Monday, March 31, 2008


The journey from physician to artist was painfully slow and costly in so many ways, but in the end, it was worth all of the turmoil and distress. One aspect of the transition that I did not anticipate was feeling lost between two worlds, medicine and art.

In my mind the practice of medicine was all about the primary care physician, the general internist or the family doctor. This is how I identified myself; this is was what being a physician meant to me and this is the world I left when I left my practice in 1981 for part time work in the emergency room of our city hospital. Although I was still in contact with most of my medical colleagues, I felt estranged from medicine. I was no longer involved as I had been when I was active in our local and state medical societies and in the programs in our teaching hospital. I realized that my priorities had taken me out of that world. Others may not have noticed, but I felt I no longer belonged.

The problem was, I did not feel I belonged to any community of artists. I was a novice, at the very bottom of a steep self learning curve. There were no artist friends and colleagues to replace those I left, and to even call myself an artist was almost unthinkable and impossible to do. I had no studio and my art was simple and limited.

Wash St. pen-ink-markers 1978

For the first few years into this new life I was lost between two worlds, and it was my unshakable belief and trust in what I was doing that allowed me to continue. In the years since, there have been moments of crisis and self doubt, but I’ve never lost that basic trust in my dream.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


More observations on the absence of nuanced opinions and policies.

Consider an exchange between the hard right and the hard left on the role of the government in assessing and managing the problems of poverty and the under privileged in our society.

Liberals think conservatives think this way:

For the conservatives the problem is the individual; anyone who is willing to work can lift themselves above poverty. All it takes is effort and determination. The good or bad fortunes of birth regarding race, family, and wealth are irrelevant. The opportunities are there for everyone who is willing to “lift themselves up by their bootstraps”. Their iconic villain is the Cadillac driving welfare queen who expects to be cared for by the government.

Conservatives believe liberals think this way:

The liberals sees things differently. For them the issue is opportunity, or the lack thereof for those born into poverty, with or without the support of a strong family unit. They believe that everyone in this impoverished class deserves the governments assistance and that not everyone has the opportunity or the resources to rise above the circumstances of their birth.
The blame everyone but the individuals for their plight.

These generalizations reflect the black and white thinking of the political extremists. The reality lies in the gray between these 2 positions. If you will allow me my own generalizations to make a point...

There are those who have achieved success in their life by hard work and discipline regardless of their circumstances of birth, and those who achieve such success only because of their good fortune to be born into a family with financial and emotional resources.

There are those who turn their back on the opportunities they have, regardless of their background, and achieve little in their lives because of their poor choices and unwillingness to do the necessary work.

There are those who lack both the resources and the opportunities, and can never achieve, or rise above their circumstances despite their willingness to “lift themselves up”.

And then there are those who despite all resources and opportunities, simply do not posses the emotional and intellectual skills to achieve any great success, but are destined, and quite willing, to work at menial or low level jobs.

We cannot paint everyone with one or two brushes. Our society has to recognize and accept the immense heterogeneity of our people and be willing to extend a hand to those who need one. If the conservatives and the liberals would stop their name calling and sit down and talk as reasonable people should, they would see that they both have a claim on the truth, and from there, compromise and progress can evolve.

The Last Stand 24x28 acrylic, shown here in B&W

Saturday, March 29, 2008



This task will be as difficult or as easy as you make it. Life is the ultimate mystery, and the best we can do is approach it as such, accepting the fact that we have to settle for that which we intuit, or sense, as long as it is intellectually acceptable. God deserves more from us than a theological doctrine with “answers” to all of our questions. God must be experienced! Do not settle for the God of your parents, or their parents, or the God of any church or dogma, but seek the God that you can find and know, and believe, and nothing less. God is not a science, and we don’t need “answers”; we can live with the mystery and the questions. You are God’s creation...respect that creation and you worship God, far more than you could with any service or pageantry or other public utterances. Do not be discouraged by spiritual tides that will wash away your faith as easily as they bring it. Your faith may be eroded, but somehow, in the course of a lifetime, the core of your faith will survive.

