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The sky is falling

In early January of 2016 I saw a wonderful exhibition of paintings and drawings at the Frick Collection in New York. The exhibit was Andrea del Sarto: The Renaissance workshop in action and the beautiful book with the same title is where I found some tragically prescient drawings by the master, one of which I have included in this post. I have been working on the painting based off of these drawings for a few weeks, on and off, and with much stumbling. But it seems to be coming together.


Sketch by Andrea del Sarto from the book Andrea del Sarto: The Renaissance Workshop in Action by Julian Brooks
Sketch by Andrea del Sarto from the book Andrea del Sarto: The Renaissance Workshop in Action by Julian Brooks

From one to many

I am challenging myself to create group portraits. It is a continuation of expressing the notion that that those who are prisoners, whether criminals or victims are connected to us and we to them. I did some drawings of groups when I was exploring images of my father as a child during World War II. These drawings led me back to the whole painting surface, as I am using negative and positive space to bring the picture into harmony. This was influenced by a talk I gave at the George School, when I spoke of how I was breaking the rule I learned in school of covering the whole canvas with paint. I rejected this in my series of fighters; now I am returning to it. My reading of the finely researched and brilliantly written David Park: a painter’s life by Nancy Boas also contributed to my thoughts about this painting. Park is my role model because of his ability to convey the universality of people. He did it with amazing technique, energy and integrity.


Alcatraz (detail upper left)


Study of figures workingFigures walking (father in foreground)


A Plethora of Drawings

Besides the very obvious but often neglected aspects of life that one is grateful for: love, friendship, shelter and security, it is a blessing to be able to draw. Drawing is a way to slow down, to really look and see. It is the artistic soul’s equivalent of a spa day. That is why I am very excited about the The Morgan Library and Museum’s two drawing shows which are up now. One is of Leonardo’s works, the other consists of the Morgan’s collection of 18th century Venetian drawings. Looking forward to seeing both of these on my birthday. Closer to home beginning in late January the Princeton University Art Museum will be mounting an exhibit of some of their Italian drawings. Although the exhibit is a departure from the traditional old master works, the description of the Brush Writing in the Arts of Japan show at the Metropolitan Museum pertains very well to the classic draftsperson of the Western world. For a fresh take on drawing, the Newark Museum’s Papyraceous is an offbeat look at works on paper. At this time of year, when multitasking and distraction is even more pronounced than usual, it is wonderful to quietly observe and linger.

Portrait of a woman in profile





Gallery hopping in New York City

At the Frick today, I saw the drawings of Goya, the master of black, gray, and, not surprisingly, the master of light, because darkness and light are better conveyed when juxtaposed. He did this beautifully in ink and wash. Sometimes, he loaded his brush and created black pools, then, because the artist was not especially enamored with gentle transitions of tone, we often encounter the lightest ink shapes and lines, and the voluptuous cream of paper. Each drawing reflects themes of darkness and light; for instance, one drawing of two old people floating, almost dancing in air, entitled Mirth, depicts each with deathlike faces. We sense their happiness, but for how long?

A few steps away, John Walker paintings are on display at Knoedler. The canvases, some of which depict smoke and fire, seem to be painted with burnt pigment, almost coal like. Walker, like Goya, is an artist who explores darkness, allowing the painting surface of unprimed canvas to speak of light. And, as in the case of Goya, light is anything but bright. An interesting, and sometimes sexy array of Grenfell Press prints and books are on display downstairs.

Lunch at Via Quadronno was exquisite. My open faced sandwich of tuna and artichoke hearts was sweet and mellow-no fishy taste at all. I finished the meal with tiramisu that brought memories of Village cafes with art school friends from twenty years ago. Rich, creamy, with a dusting of cocoa, it was well worth the expense, and the attendant artery hardening. Don’t let the crowd or the wait deter you from visiting this wonderful and friendly eaterie.

I raced through the Grolier Club exhibits, only really taking in an early example of chromolithography used in book publishing and a book of hand colored lithographs of birds of New York in the John Wiley & Sons exhibit, as well as some complicated-looking prints in artists’ books from publisher David R. Godine.

More running to catch the exhibition of photographs from the collection of Laurence Miller at his gallery. I had to slow down because the images deserved a thorough look. This was a nice way to finish the day, as I had started it at Hermes, viewing the photos of Jerry Thompson and Walker Evans. The prints in both shows are artful and brilliant, and should appeal to anyone who loves grays and appreciates the beauty and sadness to be found in photographs of ordinary people.

Vancouver Art Gallery

I have to say something about the best part of the vacation. That is, I was fortunate enough to see the exhibit, The Modern Woman. It is the first exhibition of drawings from the Musée d’Orsay. The exhibition explores women’s changing role in 19th century society and how that was reflected in French art. To see just how spectacular the show actually is, visit their site After reading the first paragraph of curator Isabelle Julia’s  essay, Imagining the modern woman, I know why the exhibit moved me so:

Love Lines

Pliny the Elder relates that the maiden Dibutade, faced with her lover’s departure, traced the profile of the boy’s shadow on a wall with a piece of charcoal, thereby introducing the art of drawing to Greece. Love invented the pencil stroke to hold onto a shadow, … Others report that a prince fell in love from gazing at a portrait. Which came first, drawing or love? The two emerged together, of course, inseparable as the body and its reflection, as the line and the paper supporting it. We love while drawing and draw while loving. To look at women and girls in their various states of being means to draw them for the sake of love, for love of the body and of drawing, for love of the fleeting shadow that the hand tries to hold back. To draw already means to love.     — The Modern Woman: drawings by Degas, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec and other masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Isabelle Julia, Curator. Vancouver Art Gallery/Musée d’Orsay, publishers.

Finishing strange girl at your service

A few thoughts on love
Lovers embracing or wrestling
For my friends
My favorite image from this sketchbook
Serving up a strange assortment

I returned recently from an emotional trip to Vancouver, Victoria, and Ucluelet, B.C. These drawings complete the sketchbook, Strange girl at your service, and were made early in the trip. I tend to be an anxious traveler, and the figure of death will appear throughout. Peace to my friends.

Thinking up imagery

Some images to work with

I am starting two paintings about good and evil, but they have gravitated to images of what good might look like as it is envisioned in a world where women make the rules. My ideas so far have included women healing one another; animals bringing love into the world; women as active heroines, like Joan of Arc. Basically, I want to populate my paintings with the opposite of what I have been looking at since I was a child: that is, images of men pursuing women, men waging war, naked women running scared, or looking sexy for a male viewer.

Woman born of woman