dirt, bringing in sand, rock and pavers, and positioning new plants throughout the yard. In addition to that, I just completed a tree house for the kids, which was very satisfying, but brutal work in this summer heat. This seemed like a subject matter to make some art about..

I had initially started a small painting of the backyard, which I worked on for a few days.  As I was painting, however, I started focusing more on the various stacks of pavers, tools, and trees scattered around the yard. It seemed like something that would be better captured with drawing rather than painting...mostly because the forms kept changing from day to day, as the workers moved the bricks and tools around.  I needed to finish these quickly, with the backyard being in such a state of flux. I found working on these so exciting, mostly because the arrangement of the piles and forms that I was drawing were out of my control; their organization depended solely on what state the jobsite was left at the end of the day. Each day I was offered a new configuration of the space which I could then draw later that night.

I started all of these at dusk, working on them for about an hour before the sunset, then returning in the early morning, just after dawn, to work for a few more hours. It was a strange sensation to draw with the fading light and then resuming the next day...kind of like very slowly squinting at what was in front of me, with the reverse in the morning.  For now, I've found this the best time to work because it's way too hot at any other time of day, and I avoid the shifting shadows caused by the light coming through the trees.

There's something analogous happening with the construction of the drawing and the construction of the landscape, too. Site lines and level lines are being employed to mark off the space, patterns are being 'drawn' in the ground with the pavers, and materials are being pushed around on the surface of a plane.  The methodical nature of the process is very similar to the construction of a drawing...I guess that's why I find building things so wonderful to watch and do. I also enjoy framing the contrast of the geometric and organic forms: trees sitting in containers, brick edges meeting sand, bark patterns set against lumber.

I'll be leaving for our annual vacation to Asheville next week, where I hope to do some small paintings. For now, these drawings seem just what I needed to document this window in time. They'll probably be finished with the work by the time I get back (hopefully) and I can resume with some more paintings of our house.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A New Home (continued)

Charcoal on paper-22" x 30"
Here are few more drawings that I've been doing of our new house. Not much to say about these...just trying to keep my eyes and hand active while I'm taking a break from painting. My time has been more limited this summer due to the adjustment from our move and the kids being out of school. I find myself dealing with the annoyances of a new home and a big move: researching termite bonds, buying a second car, numerous visits to the DMV, etc. I did get a great, out of print monograph on Fairfield Porter by John Spike, which I've been pouring over almost every night. (which is probably very obvious from these drawings) I miss the paint but am having fun with these....enjoy!



Charcoal on paper- 22" x 30"

Monday, June 13, 2011

A New Home

charcoal on paper, 22" x 30"

     So we're starting to settle in down here in Charleston...the boxes are disappearing and we're finding our way around...I mostly feel like I'm on vacation, with lots of visits to the beach and eating lots of seafood. The home we bought is truly stunning: designed and built for efficiency, it's beauty and craftsmanship amaze me. It seems like a logical place for me to start...a stepping stone back into my art. I'm consciously beginning this new chapter with drawings, similar to the ones I was doing when I left Brooklyn. I think it's here that I can search and find my bearings...a space to find my place.

pencil drawing from sketchbook
      Our house is newly built (2008) and the previous owners had barely lived in it. It's as close to a blank slate as can be, as opposed to our house in Brooklyn, where I literally demoed and stripped everything back and then rebuilt it. Almost every square inch of it I knew like the back of my hand: from behind the walls, where the wires and the pipes were, to how many layers of plaster were on the walls. I figure that I'll 'work' my way out from this space, exploring the landscape of our family and our re-location.

pencil drawing from sketchbook
     I've mostly started with pencil drawings in my sketch-book, the next step being larger charcoal versions. This new house reminds me of a quote I read by one of my favorite artists, Antonio Lopez Garcia, commenting on working in his new studio:

    "The building was new and it fascinated me. The sensation of standing before something new, surrounded by things that were totally new and without history, coincided with a period in my own life in which I wanted to break with the past. The conditions were perfect for me to undertake this project. For about five or six years I focused on depicting this space, over which I had complete control. The loneliness, the silence, the emptiness of the walls, the absence of other people's experiences and memories-it was all new to me...It was also practical for my way of working: I could leave my things as they lay and find them in exactly the same place from one day to the next, which allowed me to start each day in a spirit of calm."

     The artists I admire most tend to be the ones that use their everyday life and experiences as the subject matter for their art. Antonio Lopez-Garcia, Fairfield Porter, Alberto Giacometti, and Pierre Bonnard were all searching for that universal experience with Truth in the mundane and commonplace. We'll see where all this leads...

pencil drawing from sketchbook

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

last drawings of Brooklyn

Our Lady's Field (with Don's house)
      So over the past few weeks, after putting away the paints and the French easel, I've decided to focus on doing a series of drawings on paper, in charcoal. I figured for this last series, I would choose subjects that are familiar and close to me, the Brooklyn neighborhood where I have lived for the past 15 years, Windsor Terrace.

