| 16 July, 2014 19:44
Summer, 2014, oil on coarse Russian linen, 24 x 20 inches, 2014
I'm not sure anyone will see what attracted me to painting this scene. Yes, I was drawn to the geometry of the lifeguard chair and the way it cuts up the landscape into a geometric composition. But more than that, I was attracted to the colors in the shadows of the chair, the way some parts in shadow are a dark and shadowy yellow and in other areas the shadows are a pale mid-tone violet and in still others the shadows are almost red. If your eye didn't go to that sort of exploration in this painting, that's ok. I still had my fun.
| 10 July, 2014 22:03
Two of my paintings seen from the exterior of the O'Silas Gallery at Concordia College as the sun sets during the opening reception.
For the second year in a row the O'Silas Gallery has staged a show of summer themed art and again taken more than one example of my work. It's a good show with a number of paintings by artists I'd like to know better. In the photo above are "Bluff Home in a River Town," left, and "Hicksville Sunset," right, both positioned on a wall that faces out toward the quadrangle of the campus beyond the library and gallery building.
O'Silas is a wonderfully large and welcoming gallery, a great venue in which to exhibit and I'm happy to again be in one of their shows.
| 03 July, 2014 19:01
Cold Spring Harbor (both)
| 22 June, 2014 21:58
West Shore Road, 11 x 14 inches, oil on canvas board
Lloyd Manor, 1 x 12 inches, oil on canvas board
Lloyd Harbor from the Caumsett Entrance, 10 x 8 inches, oil on canvas board
| 05 June, 2014 14:32
House on the Water, oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches, 2012
I'm thrilled to exhibit one of Renee's favorite paintings, House on the Water, in the national juried show "See the Light" at the Attleboro Museum of Art in Massachusetts this summer where I've just been informed it will be given one of six awards. Ninety pieces were chosen for the exhibit from hundreds around the country.
| 02 June, 2014 11:34
Left to right: Caumsett View of Lloyd Harbor, Coindre Hall Boathouse, and Cold Spring Harbor at Dusk, oil, 2014
Above are three plein air paintings done in the last week. As a warm up for my August residency at the Weir Farm in Connecticut, I'm trying to do a plein air painting a day from now till then. On days when the weather won't cooperate I'll still do a comparable 'premier coup' painting of similar scale in the studio from a photo. Each of the above are 10 x 8 inches on canvas panel (two at left) or masonite (on far right). And in each case I've spent about an hour to an hour twenty minutes on these.
Of course I'm showing you the three I am happiest with, rather than all seven from the last week. In some cases I did not leave myself enough time to get a good composition and rendering and in other cases I positioned my portable easel too close to traffic thereby subjecting myself to lots of interruptions from passers-by.
Nontheless the exercise is useful in restoring spontaneity to brushwork. It's also helpful in exploring composition, not to mention useful for sharpening observational skills. I will admit to being more than a bit of a contrarian: I have always gravitated toward back- or side-lit subjects, horizontal portrait compositions and vertical landscapes.
| 30 May, 2014 13:49
My contribution to the Sketchbook Project is traveling. Watch the video here. See it on the 2014 national tour.
The Sketchbook Project 2014, Art House, Brooklyn, exhibiting at
Brooklyn, NY, March 14-16, Brooklyn Art Library
Richmond, VA,March 21, Virginia Commonwealth University
Asheville, NC, March 26, Asheville Bookworks
Atlanta, GA, March 29-30, Goatville Art Center
Orlando, FL, April 2, Chruch Street Entertainment
New Orleans, LA, April 5, Crescent City Market
Houston, TX, April 10, Lawndale Art Center
Austin, TX, April 12, Contemporary Austin at Laguna Gloria
Fort Worth, TX, May 4, Amon Carter Museum of American Art
Norman, OK, May 6, Norman Arts Council
Santa Fe, NM, May 9, New Mexico Museum of Art
Flagstaff, AZ, May 13, Coconino Center for the Arts
Newport Beach, CA, May 15-18, Orange County Museum of the Arts
Santa Fe, CA, June 8, San Francisco Center for the Book
Portland, OR, June 27, Portland Art Museum
Portland, OR, June 28, Director Park
Vancouver, BC, July 7, Emily Carr University of Art + Design
Seattle, WA, July 10-12, Seattle Public Library
Steamboat, CO, August 13-15, Bud Werner Memorial Library
Chicago, IL, August 22, Galerie F
Fergus Falls, MN, September 11-13, Minnesota State Technical Community College
Toronto, ON, September 18-21, Distillery Historic District
Portland ME, October 2, Maine College of Art
Philadelphia, PA, October 5, Franklin Square
| 16 May, 2014 07:38
Forty Years Later, 2009, oil on linen, 20 x 16 inches
It's a strange but necessary kind of arrogance an artist needs to have in order to believe he can attempt someone's portrait and get the essence of the person condensed into two dimensions by smearing some paint around on canvas.
