Month: July 2015

Matisse Was Right In Matters of Joy and Toasting Success


2015. Acrylic on Masonite®, 16 x 12″

I need to explain the genesis of this painting. It began in my mind long before brush touched board—actually, at dusk the day before I got up from bed on a harried-to-be morning with my plein air materials set at the door ready to go. I would teach myself to paint in the light of day. A month or two, whatever it took of daily jaunts out into nature to record what I sat down to see—my eyes, arm and left hand making interpretive copy of what was already right there in front of me. I walked down to the lake like an intense van Gogh, but unlike him in so many ways as to render me the most simpleton fool tool to the greatest of painting’s idiots. I set up on the rocks and commenced painting the view. I wish I had a picture snapped behind me. What was coming out on the canvas looked very similar to this photo taken last year.


I was set up outside on a beautiful spring day intent on painting my wish to keep the rain at bay. There is an expression from days gone by that if you can throw a cat through the clouds, then it will not rain. Meaning that somebody’s great great aunt heard that if a cat can fit inside a patch of blue sky, then she would not have to carry her umbrella to the corn fair.

My attempt in the photo didn’t last much longer. Seconds after the picture was taken I brushed over the board in heavy grays and black. I didn’t feel good about painting what I saw. So I finished the day enjoying the outdoors with my family and friends, and went home thinking of weather folklore. The next day in the studio I set up the largest canvas available and for the next week, commenced painting with my thoughts and only what the canvas beheld in front of me. Here is the result:

Don't Worry I Can Throw A Cat Through The Clouds

“Don’t Worry, I Can Throw a Cat Through the Clouds” 2014, 72 x 50″

I had no luck in the wild, but was thoroughly satisfied abiding by my own genius.

This post’s title painting was the forth and final attempt to paint a scene I saw on Monday morning. While there, painting the view, I had three unremarkable failures. I could have titled them: Straining, Impotence, and Self-doubt. For the rest of the day I felt awful, a great sham, a delusion unto myself, and a guilty criminal to loved ones who believe in me. What a heavy load. I scribbled the board in grays and blacks, and laid off painting for a day in order to follow through with promised summer chores, thinking often about my failure. And then at some point yesterday afternoon, Matisse popped into my head. Rather, words once uttered by him. I paraphrase: “I don’t paint what I see as much as what is in my mind.” Then a mantra silently repeated over and over again while making dinner, visiting with the family, and finally settling down on a hot night.

Up in the morning, down to the studio. I could not paint fast enough the scene of a couple days ago. Plein air just doesn’t work out for me. Maybe nature is what it is and only some form of torture can come to those who attempt imitation. I would rather paint the cat with a red halo being thrown out to the clouds, than struggle with strokes that make me feel like I’m having a stroke. So finally I can say after many years time, in matters of plein air painting, I know what I do not know, and that is a milestone joy worth toasting a glass to. Here’s to you Mr. Matisse!


I Want To Paint in a City That Needs Artists and Clowns


2015. Acrylic on canvas, 38 x 18″

I’ll know I have painted my own perfection the morning I can tell my wife, as we sip coffee in the window chair, that I have achieved the magic breeze, and sent the latest piece back to from where it came. The day I approach a blank canvas with the same confidence a journeyman plumber tightens a sink drain will be fine, yes, and may come in my lifetime. The magic breeze I am talking about visited the modern masters. Van gogh, Picasso, Philp Guston even… I am confident I could define it, if it ever came. Rembrandt? Velasquez? No magic breeze for them, nor anyone who painted for the pleasures of royalty or aspirations to universal perfection. They painted everyday with the constipation of desiring super-humanity, as if almost to declare another species unto themselves, while pleasing their commission, their patron merchant or king. Compared to today, try making a painting that would please the likes of a George W. Bush. One would have to sleep on a bed of used hot dogs for a month, bathe in chimichanga sauce, moan low over a toilet bowl, to finally produce a LeRoy Neiman horse-being-gelded masterpiece.

The modern masters felt the freedom enter their toes and flow through their bodies and out their eyeballs like spirit magic. I know it because I “feel” what needs to happen, but a guillotine slams the toe tunnel shut every time. And I paint with an increasing tightening in my forearms. The evening I finish a piece, raise a glass of blackberry wine to it, take it from the easel, hug it to my chest, run to the lake bluff to finally frisbee it off back to god… then I know I will have achieved the satori of modern masterhood.  Where will I be? When will it happen? I sure as hell won’t be on the Internet to yarn about it. Probably postmortem, as the wife frisbees my ashes off the lake bluff to Canada.

The Business of Art in Sub-Suburban Obscurity Is Next to McDonald’s on Highway 61


My front yard where the perambulators have died.

