Other Artists

I'm populating the crap out of this blog

This is happening, people. I'm posting. And I'm posting some more. 

It's been more than a month now, but the first week of August, some of us went out to Pennsylvania, to Patty Watwood's place, and did some painting. Here's some of what happity-happed:

It was a real good group of people that Patty assembled. We all had a great time, there were lots of inside jokes by the end of the four days, and shit, if the phrase "Secrets of the Masters" comes up one more time, I swear....

   Michael Gormley, Kristin Künc, Courtney Jordan, Little Miss Piggy-Pre-Cleanse, Patty Watwood, Chris Eastland (aka Jesus, aka He-Who-Washes-His-Brushes-Too-Frequently). 


Michael Gormley, Kristin Künc, Courtney Jordan, Little Miss Piggy-Pre-Cleanse, Patty Watwood, Chris Eastland (aka Jesus, aka He-Who-Washes-His-Brushes-Too-Frequently). 

Sarah, Part Deux


I decided to restart Sarah Deaner's portrait. Usually I'm against chucking and restarting, so I repaint often and try to persevere when things go badly. There seems to be a bias against doing this-- somehow reworking too much takes away the painting's "freshness"?  I don't know if I agree with that, and certainly x-ray studies of paintings reveal that artists reworked things quite a bit.  The problem with reworking, however, is that with every subsequent layer of paint, the values get darker, so if you want to end up with something that is light in value, reworking might not be the best strategy. In the painting of Sarah, I wanted to blow out the value spectrum and exploit the range as much as possible, but the range was shrinking with every subsequent rework.  Why did I need to rework? I wasn't very happy with the drawing, and I wasn't working from the model at the painting stage, but rather working on colors from my imagination, and I rushed in without a good conception of what I wanted the colors to look like (a color study would have been useful before diving in), which meant I wasted a lot of time pfaffing and rethinking. Anyway, here is the new underpainting, which I started also in a different way which I hope will be more interesting than what I was trying to do before.

New Painting Group...in Baltimore?!

Six months in Baltimore sounds like a long time, but it feels like a short few weeks to me.  Many have told me that one doesn't get used to a new city or place until about the six-month mark, and for me, that has been true: things are getting better. However, the improvement in my spirits might also be due to a confluence of recent events: the weather getting better, the help of new (and old) friends, and, probably most significantly, the congregation of a new painting group under the aegis of my friend Palden Hamilton.  He recently moved into a house with a studio graced with north light, and his powerfully cool personality is enough to bring people from all around the Baltimore-area to paint with him several times a week. Now that the weather is getting better some of us from this group have gone out painting, in surrounding areas such as Moncton, or Hampden in Baltimore City. Here is a 3-hour portrait I did of Jenny, a student of Palden's.

Tomorrow I'll post some of the landscape studies I've done. The titanium white is still pretty wet (had to slather that stuff on because it just snowed the other day!).

Thomas Eakins Quote

A friend sent me this quote attributed to Eakins. "She [the female nude] is the most beautiful thing there is in the world except a naked man, but I never yet saw a study of one exhibited ... It would be a godsend to see a fine man model painted in the studio with the bare walls, alongside of the smiling smirking goddesses of waxy complexion amidst the delicious arsenic green trees and gentle wax flowers & purling streams running melodious up & down the hills especially up. I hate affectation."



Gwen John I found this painting "Self-Portrait (1902)" by Welsh painter and one-time student of Whistler's  Gwendolen John on Wikipedia.  I have been to the Tate a few times but don't remember this painting.  The technique isn't exquisite  or anything, but I love the introspective feeling of the painting.  I like the green and red color combination in particular.  Both the models I'm using right now are red-headed, so I might try a similar color combination on one of my paintings.

Another Biblical Heroine: Bathsheba

well your faith was strong but you needed proof you saw her bathing on the roof  her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you 

- Leonard Cohen, "Hallelujah"

The story: King David, from the roof of his palace, spied Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, taking a bath.  They got it on and she got pregnant. 

The previous few posts about Judith and Salome have elicited a fun discussion amongst some friends about biblical temptresses.  Here's what another one of my art historian friends, Lindsey Schneider, says about the story about Bathsheba: "I've always loved the story.... it's open to so many interpretations, whether she was a victim to David's machinations or willing seductress angling for power.... There's a famous one by Rembrandt in the Louvre (which most people assume is a portrait of his mistress, but I think that's hard to prove) that I like a lot. Not just because it's a lovely painting, but because I think he captures so well the ambiguities of the text - in the facial expression, body language, etc."  I've posted an image of the painting below: 


One of Rembrandt's students, Willem Drost, painted a very beautiful Bathsheba as well: 


More on Judith: Giorgione

Giorgione, Judith detail

My friend, the art historian Susannah Rutherglen sent me this wonderful detail of Giorgione's Judith.   I love the decorous and feminine way Judith is holding the sword.  The little pinky finger is priceless.  Susannah is writing on Venetian furniture paintings and wrote me that Giorgione's Judith "originally decorated a door and had traces of a keyhole and hinges at one time."

