Friday, December 31, 2010


Tuscan by Robert Miller

For me 2010 was dominated by a single theme...Italy. Compressed between months of planning and months of creating art work was the wonderful month of May in Bologna, Italy. It was an experience I never imagined would happen. Oh, I thought about a trip like this from time to time, but always dismissed it as unrealistic and unaffordable until Patience, in all of her wisdom, told me there was no reason why I couldn’t do it and that I should do it. That was all it took. Now, to be truthful, I had been talking about 2 weeks at an artists retreat and not a month on my own in a small apartment which is what it eventually evolved into.

Your have undoubtedly heard enough from me about my experiences and have seen the countless photos and paintings I’ve been posting on facebook, on my blog, and in these letters. They were the obvious and highly visible results of such a journey, easy to share. Some of what I have “learned” from the experience is less obvious and not as easy to describe...but I would like to try, and it has to do with age.

I celebrated my 71st birthday in Ferrara with the Rigosi family. For more than a year I had been struggling with being 70 years old, not so much from a physical stand point, although there have certainly been some changes, but more from an emotional and psychological one. The endless “some days” were no longer there, and for the first time I became acutely aware of the limitations I faced regarding future endeavors. In retrospect, most disabling and damaging to my spirits was the the tendency to judge and evaluate everything I did or was planning to do within the context of my age. I no longer simply imagined myself doing something, creating, traveling, or whatever; instead it was a 70 year old man doing or attempting to do these things, as if being 70 made me different. I also found myself wondering what others thought, or would think, about me, my work, and my age.

I recognized the foolishness of this kind of thinking knowing it was demoralizing as well as irrational and tried, with only limited success, to avoid it as I was preparing for my trip. To my great delight, once I arrived and settled into my apartment in Bologna, all such thoughts about my age vanished...well...maybe they surfaced while I was walking up the long hillside to San Luca, or the next day when I climbed the 500 steps in the Torre Asinelli, but only then. I don’t know if it was navigating an unfamiliar environment, managing the solitude, or something else entirely, but at some point during the second half of that trip I realized that I ceased thinking about my age; it no longer was a factor in terms of what I could or could not do. And it has remained that way ever since.

So, where shall I go to deal with 80?

Thursday, December 30, 2010



Shame is what I feel right now I am ashamed of our country. For 8 years our soldiers have been killed and maimed serving us in war and we have had to contribute NOTHING.
Our government, right and left, has not had the balls to ask us to pay for this war. Instead the only people suffering and making sacrifices are the soldiers and their families.

I cannot imagine that most Americans would not be willing to pay a “war tax” to do their part and share the burdens of these years of combat. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with the conflict...all that matters is that fellow Americans are bearing the full brunt of the war, with no help from the rest of us.

Those yellow “support our troops” ribbons aren’t worth shit! We should ALL be taxed to pay for this war and for the incredible help our soldiers need.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


there was pencil, pen, and ink. In my year end browsing through old portfolios and files I've found these old drawings, done before I began exploring color, first with markers and later with watercolor.

tree done with sepia pen

pen, brush, and ink.

pen and ink

pencil drawing...9th St. Market in Philly

I enjoy looking back on old work, seeing how my art has evolved. There are things I can do now that were not possible in those early years, but there was a freedom and freshness then that is easily lost in the more elaborate studio paintings. It was fun to see some of this recaptured in the clay drawings from the Italian experience.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


is something I've done...not just once or twice, but three times. Sadly I can only document two, so you will have to take my word for the third one. I could not resist their delicate, transparent petals and their quiet luminescent colors.

I've probably done about 6-7 floral paintings, all in watercolor, and I enjoyed doing everyone. I don't know why I've not done more.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Working my way to the end of the year by completing several commissions . Two down and a third that should be finished in the next few days. After that....I have no idea what follows. I think I'll just let it happen.

the mountain village of Prezza in central Italy...watercolor...18x26

A view in the Piazza Maggiore...mixed media...aprox. 16x28

Monday, December 20, 2010


I like Christmas. I enjoy the spirit of goodwill and anticipation that it brings to us individually and as a community, as well as the frantic reaching out to others as we struggle to prepare for the big day. It is a celebration that has become so large that it can hold different meanings for so many people, far beyond its celebration of the birth of Christ. It is a holiday that evolves for us over the years as our families evolve and young children become young adults and have families of their own. It transcends time and distance, but never completely.

For me, Christmas is becoming mostly a time for remembering, a time to recall young children, parents, and my extended family and friends. It is a mixture of sweetness and sadness, a time I cherish because I have so much to remember. Life has been very good to me.

This year there will be no family joining us, and Patience will be working Christmas and the day after. But we will not be alone (that is not possible in Lowertown), if all goes well Lindy Loo will provide us with 4 newly born puppies to care for. I look forward to that, and I look forward to sitting quietly listening to Christmas music and thinking about all of the Christmas eves and Christmas days I spent with my parents and my family. I will remember just how rich my life has been. I will think about my dear friends who have given so much to me over the years, especially in my times of need. I will remember the love that I have received, and I will remember the loved ones I’ve lost. And somewhere in the course of all this remembering there will be time for a glass of wine and dish of pasta. How could I ask for anything more?

