Friday, February 28, 2014


The recent events in Arizona regarding “religious freedom” have left me offended, angry, and even somewhat confused.  How can someone read the New Testament with such a narrow mind that they miss the entire message?  But that is not what this post is about.  I want to try and understand what religious freedom means.

We do have the right to hold the religious beliefs – or non-beliefs – of our choice, and we have the right to act upon them, as long as they do not impede, harm, or otherwise encroach upon the rights and wellbeing of others.  This is where it gets a little “sticky”.

We live in a complex civil society where we are all inter-connected in so many ways, many of which we are unaware.  Every one of us, directly or indirectly, contributes to the support of everyone else.  My taxes pay for the civil infrastructure that businesses and individuals utilize: they pay for the medical safety net we provide for everyone: my taxes enable the tax benefits that are offered to private enterprises: my taxes contribute to the utilities that churches and houses of worship utilize.

We have many freedoms in this country, but with them come RESPONSIBILITIES.  We have a responsibility to maintain the fabric of our society where we respect and treat one another fairly and without prejudice.  This means understanding that the freedom to hold religious beliefs exists today because of this very fabric, and if that becomes shredded we devolve into social anarchy. 

We are not a Theocracy.  We are a Democracy, a country governed by civil laws, and our freedoms must conform to those laws.  We can believe anything we want, but we cannot do anything we want.


A few years ago I painted three barns that stood abandoned on a farm in Livingston Co. in KY.  I posted one called Betrayed By Time (barn #39).  Here is another from that series of 3, cleverly called The Third Barn.

Acrylic on canvas

Thursday, February 27, 2014

BATS…Not the baseball kind The First Encounter

My first encounter with these winged creatures of the night did not occur until I my 30th year on this green earth.  I consider that a blessing.  If there were bats in the barn of our family farm I was blissfully unaware of them as a young boy.  My wife and I were in bed when we were awakened by a flitting noise coming in and out of our room.  Once we gained our senses the shadowy creature could be seen moving almost silently about the second floor, and I knew immediately it was a bat.  My heart sank to depths yet to be named because I knew I was going to have deal with it, even after it disappeared.  This provided only temporary relief, because now it meant I had to go looking for this monster from hell that had come to do me so much harm, as well as interrupt my sleep.  My family’s wellbeing was as stake.

Armed with a tennis racket – yes, I had a tennis racket.  I don’t know why, I just did.   I crept out of the bedroom, trying desperately to keep my back against a wall.  From where the B was last seen it was most likely it went up to the third floor.   This meant I had to cross an open hallway to reach the stairs, an act I accomplished with a speed that would have impressed the hell out of the B in order to minimize the time my back would be vulnerable to attack.  With my back once again firmly against  the wall, I crept up the stairs in my bare feet and underwear – briefs, not shorts.  (It is important you have an accurate picture of this entire escapade.)  As I approached the open doorway to the third floor I was convinced the B would swoosh down toward me and I would fall backwards, bouncing down the entire flight of stairs, in my bare feet and underwear.  Not a pleasant picture.

But good fortune found me safely on the third floor, where I explored the two rooms and the bath and failed to find my prey.  Once I safely reached the third floor we switched roles, and I became the hunter and not the prey.  With a growing sense of confidence I rechecked the hallway, even allowing myself to move away from the walls – not a lot, but there was space between my back and walls.  Still no sign of the B.  I returned to the back room and mustering all of my courage turned the light on, something I should have done earlier.  And there it was, clinging to the edge of curtains on the small window on the back wall.  I froze momentarily, then silently, with the tennis racket raised before me crept toward the source of such fear.

I will spare you the details of the ensuing battle, and tell you that I emerged victoriously and the bat disappeared into the bowels of the Wilmington sewers.  In my bare feet and underwear I returned to bed, and after only a few anxious hours fell peacefully to sleep.


I'm going back to 2003 for this one, creatively titled - Stand Alone Barn.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014


There are several rites of passage that mark our entrance into the “senior years” of life.  The first, the most passive of the lot, is the arrival of the Medicare card.  I remember very clearly my reaction to seeing that card with my name on it: this can’t be real!  My father and mother had Medicare cards: what am I doing with one?

I got over it.

