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Work in progress

16 Nov

There are new paintings in my studio but they are all still very unfinished. It’s been a long time since I’ve shown any images of my own work on this blog, so tonight I am posting a picture of one of my new paintings in progress… 

I am what is around me

17 Jul
Self Portrait, 2011, oil on board, 8 x 10 inches


I am what is around me.

Women understand this.
One is not duchess
A hundred yards from a carriage.

These, then are portraits:
A black vestibule;
A high bed sheltered by curtains.

These are merely instances.

–from my own tattered copy of Wallace Stevens, The Collected Poems, page 86

Vintage Books, New York, copyright 1982

Happy Birthday, Rembrandt!

15 Jul

July 15 is the birthday of the Dutch painter, Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669).

Click to animate.


7 Jul
Robin, 2011, oil paint on wood panel, 9 x 12 inches

Going Green!

1 Jul

One of the very first posts on this blog had a picture of two paintings I was making based on the same composition from a Matisse painting. I went to Helsinki and the paintings stayed behind, unfinished.

Since I have been home, I’ve been working on these paintings again. Yesterday I glazed the entire surface of one of the paintings with Gamblin Permanent Green Light, making it nearly impossible to look at, much less photograph.

I’m not quite finished, but I am posting some in progress detail shots and one sorry photo of the entire painting as it stands today.

As a disclaimer to those that have never seen any of my work in person, sometimes there is so much detail in my work that images of the overall painting completely fall flat. The work feels and looks miles apart from these pictures!

The point of this post is to show how drastically one of my paintings can change over time. The first detail is from a few weeks ago for contrast.

And now:

And here is the painting in its entirety (with a heavy glare from the wet oil paint). The painting is monochromatic now and it is green. However, it is an array of varying shades of green that simply don’t register at all with my camera.

The other version of this composition has also become a monochrome. It is purple and the paint application is startlingly different. I will post some photos of the sister painting later.

Dolphins are the Hippies of the Ocean

28 Jun
Jessica, 2011, oil on panel, 7 x 5″

Yesterday I found an old scrap of paper with the heading, “Potential Painting Titles.” First on the list was the title of this post, Dolphins are the Hippies of the Ocean. There were lots of other gems, all poking fun at my innate proclivity for psychedelia. Clearly, I’m not fighting the urge right now.

I’m still working through a figurative phase. This little portrait is of my dear friend, fellow painter and the co-author of “Potential Painting Titles,” Jessica.

House of the Future

17 Jun

Since I have been home, I have started many and finished one quick alla prima oil painting (below).

House of the Future, 2011, oil and acrylic paint on panel, 12 x 16 inches

The architecture in my painting is loosely based on the House of the Future at Disneyland. The house, which opened in 1957 and has since closed, offered visitors a glimpse of modern living in the synthetic future.

In Brief…

Over the past year or so, I have been interested in modernist architecture, especially the Case Study Houses (1945 – 1966). The goal of this experiment commissioned by John Entenza, the editor for Art & Architecture magazine, was to innovate and restructure modern living in post-war America. The leading architects of the time, including Eliel Saarinen and Charles Eames, were enlisted to create efficient, economic housing for Americans in the wake of the World War II.

It is a gross understatement that the middle of the twentieth century spurred tsunami-scale tides of change worldwide. Evidence of these dramatic departures from preexisting culture are naturally present in the arts, especially in the radical ideology of Modernism.

In architecture, Modernists like Finland’s Alvar Aalto believed quality of life improved in tandem with one’s surroundings; you conform to your environment, not the other way around. Envisioning the future for modernist architects was often reflected in shiny surfaces like glass and polished metals without ornament or extraneous embellishment–the aesthetics of a machine. In the words of one this movement’s pioneers, French architect Le Corbusier: houses should be “machine[s] for living in.”

The problem is that many people I know don’t want to live in a machine. People invariably pollute the purity of modernist design, and they know it. The hidden message in the failure of modernism for me is that the desire for perfection is both oppressive, but necessary.

Disneyland’s House of the Future is a comic solution to the modernism dilemma. The design and architecture have been bowdlerized and repackaged for their context. The House of the Future is a caricature of modernist design, an accessible yet entirely plastic version of the stark decadence of modernism.

Open Enrollment: “Feet on the Ground, Head in the Clouds”

19 May

My final post from Helsinki for Art21 is out now. You can read about the Finnish artist Katja Tukiainen and the Doctor of Fine Arts program at Kuvataideakatemia (Finnish Academy of Fine Arts) at this link.

Katja Tukiainen, "Paradis e (Extension of my personality)," from the series of painting installations "Katja Tukiainen: Paradis a-z," Finnish Institute in Estonia, Tallinn, Estonia, 2010. Courtesy the artist

“The soul shines from the eyes.”

19 Nov

Just for fun…

I found some interesting Finnish proverbs on Wikipedia.


“Myöhäistä itkeä kun on kakat housuissa.”

Literal Translation: “There is no use crying when the crap is already in your pants.”

English equivalent: “No use crying over spilt milk.”

“Saat viisaan nimen, jos et virka mitään.”

Literal Translation: “You will be named after a wise man, if you keep your mouth shut.”

English equivalent: “A silent man is a wise one.”

“Sauna on köyhän apteekki.”

Translation: “The sauna is a poor man’s pharmacy.”

“Silmistä sielu paistaa.”

Translation: “The soul shines from the eyes.”

Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946)

This last proverb reminds me of the Finnish painter, Helene Schjerfbeck. At age four, Schjerfbeck broke her hip.  As she was unable to attend school with her limp, Schjerfbeck spent many hours sketching and painting as a child. Though Schjerfbeck had a long albeit spotty career painting many subjects, she is perhaps best known for her intense self-portraits.

“Now that I so seldom have the strength to paint, I have started on a self-portrait. This way the model is always available, although it isn’t at all pleasant to see oneself.” – letter to a friend, 1921 (from



Helene Schjerfbeck (Finnish, 1862-1946). Self Portrait, 1912.
Oil on canvas. 43.5 x 42 cm (17 1/8 x 16 1/2 in.).
© Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki [credit]

Helene Schjerfbeck (Finnish, 1862-1946). Self Portrait with Black Background, 1915.
Oil on canvas. 34 x 42 cm (13 3/8 x 16 1/2 in.). © Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki [credit]