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Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

No visit to New York City is complete for me without stopping in at the Met and spending some time with my favorite van Gogh paintings there. I probably posted these before, but I just can’t help it. These are some of my favorite paintings in the world.

van Gogh – Roses – 1890

van Gogh – Irises – 1890

 

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A Daughter’s Reflections

My daughter’s inspiring story about getting her first tattoo.

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New Paintings: Flowers

Almost 20 years ago I did Flower 1 and Flower 2This year, I added three more. Each painting is on a 30 x 24 canvas. I cut raw canvas, linen or burlap into shapes, like stems, leaves, blossoms, or background areas, and glued them to the raw canvas. Each painting also got a two inch canvas “frame” around it. I gave the whole thing a coat of gesso. Finally, I painted the flowers over the glued shapes. So each of these paintings has a texture and I always invite the viewer to touch. So, Flower 1 and 2 below were done in 2000, and I just added the other three now in 2018. Is this now called a “quintych” analogous to diptych (set of two paintings) or triptych (set of three paintings)?

Flower 1

 

Flower 2

 

Flower 3

 

Flower 4

 

Flower 5

 

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Four young men hatch up a plan for a heist – stealing some of the most valuable books in the world, like one by Darwin, another by Audubon, all locked up securely in a local library/museum.

When you think of a heist, you think of Oceans 11, where a group of experts in various disciplines with nerves of steel get together, draw up detailed plans of every possible angle and contingency, and then execute the plan.

But the most well-rehearsed plan can go wrong, or very wrong. These young men are about to find out.

American Animals is a true story in the truest sense. It is actually narrated by the four real protagonists in real-life. Then, as they introduce section after section, the movie switches back to the actors who play out the plot.

This is extremely well done. The story is utterly entertaining. The sound track is superb. The cadence of the movie brings you along for the ride, all the way into the intense pressure of executing the heist itself, or rather, screwing it up.

American Animals is about four men who decide to do something extraordinary with their lives – and that’s exactly what they end up doing – albeit in a way, and with an outcome, that they didn’t expect themselves.

Definitely – go and see American Animals.

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Vincent van Gogh picked up a paintbrush for the first time when he was 28 years old. He died less than nine years later at the age of 37, and left us some 800 paintings. Van Gogh changed art, yet he sold only one painting ever, and that to his own brother.

He died under mysterious circumstances, and like many deaths of famous people (for example JFK) there are many theories that speculate about what really might have happened, versus what is common knowledge on the record.

Directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, Loving Vincent is a film that explores the life of Vincent van Gogh and some of the speculations about his death.

What is unique about this film is that it is an animation based on painted images. Every frame of this movie is a painting, and thousands of them have been stitched together to make the film. Nothing like this has ever been done before, and it may well never be done again. Van Gogh’s painting style, using bold colors and rough, thick brush strokes, lends itself to this approach and I applaud the filmmakers for the unique, risky and ultimately very successful idea. Many scenes in the movie are based on actual van Gogh paintings.

One of them has special meaning to me: Harvest at La Crau with Montmajour in the Background. Sometimes it’s called “the blue cart.” The original is in the Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh in Amsterdam. Here is an image:

In the movie, Vincent is pulled past this scene in a cart on the road in the foreground.

When I was a child, some 11 or 12 years old, our German professor (now my friend Wolfgang referenced in this blog from time to time in the Latin Corner) assigned this painting as the subject for the essay form of “Bildbeschreibung” or image description. I remember struggling with this assignment, but doing a good job of it in the end. It stayed with me for life, and this painting represents the first exposure for me to van Gogh. I had tears welling up when this image went by in one of the scenes in Loving Vincent.

I am a painter. Van Gogh has always been my favorite artist. I have seen many original van Gogh paintings over the years. How could I possibly not love this movie?


 

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I am an artist, a painter, and you would think I’d have known more about the artist who created the two most famous paintings in history. Sadly, I knew pretty much only his name: Leonardo da Vinci.

The second most famous painting in history is The Last Supper. It is featured every year as the “grand finale” of the Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters. And every year it is a new, powerful image.

Of course, the most famous painting in the world is the Mona Lisa. It is also the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, and the most parodied work of art in the world [Wikipedia]. It is also widely believed to be the most valuable painting in the world.