The second Rite applies only those who usually pee standing up – the dwindling urinary stream.  Gone are the days of peeing over a bush into your neighbor’s yard.  Now you’re happy if your shoes don’t get wet.

I’ve had that problem fixed.

The third Rite…getting a cataract removed.  aAd yesterday I had one removed from my left eye.  The one in my right eye is next.  I will spare you the details of this relatively simple (from the patient’s point of view – no pun intended), but I will share this single tidbit of information for those of you anticipating such an event.

Since yesterday morning I have had 1,219 drops instilled in the involved eye.

But it is worth it, because besides seeing the world better, I get to wear these cool Ray Bans.


This must be a milestone of some kind...or not.  Either way, here is barn #50:

December Barn
Pastel on toned paper

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Returning to a smaller scale, Barn #49 is creatively titled - Watercolor Barn.

Watercolor Barn

Monday, February 24, 2014



 Why do I make art?  Why do I write?  I suppose I could ask, why do I do anything I do?  I am willing to try answering the first two queries, but the last one is too overwhelming for me.  Then again, it may be foolishness to think I can answer the others. 

I have struggled with these questions for years, hoping to understand what compels me to do this work.   I did not choose art; it chose me.  Art reached into my almost perfect world, placed its hand upon my shoulders, and against all odds pulled me into its breast.  Tenacious and unyielding, it would not loosen its grip, determined to overcome all obstacles I placed before it.  The desire to be an artist and live an artist’s life inserted it self into the fabric of my thoughts, overwhelming everything else.  Eventually it transformed from something I wanted to do to something I had to do.

Almost 35 years later, I’m still doing the work, which now includes writing as well as painting and drawing.  I have learned how to explain why I paint the way I do, and how I choose my subjects, but why I paint at all remains a mystery.  At least it did until last year, in the fall of 2013 when I wrote the following in my journal:

“Why it has taken me this long – 74 years – to see myself so clearly is beyond comprehension.  While most of my “ah ha moments” occur in the proximity of my morning shower, I can’t recall when this one poked me in the head; it happened about a week ago.

I cannot let things simply “be”.  I have this unrelenting need to act on things, to make them more than an experience or knowledge.

Ideas, thoughts, or feelings must be put into words, spoken, written, or both, and more often than not, they must be shared, quietly and personally through conversation, or publicly through writing (blogs, facebook, etc.).

In my encounters with the world around me the same phenomenon occurs.  When a particular scene, natural or manmade, inspires me, I am driven to re-create it on paper or canvas, directly or via a photograph.  Living with the experience and memory is not enough for me.  I have to make it into “ something” that I can see on demand, and, as is usually the case, share with others.”

For the lack of a better term, I think of this as “materialization”, an act of expression as well as recording.  I am archiving the moment, the vision, the emotion, the revelation, so that it can be revisited as well as shared.  Something in this act of “materializing” provides the validation of the experience that I seem to need.

It happened it Boston in 1976 just as it is happening as I write these words.


Farm at Dawn
Acrylic  24x48

Friday, February 21, 2014


“I should”, one of the deadliest word combinations in the English language.  After 74 years they still get their hook in me, but I am beginning to figure things out.

I should go to this meeting tonight because it’s important, I should give to this cause because it is so worthy, I should…I should…I should.  (“Ought” may be freely substituted for “should”)  How many times have those two words driven us to action, even when it was against our own self-interest.

We must be careful when we allow these two words to enter into conversations with ourselves.   There are times when it is entirely appropriate, and perhaps very advisable, for us to act because we “should”: calling the dentist when a tooth hurts, taking the car in for service because of a strange noise,  or supporting a cause that we encouraged. 

Likewise there are times when we have to draw the line and say “no, I can’t be there”, or “I like what you are doing but it is not possible for me to be involved now”.  We cannot be everything to every one.  We have to find the balance between responsibilities to our community, our family and friends, and ourselves., realizing that over time this balance, how we distribute ourselves, will be constantly changing..  The challenge is to know where to place the fulcrum,; when to put our concern for others before our own.  Elizabeth O”Connor in her wonderful book, Journey Inward, journey Outward, reminds us that caring for ourselves enhances our capacity to care for others.

So what have I figured out after 74 years…I should be mindful of my own needs as well as those of others.


