A new year, a new knee, a new wave of creative energy…

and a good time to catch you up on the progress here in the studio…
It’s now been two months since my first knee replacement surgery and by all accounts things are moving along swimmingly. The first month was all about learning to walk again…

and the second month has been about taking a defibrilator to my mojo. Even though I was able to walk over to the studio by week three…the creative muses had decided to take a longer vacation and it was many more weeks before I had the energy to lift even the tiniest of brushes. But…thanks to my long suffering nurse and team of PT helpers… I’m back !

Before this saga began I had decided to get a painting started so that I would have all the setup work done and, post surgery, could just sit and paint. I had posted a facebook photo taken early one morning as I came to work in the studio…

and the muses must have been working on that website because the responses made it clear that I HAD to paint this. So with a few tweeks I  I painted right up until the day before surgery and had a pretty good start…

And after sitting patiently on the easel for weeks, it was more than ready for my impatient attentions. The first few days were short controlled bursts of playing with puddles of paint but finally the spark returned and I put the finishing touches on this work in the very last hours of 2012 and it felt great.

And day one of the new year found me in the studio beginning again to fill requests from galleries for new work. My goal is to sharpen the focus of who I am as an artist and to lay back and enjoy the gift of being able to do what I love right up until the fat lady sings…or at least until she has finished her mending.

May all of you find your sparkles alive and well in this new year.


Chained to the easel…

that’s where I’ve been for weeks now. It’s super crunch time as I see the deadline for the July show coming closer….and closer. Every waking minute needs to be spent with brush in hand in order to meet the ambitious goals I have for producing more and better work this year.

You will have noticed that writing blog entries, which can sometimes take hours, have been shelved along with dinner invitations and all other social interactions, except for PT which is keeping my knees and back from seizing up all together.

I do monitor the incoming channels via email, internet and facebook so the outside world does get in… in short controlled bursts.

This morning one of those playful but interesting FB threads came through from a friend…World Book Day. Grab the book closet to you right now. Open to page 56, and choose the 5th sentence. Publish it as your status and write these rules as a comment. Don’t choose. PICK UP the CLOSET book.

I am a book lover so… I reached behind my easel chair and grabbed the closest book…it turned out to be Mechanical Drawing for High Schools by French and Svensen, used by students at the George Washington High School in Manhattan, N.Y.City between 1936-39…interestingly enough one of the students who signed it out in ’37 was George O’Neill…almost a relative ?

I use this book as a prop and it has appeared in several paintings…here’s one called Book Mark…

and a recent one, By Design…currently available at the Granary Gallery

So I opened to page 56…

and the 5th sentence reads…”When a pictorial sketch is dimensioned, the only additional consideration is to use care to see that all extension lines are either in or perpendicular to the plane on which the distance is being given.”

Which was a much needed reminder that the muses are here…just over my shoulder as it were…helping me struggle through the long hours of trying to get those extension lines just right…

Here is a shot of what I was painting when that facebook comment came through on the iphone beside me…complete with T-square in place to make sure those carefully considered doors are perpendicular !

So what book is beside YOU ?

Gallery 1261 Show

The Reality Boost Show is running now until the end of November in Denver. It’s exciting for me to be a part of this exhibit and to be showing among such stellar painters. The gallery website has a show preview … and some nifty little red dots !

Kudos and Congrats go out to one of those stellar artists…Bob Jackson, who has just had a painting purchased by the Brandywine River Museum for their collection. A well deserved honor.

And further congrats to artist friend Steve Mills who was also part of that Brandywine River Museum show, Reality Check (show continues until November 18th).  Steve’s paintings have received nods from many of the reviewers and his recent show at Gallery Henoch showcases some outstanding new work.


The Baron… and The Baroness

Every so often I rotate the stack of reference books in the stacks on my studio kitchen table and dip into old volumes to find new treasures. In that way I always find something that I’ve overlooked or was not ready to see before and a window is opened for the muses to shove me through.

Such was the case last month when I was paging through…

I came across a watercolor that my leaky memory has no memory of ever seeing before… Baron Philippe (1981)…

Something clicked and I began to sketch out an idea for a response….

I’ve been working on a series of studio still lifes and this gave me a chance to pull together some of the old props that have been living in the old studio (now renamed the POD ).