Friday, March 28, 2008


(From my journal, some time early in 2002)

A young man came to see me yesterday with a problem that was more emotional than physical. I listened as he explained his problems, which was clearly very difficult for him to do. When he finished, I asked several questions before responding to him, and offered him my advice and treatment options. We talked some more, and as he left the room he stopped, turned to me, and said, “you are awesome. You’re the best doctor I’ve ever had!” I felt like an arrow had pierced my heart and wanted to cry out, “no, don’t say that, because I am going to be leaving you”.

It hurt because I fear he is right; I worry that not many of my colleagues would have responded to him as I did. I am beginning to feel the pain and guilt for leaving my patients once again.

Why am I leaving here? We have a wonderful piece of God’s green earth, are well known and respected in the area, and have a network of family and friends.

The farm is not exactly green here...but you get the point

Looking west

Looking east

I can only try to answer that question...

I’m leaving because I have to leave...this next step is in keeping with the intention and goals of my journey. There is work that I have yet to do, and I know in my heart that this is not the place for me to do so. I have known from the beginning that our stay here would be a temporary one [16 years]. We moved here for a specific purpose, and that purpose has been fulfilled. The same can be said of the practice. When I opened it 8 years ago it was with the very clear intention of being a transition time, 7-10 years, and then I would return to my art.

This next move, barring the unexpected, will be my last one. I am going to Paducah because I believe it is a place Where I can best apply myself to the rest of my life’s work. [work that I cannot even fully explain] When I began this incredible journey over 25 years ago, I had no idea where it would lead me. I only knew that I had to trust myself and to trust my intuition and instincts, which I have done in all of my major life decsions....This is no time to abandon that trust.

I am not seeking something “better’ or “more”, I’m seeking something that feels right to me. Just as I knew 15 and 8 years ago that there would be one major change, I know that this is the one.

I believe that everyone who knows me well will understand this.


Thursday, March 27, 2008


I would be comfortable with the unpredictability of an art income, but to my dismay, I am not. Living on a fixed retirement income, that depends on the enhancement by sales of my art, does not allow that., and whenever the sales slow down or disappear completely stress levels go off the scale. But experience has shown that my art has never failed me, and just when I think I am about to “go under” one or more sales are registered and I live to paint another day.

Since the beginning of the year my sales have been almost non-existent and I was embarking in a major self pity party. I was ready to cancel my trip home and go apply for a job as a greeter at WalMart. (I chose to let my medical license lapse...I refused to have it as a crutch!). In spite of my past experiences, I just knew that this time it was going be different...I would have swallow my pride and admit defeat.

But, first the call from an art consultant in NYC to tell me they sold one of my clay mono types. Then the email from someone in Italy named Renzulli -no relative- wanting to purchase one of my paintings she saw on my web site. This was followed by a call from my dear friend Harvey who just sold one of my paintings in Gallery 5 and had another pending. And it didn’t end there. One of my pieces went out on approval at SW Gallery in Philadelphia, and when I checked my phone messages yesterday there were two galleries calling to buy my prints.

Why am I posting this? Because if sing about the good times, then I don’t feel so bad crying about the bad times :-). Seriously, I guess it just to acknowledge that I am a very slow learner, and there is no assurance that with the next down turn I won’t be singing the same sad, worrisome song. But for now...all is well and my rose colored glasses are firmly in place.

And it’s good to be home.

Be it ever so humble, there is no place like your studio.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


This trip has been no different from all the others. I could not wait to leave, and now I can’t wait to return home. I miss my home, my pasta, my work, and (Aynex, don’t barf) I miss my wife.

It has been a fun week, seeing daughters, grandchildren, and friends. I made several trips to Philadelphia, the first for Martinis and crepes in south Philly, and the second to visit the Sande Webster Gallery in center city where I was told that one of my paintings “went out” for approval just 2 days earlier.

I walked down Delancy St.

I spent several days in Wilmington where I managed to visit some of my favorite places including Atilio's, a neighborhood restaurant in Little Italy that serves the best and crispiest hot peppers.

I had lunch at Buckley's Tavern with my friend and former associate Dr. Brereton.