Leonardo da Vinci was born in 1452. He was not just an artist, but an engineer, a scientist, an inventor, and a relentless researcher. He wrote thousands of pages of note books, filled with ideas, speculations, checklists, drawings, designs and drafts throughout his life. Through his writing, we know a lot about him, but on the other hand, a lot of mystery surrounds the man and his history.

Walter Isaacson, the author of the biographies of Steve Jobs and Einstein, guides us through the life of Leonardo da Vinci from birth to death. We see the artist grow from his humble beginnings as an illegitimate son of a Florence notary, to a true superstar of art who consorted with the most powerful people in the world at the beginning of the 16th century. Leonardo was at the peak of his game around the same time when Columbus first reached the New World. The world was very different then, and reading this biography, I learned a lot about the world in those years, and about the pursuit of art.

Now I feel like I know Leonardo da Vinci. I would like to visit him in his later years with a time machine and bring him back to my house. I’d have him ride in my Prius with some Mozart playing off my iPhone through the sound system. I’d show him how I could make a phone call from a moving car to the other side of the world. We’d go to the airport and I’d buy first class tickets to Washington, DC. I’d let him have the window seat and look out over the world from 36,000 feet. Once in DC, I’d take him to the National Gallery of Art and guide him to the Ginevra de’ Benci, the only original da Vinci located in the Americas and therefore the only da Vinci original I have ever seen with my own eyes. He would recognize his own greatness in the history of the western world.

And now I know I need to – as soon as I can manage it – go to the Louvre in Paris and see the Mona Lisa and all the other da Vinci originals there. I know there’ll be crowds of people. I know there’ll be lines. I know I won’t be able to get near the painting. But I know I’ll stand there and I’ll wonder who all has stood in front of that painting over the years, over the centuries and marveled about it. Did Vincent van Gogh ever go and see the Mona Lisa? Did Bob Dylan? Did Pablo Picasso? Did Frieda Kahlo? Did Henry Miller? Did Benjamin Franklin?

Maybe they all did, but someday not so far out, I will have gone – inspired by Isaacson’s Leonardo da Vinci.


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‘Tis the Season, 12/2016, Oil con Canvas, 24 x 20

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Painting: Motion

I wondered if it was possible to paint an optical illusion. Here is the answer. This a 24 x 24 painting. Judge for yourself.

Motion, Dec 2017, 24″ x 24″


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When visiting Washington, D.C., it’s always a joy to go to some of the museums. I went to the National Gallery of Art. There is a wealth of world-class art to see. My “eyes get full” after an hour or so.

One of the highlights at the museum is Leonardo da Vinci’s Ginevra de’ Benci, pictured here. There is usually a crowd around it, so it’s hard to get to.

This painting is famous for being the only original da Vinci in the western hemisphere. I have seen my first da Vinci!

Then, later, I rounded a corner in the French section, and whoosh, there was Lovers by Picasso.

It seemed surreal, because for many years, a print of this painting hung in our house,  so it was common for me. Seeing it here, in the original much larger than the print, and so out of context, was like instant time travel back to the days when my children were little, and the print of this painting was prominent in our house. It immediately brought back the smells, sounds and emotions.

As I always do, I left the museum inspired to go home and pick up my brushes.

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Maud (Sally Hawkins) is afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis and has been since she was a child. Her fingers are twisted, her legs misshapen, and she has a hunchback. When her parents died, her brother sold their home and put Maud up to live with her overbearing aunt. Nobody takes her seriously.

Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke) is a local fish peddler in a village in Nova Scotia. He is a socially challenged, extremely reclusive, and verbally and physically abusive. When he puts up an ad for a housemaid, Maud sees it and applies for the job. She comes to live with him in his very small house out in the country.

Maud starts cleaning up around the place and decorating it with her own little paintings. By chance, one of Everett’s customers sees the artwork and starts commissioning works from her. Over time, Maud’s work gets the attention of the folk art scene in New York City.

Gradually the unlikely couple develops a bond of love.

Maudie is based on the life story of painter Maud Lewis, who lived in Nova Scotia with her husband Everett Lewis. They lived in poverty for most of their lives in a famously small house. You can google “Paintings by Maud Lewis” and find many of her paintings, her house, herself and her husband.