 A Sky of my own
Pastel  15x20
Price on request

This is the companion piece to yesterday's barn - Moonshine

Thursday, February 20, 2014


For a change of pace - this is a barn I completed 2 days ago.


Pastel on illustration board - 15x20"
Contact me for price

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

BLACK & WHITE V. GRAY - or why today's news depresses me

All artists, especially visual artists, are conscious of values as they relate to the darkness and lightness of color.  Pure black and pure white are classic examples of two extremes in value.  With a little imagination one can imagine a series of boxes or circles, starting with a pure black and gradually becoming lighter until the last one is pure white, with a ranged of grays in between.  This is a value scale which can be applied to all colors, and paintings done using the extreme end of this scale generally evoke more interest than ones rendered almost entirely in a small range of values.  The movement between the two extremes, in art, music, and life in general creates tension and interest.  Clearly there are times when a far more consistent demeanor or palette is desirable, but for this narrative, the emphasis is on the black and white.

 Unfortunately, in spite of its artistic desirability, the world in which we live is not black and white.  Instead, with few exceptions, we live in a world of varying degrees of gray, although you might not know that based on the current public political discourse in our country today.  According to many politicians, columnists, and talking and blogging heads, everything and everyone is right or wrong, good or bad, or weak or strong.  If you propose a new government service you are a Socialist.  If you believe in a strong free market you are a greedy capitalist.   It is so much easier for politicians to identify themselves and appeal to their bases - generally in the extremes of each party - than to honestly acknowledge that good ideas can be found across the political spectrum, and that no one has a monopoly on the truth.  Woe be to the politician who vainly tries to see the middle ground; he or she is quickly labeled someone who cannot be or act decisively, and cannot be counted to support the party, and clearly the good of party is more important than that of the country.  Blaming the other side is more important than listening or seeking common ground.  Today no one is willing to publicly grant praise on someone of the opposition until he or she dies, and even then it is often equivocal.  

Sadly this movement to the extremes exists in all arenas of public discourse.  It is easier, less complicated, and for some probably less threatening, than attempting to acknowledge, let alone see all sides of an issue.  It is a large black v white hat that easily accommodates conservatives, liberals, corporate executives, union leaders, as well as those “of faith” and without faith.

This state of affairs distresses me greatly.  There was a time I enjoyed the news, written, spoken, and otherwise, and looked forward to the morning coffee and the newspapers.  Now it is a chore I force upon myself, feeling it is my civic responsibility.  The worst part of this is that I can see no signs of improvement, either now or in the future.  Until we place the greater good before our own ideology and interests we are doomed to be governed by ineffective politicians and powerful self interests, and to be bombarded by pompous self righteous noise from all sides.  Undoubtedly there are many reasons for this current state of affairs, but one that stands out, at least in my mind, is the 24 hour news cycle with its need for filler, usually a talking head who speaks with or without validated information, relying greatly on the opinion of “experts”, and presenting us with a black and white world of either or; the discourse is devoid of all but the extremes.


Alone At Dawn
Oil on canvas

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Walter from the dumpster. (From the ER journals)

The usual routine when patients were brought into the treatment rooms was for the nurses to get vital signs, and asses the problem so they could set up the room with equipment or supplies as needed.   When ever possible, I would like to see the patient for a quick “greeting” and assessment of my own, before the nurse arrived.


I had no idea who was in the treatment room, or why. I pushed the curtains aside, stepped into room and was immediately overwhelmed by an oppressive, sickening odor coming from the crumpled dirty figure lying on the gurney.  I am ashamed to say that my first reaction was to think, “I’m glad I’m not the nurse who has this room”.

Like so many of our homeless patients, Walter was brought to the ER by the local police.   He apparently sought relief from the severe weather by crawling into a dumpster to sleep, only to be rudely awakened when the garbage truck began lifting the unit to collect the trash.  He had enough presence of mind to know what was happening and quickly scrambled up and out of his now moving abode.  Unfortunately he was a good 10 feet above ground when he exited, and thus he became our guest.

The next time I parted the curtains and looked into the room, Walter was standing by the gurney sporting the one size fits all hospital gown washing himself with the help of one of the many angels working in the ER as registered nurses.  The odor was now tolerable and his clothing was nowhere to be seen.