I also spent time in Maryland and was dismayed to see one of “my” barns falling into total disrepair. I prefer to remember it as it only partial disrepair.

the back and right side of this barn is falling down.

And I cannot leave out my day trip to south Jersey to see cousins, eat their good food, and drink their wine. Unfortunately it was a bit too early to pick and fresh brocoli rabe.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Patience and Swede William

I have been blessed with the most remarkable women in my life: my mother, my daughters, and my wife. It is my intention to write about each one of them, putting into words my profound respect and appreciation for them, and all that they have meant to my life.

Yesterday I had the rare pleasure of visiting with all of my daughters at the same time, to see them together, talking, laughing, and just being who they are. In my very darkest hours, uttering those three names brought tears to my eyes even as they held me together. Living under different roofs was devastating, and my only my only means of coping was to remind myself that I had a lifetime ahead of me with my children, and not being in the same household would be but a very small blip on me life. And it worked! I value my relationship with my daughters as my most important accomplishment and credit all four of us for making that happen.

To be with all of my children I had to travel from my home in Paducah to Maryland, and this meant leaving my wife, Patience, at home. (Because of our waggle of whippets it is very difficult for us to travel together.) And as always, as soon as I leave, I miss her dearly. For those of you who do not know her, Patience is a most remarkable woman, and it would take several postings to do her justice, but I am prepared to state unabashedly, that she is the one person who has made my life complete. I cannot imagine how the last 25 years of my life could have been any better than they have been with her as my partner.

The Warburton Whippets,,,not present is Lindy Loo, a puppy when this was taken

Sunday, March 23, 2008


At Linda's request, here are several examples of unadorned clay mono types.

Nocturnal landscape aprox 12x5" $100

Hilltop 30x14"$600

Utter Chaos 30x15 $600

Color blocks 30x15 $600

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Following is a brief description of the clay mono type process as developed by Mitch Lyons some 25 or more years ago.

The clay monotype is a variation of the traditional monotype technique. A slab of stoneware clay 3/4 to 1 inch thick is pressed into a firm framed base mounted on a solid support table or bench. The surface is smoothed and leveled with the edges of the frame and is allowed to dry overnight to a “leather hard” consistency. There is no “correct” size: it can be small and portable or permanently situated in the studio. This clay base will act as the “plate” in the creation of the monotype. My current clay plate is 30x40” and is almost 6 years old. By keeping it covered with wet paper and plastic drapes it will last indefinitely.

Liquid clay-slip-is produced by mixing water and kaolin powder in a blender to a light pancake batter consistency and several coats are then brushed onto the clay slab. This slip also becomes the paint by the addition of pure pigments, dry or liquid, and is used to create the image by its application to the clay slab. The final result is a flat slab of clay in which the image is imbedded.

A moistened support, fabric or paper, is placed on top of the clay and pressure is applied using a roller or brayer. The support becomes impregnated with a thin layer of the clay resulting in a transfer of the image.

All the materials used in this process are archival and the pigments share the same light fastness as other tradition pigments.

The resulting one of kind images have characteristics unlike those produced by any other method. The variety of techniques that can be used in this process is limited only by the imagination and curiosity of the artist.

Here are several examples of how these prints can be enhanced and/or manipulated to create a variety of images,

Here the clay mono type (cmt) landscape was enhanced by adding the buildings and trees with acrlyic paint.

Prairie grain elevators...cmt enhanced with soft pastels

Architectural and pastel pencil on a cmt printed on paper

From an oil pastel series...oil pastel applied to a cmt on fabric with the borders still visible.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Ending the NYC tour with these final images.

Blues in the Night watercolor

Division Street watercolor

City Hall

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


The gallery responded to my query saying they really liked my work and thought they could sell it, but they did not deal with any art under glass. That was all the impetus I needed to finally begin working on canvas with oils and acrylics. I had been telling myself to do this for several years but could never overcome the inertia of starting something new.