It is an oxymoron fit for a moron lemonade stand, yet I keep at it, like a duck addicted to quack. Why not? The work trucks pass by with Taylor Swift sound ripples on the wind, as the squirrels re-discover their nuts in the artist garden. There is always hope, and therein lies happiness. Cha-ching! Gagosian the elder discovered me while I was taking out the trash. He asked if I could pencil in a few weeks this fall for a Paris show. I told him flat out “no”, that he’ll have to wait in line behind the family out bike riding their safety helmets and the multiple heart attack man counting his strokes on a fast walk to another dinner of cheese and white bread.

Painters stop, go. No one is buying. No one at all. Can you hear the poleese? They’re beating the crap out of enthusiasm on Highway 61.


In Acadia You Weren’t Pregnant and I Couldn’t Draw a Crab in Existence


Acrylic on Masonite®, 12 x 16″

There you have it! The worst drawing ever of a crab by a man who would sell you a painting with only a slight blush. It’s what comes out of a non-photogenic mind while sketching dreams in a 5 x 7″ travel log. The other night I was called a fauvist at a gallery opening. The woman likened me to Andre Duran, who I never heard of, but told her the name would be easy to remember. Duran—half the name in my wife’s favorite childhood rock band. And André— a cheap New Year’s Eve sparkling wine. I’ll look him up now… Okay, it’s André Derain, and he was a Fauvist, although in the photography, he looks more tame than a collie. I would think a wild beast to look more like this:


Me, pretending to be a steam locomotive.

It was a kind compliment, but dead wrong.

Therefore, to better define my style for the critics, whose silence is deafening, I need to name my movement. I’ll put it into a Romantic language to give it some posh, and hope that most people forking over dough for my work do not speak Spanish.

Los Tontos Aficionados. That is, those of us who paint everyday, over many years time, and never get paid, yet still do it. That is, persisting in our folly, hoping to become wise, but really just persisting in our folly. And some of us think crabs have strands of skin covered sinew with eyeballs bobbling above.

The amateur fools!

Portrait of a Timid Misanthrope


2015. Acrylic on old funhouse mirror, 32 x 26″

Painting on a mirror, even one that’s clear gessoed, can be frustrating on a humid day. It doesn’t like to be touched. Too many strokes and its glass shines through. This will hang next week in a portrait gallery show. You can look at it and see the real you among humanity. To the modern misanthrope, which I surmise is most everyone over age fifteen, people appear approachable, maybe even friendly, from a distance. However, move close enough to depict their eye color, and become afraid instantly. Immediate fight or flight in expression or deed. Just by not saying “Hello” to a fellow passerby on the sidewalk portrays the inner dread we all possess at the thought of letting our guard down to a stranger. Of course it all depends on location. Very few of us fear the cashier at the super-duper market, or any established institution that sells things to us. Then it’s a matter of justifiable power over another. Fear is lifted, and we temporarily bask in an 11th century Japanese court of politeness and respect.

This painting reminds me of the second to last paragraph in Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer:

Human beings make a strange fauna and flora. From a distance they appear negligible; up close they are apt to appear ugly and malicious. More than anything they need to be surrounded with sufficient space—space even more than time.

Rose Spray Paints an Old Window Seat

Rose Paints an Old Window Seat

2015. Acrylic on Masonite® (3 panels), 33 x 14″

Well, it’s official. I need drawing lessons. I sat by the tobacco and sketched while my wife attacked a furniture reject she found at a dumpster. She knows how to draw and also put harmony back on track. Not me. I practice my limitations daily and dream way too much. Still, after each failure, I always make sure to color it in! Fools can have virtue too, you know… After they finish. I can’t draw, but with decent preservation, I bet our great grandkids will hang this on their wall one day, and tell visitors their own story of us. Way long after the fake Internet archive is dead.

A good Saturday morning to pull garlic and weed around the edible weeds. And I promise to keep the pencil at bay.

The Invisible Invincible Bravery of the Uninsured


2013. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48″

If any of you know a doctor of medicine who has a practice with uninteresting art adorning his or her walls, please share this painting that I put up for sale today on ebay. It is for the compassionate health care provider. Even a registered nurse could afford it if Starbucks didn’t exist. I offer a layaway plan. In the painting there are two runaway cats awaiting what life has in store for them, the pleasures and the pains, while a turkey vulture waits patiently in the tall tree. It will get cold and bleak this winter. Worms are already multiplying exponentially in their intestinal tracts. They too are uninsured.

The price is a little high. I offered free shipping, and am a bit worried about how much it will run me. Tell the doctor there is wiggle room for negotiation.

“I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and
I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of
owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of
years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.”

—Walt Whitman