Showing posts with label et cetera. Show all posts
Showing posts with label et cetera. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The First Four Years

I was mentioning to a friend this afternoon that I hadn't posted to my blog for about a month. Realizing how sad that actually sounded, I thought I'd write an update.

I also realized that I've been blogging for exactly 4 years now; my first post was on September 29, 2005. I guess that makes me something of an old hand.

This blog started with several motivations, and I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from the project. For the most part, I'm very pleased with the way it's unfolded. It's been a place to talk about and show my new work, a gallery to sell paintings, and on rare occasions a forum to discuss myself, which I usually later thought twice about (being somewhat of a private person).

I've also had a sometimes awkward relationship with it. There have been many periods where I feel incredibly enthused, and can't seem to update it often enough. I've also gone for some stretches where it's just the farthest thing from my mind, and I can barely even remind myself to log on and respond to the comments (which I truly appreciate, by the way, even if I don't always react in good time). Obviously, I've been in one of those stretches lately.

This violates one of the rules we've all heard regarding blogs - "Just keep writing no matter what: Irregular posting means lost readership". In my own case I've felt deep down that it's probably better to say nothing if I really didn't have anything to say (or show). I've always sincerely hoped that people who are interested in my paintings will be willing to look at new work as I can finish it, whether I do or don't post a lot of writing in between. I certainly hope that my readers have not been turned off by the periodic silences.

At any rate, silence aside, things have been going well. I've been working on a set of slightly larger pieces - a few of them are already finished, and I'll photograph and post them soon. I've also been reading, thinking, and deeply enjoying the turning of Summer into Autumn, which is my favorite season. In general, it's been the kind of good, quiet space that contemplative art comes from.

Even though it goes without saying, I'll say it anyway; blogs are absolutely useless without readers. I know there are people out there who do read this blog regularly, and I have always gratefully appreciated that... Thank You!

More good stuff is coming... right here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I've finally gotten with the times and set up a Twitter account. You can follow me here.

This will basically just be to announce newly-finished paintings or other studio news; I promise not to bother you with updates about what I'm having for lunch or what I'm watching on TV!

Next up... Facebook (I know, I know...)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Odds & Ends

It's been a while since I've done an odds & ends post, so I thought I'd indulge today.

The picture above is one of my current works in progress. I've painted plenty of oranges before, but this time I'm spending a lot of effort in getting the translucence just right. Interesting challenge.

I've started listening to a great podcast from the BBC called In Our Time. It's probably the most civilized and intelligent panel discussion I've ever heard. Each week the moderator chooses a topic - usually a very interesting topic - and invites 3 experts from that field to talk about it for 45 minutes. Subjects range from the destruction of Carthage to Albert Camus to 17th century witchcraft... and more. Fascinating, addictive stuff.

Darren Maurer has started a new project in which he's doing frequent small pieces (nothing new), but he's doing them as series, which is sort of unusual and interesting for daily/frequent paintings. Although I have done groups of paintings (like my sushi paintings), I've never deliberately done a series in the sense of one related painting immediately following another. That approach has been on my mind lately, and I might give it a go sooner or later.

My new favorite iPhone app is Stanza. To me, it's pretty much the perfect reader (and I've tried a number of them without being satisfied), and as a bonus (ok, it's whole reason for existing, I should say), you can purchase eBooks from pay sites, and get thousands for free from some other sites (like Project Gutenberg). I've been a PC person all my life, and pretty much looked at the whole Mac world as being one big cult. That is, until I drank the Kool-Aid and got an iPhone. Now I believe. I do. I really, really do.

It seems that crabs feel pain, and remember it too. Great. Just one more thing to tweak my conscience when I sit down and look at a menu. I’m not a vegetarian, but I do strongly believe in the proper and humane treatment of food animals.