That was over 2 years ago. My first few pieces were small and tentative as I gained some comfort with the medium; I turned to acrylics because I had them available and found that they suited my style of work. Initially I painted a number of imaginative landscapes, making them up as I painted, and later began creating more literal scenes. As expected, the work continues to evolve. The last few days posts show the most recent work. Today I ‘m posting some of the very early acrylics from 2 1/2 years ago.

Cascades, acrylic 48x36 $3000

Crevice acrylic 48x24 SOLD

Autumn Barn acrylic 30x15 $900

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


No, I'm not talking about me. Don't Forget Me is the title of my latest painting. I've been working on the canvas for over a week...a long time for me. As in other recent work, I've rendered the sky and foreground in a more abstract pattern, (the sky more so than the foreground) to contrast with the realistic primary subject. I'm pleased with the appearance of all of the elements, but less so with the overall value range; I prefer more contrast.

Don't Forget Me Acrylic on canvas 30x40 $2500

Monday, March 17, 2008


These comments are the result of a query by a blogger friend (Tom Riley) whose primary craft involves writing.

There are many similarities between these two art forms that include:

Composition - Both require a cohesive composition. In a painting it is the spatial relationships between the shapes, values, and colors to bring the viewers eye to the intended subject. In writing it is the logical organization and progression of the ideas, the story line, or the argument that the writer intends to present to the reader.

Clarity - In neither endeavor should the subject be obscured and the viewer/reader distracted by superfluous clutter...unnecessary lines and words that reveal more about the artist than the subject.

A guiding principle should be...Less is More!

As an artist I have done numerous quick, on the spot sketches and have learned that they are a one time only phenomenon. A good sketch can never be completely reproduced.

Similarly, when I am mentally composing a narrative, if I do not get it down on paper at the time I find it very difficult to recapture the original words and composition.

I appreciate the comments on my blog even though I cannot respond to all of them. Also, I will be out of town for the next week and don't know if I will be able to maintain the discipline of a daily post...but will certainly try!

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Or did it end to quickly? No, I am not referring to anything but the time spent on a painting. I have bveen interested in the stark interaction of two or three bold primary and secondary colors, usually presented in the form of a landscape. There is an unexplainable pleasure in taking a palette knife full of thick paint from the jar and applying it directly to the support, playing with the knife to create the desired texture or smooth surface. I frequently begin landscapes in this fashion, building on the first application of the paint.

Yesterday I started a canvas in this fashion, and was tempted to go no further; I liked what I saw at that point and thought it was already finished. But, how could it be, since I only spent a few minutes on it? I decided to do 2 more smaller versions on panels, and to apply another “layer” of paint over the first canvas.

untitled #1 This is finished....I think

untitled #2 Finished!

untitled #3 to be finished

I really like these, but am concerned that there was so little effort put into their creation. Now we all know that some very great artists have created memorable work with a few simple lines or splashes of color...but they were great artists! And therein lies the rub. It’s not a matter of being or not being a great artist; it is a matter of self confidence! Do I have the confidence in my vision, my art, to let it stand as it is?

Your know what? I actually don’t know, and probably that is why I am “blogging” about it today. Isn't it great being an artist?!

Saturday, March 15, 2008


A few more NYC watercolors...

I have no idea where this book store is/was located.

Imagine my surprise when I saw a tiny B&W drawing of this bakery in the New Yorker magazine!

I was amazed to find this architectural gem somewhere in the area of the Village.

Friday, March 14, 2008


A while back I wrote about my struggle with working in multiple mediums and my concern that it was keeping me from developing maximally in any one medium (which I saw as an impediment to obtaining gallery recognition). I proudly proclaimed I had come to terms with this issue, but sadly that has proven to be temporary, and for the umpteenth time the question has returned to haunt me.

This time, with some timely help from my artist daughter Sara Jo, who knew immediately what my problem was, I looked at the problem from a different perspective. One of my goals has been to compile a body of work, in one medium, that is consistent in style and high quality. I’ve never accomplished this to my satisfaction and found it easy to blame this on my working in too many different mediums and styles. But always, in the back of my mind, there has been the nagging notion that the “blame” lie elsewhere, with my impatience and willingness to take the easiest path in my work. I have been guilty of taking comfort in the work that comes easiest to me, and avoiding some of the really hard work needed to reach my desired goal.

