Sunday, December 21, 2014

No Skating on Thin Ice

An 8x10 pastel of the corner of the pond at Field Farm.  After weeks of no sun (at least that what it seems like), the sun shone yesterday for most of the day, so I was out.

As I continue to read Kenneth Clark's Landscape Into Art, I find thought provoking comments, such as, "Impressionism is a short and limited episode in the history of art, and has long ceased to bear any relation to the creative spirit of the time."  A lot of people today call themselves "Impressionists".  The plein-air movement sees itself as a continuation of Impressionism.   What are all these people doing working outside the "creative spirit of the time"?  Yes, the next question is, "What is the creative spirit of the time" as far as painting is concerned?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Italian Souvenir

An 8x10 oil on canvas of a crowded beach and waterfront at Marina Grande in Sorrento, Italy.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mountain View

An 8x10 pastel of an late afternoon view of the Taconics from a cornfield.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Landscape Into Art

I keep doing these ink drawings when wandering around the landscape.  These are two of the best from the recent group.  Both are 8x10.

For a much needed refresher, I've been rereading Kenneth Clark's Landscape Into Art.  He writes, "Facts become art through love, which unifies them and lifts them to a higher plane of reality; and, in landscape, this all embracing love is expressed by light."  A little further on, in Chapter 2, he adds, "Bellini's landscapes are the supreme instance of facts transfigured through love.  Few artists have been capable of such universal love, which embraces every twig, every stone, the humblest detail as well as the most grandiose perspective, and can only be attained by a profound humility."

I've never tried to paint like Bellini, nor do I think it's necessary to be able to pursue the love that Clark writes about.  It's a stance, an attitude that one has to be awake to.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Actually Not Much

An 8x10 oil on canvas of a view through the Sweet Brook garage window with Mount Greylock in the distance.  The workbench is covered with plastic bins, tools and tubes.  Actually it's a painting of a lot of paint marks, touches, and blotches that might resemble the above.  Actually, it's a painting of not much.  The kind of stuff we see everyday.

Friday, December 12, 2014


Another 8x10 oil on canvas interior, this time with Minnie the cat looking out at the birds visiting the feeder.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Inside Out

A small 8x10 oil on canvas of the view out the dining room window with snow falling outside.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Folding Chairs Everywhere

One thing leads to another, sometimes quickly.  Here's an 8x10 oil on canvas painting of a view in the Sweet Brook Farm garage.  Artists have been painting folding chairs for a long time.  I was looking on Pinterest today.  Folding chairs everywhere.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


An 8x10 pastel on watercolor paper of a tiny portion of the interior of the barn at Sweet Brook Farm.  The weather outside is terrible, so I'm working inside.  But I've been wanting to do interiors for a while.    I'm starting out by doing a bunch of drawings and pastels, and will try to do different kinds of interiors to see what happens.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Three Interiors and a Statement of Faith

Three drawings, 9x12 charcoal, pastel, (and ink in the last one) of interiors, with and without windows. I'm visualizing out loud, feeling my way forward with some new (and old) ideas for me.  

An essay by Robert Hass on the photographer Robert Adams led me to the book Why People Photograph by Robert Adams.  I discovered that he's as brilliant a writer as a photographer.   He writes,

"The plateau [north of Denver] has been a focus of my work for twenty years both because it was near my home and because the location was and is characteristic of the American West in general, and even of the world.  Though not many landscapes are at once as beautiful and as damaged as this one, most are, as we have invaded them, similarly discordant. A typical vacant lot today is likely to have in it not only scattered vegetation but broken asphalt, styrofoam, and abandoned appliances; the air many times smells of wildflowers and rain, but as likely also of oil or sewage; there may be audible the call of the dove, but often against some sterility as the flapping of a plastic bag caught on barbed wire.

  If the state of our geography appears to be newly chaotic because of our heedlessness, the problem that this presents to the spirit is, it seems to me, an old one that art has long addressed.  As defined by hundreds of years of practice--I think this history is vitally important--art is a discovery of harmony, a vision of disparities reconciled, of shape beneath confusion.  Art does not deny that evil is real, but it places evil in a context that implies an affirmation; the structure of the picture, which is a metaphor of the Creation, suggests that evil is not final."

Indeed, this is what I believe, and want to believe, despite the often encountered contrary evidence.

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Collection of Marks on Paper

I've been working on some new things, which may not be ready for a while.  Here is a selection of the ink drawings that I have done in the last month while out walking.  They are basically a collection of marks, mostly well-placed, which might resemble landscapes.  I like the challenge of doing them with what are crude instruments.  The second one from the top is the Hopper.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Another Entrance

A 9x12 pastel view of the Hopper trails entrance from a few weeks ago.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Hopper and Idiocy

Lately,  I keep wondering if I've run out the string on the Hopper, but it keeps going on.  This is a 9x12 pastel.

You may have noticed that I've been reading again.  My current book is Forty-One False Starts by Janet Malcolm.  I will refrain from commenting now on the title essay.  In her essay on the photographer Thomas Struth, she quotes him as saying about his art school experience, "When I came there, it was a shock to realize that I had to regard art as a serious activity and develop a serious artistic practice.  Painting and drawing was no longer my hobby, a private activity that I enjoyed.  It was something that had categories.  Artists were people who took positions and represented certain social and political attitudes.  It was an intense experience to realize this.  There was intense judgment by the students--who is doing something interesting and who is an idiot painting lemons as if he were living in the time of Manet and Cezanne."

It's not clear in the essay if Struth still agrees with this confused attitude about making art.  Certainly the early-mid 70's was a confusing time for art students, especially this one.  But idiocy oftentimes is a sign of wisdom.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Hopper and a Slant of Light

A 9x12 pastel of the Hopper, this time from Field Farm, on a winter afternoon, located a considerable distance from Haley Farm, which is directly on the other side of the ridge on which that v-shaped clearing is visible.

Since I've been reading the essays of Robert Hass, I want to focus on one, "Notes on Poetry and Spirituality," in which Hass discusses the Emily Dickinson poem that starts, "There's a certain Slant of light / Winter Afternoons--".  He writes, "So a young woman in Emily Dickinson's world had seen that moment... that astonishing moment when a person becomes a body; it's an unmistakable experience.  She's talking about, very accurately about, a thing she's seen more than once.  When this feeling of despair, this hurt, comes on her, the landscape is alive, and when it goes, when the hurt goes, it's like the soul leaving the body.  And deadening it just that way."

He goes on, "So, in this poem... she's talking only about only being alive with this painful sense of absence, but a divine sense of it, or at least it seems to me a sense of absence, or at least a sense of an intuition whose namelessness is its quality, so much its quality that it hurts...  the choice is between a kind of pain and a kind of deadness, and she would choose the pain any day."

Dickinson's poem is about light in a winter landscape, in which the landscape is like a person on the edge of life, and the beauty of the lighted landscape suggests to her a wonderful supernatural presence that she feels is missing, absent, gone, unresponsive, a painful image that she would rather experience than give in to any comforting explanation.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Hopper and Visionary Landscape

A 9x12 pastel of the Hopper long view.

Robert Hass in his essay on "Mary Austin and The Land of Little Rain" writes,  "Paysage moralise is the name art criticism has given to the fact that, when human beings describe a landscape, in words or paint, they are usually, perhaps inescapably, describing a vision of the world."  Vision, from the above French term, means a moral view.  I'm not sure what my landscape "vision" is yet.  Elsewhere, in an essay on the poet Robinson Jeffers, Hass writes, "It seems to be the fate of American poets to reinvent the religions of their childhoods in their poetry."   As always, substitute "painting" for "poetry." This might be a clue.