| 24 January, 2015 11:57
"Only God can make a tree" proclaimed Joyce Kilmer in the poem we all learned in grade school. But artists can come close to imitating the range of colors and textures in the brilliant autumnal display, even if they can't quite breathe life into their creations.
This was a fun series to explore over the fall and into the early winter this year. In each case the actual leaf or twig was pasted down to the board on which I rendered a copy (sometimes in reverse, in a mirror image) in oil paint. The Latin phrase, "Ars Longa, Vita Brevis" translates roughly to 'Art lasts, life is short.'
And even though in many cases I coated the leaves in alkyd, thereby slowing the deterioration, the change is inevitable. In the first example, at top, there was no attempt to preserve the leaf on the right (from a tulip tree) and so the leaf is already quite a dark brittle brown. But I like the idea that as time goes on the difference between the the real and the rendered will become more apparent.
One problem with painting these was that as I worked the leaves continued to change and I tended to keep changing the painting as well to keep it accurate. I had to force myself to find a point at which to stop in nearly every case.
| 27 October, 2014 10:39
OK, lilies aren't in season but, for the moment, I'm tired of painting autumn leaves. So here's a rendering of one of our lilies from late last spring or early summer. I was smart enough to get some photos at the time and this paitning was extracted from one of those photos.
I am lucky that Renee likes to keep our yard flowering with one thing or another for as long as possible during the warmer months. Even though we'll be stepping into November later this week we still have begonias blooming like crazy by our front door.
| 20 October, 2014 20:40
Two panels, each 8 by 8 inches. Left, the oil rendering. Right, the once-living model, fading and drying out. Already you can see the colors changing. That won't happen in the panel on the left because, well, as the ancient Roman said, "Ars longa."
Below two versions of a leaf from a tulip tree. Same idea. Larger panels. 12 by 12 each.
| 19 September, 2014 18:35
This is just beyond West Neck Beach, about two and a half miles down the road from where we live. I set up my French easel and painted the tide running out on this brilliantly clear Friday afternoon at a little inlet along Lloyd Neck that empties into Cold Spring Harbor. 12 x 16 inches, oil on linen covered board, plein air, premier coup.
| 08 September, 2014 14:43
I managed to start 18 paintings during my month-long residency in August at Weir Farm. 15 were finished when I left. Those three unfinished still require some more work. (Let's not use the word 'stuck,' ok?) Meanwhile ideas for other paintings from the Weir Farm experience continue to emerge, including the painting of the copper bucket, above, found in the garden just north of the Weir House, and the sketch below based on a scene at the edge of the pond.
| 28 August, 2014 20:04
Today was my Open Studio, a tradition among the artists-in-residence that allows the rangers, administration, grounds crew and volunteers to come take a look at what the artist has been up to for his or her month here. Renee provided her famous artist's palette cookies, much remarked upon at this reception. One ranger whipped out her iPhone to grab a photo, then apologized: "I'm sorry. We're supposed to be looking at the art and here I am taking a picture of the cookies."
I am extremely happy to have produced 18 paintings in 29 days here. Granted, three are not finished and some are only 6 by 8 inches. But two of the 18 are also the largest I've ever done, too large to have been tackled in my studio at home and done in sections so that I can fit them into the Prius for the trip home.
17 of these paintings -- even the unfinished ones -- were on the wall this afternoon for the park reception. Then, after some clean-up and packing for my departure tomorrow, I hiked down to one of the south meadows to paint one last time, number 18, a view of two apple trees.
All of these images will find their way onto this website eventually.
Participating in an artist residency, particularly at a site devoted to American painting, has been a dream. It's kind of like winning the lottery but without a cash award. Instead, the award given is the time and space to do what you dream of.
The staff at Weir Farm have a great deal to be proud of and I have a great deal for which to be grateful.
| 22 August, 2014 16:17
This is the side or back door to Julian Alden Weir's studio, preserved here on the grounds of the Weir Farm National Historic Site. Renee says these are beans growing beside the building.
The gardener here at Weir Farm told me that all of this is pretty meticulously researched. "If we grow heirloom tomatoes, we have to plant them where Weir would have had them and they have to be tomatoes that existed in Weir's day, not heirloom tomatoes created in the 1970s," I was told.
This is the largest painting I've ever done -- perhaps not huge by the standards of some artists but certainly bigger than I could have accomplished in my studio at home on Long Island. It's 48 inches high and 72 inches across, on coarse Russian linens on two panels, in large part because 36 inches is about as wide as the Prius can handle. Otherwise I'd have to pay to ship this and, unless one has a buyer already lined up, that seems unnecessarily expensive. When I was awarded this residency and found out about the studio that comes with it I resolved to do some larger canvasses than I would normally be able to do at home.