Maudie is a movie of unusual circumstances and deep emotions. It’s a story about life, its simplicity, and its cruel reality. Watching it made my eyes tear from time to time, and most of all, it made me go home and pick up my paint brushes again, which have been lying idle for too long lately.

Maudie is a celebration of the human spirit and life. In one of the scenes, when asked what painting means to her, she looks out the window and says:

The Whole of Life, Already Framed, Right There!

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the-path-for-linda-and-dick

My painting The Path just became a wedding gift for our friends (L&D). This was done after a motif by Masqua’s Art, who published a photograph that got my attention, and I challenged him to a “paint-off”. I was happy with the outcome.

Here is the painting at their house.

Here is a full digital image for reference.

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On Friday night I visited the MoMA, since they have extended opening hours until 8:00pm. To my surprise, they had free tickets for all on Friday. I just walked in. It was packed! Everyone in the world seems to come to New York for the MoMA. I am less interested in “modern art” per se, and particularly in “modern” furniture as produced in the 1920s. But their collection of some of the classics is amazing.

For instance, there are some beautiful works by Gaugin, Cezanne and Seurat. I am not usually a Chagall lover, but this is my absolute favorite Chagall. It’s huge, taller than I am.

my-favorite-chagall

And then, there was the absolute prize, one of my favorite paintings in the world – Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Just imagine, walking around a corner and there it is:

starry-night

What an amazing painting to see. People literally gasped as they spotted it. I stood there for a while, taking it in.

But then, there is a problem with taking it in with serenity. Because here is what it looked like stepping back a few feet:

starry-night-2

But just a few seconds of reflection, while I was in the front, was worth the entire visit.

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A good friend (PG) went on a safari in East Africa many years ago and brought back some photographs, one of which inspired this set of paintings I titled Waterbird.

It’s a diptych (two paintings in a series), each 18 by 36 inches. Here they are separate, and then together.

Waterbird 1

Waterbird 1

Waterbird 2

Waterbird 2

waterbird-combined

Waterbird – Combined

I found it a challenge to align the colors and compositions sufficiently, having to switch back and forth between two large paintings on an ongoing basis. My studio area isn’t big enough to put them side by side.

I might need to try this once more.

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Trees on Mt. Baldy

Trees on Mt. Baldy, oil on canvas, 24″ x 36″

Near the very top of Mt. Baldy in California, at over 10,000 feet elevation, rugged trees battle hard winds and blistering sun every day. In the winter, it’s bitter cold and icy. I took a photograph in the summer and made a painting, trying my hand at a loose brush.

It turned out so-so, but I am done with it.

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Much deserved by my favorite poet.

bob-dylan-1

See CNN article here.

Simple Twist of Fate – by Bob Dylan

They sat together in the park
As the evening sky grew dark
She looked at him and he felt a spark
Tingle to his bones
‘Twas then he felt alone
And wished that he’d gone straight
And watched out for a simple twist of fate

They walked along by the old canal
A little confused, I remember well
And stopped into a strange hotel
With a neon burnin’ bright
He felt the heat of the night
Hit him like a freight train
Moving with a simple twist of fate

A saxophone someplace far off played
As she was walkin’ by the arcade
As the light bust through a beat-up shade
Where he was wakin’ up
She dropped a coin into the cup
Of a blind man at the gate
And forgot about a simple twist of fate

He woke up, the room was bare
He didn’t see her anywhere
He told himself he didn’t care
Pushed the window open wide
Felt an emptiness inside
To which he just could not relate
Brought on by a simple twist of fate

He woke up, the room was bare
He didn’t see her anywhere
He told himself he didn’t care
Pushed the window open wide
Felt an emptiness inside
To which he just could not relate
Brought on by a simple twist of fate

He hears the ticking of the clocks
And walks along with a parrot that talks
Hunts her down by the waterfront docks
Where the sailers all come in
Maybe she’ll pick him out again
How long must he wait?
One more time for a simple twist of fate

People tell me it’s a sin
To know and feel too much within
I still believe she was my twin
But I lost the ring
She was born in spring
But I was born too late
Blame it on a simple twist of fate

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