Finally, I was in downtown Boston for dinner tonight (no, I did not eat crab), and snapped the below picture outside the restaurant. It's in one of my favorite parts of town; there are groups of beautiful 19th/early 20th century brick office buildings surrounded by Post-Modern skyscrapers. In tonight's fog, they sort of looked like hovering alien spacecraft.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sackler Museum

Attributed to Mirza 'Ali (active 16th century, East Azerbaijan, Iran)
Seated Princess with a Spray of Flowers

I spent too much time reading the news this morning, which left me in a foul mood, to say the least.

Luckily, a friend and I were able to amuse ourselves with a trip to the Sackler Museum at Harvard. This museum is a real gem; small and not-too-heavily visited. It's devoted to Middle Eastern and Asian art from deep antiquity to the present, and has a particularly stunning collection of Shang Dynasty bronzes. Unfortunately, they have none of it online, and the badly-lit, out-of-focus pics I snapped on my iPhone just didn't do them justice, so I settled with the above image. Harvard is going through some gyrations with their museum collections, so fewer pieces are currently being exhibited, but it's still very well worth a visit.

Monday, March 09, 2009


Is this the same man?

Just about the only conspiracy theory which interests me at all is the Shakespeare Authorship Question. This isn't the place for details, but the gist is that the man commonly known as Shakespeare did not in fact write the plays. These were instead written by another, adapting the name Shakespeare as a nom de plume. One of the leading contenders is Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

A headlining news stories today was the "discovery" of a Shakespeare portrait, apparently completed during his lifetime, probably commissioned by a known friend of Shakespeare, and, I must say, looking absolutely nothing like the common image of the bard. I spent 15 minutes in photoshop, and came up with the above montage. "B" is the portrait unveiled today. "A" and "C" are known portraits of de Vere. Given the vaguaries of Elizabethan portraiture (consider the differences in the certain images of de Vere), I ask; are these three portraits of the same man?

In particular, consider the eyes. Having a lazy eye (Amblyopia) is not extremely rare, but it only affects 1-5% of the population.

What do you think?

In Progress: Cheese & Crackers II

It's down to business this week. I have 2 commission pieces to finish, and I also committed to doing a certain number of paintings per month when I joined Daily Paintworks. Good problems to have, but the clock is ticking.

The in-progress shot is for one of the commission pieces. To me, there's nothing more beautiful to paint than an object emerging from shadow into direct light, so I really enjoyed working on the round cheese box. I love this phase of the work where the finished objects start to fully emerge from their rough beginnings.

The camembert itself is named after the ocean liner Ile de France, and you can see a dim graphic of it above the name. This would at first seem to be a rather odd way to promote cheese, so I did a quick little search about the ship. Built in 1925 and operated until 1959, it was entirely fitted with Art Deco design, and appears to have been the very pinnacle of luxury. She also played a critical role in the rescue of passengers during the sinking of the Andrea Doria.

You can see some pictures of the Ile de France here. Must have been an extraordinary way to travel.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

International Year of Astronomy

I know, this has nothing to do with art, but, it's the weekend.

Astronomy is one of my big interests outside of painting. Deep down, I really wanted to be an astronomer, but after a handful of undergrad courses I got scared off by the math. So, it remains a passionate hobby. Though I'll never teach astronomy or do any serious research, I do get the opportunity to introduce people to it on a regular basis. Once a month I host an open observatory night in conjunction with a local college and the astronomy club I belong to. People of all ages come up to the observatory for a few hours, and we show them various objects, from the moon and planets in our own neighborhood to nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies far outside our own solar system. Many people who visit have never looked through a telescope before, and I get the privilege of introducing them to a little piece of our universe for the very first time... it's really cool...

This year is the 400th anniversary of Galileo first using a telescope to study the night sky, so 2009 has been designated the International Year of Astronomy. It's a great opportunity to learn a little more about this intriguing and constantly evolving subject. There is an endless number of online resources, but I thought I'd list just a few of my favorites:

AstronomyCast is just about my favorite podcast, period; it's extremely well-done, fun, and accessible.
Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) has a new image daily, and an archive going back into the far-distant past of the web; it's been in regular operation since 1995!
365 Days of Astronomy is another great podcast run as part of the International Year of Astronomy. It's a community-based project, with daily contributions from people as diverse as professional astronomers to amateur back-yard observers, each talking about what fascinates them about astronomy.

