Wednesday, June 30, 2010

HARD WORK...but somebody has to do it!

first effort 10x17

Yesterday I had the idea of combining two of the fun things I do in the studio...quick sketching and clay prints.

Second effort 10x24

Sunday, June 27, 2010


I'm taking a break from the watercolors to play with clay. Below are several more recent mono types, with the focus on the colors of Bologna. I haven't quite accomplished what I set out to do, but feel that I'm making progress. Will continue with the work over the next few weeks and allow it to evolve. It is in striking contrast to the tight watercolors I've been working on...but that's what keeps the days interesting.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Yesterday I wrote how the stress level rises as the work progresses...with the risk of messing up all the work with some stupid mistake. Today I allowed myself to be distracted and indeed "messed up". Fortunately it was something I could correct, and when the work is completed I will probably be the only one who will know about it. After years of creating art I've learned that an important skill is learning how to "recover" from the inevitable stumbles that occur.

The very left portion of the castle has been rendered too dark. After the photo was taken I moistened the area and lifted off the offending darkness.


I returned from Italy resolved to get rid of the clay slab in the studio. I had neglected it for several months and had not done any printing for over a year. Well that did not happen, and yesterday and today I was once again working with the clay, trying to capture some of the color of Bologna.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I expect it will take another 2-3 days to complete the first stages in the rendering of the Castle. The biggest challenge here is not to miss an area that should be masked, or to mask an area that shouldn't be. The further along I get in a painting like this, the more nervous I get about really screwing up, like letting paint fall somewhere on the piece and not see it until it dries; on one occasion I actually dropped a brush filled with paint on the middle of painting, ruining the entire piece.

Once I get all the paper covered the way I want it to be covered I can begin to relax. It's kinda like the new car, once it's been around the block awhile, a little nick or scratch is no longer a big deal (at least for some of us.).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


With the background in place, the next step is to begin rendering the architecture. Because of the size and the amount of detail, windows, etc. I have masked out everything but the exterior areas of the same material and color. This will allow me put down a uniform wash of consistent color and value, working quickly enough to avoid water marks and other “blemishes” that can happen when covering a very large area of paper. Shadows and other variations in light and detail can be added later.

I will start on the left tower and work across the top of the structure to the right, repeating the process on the lower half by working on one component at a time.

Monday, June 21, 2010


I returned from Bologna knowing that my art from this trip was going to be focused primarily on the architecture and the soft colors of the region, and this meant that watercolors, with and without some pastel, would be the dominant media. For many years watercolor was my only medium, and architecture my only subject, so in some ways this would be a return to my first love.

Without formal art training my use of the medium basically evolved on its own, influenced by the art of one or two illustrators and my fascination with the urban environment. The result has been the frequent use of the architect’s “elevation drawing” to depict the subjects, and my commitment to clean lines and hard edges in the paintings, forgoing the loose, transparent washes that are usually the hallmark of watercolor. In other words my watercolors are usually very tightly executed, and to accomplish this it is necessary to spend a great deal of time planning the composition and the approach because of all the masking that is required. My goal is to share this with you as I work my way through the painting of the Castello Estense.

The watercolor below was completed in the early 80’s and is a good example of what I have been writing about.

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts...wc...20x30

In this case I eliminated everything but the structure itself. In subsequent work I began placing the buildings against a tinted background...which I will be doing with the Castle. To do this I have completely masked the outline of the structure with artist tape. This will allow me to work the washes for the background without worrying about the paint getting into areas where I don’t want it to go.

It was necessary to alter the exposure of the photo in order to allow the tape to be seen.

Friday, June 18, 2010


A dear friend, who arranged to have his friend in Ferrara Italy be my host for the day of my visit, has asked me for a painting of the cities landmark structure, the Este Castle, also know as Castello Estense. This monumental structure located in the center of the city was built in 1385, and consists of 4 connecting towers surrounded by a moat. It overwhelmed me, and my camera, and though I did take photos from multiple angles I did not have a clear idea of how I would be rendering the structure.
I eventually decided on using my favorite approach…an elevation drawing. Since my own photos proved to be insufficient, I had to use additional pics from the internet. Because of its size, there were no straight on photos, and I had to create my drawing by extrapolating from the various images available.