Flooded path in Prospect Park
     There's something about the act of drawing which brings me back to the essentials: line, shadow, form, and mark-making. I decided that I would do drawings of things that I see in my everyday life: the intersection where I go to get groceries and coffee, the path I walk along to take my kids to the playground, and the ball-field I pass to get back to my house. All of these were done on 22" x 30" paper, and executed with charcoal powder and charcoal pencil. Some of them were done in 'one shot'; that is, in about a 2-3 hour session, on site, with a portable easel. Others required more time, so I worked on them over several days, usually in 2 hour stints.

16th Street and Prospect Park West (NW corner)
     One of the things that I love most about working from life, is this sense of being totally in the moment. Out there on the street, particularly at a busy intersection, you're just one element among thousands amidst the flux of life. At times, the honking cars, trucks blocking your view, passers-by stopping to look and ask questions, become a distraction and hinderance to the work, but they are also part of it's 'life-force', an experience I'm trying to capture.  This becomes particularly more heightened with drawing, rather than painting...probably because drawing is a simpler and more immediate act. There is a general sense of frenetic energy on the streets of Brooklyn which somehow seeps into the work.

16th Street and Prospect Park West (SW corner)
     Someone stopped to ask me why I just don't take a photo and draw it in my studio. The short answer to that: because I can't hear the birds chirping in my studio or observe the light sliding across the sidewalk. Being 'in the moment' is just as important to me as 'making a picture'. There is also a sense of continuity with my life that becomes apparent to me in these drawings: I'd see friends on the street that I knew, who didn't know my art, and were just floored that I was out there doing pictures of regular everyday Brooklyn. All sorts of people became my audience: the old lady on her way back to the assisted-living center down the street, the guy who works at the bagel shop around the corner, a local panhandler and neighborhood drunkard, the parent of a fellow student at my son's school. Somehow, the experience of being on site and in the mix of urban life, feeds the life of the drawing. With our move less than 2 weeks away, I feel time slipping away....like I should have been doing this work years ago. There are not enough days left to do all the drawings I want to do. Somehow, that makes them all the more vital, necessary and exciting...yet also, bittersweet and sad.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Upcoming Spring Exhibitions

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Monday, April 25, 2011

So long Red Hook

   Over the years, I've done a number of paintings in Red Hook, the waterfront port area of Brooklyn, close to my studio in nearby Gowanus. It's such an amazing place, with cobblestone streets, vast harbor views and an aging lot of brick warehouse buildings. It has the feeling of what I think New York must have been like a hundred years ago.

   I finished these 2 paintings today. I've had them in the studio for a awhile, where I'd pull them out, noodle around with them, and then turn them around again to face the wall for awhile. The big building featured in both, is an old grain terminal building, a huge massive structure which you can see from different spots along the Gowanus/Red Hook area. It's vacant now, and as far as I can tell, is not being used for anything. There's a concrete company operating next to it, and I'm sure it's only a matter of time before it's dismantled, leaving a void in the landscape.

  These will probably be the last paintings I do of Brooklyn, with our move to Charleston less than a month away. I might do a few more drawings of the neighborhood, but then it will be time to pack up the studio and collect myself for the move. I'm already planning a series of drawings of our new house, and I'm eager to jump in and explore new sites to paint in Charleston.  Stay tuned for info on some exhibitions I'll be participating in here in NY soon...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Kentile Floors (continued...)

14" x 21"

I finished 2 more paintings with the "Kentile Floors" sign. The first one is from my studio roof, where I'm able to get directly across from it, looking down slightly on the opposite roof. The other is from the same spot where I did some other paintings, looking at the sign from the back, a greater distance away. I like the idea of painting the letters in reverse...I'm going to try and search out more spots where I can see this.

The sign is such a landmark in the area...something people recognize and respond to. I've painted it so many times, and each time I do, I curse myself because all those tiny rods of the scaffolding are so intricate and difficult to paint. There's something about it that keeps bringing me back, though. It acts like a huge sun dial, casting long shadows on the roof while the chroma of the red letters fluctuates with the passing light.

Maybe because this winter has been so long and gloomy, but I've become really enamored with the light this March. The sun is still very low in the sky, which is causing these great long violet shadows, but it is also very bright and crisp.  Most of these recent paintings have been 'quick' ones....4-5 hours at the most. (Trying to get as much done of Brooklyn as I can before the move)

12" x 18"

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gowanus Canal

12" x 18"

Here's a few new paintings I just completed.  They were done fairly close to my studio, where 2nd ave. dead-ends by the canal. The future site of the new Whole Foods is off to the right...big news in the neighborhood over the past few years.  Long story short, Whole Foods bought a huge lot in Gownaus (3rd ave. and 3rd street), did some tests on the soil, found it to be completely contaminated with heavy metals and oil waste, dropped the project like a hot potato, then resumed a few years later after agreeing to do the millions of dollars clean up on the land. The entire canal area was designated a Superfund site last year, which caused a lot of uproar and heavy debating about the future of the area. All in all, I think the designation was the best option, allowing for the most realistic option for cleaning up the area. Well enough about that...I'm just a painter.