Also, most communities have some form of astronomy-related club or organization. Many of them hold regular meetings or events open to the public to introduce people to astronomy. An incomplete list can be found here. Anybody who's in the North Shore Boston area and is interested in visiting the open observatory I mentioned above can contact me for more information.

So, if you've always entertained a curiosity about this fascinating topic, why not learn more about it this year?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Orientalist Gallery

I'm spending the day working on underpaintings for more Fragments and the setup for a commission piece, so... nothing new to show.

Instead, I thought I'd share something fun. I've mentioned before that I'm drawn to the work of the 19th century Orientalist painters. There's a real sense of wonder, discovery, and with the best of them, genuine reverence for non-European cultures. Good Orientalist paintings trip all my triggers. Even some of the bad ones do, too...

Anyway, it turns out there's an active blog dedicated to this body of art, The Orientalist Gallery, run by California Artist Enzie Shahmiri. It appears to be updated daily with a new painting and some rudimentary technical information about the piece. There does not appear to ever be much discussion of the work or the artist, but I'm definitely ok with that. This is an overview site, where the purpose is just to show a lot of art.

Anybody who likes this genre will definitely want to go have a look.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Save the Gardner!!!

Two big pieces of news about Boston-area museums this week:

First, Brandeis University announced it was going to shutter the Rose Art Museum on campus and sell off the collection, valued at $350 million (maybe). This was greeted with a predictably deafening uproar. The university has since backed off a little and may actually hold on to the art, but just close the museum. A not-entirely-convincing attempt to save face, I think, and as a solution it accomplishes exactly nothing.

Second, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is attempting to sidestep the very specific conditions laid out in the founder's will and make upgrades to the building, apparently consisting of a contemporary addition to the Venetian palazzo that houses the collection. This one surprisingly flew a little bit under the radar, maybe overshadowed by the Brandeis announcement.

OK... I'm going to throw out the balanced editorial approach and just state my blunt opinion on these items.

Brandeis Museum
Yawn - who cares? It's in a lousy location (Brandeis is in a lousy location), and every time I was there, I was the only person there. If the university truly needs the money, sell the collection. Educating students is MUCH more important than hoarding a stockpile of artwork. If even a few of the pieces end up in major metropolitan museums where they have a chance of being seen by more people, then the public is better served. (I was a grad student at Brandeis, so I have some passing familiarity with the subject).

Gardner Museum

Isabella Stewart Gardner built a highly eccentric and deeply individual museum which is in itself a work of art. Her will very specifically said: DON'T SCREW WITH THIS.

There's a good reason for that. An afternoon at the Gardner is an exhasperating, enchanting, frustrating, thrilling, absolutely uniquely beautiful experience; it's my favorite museum in the whole wide world, and I know many, many others think exactly the same thing. I don't for a minute buy the argument that the museum is in deep trouble, but even if it were, punching holes in it is NOT the way to fix it. There must be a better way. And even if the changes proposed didn't fundamentally alter the museum, it creates a precedent. A really, really bad one.

The Gardner is a unique personal vision.

Leave it that way.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

oh - no - they - didn't!

Yeah, actually, I guess they did:

You just have to watch the video. Determined Pose Chia Obama... most definitely.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Odds & Ends

Random Studio Image

The mixing area on my palette, as it appears on a typical work day. I like to be sparing with my use of medium, so I brush it onto about a 4x4 inch area, and mix directly in there or just dab my brush in, depending on how much I need.

Psychological Profile
I was amused at this article detailing the personality characteristics of typical entrepeneurs: "Stubborn, delusionally optimistic, creative, fearless, flexible and focused are some of the ways psychologists and business people describe the personality of an entrepreneur. Surprisingly, another word is ignorant." In a sense, artists are all entrepeneurs; delusional optimism and willful ignorance are helpful traits to have.