My sincere thanks and best wishes to everyone.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


best describes my activity in the studio over the past few weeks. I've completed several commissions and even returned to the clay drawing. I'm still working on the review and cataloging of the pics of old work, may even get a few photo books out of all of this when I'm done.

Here are the latest 2 clay drawings, both of Paducah landmarks:

Familiar digs on Market Square...clay drawing

Grace Episcopal Church on Broadway...clay drawing

And, from the repository of old works, I have these to show, both from the early '80s.

Cape May Pink...watercolor

Cape May Blue...watercolor

Friday, December 10, 2010


is always with us, and the future is not far behind. Or so it seems. Whatever...I'm still looking back, hoping the view will provide some insight into the future.

Having completed the digital cataloging of all of my watercolors, I've turned my attention to the pastels. It was somewhat of a surprise to see just how many pastel paintings I had done in the last 10 years, most of them between 1998 and 2005. I eventually cut back on the pastels and watercolors because of the expense of framing, but after looking at all the slides and photos I find myself thinking...hmmmmm....maybe I should do just a few more...?

I'm almost finished with the pastels, and the next task will be to look at that vast hodgepodge of work (clay, mixed media, etc.) I did during my first few years in Paducah.

Is this...will me? Don't know, but it sure is a lot of fun. Here is a sampling of some of the pastels from the past:

NYC skyline 30x40

West KY Landscape 20x30

someones memory 20x30

Jersey Barn 30x40

Clouds 30x20

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


For the past several weeks I've been coasting on past efforts, limiting my work to several commissions on the drawing boards. I've completed one and 2 more are in progress, but for the most part I've been in a "vacation" state of mind, albeit a vacation in the studio.

How am I spending this vacation? I've decided to review and catalog my slide inventory of paintings, old and new, and create a comprehensive digital library of the work. It is a slow process but one I'm finding quite enjoyable. Many of the slides had been previously scanned, but in need of some photoshop corrections due to the poor quality of some of the slides (taken in the late 70's and 80's). Because I kept a careful record of all my work in a small notebook I've been able to label the work chronologically. Sadly, a computer crash about 5 years ago took away much of my digital inventory records for a number of years...should have stuck with the pen and paper!

So far I've worked my way through the 70's and 80's which consisted almost entirely of watercolors. Next up, the 90's when I began to work with clay and pastels as well as watercolor. In addition to the new mediums, my focus also began shifting from urban to rural landscapes, barns and farms began to replace storefronts and skylines.

Here are a few images of my earliest work:

Jim's Steaks on South St. watercolor and ink...1981

Old Philadelphia from photo...watercolor...1980
Rocco's in Wilmington DE...watercolor and markers...1978

Refuge Temple in Wilmington...watercolor...1979

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Although I've been using a computer (macs only) since the mid 1980s I still consider myself a novice, just scratching the surface of the digital potential at my finger tips.
But I am making a little progress. Using iPhoto, I have been able to print a book featuring all of the artwork in my exhibit, From Italy With Love and, with flickr, I can share the artwork with others online. is the link to flickr with the exhibit:

The book...From Italy With available in hardcover, 8 1/2 x11 1/2, with 46 pages of full color art, for $75,00 plus $5.00 for S&H.

Happy Thanksgiving to all

Sunday, November 21, 2010


I've been basking in the glow of our opening reception for a week...long enough! The show is still bringing visitors to the gallery, along with several commissions, so it is time to return to work, which I did several days ago.

The first thing I did was to try and borrow the approach to the clay drawings and apply it to a watercolor based painting. It went like this: First, a well defined pencil drawing on 300lb. Arches paper, followed by color washes of the buildings, but not the details, Second, re-drawing the scene with a sepia pen and adding details to windows and store fronts with markers, Third, further delineation of the details, windows, etc. with ink, watercolor and acrylic, and enhancing the buildings with pastel dust. The last step was adding the trees with acrylic.

Via Garibaldi in Parma...mixed media...16x26

While this was going on I kept myself busy with another clay drawing, using a new support for the first time. It is called Typar, and I like the way it receives the ink line.

As I Remember...clay drawing...8x12

Monday, November 15, 2010


after days of hectic preparations for our opening reception, I am pleased to report that all the effort, the planning, and a bit of worrying, were rewarded with a great trunout and an enthusiastic reception of the art. We sold a lot of art, served a lot of food, and poured a lot of wine during a very festive evening.