The first task was to produce an aproximate 5 ½ x 8 1/4 “thumbnail” drawing with the proper architectural relationships. Once this was completed I used a proportional scale to layout the final drawing, the image measuring 15 x 24 “.

Because the pencil lines are rather light the color and exposure of these photos is a bit distorted in order to show the lines.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Ever since Bologna I have become a narrow-minded artist! I never imagined this would happen to me, but I have the following proof to offer:

pencil & marker

pen & ink & pastel

pen & ink & pastel

pen & ink & pastel

pen & ink & marker

Saturday, June 12, 2010


I'm working my way back to working...does that make any sense? doing these small drawings (pen, pencil, pastel) using my photos for reference. Can't do this forever...sooner or later I'll have to start working larger...probably a lot sooner than later. Have several ideas where to start but it will be a while before I have anything to show. In the meantime I'm having fun while I try to master the art of drawing narrow streets and arches. The next big challenge will be the rooftops!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


We were seat mates on the flight from Rome to Chicago, and as seat mates often do, we engaged in the usual exchange of civil pleasantries: are you here on business, where is home, what do you do, etc.? When I mentioned I was an artist his eyes brightened, and he proceeded to tell me all about his love of art, at which point my eyes brightened. I soon learned that he had a broad and deep understanding of art and had visited almost all of the major art museums in the world (his work requires him to travel frequently and extensively.) At this point we had all that was needed to establish a good 11 hour transatlantic relationship. But there was more. I explained my transition from medicine to art and he responded by telling me about his younger son who is almost finished his medical studies (wants to be a neurologist) but whose real passion is music and his fantasy is to write critical reviews of jazz music. The fact that we shared the same political and social views was simply the icing on the cake.

Somewhere over northern Europe or the Atlantic I showed Alex my portfolio and pics of my work on my laptop. He took his time looking at each piece of art, and dismissed my feeble murmurs about boring him assuring me he was thoroughly enjoying himself, and for the next several hours I sat and listened to his far ranging comments on my work....he told me which ones he liked, or really liked, and which ones did nothing for him...which pieces reminded him of another artist or another artists style and always taking the time to tell me that it was not meant as a criticism or to diminish my work...he described his reactions to a piece of work and what it was that evoked the response. He gave me a critical response to an extensive body of my work that was unlike anything I ever experienced. It was both informative and affirming, and quite simply an amazing experience.

Alex “knows art”. He is well grounded in many of the fundamentals of composition, color, etc., and has an extensive knowledge of art history, artists, and their work. He is someone who lives art, who emerges himself in a painting, probing to understand the work and his response to it. He is capable of talking intelligently and personally about a painting.

This is in sharp contrast to myself. I have little knowledge of art history, and give little thought to why I like of dislike a particular work of art. I am impatient with art, and when visiting a museum or gallery walk through it at far too brisk a pace. I am aware of my attitude and view it as a serious shortcoming. I find it difficult to talk about or to explain my own art and have given up trying to understand why I create the art that I do. I just do it, and that is all that really matters to me. I especially dislike the artist’s statements that many galleries and dealers ask for. I have made them, always feeling that they were insufficient and somewhat superficial.

Perhaps this is why Alex’s comments on my work, the good and the not so good, were so fascinating and delightful to hear. They were thoughtful and they were honest. I truly believe that he enjoyed looking at the work as much as I enjoyed showing it. The 11 hours wasn’t nearly as long as it would have been without this encounter.

I think I have found a friend.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Almost all of my sketches were done while sitting in an outside caffe or restaurant. I found that much more civilized (and comfortable) than balancing myself on a 3 legged stool. I did that once and nearly fell getting up because one of my legs had "fallen asleep".

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Some randomly selected pages from the sketchbook