I did portraits of friends a few years ago, including this of a good friend from my high school years. He was someone who was intensely loyal during a crucial part of my development. We didn't keep in touch as closely as either of us wanted over the years, but after a class reunion in 2009 I painted this and shipped it to him a few months later. I know he was touched by the gesture.
Today it's hard to look at the painting without seeing what I now perceive as flaws. That happens with all kinds of art after the distance of a few years. But on hearing that he died yesterday, I'm glad I painted this when I had the opportunity to share it with him as an acknowledgement of his importance in my life.
Remembering my friend Bob Naunheim (1951-2014).
| 13 May, 2014 19:34
Rose, 30 x 40 inches, 2013
Until this last week I showed a number of my paintings on two websites, UGallery, an online art sales company based in San Francisco, and Smitsy, a similar enterprise based here in New York. UGallery has been around for about seven years and the back-story is that it grew out of a college competition for young entrepreneurs. They began a company that sold art created by college students to other college students, original art at perhaps $100 per item to decorate dorm rooms. It took off like nobody's business. Encouraged, they set out to move up the ladder and sell 'real art' to the rest of the world. UGallery presently represents about 500 artists. Well, after I quit last week, make that 499.
The folks at UGallery will point out that "almost 70%" of the artists there have sold at least one painting through UGallery and that one sale usually leads to more. True enough, but what that also means is that they're carrying more than 150 artists who haven't sold anything. That seems like a lot of frustrated artists. But the really tough nut for UGallery and its competitors on the web is the challenge of selling larger, more expensive pieces of art than those $100 canvases people were buying in college. UGallery says that their average sale is in the $650 to $700 range. But here is where things get dicey because UGallery is not exactly straight with reporting prices.
When an artist places an item for sale through UGallery's review process, he or she is asked at what price the piece should be sold. The understanding is that the gallery will get 50% and the artist 50%. After that, things get increasingly fuzzy. It turns out that UGallery very frequently gives buyers a discount of up to 20%. Additionally, at least twice a year it holds a weeklong 20% sale. Over time I realized that the only time UGallery sold my work at the asking price was when a nearby friend bought a painting she had seen online. The other half dozen paintings I sold through UGallery were all discounted. Or so I'm supposed to believe. I say that with some suspicion because on the SOLD page for my art each painting marked sold carried the original asking price. The visitor to such pages is supposed to believe that all these items sold at their asking prices. But I am supposed to believe that all but one sold for a discount. Who knows what the real story is? When I asked Alex Farkas, the founder, about this on the phone last year he claimed, "That's what galleries have always done. They don't want to advertise that some people have gotten a discount." Perhaps, but then why post any prices at all on a page showing art that has been sold? In other words, why lie? Either to the public or to the artist whose work you've sold.
At some point UGallery decided that sales would be enhanced if buyers got free shipping. After all, many retailers offer free shipping for items over a certain dollar amount. And art tends to be pricey, so why not free shipping here? Except, of course, it really isn't free shipping. If you tell UGallery that you want to sell your painting for $500 (and therefore your half will be $250) then they add anywhere from $50 to $200 for shipping to the asking price (depending on size) and bingo your work is now valued at $550 to $700. This way they can cover the shipping cost and tell the buyer that the shipping is free. Unfortunately 'your half' of a sale in which your art now carries a greater value is still just $250. But that's before the above-mentioned discounts kick in.
Then there was the issue of offering UGallery artists' work for sale on Amazon.com. Like other UGallery artists I received a gang email announcing the 'good news!' that our art would now be available through one of the worlds' largest retailers, Amazon. Buried in the email was an acknowledgement that Amazon charges a fee for these sales (why wouldn't it?) and that UGallery in some sort of supposed sense of fairness would split that fee with me on any sale. The Amazon fees are on a sliding scale but amount to 15% of the sale price for anything between $101 and $1,000. After that it's 10% for items up to $5,000.