The spot I was painting from was in a really weird area: a dead end overlooking the canal. To my left was the Department of Sanitation lot, where they store the trucks, plows and salt; to my right, the garage and dispatch unit for those double decker buses that do the city sight seeing tours.  It's sometimes oddly comforting painting in locations like this. The hum of the machinery and activity adds to my sense of focus and purpose...I guess I just like painting alongside mechanics and construction workers, too. A lot of them usually come over and check out what I'm doing periodically...with the occasional "Yo, check out Picasso" or "Hey, it's Michaelangelo!" They probably think it the strangest thing in the world that I'm out there with an easel painting this shit-hole of a place.

As I was painting, all these tiny gnats were swarming around me, coming up from out of the ground at the edge of the canal. They kept getting stuck in the wet paint, which I would have to pick out later in the studio. I also ended up inhaling a bunch while I was out there....hopefully they weren't carcinogenic.

10" x 15"

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Gowanus-A Work in Progress

So I've got 4 new paintings started. The weather has been warmer, that is over 50 degrees, and has peaked around 70 for a few days here. I've found that the temps need to be above 50 for the paint to work right for me...any colder and it sort of beads up on the surface as the paint gets thinned out. I guess it's also a comfort thing...hard to paint when you can't feel your fingertips. The light is very beautiful right now, the sun's position causing sharp shadows with a slightly grey-blue-purple cast. The sun's still relatively low in the sky, but with the spring equinox and the time change, things are noticably changing. Actually, the most beautiful time I want to paint is at dusk...a golden light with the sky turning a deep cobalt color as the sun sets.

The canvases I've been working on are a proportion that I like; a ratio of 2:3. I've bracketed them incrementally: 10" x 15"; 12" x 18"; and 14" x 21". There's something pleasing about this relationship which works well in a landscape format. With smaller, quick paintings like these, I pre-determine the size, rather than working out the size based on a drawing or idea. For these, I've started with a sketch book drawing, then sized up from there, using a grid and an appropriate canvas. I'm working on half of them during overcast days, half on sunny days, this way whatever the weather, I've got a spot to go to and something to paint. Since they are relatively small, my goal is to finish them in about 2 or 3 sessions, with some extra fine tuning in the studio.

Sketch book study
It's starting to bother me how really disgusting the Gowanus Canal area is. I'm not sure if the garbage problem is getting worse or I'm just noticing it more. This sign is close to one of the locations I'm painting from:

I like how the color of the sign works well within the painting, but somehow the warning becomes more and more disturbing the longer I think about it. What a complete environmental disaster this place has become.

"Kentile Floors" in progress

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Charleston, SC

So, my time living in Brooklyn is officially coming to an end. Since the beginning of 2011, I began the long, tedious, and exhausting process of finishing up our house renovations, with the intent to sell. This basically has taken up all my physical and mental energy since January (hence my lack of painting and blog posting). The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of craziness: We put our house on the market February 20th, went down to Charleston for 2 weeks, found a house there that we fell in love with, signed a contract to buy it, found buyers for our house in Brooklyn, signed that contract, and found schools for our kids to attend. Now we're back, and as the dust settles, I've got a few months left to do some last paintings of Brooklyn.

Both my wife and I feel like we're in this weird in-between area: not quite here, not quite there. I'm really excited to move down there, and think this the boldest and best decision I've made in my life. Our goal is to set ourselves up with a lifestyle that will allow both my wife and I to make our art. Our plan is to build out an old industrial space, converting it into artists' studios, thereby creating some income and an artistic community, while giving us the time to pursue our art careers. There's definitely a need for more studio spaces there and we've heard some great things about the art scene in general. I won't go too much into it now, as we still have a lot of planning and work to do on that once we move down there, but we're excited about the possibilities.

I'm also looking forward to seeing how this new place will affect my painting. There are definitely some similarities with New York: they're both port cities, have a lot of old buildings and different architectural styles. The light is much brighter being further south, and warmer (much warmer in the summer!) Whereas New York is a vertical city, Charleston lies in the low country. I feel my orientation to the landscape will begin to change. I'm intrigued by getting to know and paint the downtown area too...it has an Old World type of feel, with different vegetation and trees. I also love the gigantic live oak trees covered with Spanish moss....I know those are going to be fantastic to draw and paint.

But, for the next few months I'm going to focus on Brooklyn. I've prepped these canvases in my studio, and am basically going to try and draw and paint as much of this city that I love and have called home for the past 15 years. Stay tuned for seeing the work in progress...