Joking aside, one point of this article is the hidden opportunities for developing businesses during a recession. I think there's a lesson in there for me, and probably other artists as well. Sure, things seem rotten economically, but it's also a great time to be fleshing out new ideas and finding alternative ways to build a following. Taking as a given that sales are not going to be robust, the current environment could be thought of as an opportunity to be creative without pressure to always produce salable work.

Andrew Wyeth, 1917-2009
A long life, well-lived.

Prado + Google = ?
The answer is... AMAZING. Google has placed ultra-ultra-high resolution images of 14 masterpieces from the Prado in Google Earth. The interface is a little contrived (the painting floats above the museum, and you have to fly into it), but that's my only complaint. The level of detail that's visible is unbelievable, and much greater that what you'd ever be able to see in person (except for that small area of most paintings where you really can get your eyes up close to the canvas). For instance, here is a detail view from van der Weyden's "Descent of Christ from the Cross":

This is exactly the kind of technology I love to see. It's potentially a huge step forward in museum culture, particularly when institutions start digitizing and making available - in this detail - the 90+ percent of their collections which are not displayed to the public. I personally think it would be a much better use of resources in the long run than mounting yet another blockbuster show.

Predictably, some commentators are raising their hackles about how important it is to see art in person. I do agree, but not wholeheartedly. It's generally a good thing to visit museums, and I do so reasonably often. But... I don't actually enjoy museums. The experience is a lot like going to a crowded mall, except you have to pay to get in, and there's an overwhelming air of oppressive formality... not the best environment for really absorbing the art.

I treat my museum visits like trips to the bookstore: I do some browsing, find books I might not otherwise have found, flip through a few pages. The real reading, though, takes place in my living room. Same with museums; it's a chance to see new pieces, but when there's something I'm genuinely interested in, I find a way to study a good reproduction from home. And that's where I see so much potential in the Google/Prado partnership. Hopefully this is the first of many.

Requires Google Earth to see. Thanks to Skott for the tip.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Odds & Ends

Random Studio Image

The top of my easel: the silk scarves are khatas; given by Tibetans to each other as a greeting, during ceremonies, or as farewell gifts. During my stay at the monasteries in India, I accumulated a whole pile. As a general rule they're continually passed on, and I'll probably just give most of them to the local Buddhist center. These two, however, were gifts from monks who were special to me, so they get the place of honor in my studio.

I've added the widget that allows people to follow this blog, and also get get their own icon displayed here. Scroll down the right-hand sidebar and click the "follow this blog" link.

My Fragments project feels like it's off to a good solid start, with 5 pieces done this week (counting last friday). So far, it's been a lot of fun working on them. I'm also looking at the series as a place where I can be a little freer to experiment; I've already tried a few new things, and have a list of other things I'd like to try in the near future.

Not to overstate the obvious, but, obviously, this is dipping my toes back into the painting-a-day pool. I'm not going to explicitly call it that for a lot of reasons; not of least of which is that I don't want to feel obligated (I have some mixed feelings about the painting-a-day concept, which I might share at some point in the future).

Also obvious, this is a great time to have some small, accessible paintings available. Even cheerless economic data won't by itself diminish people's desire for good art, though it might make them a little cautious about larger work. I certainly want to have paintings available that people will enjoy, and can feel good about collecting.

Speaking of economic data... In an email exchange with my friend Skott, I made an off-hand remark of the return of WPA-style murals. It did get me thinking... will the current economic situation and the talk of an enormous infrastructure initiative - basically WPA redux - also include public art?

I grew up in a small midwestern city with WPA murals in the post office. Unfortunately I couldn't find any online pics, but as I remember them, they were sort of knock-offs of the great Diego Rivera murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts. They may not have been the best, but there weren't too many other opportunities to see original art in person on a regular basis. It it was actually kind of important for me to be able to see them; going to the post office was something more than just an excruciating wait... it was also a little bit of education.

By contrast, the public buildings where I live now are sleek, clean, efficient... and mind-numbing. They could use a few murals for the kids to look at while mom argues about the water bill...

"One entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat"
-Vincent Scully, comparing the old Penn Station with the new