Walter had a head full of wild looking hair that did not fit with the chagrined, embarrassed look on his face.  Clearly he was ashamed of his situation.  He appeared to be in no distress or pain and we were surprised when his x-rays revealed non-displaced radial fractures of both fibula.  It was our turn to be chagrined for having him stand and wash himself.

Like most of the homeless that we saw in the ER, Walter was humble, polite, and very appreciative of all that was done.  I will never forget the image of him standing there dripping wet from his sponge bath.  Nor will I forget the smell the first time I walked into that exam room.


Autumn Barn
Mixed Media24x24"

Monday, February 17, 2014


 I adjusted the canvas shoulder bag under my head as I reclined in the cool spring grass of the park.  The abundant trees held enough young leaves to keep the bright sun out of my closed eyes.  Letting go of all thoughts, the street noise gradually retreated and I found myself in that wonderful place between consciousness and sleep.  I awoke shortly, somewhat startled, to the realization that I had been sleeping on the ground in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square early in the afternoon on that late spring day in 1979. 

After walking the streets with my camera all morning and consuming more lunch that I really needed, sprawling on the grass in the park seemed like the only civilized thing to do.  None of the many people strolling about seemed to pay any attention to those of us seeking such comfort on God’s green mattress.  I hope I wasn’t snoring. 

The result of that adventure is posted below.  Unfortunately the 25 year old photo I took of this painting leaves a lot to be desired. 


Barn on Blue
Pastel  20x30

Sunday, February 16, 2014

NEW YEARS EVE 1954 or learning the power of the grape

Our house was filled with family and friends gathered to welcome in the New Year.  While some were scattered about the kitchen and living room, most of the adults were crowded around the dining room table, filling the house with talk and laughter and enjoying the food and wine that was present in abundance.   I’m not sure just how things got started, but at some point I felt I should be able to have more than a sip of wine without sneaking it by my parents, and to my surprise, they agreed.  After that my memory of events is rather limited and hazy.  I don’t know how much wine I consumed, probably not very much, but enough to do a job on me.

I remember having a silly grin on my face that would not go away as my mother led me through the dining room and upstairs to my bedroom.  I’m pretty sure there was significant laughter as I passed by our guests.  To my credit, I did not throw up; apparently I was a tiger even at that tender age.

I don’t think I felt very well the next morning.  The wine must have loosened my tongue because my mom and dad asked me about Irene, a classmate with whom I was severely smitten, and who I had never spoken about to my parents. 

After that episode I had no interest in consuming large amounts of wine or beer.
Looking back, I’m convinced that my mother saw the wisdom in allowing me to make a fool of myself in the safety of our home.  She was a devious saint.


No longer needed
Pastel  12x18"

Friday, February 14, 2014

Words to live by

Love until it hurts
Laugh until you cry
Be all you can be
Live until you die


Another Old Barn
Pen - ink - watercolor

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Opening Lines

I searched for famous opening lines in literature on Google and stopped counting the web sites after fifty.  The literati love opening lines, and even more, they love to makes lists that rank them, but often avoid describing their criteria by which they make their selection.  It is not surprising that some remarkable opening sentences have all but been ignored, never finding a spot on one or more of the coveted lists.

In an effort to correct this sad injustice I have attempted to identify for you some of these sadly overlooked opening masterpieces.

His gaze shifted slowly from the book lying before him to her face, with the red thumb tack stuck to her lower lip.”

“The hole in the faded sock slowly opened, exposing the pink fleshy toes.”

“Where are the goddamn pillows, he exploded in a rage.”

“It was a cold dark night and his Temporal Mandibular joint was near the point of total exhaustion.  Relief was imperative if his face was to survive.”

"The newspaper clung desperately to his ear throughout the night hoping to hear the harmony, however high."

"Terrible thoughts tore at his tormented mind.  Too timid to resist, he tottered toward the tilting tower.  Too tempting he thought, and he abruptly took a turn to the left and disappeared, never to be thought of again."

The wiggly worm poked through the keyhole and wondered, “what in the hell am I doing here”?

“My God, this is warm”, he thought, as the flames engulfed his pants.

“Why do I allow myself to get into these situations”, he thought, as he stepped into a foot deep layer of molasses with his bare feet.