When I read this email announcement regarding the Amazon showcase, my art as well as the art of most other UGallery artists was in fact already up on the Amazon site and for sale through them. Ca-ching, there goes the cash register eating up another seven and a half percent of my 'half' before anyone had even asked if I consented to this. Needless to say such a unilateral move on the part of UGallery as an announcement rather than asking consent of its participating artists had me hopping mad and I fired off a suitably angry email to UGallery.
That triggered a phone call from Farkas who adopted a hurt-puppy demeanor pleading that he was just trying to help me sell my art. Funny, I could have sworn he was trying to make a sweetheart deal with Amazon at a discount to his company at the expense of his 500 artists. But really, by this point I was beginning to wonder, if the UGallery 'half' of the sale didn't have to cover the shipping cost and the Amazon expenses were to be split, what exactly does the UGallery half of the profit go for? Wasn't online retail supposed to operate with less overhead because the brick and mortar expense of maintaining a real gallery was vastly reduced or eliminated?
If the numbers regarding anybody's 'half' of the sales began to seem squishy, it hasn't been helped by the fact that no check I've ever received for any sale there has had ANY accounting for how the dollar figure was arrived at in said check. Astoundlingly, the artist is left to figure out for himself that the work must have been discounted again to merit another less-than-anticipated sum.
Equally surprisingly, through it all UGallery persists in referring to 'your half' of the sale price even though anybody with a seventh-grade math education can figure out that it's appreciably less than half of what the buyer has paid. When shipping is subtracted and the Amazon fee is split and subtracted and the discount is split with UGallery, it turns out that 'my half' is not quite 41% of what the buyer paid.
Now who should feel like the hurt puppy, Mr. Farkas?
The first year that UGallery represented me I sold nothing through them. When I inquired as to why I was told that the artists who consistently add new work attract the most attention and sales. There were other tips: You should use Facebook, and you should Tweet about your new UGallery offerings. Use Pinterest and use the UGallery Pinterest page. And be sure to 'like' the UGallery Facebook page. After a while I began to wonder who was really selling my art, UGallery or me? Do they really actively try to sell or is this just a place to park my images on the web, a place that will take a big chunk of change when something sells?
To be sure UGallery does do a number of things to try to market your work. Their advertising is ubiquitous on the web. And they are adept at SEO, search engine optimization (Look it up, it's a big deal especially when you start looking for something on Google. If you search for "art for sale" it's very likely UGallery will top the listings.)
But some of what they try to do in this new era of online retail for the fine arts is bound to be hit or miss. At one point a few years ago they decided to make a big push to market to interior decorators. Twice an interior decorator bought paintings of mine that were then returned, in each case a week or so later because the decorator's client had tastes that ran in another direction. UGallery eventually gave up on targeting that market.
A few weeks ago UGallery contacted me to say they hadn't seen new work from me for a while and would I please load some more work. I began putting up a new piece each week (to spread out the effect of listing new work). But then last week when I submitted Rose, the piece above, it was rejected by the UGallery reviewers because they noticed that the painting was on stretchers that are three-quarters of an inch thick. "For artwork that size, we prefer it to be on a stretcher that is at least 1.5 inches deep," read the rejection.
The truth is that three-quarters is and has been the industry standard for decades "for art that size" but apparently UGallery feels that it's easier to sell paintings on big fat stretchers. Well, that was the straw that broke the camel's back. That little admonishment, that after 47 years of painting on canvas and linen I just must be doing it all wrong completely undid the last 8 months of my work, all done on perfectly good three-quarter inch stretchers. So I asked UGallery to stop representing me. I really don't need grief from a bunch of people who can't be bothered to give an accounting when they send you a check but want to tell you what kind of stretchers to use. More than one old-style brick-and-mortar gallery has sold larger pieces by me than that were on conventioanl stretchers. I realized in that moment that the UGallery staff are people who've never seen my art first-hand. Why should I let them tell me what kind of stretchers to use?
And that gets to the core of the problem. Most fine artists I know work in old media, oil on canvas, watercolor, etc. and aren't really creating their work with the ultimate goal of having it appreciated as pixels, at a reduced size on the web. I love a coarse Russian linen I've been using lately and I love the thick impasto of oil paint on it. It's best appreciated seen in person. The web is, at best, a poor substitute. So while it may be important to have some of your work viewable on the web, I am increasingly doubtful about the web as a marketplace for what I produce. Certainly the imagined savings of conducting retail sales on the web are turning out to be illusory. And the most lucrative sales anyone has made on my behalf have been in galleries where the buyers can see (and, yes, even touch) the canvas and appreciate its texture. And nobody has to worry about using Photoshop to get the color just right.