I've pointed out to a number of people that if you go into Weir's studio you'll see a 'French easel' made by the Jullian company. This same company that equipped Weir and many of the original French Impressionists is still in business today. I have a version know as the 'half-easel' because it's a little narrower (and therefore a couple of pounds lighter.) I was explaining this to one visitor who thought I was telling him that the National Park Service let me use Weir's equipment!
| 19 August, 2014 17:15
I have not been very regular about posting daily progress in painting here at Weir Farm during my turn as artist-in-residence. The place has a seductive kind of beauty and eventually one stops caring about other concerns. Yesterday I hiked some trails hiterhto unexplored -- by me, at least -- and I only did one small, fairly inconsequential sketch from the cemetery north of the historic site looking south toward Weir's house. Today I finished the day lily. The stone steps in shadow, above, were done last week as was the plein air sketch, immediately above, of Weir Pond. Ten days left. I haven't shown the three largest paintings which are all still works in progress.
| 05 August, 2014 18:45
Between the Meadows, oil on coarse Russian linen, 12 x 16 inches, Weir Farm, 2014
Just after 7 a.m. the light strikes a part of this wall between two large meadows. The piece of land abuts the national historic site and here is maintained by the Nature Conservancy. Another piece of land elsewhere adjacent to the site is maintained by the Weir Farm Art Center and still another piece is land owned by the State of Connecticut. There may be yet more that is Town of Wilton land as well.
| 04 August, 2014 17:54
OK, so maybe the weather up here in Connecticut wont always be as fabulous as it has been so far this August. It turns out the Artist's Cottage here has a bit of a library with a number of good quality art books. If I encounter a day when the August heat finally kicks in I may take a look. There are a number of promising titles here, supplied by the Weir Farm Art Center which manages the residency. But today the weather is too nice to stay in the cottage...
The photo below shows two composition books that are filled with observations made by previous artists-in-residence over the years. The comments include lots of expressions of gratitude, observations about inspiration and art-making, as well as tips on where the best local pubs are.
| 02 August, 2014 18:43
I travelled down the mile and a half or so trail, past the impossibly small 'portable' studio on sledges that Weir is supposed to have dragged around the property in the winter with the help of oxen. The studio is not tall enough for any adult to stand inside of and it also looks like the footprint is too small to allow much in the way of work space for something like painitng in oil, for example.
I continued around the pond, an impressive and dignified body of water. But, alas, no rowboats as seen in J.A.W.'s paintings. The dock that Weir had there is long-gone as well. But it's still a stunningly beautiful pond from some angles.
It turns out that the Pond Trail links up with other trails that continue on into Connecticut State land that extends the Weir Farm Historic Site park-like experience quite a bit.
I'll have to explore this again. But with bug spray.
| 02 August, 2014 09:03
IT was slow coming up from Long Island. From the Throggs Neck Bridge well into Connecticut everyone seemed to have decided that if it was going to rain this weekend they's all rather be at their weekend retreats than at home. Nontheless two dedicated volunteers from Weir Farm were here to welcome and orient me. Bruce Beebe, who lives just down the road from the farm, was kind enough in showing me the studio to point out the likely home of a barred owl just a few feet away from the deck on the rear side of the studio. And Francesca Monro showed me around the artist's cottage to familiarize me with its layout and resources.
The studio is magnificent, constructed within the last few years and containing many thoughtful touches that artists will appreciate. I spent most of the evening setting up the space in a way that I think I'll find most comfortable.
Below is an image of the artist's cottage. It appears to be roughly contemporary to the rest of the 16 or so other buildings on the hiostorical site, with electricity and plumbing having been added along the way. Volunteers and previous occupants have made it cozy and charming.
The steamy, muggy atmosphere I left behind in Long Island has been replaced by a cooler breeze up here in CT. I thought I would need the air conditioning in the cottage but that has proved not to be the case. I'm looking forward to a tour of the farm with one of the rangers on what will be my second day here.
| 23 July, 2014 14:04
Even if the 'bookmobile'-style exhibit is not going to make it to your city this summer, it turns out you can view my book online and see what I've done. As the title says, "All details actual size, or very nearly so."
You can search under my name or just use this link:
Or view my tiny video (one and a half minutes long) here:
| 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.