“I wonder where it all ends” she thought as she wrapped the string into a tight ball."

"Poised on the brink, suspended in time, he release his grip, and the last rigatoni tumbled effortlessly into the boiling water."


Barn on Black #3
Pastel  20x30

Sunday, February 9, 2014


In my experience the litmus test for judging the depth of a friendship is the refrigerator, or more accurately, access to the appliance.  With a few exceptions, only close family and friends can wander into each other’s kitchen and open the refrigerator to look for something to eat or drink.

In my lifetime I can count perhaps 3 friendships where there was uninhibited access to the fridge in each others kitchen.


Today I have a special treat for all you is a 2-barn day.

The first - Another Red Barn, acrylic 9x12  (sold)

The second - Bill's Barn, watercolor, 3x5, a gift to me by my very talented artist friend, Keyth Kahrs.

Keyth is an amazing super-realist, and this is his answer to by teasing him for painting by numbers.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Friday, February 7, 2014


Growing up in the 40s and 50s we never had Mac and Cheese.  Instead my mother would occasionally serve macaroni with butter, which was really the Italian-American version of Mac and Cheese.  Oh my was delicious.  Spaghetti soaked with butter and Parmigiano cheese.  Only now, approaching my 75th birthday, have I been able to overcome my shame and confess that as  a young boy I would put Ketchup on my mom’s macaroni and butter. I shudder now when I think about that.  Fortunately I out grew that taste.

I don’t know how my mother prepared that dish; I imagine it was basically butter and cheese.  I serve my own version now.  It is quite simple and like most of my pasta dishes, nothing is measured, and it’s never prepared exactly the same way twice.

While the pasta is cooking – usually elbow macaroni, but any of the small shaped pastas will do – I select and serving bowl and begin tossing in the following:

Grated Parmigiano or Grana Padana
Just a small bit of blue cheese
A bit of heavy cream or milk is optional

Toss in the cooked pasta along with some pasta water, mix well and prepare yourself for some heavenly comfort food.

Tonight I added a little twist to send Patience off to NYC and Westminster in the morning.  Bite sized pieces of asparagus previously nuked in the microwave were added to the mix in the bowl, along with finely chopped fresh Dill.


Our memories are like a thread that runs through our life, providing an element of continuity and enabling us to carry the past with us as we make our way through the years.  If our lives were books, memories would be the table of contents, directing us to a particular place and time. 

It was only after I reached adulthood that I realized how fortunate I was to have the parents and family that I did, and as a result, with very few exceptions, I have only good memories.  Not everyone has been so fortunate, and I wonder how people deal with the pain and sorrow of bad memories as they make their way in life.  Can they coexist with happiness and better circumstances, or do they have to be repressed and forgotten. 

Memories can help us understand whom we are, by showing us where we have been, revealing how the person we are has unfolded from what we were.  They enable us to see the past with the wisdom of gathered years, often revising our impressions and allowing us to see what we may have  missed the first time around.

I cherish my memories, holding them fast and close to me, even more as the years accumulate (something they inevitably do).  I’m aware that the very old seem to go back into time, reliving the distant past.  That gives me comfort; I look forward to pulling up long forgotten stories.


This is print from an original watercolor.  It was inspired by the farm house on the left.  I added several additions to the house, some outbuildings, and the barn.  The 10x40" limited edition print is available for $40 plus $7 S&H.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Balance, a principal that should probably apply to most, if not all of our endeavors to navigate a life.  I suppose the critical point, the one each individual has to determine for his or her self, is where to place the fulcrum.

As an artist I have faced this question repeatedly over the past 30 years.  Artists who are dependent on the income from their art must find the balance between creating for the market and creating for one’s self.  Even though the art I paint for myself is also popular in the market, I have had to deal with this issue from time to time.

It is only now, late in my career that this issue of balance has become more prevalent on a day-to-day basis.  Exposure to the work of other artists is often inspiring and educational, and has the potential to send my work off in another direction, one I would not have encountered on my own.  I never felt the need to tamper or lessen these encounters…until now.  At this stage in my life, I’m a few months away from my 75th birthday, I feel a growing need to carefully choose my encounters with the world around me, while increasing the focus on my own work.  More than ever before I want my work to arise from a wellspring within me, hopefully refining a lifetime of labor.  I am not announcing my imminent demise, indeed, I hope to be around for a long time, but I am facing the reality of the tenuousness of my position, and thus the need for balance – to mine the work that is within me, while not allowing the work to become old, stale, and tired.  All that I have to do is figure out where to place the fulcrum.