For the entire week before the opening we lived with sun-filled blue, cloudless skies with temperatures in the low 70s. Saturday morning greeted us with gray damp skies and intermittent rain throughout the day. Then, about 20 minutes before our 5 PM opening, the sun broke through and the sky outside the gallery entrance revealed....

and I knew then and there that the evening ahead was full of promise, not just for me, but for the 2 other opening receptions taking place in Lowertown that night. It was THE place to be.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


The opening reception is 2 weeks away, the art work is completed and ready to hang, and all that remains is some major cleaning in the studio and gallery, removing the present work, hanging the show, cleaning up some landscaping, and planning and preparing the food. Two weeks should be enough time to accomplish this....right?

I gave my friend Nathan Brown (creative director at Paducah Printing) a CD with several images of my work, including one photograph, knowing he would create a great poster for the show...and he did.

Preparations for the show have monopolized my time and efforts for the past few weeks, and will continue to do so until the reception. Beyond that...I have not given it much thought. It will be interesting to see what happens in the studio.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


It is officially finished! My wife has seen it and suggested some some minor changes which are now completed. As usual, she was correct, and I have learned to heed her advise...most of the time.

Here are the before and after pics.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Not long after moving to Paducah 8 years ago I began playing with left over scraps of museum and illustration board, combining them with other "stuff" I had lying around the studio...left over from my model railroad days. The result was this mixed media skyline, OK, but not good enough to hang on the gallery wall. Sometime later I decided to place it on the front of the house under the porch, even though it was not really weather proof. To my surprise it survived for almost 5 years. What you can't see in the pic is the warping and peeling of many of the pieces.

All in all it has served me very well and is now destined for the trash, after salvaging a few parts.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Progressing at a little faster is the latest version of this 12x48" Tuscan landscape. All that remains is a bit more detail on the house and a few "sunlit washes across the fields on the right as well as the house.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I've been told my grandfather had the first legal winery in southern New Jersey. He produced wine in the early 20th century from his small family vineyard until prohibition put him out of business. The vineyards were still there during my early years and I remember them well. He and my father continued to make wine every year, a tradition my father continued for the rest of his life. As a young boy I remember the 5-6 barrels of wine in our cellar where I would take an occasional drink from a mason jar lid. It bothers me that I cannot remember when the vineyard was "removed"

What follow is a dream I had several years ago:

"I am walking through the flat south Jersey fields of my childhood, heading east into the land that once was the Renzulli farm. To the south I can see the Goffredi homestead and the fields where we played so many baseball games. To the north, beyond Siciliano’s farm is the silhouette of the cannery; I could still see the trucks, overflowing with ripe tomatoes, lined up during the glorious late summer days, the air smelling heavy from the tomatoes being processed for canning.

I am explaining all of these images to whoever might be with me on this dreamy journey, as we enter the overgrown field where our vineyard once so proudly thrived. ( t was a small vineyard, perhaps 15-20 rows of grapes about 500 ft long. But to me it was a magical playground, where the large leafy plants offered many intimate hiding places, nurturing so many fantasies and dreams of a young boy playing his games. And the best part? At any time you could pick a handful of large grapes, white, blue,or red, and squeeze the skin and pop the pulpy, juicy grape directly into your mouth.) Once I am in the field, I am alone, and my only thought is to look for signs of the long gone grapes, hoping there might be one or more small shoots that have survived after all these years. I begin to dig and scrape away some of the surface soil, and to my amazement, and delight, find old, thick, gnarled roots, one of which has a small green shoot trying to extend upward. I continue digging and looking and am rewarded with several more roots with signs of tender life.

Before attempting to remove them I know I must do two things, first, get permission from the current owners to do so, and second, do some research on how to safely remove and transplant the roots.

I want to restore-resurrect the grapes of my grandfather and father. I want to see the Renzulli vineyard, producers of Father & Son Claret, thrive, one more time."

Friday, October 15, 2010


It has been 4 days since I returned home, and am finally getting back into a comfortable routine. I've completed the last of the large watercolors for next month's show, and can now focus on the 12x48" canvas in progress. Here are pics of the watercolors:

Polazzo d' Accurso

on the Piazza Maggiore

Castello Estense in Ferrara

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


so 3 days with Beth is followed by 3 days with Sara and her family, husband Dave, brewmaster supreme, and 7 year old Max and 5 year old Evan. (as well as one horse, one pony, one donkey, 3 chickens, one cat, and 4 dogs...can't seem to get away from the dogs).



And then there is the art. There was a time when I would instruct Sara, but now the reverse is true...she is a gifted artist.

And last but not least...her felted critters:

Monday, October 4, 2010


950 miles, I thought I could do it in one day but alas, I am not the tiger I like to think I am. So instead of arriving late Friday night weary and bedraggled, I arrived rested and ready to go early Saturday morning. After persistent pleading from 7 year old Leif, we got out the pastels and had our fun...everyone got their hands dirty working with the pastels, but the results were worth the time and grime.

Beth, Lief (7), and Cleo (11, at work in our " studio"

The results...

Landscape by Leif

Landscape by Cleo

Landscape by Beth

Art is where your heart is.

One more day with Beth, Carl, Cleo, and Leif, and then it is on to Sara and her family.