The oil lamp was Cousin Ed’s and one of the few treasures of his we were able to purchase back from the auction of his posessions. The empty wine bottle is courtesy of our holiday feast with D and S. The ladies handkerchief was one of Polly’s. The teacup is from Sue’s grandmother. The chair was from the old farmhouse across the road and is a very old shaker style ladderback that somewhere along the way had the rockers sawed off of so it is now a slipper chair. The little porcelain doll in her silky purple gown is a gift from Chris. The cane was a flea market find and has the whisper of a serpent carved in the handle.  The bottle was from an antique store purchased on the day we went to the Amish country to pick out Finnegan. The uniform has appeared in several other paintings and was an old hollywood costume found on Ebay years ago. The shell is from Sengy pond on the Vineyard. I don’t remember from whence the table came but the old wooden floor is the very foundation of my new studio. And the rest… is pure folly.

There are homages here to all three generations of Wyeths and I humbly submit my tribute to them… The Baroness.

Brandywine Valley Visit

Earlier this week Pat and Finnegan and I took a day off and drove over the river and through the woods to visit Robert Jackson in his Kennet Square studio. Bob is a highly accomplished realist painter and a magnificently kind and generous spirited human. I’ve followed his work for a while now and after meeting for the first time earlier this year we’ve started down the road towards a friendship that I hope will endure well after we both can no longer lift our paint brushes.

Here’s a look inside his studio at Bob and his wall of boxes…

To see some of his work and appreciate the skill of this story teller and his wonderfully rich sense of humor… click here.

We traveled a little further on down the pike to the Brandywine River Museum to soak up some of the Wyeth family inspiration.

If you live in the area and have young children their model train display is a must see. And they currently have an exhibit featuring illustrations from Alice in Wonderland throughout the years. But it’s the magic of Snowy River that I go to see.

But with the sun setting earlier each day now we soon headed back home along the country roads…passing Amish farmers getting one more plow in before the coming snow…

Since Kennet Square is also the mushroom capitol of the world we stopped at an organic farm and bought a giant box of freshly picked mushrooms to bring home for our first snow of the season tradition…mushroom soup.

Right on cue the biggest storm of this century is in full blizzard mode outside of the studio today. We’re right in the one to two feet swath and… with the heaviest snow yet to fall…I just may get to use that snow blower that has been sitting in the garage for three years now !

But first… the soup.  I’m too excited to paint.

Gesso Presto !

Betsy wins the challenge today…

and thanks to the many who chimed in to help as well…

I decided to bring the panel into the kitchen to provide better light and warmth and set up a spot light at a raking angle, then started with a thin sanding sponge. Some grit on one side and sponge only on the other. Dipped in a little water it quickly brought up a slurry of gesso and in seconds had repaired an imperfection. The key turned out to be starting with the grit side and water…just a little bit…and then wiping in a broader circle with the sponge side which quickly smoothed it back down.                                                                                                                              

The panel is 32″ x 48″ which is a lot of real estate when you are bending over and squinting and it took almost 2 hours of work to reach a satisfactory surface. I was apparently gloating for just a moment and when I took it outside so I could clean up the studio kitchen the wind knocked it over onto Finnegan’s water dish. UGH. Another 15 minutes of repairing those dings and it was back in shape.

Now safely returned to the warmth of the studio I am going to let it dry overnight before proceeding with the oil out that I do as the next step. It will be interesting to see if the surface is not too smooth or if this gesso will provide enough tooth. I’d hate to have to take an abrasive back to it.

 So thanks again Betsy, the sponge wins !

Gesso Messo

By far the most annoying part, for me, of being a painter is preparing the panels. Last fall, and then again this spring, I did a marathon panel prep and now have a trailer full of various sizes to choose from. All have five or six coats of gesso already on them but there is still a good deal of texture revealed from the portrait grade canvas that I use…and I do not like this.

On some paintings where I use lots of paint and deliberately rough up the surface, like roiling seas and wind blown landscapes, that texture is just fine and gets hidden quickly in favor of the brushstrokes.

For other works, like finely detailed still lifes and interiors, I want the texture to be of my design, not the canvases.

I have experimented and struggled for years now to produce a reliable and smooth gesso finish. And the first three or four coats which I apply with a wide putty knife go on great. But once that weave begins to fill in every single tiny speck of dust of dog hair or wooly caterpillar fluff gets caught in the sweep of the blade and drags a gully across the panel.  UGH !