The issue is not the time I spend on different mediums, but the time and the quality of the effort I expend on each painting. If my goal is to compile a body of work in a particular medium then obviously I need to spend more time working in that medium. This doesn’t mean I can’t work in other mediums, in fact I need to do so, but most of my efforts will be with works on canvas, both acrylic and oil.

I will be a generalist specializing in acrylic on canvas. (Until I change my mind!)

See Generalist or Specialist on Tom Riley’s blog

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I did not spend nearly as much time in NYC as in others, but in one 3 day weekend about 25 years ago I managed to literally walk all over Manhattan and shoot something like 10 rolls of 35mm film. I have been painting from those slides ever since. Here are several watercolors, all done in the mid to late 80s.

looking at Orchard St.


Times Square watercolor and colored ink 30x40

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I loved my father, I loved him dearly, and am so grateful that I took the time to tell him so and to show my love. But that did not prevent me from getting spitting mad at him. He would do and say things that he knew annoyed me, and only later did I realize that he would do so with a devilish grin I could not see. I should have known, because my father was the worlds greatest tease. He teased everyone, my mother, his grandchildren, and all of his nieces and nephews, so why wouldn’t he tease me.

My father’s life was difficult, with more than one man’s share of disappointments. Some were the results of choices he made, others from unforeseen circumstances, including disabling coronary artery disease at a relatively young age. He relied on my mother for so many things, and when she died it left him a lonely man. This placed a lot of pressure on me,an only child, for I could not escape the feeling that he was depending upon me for his happiness, and I did not want that responsibility. I
thought that was fair to me. I would gladly help him in any way I could, (he lived in a small home on our farm that he and my mother moved into several years before she died.), and willingly accepted my responsibilities as a son, but I did not want to be held responsible for making him happy.

Then came the stroke. He had weakness but no paralysis in an arm and leg, and rather dense aphasia (inability to find words to speak). For a man who loved the company of family and friends with wine, food, and conversation, this could be devastating. After a brief period of rehabilitation he came home from the hospital to live with Patience and me. And that marked the beginning of the best years of our lives. My father was happy! He was not the depressed, frustrated man we expected to take home with us. I was happy because of his attitude, and because I was able to do for him what he and my mother did for my grandfather who lived with us during my childhood. Patience was happy because she knew my father adored her. Until he died, which fortunately was sudden, but with enough time for us to be with him, we were a family in every sense of the word.

Because of his poor health for so many years I had plenty of opportunity to think about his death, and always, I imagined the grief and the guilt I would experience. Guilt because I could have been a better son to him, more forgiving of what I perceived to be flaws in his character. But I was in for still another surprise. There has been no guilt, only the recognition of what a warm and loving man he was. He loved his family and friends fearlessly, and he loved humanity. He was giving and caring, and treated everyone with the same respect and humility. It recognize now the precious gifts he has bestowed upon me. No father could do more for a son.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Today will complete the Wilmington journey with a hodge podge of scenes from around the city.

Mendenhall house watercolor
This sorry looking street has since been restored to its former splendor

The Other Side watercolor
This is another block of the city that has survived to be 'gentrified" in the 70s.

Quaker Hill Watercolor
Named after the nearby historic Friends meeting house, these homes were once vacant and provided refuge to the the homeless.

Royal Diner watercolor
Alas, the Royal dinner is no more.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Last night I saw the movie, The Kite Runner, the story of the lives of two boys growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan, before, during, and after the tragedies of Taliban rule. It was a powerful film evoking a series of emotional responses, sorrow, grief, and disbelief, as well as an overwhelming sense of appreciation of my own circumstances.

How fortunate I am to have been born into this country at this time. I have never experienced a war fought in our cities and countryside, have never experienced the horror of an oppressive military or government regime, and have never had to fear for the safety of myself or my family on a daily basis. I have never been without a home, without food, or without cloths. And probably more important than anything else, I have never been without hope for the future.