Cristofano Allori, Florentine Painter

Happy New Year, everyone.  I haven't posted in a couple of weeks because of the holidays, but I'm back in the studio and in front of the computer.  I hope you passed a wonderful holiday season.  The advantage of getting out of the studio for some longish period of time (for me, about two-and-a-half weeks, which seemed like a century) is that when you get back, nothing but an earthquake can keep you from working again.   My family and I took a trip to Rome for Christmas and celebrated Midnight Mass at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, which was, of course, amazing.  My parents balked a bit when I decided to make this career (and life) change a few years ago, but they are coming around now, and Rome was the perfect place to underscore the kinds of feats of cultural excellence  artists can achieve under friendly circumstances (read: massive patronage).  Besides taking in the magnificent Sistine Chapel and the spellbinding Caravaggios littered all over the city in palazzos and churches, I enjoyed an hour alone in the Pinacoteca, or picture gallery, in the Vatican Museums.  There, I discovered the most arresting "Judith and Holofernes" I've ever seen, painted by an artist hitherto unknown to me: Cristofano Allori.  


As you may know from a previous post, I don't usually take photos when I visit a museum, but I really regret not taking a picture of this painting because I have scoured the internet and no reproductions come close to doing this piece justice.  Apparently there are two versions of this painting: though I cannot confirm it I believe that the painting I saw was the one that originally hung in Florence (I don't know when the Vatican acquired it).  Web images show another, very similar painting, but with Judith's head slightly more cocked to her right side (this hangs in the Queen's Gallery in London).  I prefer the gesture of the painting I took in: it was more direct and less tentative, and thoroughly appropriate given the deed she has just committed.  

I want to say two things about this painting: First, the values (range of darks and lights) are masterful. There are three heads here: Judith's, Holofernes', and the upraised head of the accomplice/maidservant.  The quick little compositional sketch I did of the painting isn't consistent with the image I pasted above: the actual painting has about 20 percent more canvas above Judith's head, and it's almost completely black.  However, the black space serves to heighten the drama of the composition, and successfully sets off Judith's head. Although the heads are painted in relative mid-tones, they are not forgotten, and the whites of Judith's sash and the head scarf worn by the older woman serve to balance one another.  It is not very clear from this image, but Allori chose to cut off the sword (i.e., not include the whole thing)-- it vanishes off the canvas and into the blackness behind Judith. Second--and this is the most frustrating thing about this image-- I wish there existed another such model as the one Allori used (his mistress, Mazzafirra).  In the painting Allori captured a Judith who is calm, but also searching. Her eyes were slightly Asiatic and just absolutely beautiful.  Anyone going to Rome with a camera some time soon?   

Here are some fast facts about Allori: he painted in Florence in the late 1500s, early 1600s, and his father, also an artist, was his first teacher.  I have looked for tidbits about him on-line, but unfortunately every article about him has been lifted from this one source, and I don't want to regurgitate it here. 

When I was a teenager I was taken in by the story of Judith and Holofernes after seeing a reproduction of Artemesia Gentileschi's painting (it didn't hurt of course that the painter was a woman and daughter of a painter and that the story was about a beautiful woman who saves her people by seducing and beheading the general who is laying siege to her city). Here are some other takes on the story of Judith and Holofernes: 


Above by Artemisia Gentileschi, "Judith Slaying Holofernes" (1620).


Above also by Gentileschi, "Judith and Her Maidservant" (1613-14).


Above by Caravaggio, "Judith Beheading Holofernes" (1598-99).


Above by Michaelangelo, the Sistine Chapel (1508-1512).


Above by August Riedel, "Judith" (1840).  

There are many more Judiths out there -- Giorgione, Vasari, Paul Albert Steck, Klimt, and may be even a Marriage-Song one day.  In the near future I plan on painting another Biblical beheading temptress, this one from the New Testament: Salome.

Winslow Homer


Last week Wilmot Kidd, Kristin Kunc and I dropped in on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibit "American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life: 1765-1915".  The exhibit is small and there are only a few real gems in it given the low state of American painting technique in the 18th and 19th centuries.  I came out of the exhibit however with a new appreciation of Winslow Homer, whose "Veteran in a New Field" (1865) was one of my favorites in the show.  

The composition is three horizontal stripes, the monolithic sky being incredibly abstract, the lone figure cutting through the three rectangular planes (sky, grains, ground) just as he cuts through the grains with his long scythe.  I liked the handling of the white shirt, which is painted incredibly thickly, which Kristin pointed out had to be the case given that the artist was painting with lead white.

Waterhouse Girls: Strong Victorian Women

   Magic Circle


Magic Circle

Peter Trippi, editor of Fine Art Connoisseur, gave a lecture at the Grand Central Academy yesterday.  Trippi helped curate "J.W. Waterhouse: The Modern Pre-Raphaelite" now on view at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. I was surprised to see how strongly feminist Waterhouse was in his choice of subject matter. Here are a couple of examples: "Magic Circle" (1886) shows a witch drawing a circle around herself and her cauldron.  




"Circe Offering a Cup to Ulysses" (1891) shows one of the original femme fatales in a regal pose. She is a powerful and treacherous woman who manages to bed the wily Ulysses who stays with her for an entire year. 

   The Lady of Shalott


The Lady of Shalott

Of course Waterhouse's most famous painting-- which I am lucky to have stood in front of a few times in my life-- is "The Lady of Shalott" (1888), which usually hangs in the Tate in London. 

I always read Tennyson's poem and thought of her as a passive woman, but Trippi pointed out that her story is the plight of the Victorian woman, imprisoned in her tower, sewing her tapestry and only able to look at the world when its activities are mediated through a mirror. When she decides to gain knowledge of the world for herself by looking outside, the mirror cracks and she is as good as dead.