I tried to get a photo of this to help illustrate the problem…but didn’t have the patience to light it right…here’s a shot of the gesso I have found to be the best for the final coats… Art Boards Gesso which I get from Dick Blick. (This is not a plug for them…just a reference since I had some difficulty finding it in the usual haunts. I have found it to be the best as far as pliability on a rigid surface as well as having just the right tooth for the oils I use.)


I’m eager to get to the easel to work on some of the new ideas I collected while on Martha’s Vineyard last month and I worked all day yesterday to get a sketch ready for the first one up. Last night I hauled out a panel and applied a final coat of the gesso to dry overnight. In the light of morning most of the gesso had smoothed out but there were dozens of those nasty streaks so I got out the sander and took it back down to a uniform level…which or course sanded off more gesso than I wanted so I decided to thin it down and re-apply with a brush.

Disaster. It dries too fast and the brushstrokes become clumpy and no amount of raking light can reveal all the imperfections. With nothing to lose I went back to the putty knife and had a little bit more success leveling out the hills and valleys. But not much.

I’ll have to let this dry and then give it a wet/sand finish which is very time consuming and a big mess…but it does work. You slowly build up a slurry by taking a wet-sandpaper of 400 or 500 grit and progress in small increments. The advantage is that you do not remove any gesso…just smooth it around but it’s tedious work and I am low on patience at the moment.

I’d welcome any thoughts and suggestions on how you other artists handle the gesso messo.

For now that’s enough whining !!! …as Pat says…everything happens for a reason so I must need the practice…and it’s a beautiful grey November day here in the studio yard…


take note if you will …that pole leaning on the lilac bush, circled in red, is the one that drove itself into my sinuses a couple days ago…quite a wake up call…doing just fine now …and the lingering soreness is all the reminder I need to get back to painting thank you !


Stimulus “Art” Package

10 February 09

Breaking through the rain clouds outside of the studio… and the walls of doom and gloom that seem to surround all of us these dreary mid-winter days… came a bright ray of sunshine for art lovers and patrons alike…


The Granary Gallery has represented my artwork for over 8 years and I’m pleased to be one of the cooperating artists for this unprecedented sale.  As our friend Polly often said…” It’s a good fit ! ”

So Light up your torches… put on your dancing shoes…


Throw open the windows…


Reach for the stars…



Follow this link to browse  the sale…

and … thanks always for your support,


Brushes in the wind

17 January 2009

In the wake of yesterday’s news of the death of Andrew Wyeth it has been somber in the studio. The view outside my window, of a weathered Pennsylvania stone barn and raw umber fields of stubbled winter cornshalks, echoes his own corner of farm land not far from here … and it settles my soul.

Many of you know our tradition of hanging wind chimes in the gardens in honor of loved ones who have died…and you won’t be surprised that this one will need to be special. I’ve decided to make it out of my old brushes.

In my studio, brushes live their lives in stages. I buy in bulk and on sale and only when I’m desparate and the new ones live in a state of reverence in the best of the old jars and mugs until I absolutely have to have that pristine spring and flow. The “working new” then get prime real estate on the table alongside my easel. Separated carefully from the grunts and wiped with the softest rags before being put up at night.

Try as I might, it doesn’t take long before they blend into the rest of the crew and their sabled edges begin to fray and the glossy sheen of their nickel plated ferrules no longer brags. I wean them out every other day or so …the hardest worn, stiffest bristled get tossed into an empty liquin box. When that is full, and the pile has spilled over onto the table, and Gully’s tail has knocked four or five of them on the floor and under the air purifier…then I gather them all up for a serious cleaning.

Last night I threw this bunch into a coffee can with about half an inch of Windsor Newton Brush Restorer  in the bottom. I learned the hard way that this stuff will melt the finish off of the wood, seeing as it is paint !, so I try to make sure it stays only on the bristles. They hang about in that overnight and then I settle in for the tedious second stage which is to scrub them in the tub of Masters Brush Cleaner. Then the big rinse and they’re laid out to dry.

Clean Up

The best of that batch are returned to their staging areas …

Ready to Go

 and the stragglers who refused to come clean are relegated to the graveyard…a box under my workbench…


which, until today, had been the final resting place.

But now I’ve got a better use for them. I’ll let you know when I’ve got Andy’s windchime up.

In the meantime… I’m curious … where do your old brushes go ?