Not all barns are red.  That is the title of this 4x9 ink and pastel sketch.  It is available for $45 including S&H.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


The gurney was hastily wheeled into the trauma room where the staff waited.  The caller reported – “self inflicted gunshot wound to the head - patient conscious and vital signs stable.”

And indeed, the patient, a young man was awake and talking in spite of the blood soaked bandages that encased his head and eyes.  His despair was obvious, and as we would soon learn, not entirely un-warranted.  He admitted to be being severely depressed, feeling worthless, and that he could do nothing right.  Overwhelmed by these feelings he placed a small caliber handgun to his temple and pulled the trigger.
Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on how you looked at it – the bullet was directed anteriorly and passed in front of the brain but severed both optic nerves, causing immediate and total blindness, tragically confirming his incompetence.

Thirty years later this case still leaves me unsettled.  I often wonder what happened to the man; how could anyone ever gain a sense of self worth after such a debacle?  I have never been able to find a way to resolve this in my own mind, to understand or rationalize how anything good could possibly follow.  The irony of it is overwhelming.

Perhaps this is because as an artist I see blindness (no pun intended) as too horrific for me to deal with.


Red Barn v Yellow Sky
Mixed media construction

Monday, February 3, 2014

Sunday, February 2, 2014



After three years of residency and nine years of private practice in Internal Medicine I found myself working in a busy city hospital emergency room.  As some of you may know, Internal Medicine is generally a rather clean and bloodless endeavor.  Oh there may be an occasional encounter with melena or hemoptysis  (much nicer words for bloody stools and bloody sputum), but for the most part, Internists are spared the grosser aspects of the practice of medicine.  Because my internship was back in the middle ages, I had the privilege of what was then called a rotating internship, meaning I rotated through all the major services – medicine, surgery, ob-gyn, pediatrics, and the emergency room.  Thus, some 15 years later, I felt reasonably comfortable in my new role as an Emergency Room physician.

It was only a matter of days before my comfort level was severely tested.  The EMTs routinely called the ER ahead of their arrival to allow us to make proper arrangements for the particular problem we would be seeing.  On this day they called in to say they had a man who got his “hand caught in a chain saw”.  He was pale and sweating, but an IV was running and his BP was stable.  The information was relayed to me and the rest of the staff.  While I was doing my very best to appear calm and nonchalant, the nurses were busy getting the room ready for our patient.  (This is a good time to point out that the people who really run the emergency rooms are the nurses and support staff.  Without them the physicians would be rendered lost and helpless.)

The ambulance arrived and the patient was wheeled into the treatment room; waiting with me were the nurse and the first year resident, and the 2 EMTs.  Much to my distress, the patient’s hand was wrapped in a bulky towel soaked through with blood, and in a calm, quiet voice that belied my true emotional state, I muttered something like – “well let’s take a look and see what we’ve got here...” Assuming my “been there, done this” look I began gingerly unwrapping the towel, fearful of what I was going to find.  A hand is no match for a chain saw.

My pulse quickened, as the towel was slowly unwrapped until only a single layer remained, stuck to the hand with clotted blood.  Without being asked the nurse knew to pour sterile saline over the matted mess, loosening the bloods hold on the towel.  Holding my breath I unwrapped the final layer…and could not believe what I saw.  A damn BLOODY GLOVE!   Now I had to remove this f…… glove, and I was sure that one or more fingers would come off with the glove.   Smiling at the patient and the small crowd of staff that had quietly joined us to satisfy morbid curiosities, and with my pulse now at least 140, I muttered something totally inane and carefully removed the glove, prepared for the worse.  Finger by finger, the glove came off.  And there they were, all 5 firmly attached fingers, each covered with multiple superficial lacerations.  And I mean superficial.  I don’t know which was greater, my relief or my anger for having to endure all of this for those simple lacerations.

I managed the whole affair calmly, never betraying my dread of what I might find.  But I can’t help wondering, what would I have done if one or more fingers had come off with that glove?