So I tried to contact the other online venue, Smitsy, where some other pieces of my work are also for sale. This more recent online enterprise appears not to be anybody's day job. The email I sent a day or two ago inquiring about parting ways with them has gone unanswered and I also found to my surprise that two paintings I asked to be taken out of their inventory in February for some local shows in which I was participating are still for sale on -- you guessed it -- Amazon. It may be true: once it's on the web, it lives there forever.
| 24 March, 2014 19:50
We are getting an early jump on Renee's birthday with a painting for her. Since the painting has been done in oil it will take a little while longer to dry, so it seemed unwise to cover it up in gift-wrap paper. So she is discovered it first when I posted it to a Facebook page. A painting seemed to be the only way I could give her a birthday bouquet of flowers that would not tempt the destructive curiosity of our mischievous cats. It's also a tribute to Renee's skills as a lyricist. (Ask her to sing, "Nothing Could Be Stranger than to See the Blue Hydrangea on Long Island" -- sung to the tune of "Nothin' Could be Finer.") And, finally, it fulfills her request for a painting of our house.
Happy birthday to the woman who brightens my life far more than the sunshine on these hydrangea.
| 07 March, 2014 17:11
I am thrilled to have been selected for a position as artist in residence at the Weir Farm National Historic Site for part of this coming summer. The Weir Farm is the only site run by the National Park Service that is devoted entirely to a portion of our art history. Julian Alden Weir was a central figure in American Impressionism. In addition to Weir, five other artists lived and worked on the property across three generations. For the last 37 years, as a 60-acre farm with about 15 buildings, the site has been adminstered in trust by the Park Service. In addition to encouraging visitors to visit the historic home and studios as well as paint on the property, the site hosts an artist in residence as well.
Renee promises she will wash and iron my beret before I go.
| 17 February, 2014 11:19
I've been having fun making little videos from time to time. Here's a feature-length video you can watch in two minutes and seventeen seconds.
At the end you'll feel like you've spent some time in my studio.
You've had your shots, right?
| 14 February, 2014 22:36
Late November Afternoon, diptych, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches
If this looks typically suburban Long Island that's because it is. But the building is actually on Main Street (route 25a, for those of you playing along on Google Maps) in Cold Spring Harbor, a very 19th century sort of village around the corner from Renee and me.
I shot the reference photo back in November and took forever to get this painting launched. Then it languished for months before I made enough progress to see it through to the end.
Renee wants to know what's with these air conditioners hanging out of windows in my paintings. I just paint what I see. They don't look ugly to me in the late afternoon sun.
| 02 February, 2014 17:12
The crowd for the opening of our new gallery in Hastings-on-Hudson this afternoon was so big that it spilled out onto the sidewalk and street. A line formed to get in to see our first show. The village fire marshal admitted 4 at a time only when others left.
Not bad for an afternoon when most of the rest of the world is off somewhere to watch the Superbowl with friends.
This was a 'soft opening' because we still have some work to do and a more official opening will be a little farther down the road when we, the member artists of the co-op, will mount a show of our own work. This show was a juried photography show open to photographers from around the country who submitted work for consideration and possible inclusion in the show.
Our new space is a FAR, far better location and considerably more space with a high tin ceiling and two galleries. Photographers who are exhibiting came with friends and family as did lots of people from the village curious about the new business on Main Street.
And next week a sampling of work by our cooperative's member artists goes on display up the street at the village hall. Clearly this charming town perched on a bluff above the river is happy to have us there.
| 01 February, 2014 16:02
OK, change of pace. This one's not an oil painting. Or was that much already clear?
This is a linocut print on handmade Japanese mulberry Kozo paper. It's my contribution to a print exchange conducted by the Brooklyn Art Library this spring. In a print exchange, each printmaker creates an edition (in this case twelve impressions of this image) and swaps the edition for prints from other printmakers. There will be hundreds of artists participating in this exchange so the ten prints I get back will be from artists chosen at random.
You may be wondering why one submits 12 copies of his or her print but gets back only ten. That's because the Brooklyn Art Library will keep two copies, one to exhibit and one for its archive. Nonetheless this is a pretty painless way to acquire an instant (if small) art collection. All of the prints are to be issued on sheets that are 5 x 7 inches.
The theme of the exchange this year is "Let this be a sign." And my contribution is called, "Have you seen my keys?" A sort of good luck/wishful thinking/token print.
Anyway, since making this, I have not misplaced my keys.