I have had opportunities my parents never had. My children have opportunities that most of the children alive in the world today will never have. I no longer ask myself why this is; the answers, if there are any, are beyond my comprehension. But I do feel a strong sense of responsibility to those far less fortunate than me. Although as one individual I can do little to make changes in the world’s circumstances, charitable support, voting, and civic participation not withstanding, there is something I can do. I can show my appreciation for my good fortune by taking advantages of my opportunities and circumstances which are too valuable to be wasted.

It would be difficult to stand before all those who have suffered so much in their lives, but it would be even more difficult to do so if I felt I deserved or was entitled to my good fortunes and not only took them for granted but squandered them.

I have always felt this responsibility to my parents, not a burdensome obligation, but one that I have embraced as most worthy of my efforts. The Kite Runner reminded me that my responsibility extends far beyond my parents.


I intended to include these images in yesterday's post but was interupted and never got back to the task. These are the paintings that I converted to B&W in order to illustrate the argument I was making. I wanted to show them both in color and B&W.

McConnell House watercolor

Hughes Street House watercolor

Sunday, March 9, 2008


Gray or grey ...describes any shade between black and white. Collectively, white, black, and the range of greys between them are known as achromatic colors or neutral colors. (Wikipedia)

Artists think of colors in terms of their value on a scale of dark to light. Without color this scale goes from black to white, with grays in the transition zone. Paintings done using highly contrasting values are generally more dramatic and interesting than paintings done exclusively in the middle values, although their are exceptions.

Stark contrasts, black and white = drama and interest

McConnell House-Cape May NJ

Gradients of gray = less drama and less interest

Hughs Street House-Cape May NJ

We live in a complex world and a complex society, locally, nationally, and globally, with extensive interconnections and overlapping. It would be beneficial if we could identify universal truths on which policies and decisions could be made, a world cast in black and white. But that is not the case; we live in an environment with many shades of gray. And since grays are not as interesting, public discourse tends to focus on the black and the white. This is especially true in the broadcast media, and in political speeches. It is easier to avoid the grays, they’re more complicated and take more effort to articulate. Never mind that they are more likely to be significant and/or applicable to whatever the issue might be. Instead we get: “you are either for us or against us”, you’re a hawk or a dove”, If your for the war your patriotic, if your not, your not a patriot”, labels and sound bites, in glorious black and white! You will have difficulty finding grays in major broadcast journalism (NPR excluded), tragically, even in the political “talk shows and the recent primary debates. To find the grays it is necessary to turn to selective specialty and scholarly journals and magazines, those with and without an ideological ax to grind.
Gray = Nuance and requires that we excercise out capacities to think and discern,l something our politicians and paritsan extremist want us to avoid doing.

Hughs st. house
McConnell house

Saturday, March 8, 2008


For the pst few weeks I have been exploring a somewhat new approach to my landscapes, creating texture and mood with repeated applications and removal (by blotting with paper towels, freezer paper, and/or washing with water) of thin washes of color. In some areas full application of paint is also employed. This approach was used exclusively in the skies of the 3 paintings shown here. The foregrounds were a combination of this technique and more traditional painting with brush and pallete knife. The architecture was all rendered traditionally with brush.

Across the Field 10x20 $400

Down the road 16x20 $700

Splendor on Rt. 45 16x20 SOLD

Friday, March 7, 2008


Today we will visit several places around town that were “hot spots” for me...great places to draw and paint.

Kozy korner
My first ever meal in Wilmington was in the spring of 1969, meeting with our realator at the Kozy Korner restaurant. It is still a favorite breakfast haunt for the locals, although long since relocated from this location and without the unique exterior.

Govatos candy
It would be hard to find a more well know spot in town than Govatos, a candy store as well as a luncheonette. Located in the heart of the downtown, it remains a popular stop for shoppers and diners.

I was fascinated by the juxtapositon of the old, the new, and the soon to be new in this view. I’m always on the look out for these “interior skylines”.

The last place to see is 7th & tatnall streets, where I have been told, female companionship could be had, for the right price. Of course this was painted from a photo taken from a very long distance.