31 October 2007


Arches HP 300 gsm 12" x 9".

this was drawn in carbon pencil from a photo viewed on my computer monitor.

i got this pose from her after i had bantered her into annoyance. it fit her hair and shows a completely different color to her features.

the hair is one of the primatek paints, which lays on the paper like a thin sediment of plaster. it can be cut with an acrylic brush, which is how i added the highlights.

i divided the values into lights and darks, to emphasize her eyes. they and the background are the only blue in the image. everything else is green, yellow or red -- the illumination spectrum -- which gives the air lots of light.

30 October 2007

siena stretching

Arches CP 300 gsm, 10" x 14".

this started out as a color study of the shadowed light and ended up being a detailed analysis of flesh tones.

i usually start paintings in clusters of 3 or 4, so that i can switch from one to the other without break. usually there is a laggard painting that falls back in the queue and takes longer to finish. this painting was the laggard.

siena complained of back pain while modeling on the bed, so i suggested she stretch.

there is a surreal quality in the angle of view, the odd pose, and the brilliant shaft of light. green is used in the shadows of the room and the figure, but does not appear as a distinct color anywhere in the painting.

29 October 2007

clutching hand

Arches CP 300 gsm, 9" x 12".

another in the series of hand poses with siena. a subdued background, brighter hand color. the projection grid is visible beneath the wash.

28 October 2007

open hand

Arches CP 300 gsm, 9" x 12".

another in the hand series with siena. darker background, less modeling.

27 October 2007

grasping hand

Arches CP 300 gsm, 7" x 10".

i asked siena to model hand poses with me, two hands interacting in various grips, pushes, caresses, touches, pokes, hovers.

i am not sure how to use these poses, whether as individual images or as an assemblage of many different hand poses in the same scale on a single large sheet.

i later realized that her right hand and my left hand correspond to the two hands of a single viewer: you can match this pose with your own hands. this fired me to shoot another series with the right hand on the left side, or with two left or right hands, the handshake relationship, that cannot be duplicated by a single person.

i think the model both creates the basic materials for an image and exerts a kind of moral pressure to realize the image as skillfully as possible. the model may be a landscape, or a bowl of fruit, or a face, or a physique, or a gesture, or a cafe interior -- whatever. the form and presence of the model is accepted as the starting point for the reality or truth that the artist encloses in an object.

26 October 2007


Winsor & Newton CP 300 gsm, 30" x 22". about 15 hours.

this is a painting i used to test drive the primatek paints. the paper is rather light for the amount of water used, but was resilient and had a good tooth, which gripped the thick paints and provided an all over stucco like texture. this brought out the fresco quality of these granulating pigments and also the muted color gamut.

siena modeled again today. i enjoy working with her because she can become many different female images. here she has on her gamine face, and her unruly hair made for a great textural challenge. i left the rendering coarse, again in fresco style. the primatek palette has a rather limited range of warm colors, so it was a struggle to keep the reds within an acceptable flesh tone.

i discovered siena's face fit into an intricate faceted division of the format rectangle, which i used instead of a square grid to copy the photograph. it imparts a gemlike symmetry to the casual and relaxed pose.

25 October 2007

self (100 posts in 100 days)

Arches CP 300 gsm, 14" x 10".

a painter acquaintance sold me some arches watercolor blocks -- "the paper they made before the paper they made that smells funny." this is my first painting on it.

first impression is that the paper is softer and a little more absorbent, less hard surface sizing, like painting on cotton canvas. holds up to lifting very well. it came with a little red slip of paper with a quality control number and a refund assurance.

as it happens, this is my 100th consecutive painting a day post.

i went on a three week vacation and painted little, then had a cold and various chores to distract me on my return. i was 54 days behind my painting a day schedule. as of today i am only 32 days behind, and closing fast.

why am i backfilling the missed days with work? i treat this blog as a commitment to produce at a certain overall tempo, in the same way people make a commitment to exercise three times a week. if they miss one day, they make it up on another.

some people seem to use blogs as a kind of occasional diary. somehow those devolve into narratives of procrastination. i see this blog as a painting discipline, and rain or shine, each day counts as an attempt on the path.

my neck muscles hurt for two days after doing this pose. i drew it freehand from a mirror.

24 October 2007

figure drawing group

Strathmore drawing 10" x 14".

went to drawing group for the first time since my return. stefanie was the model, one of the best working right now in our area. and a sweet person. the main challenge on this drawing was the foreshortening, and the feet.

this was her last pose of the night. i wanted her figure to drop onto the platform, like a pile of old clothes, to show how relaxed she was.

23 October 2007

primatek paints

i spent several days trying the line of PrimaTek paints from daniel smith ... as the line had finally grown too large to ignore and the concept of mineral colors was intriguing to me.

the image is of one of my paintout sheets, arranged to give a sense of the color range and variety. but mostly i made paintings with the paints, and used them however they seemed to want to be put on paper.

the complete product review is posted on my web site.

i enjoyed using the paints, and some of the paintings i did have been posted previously. but my preference remains that modern saturated and lightfast pigments are not a step backwards by any means and provide the painter with unsurpassed range, subtlety and control. the mineral pigments create different color effects, but impose new difficulties as well; i think of them as "fresco watercolors" that reproduce much of the visual appeal and most of the limitations of buon fresco paintings.

22 October 2007


Hahnemuehle Durer, 11" x 8".

this is an imaginary face, made through progressive changes in the face of a former model.

i was not working toward any ideal, but just accepted any changes that looked like improvements.

i also tried compositing or combining photographs of many models, all viewed frontally, to understand the underlying keys to a beautiful female face.

21 October 2007

left by right

Fabriano Artistico CP 300 gsm, 12" x 9".

this matches the right hand drawn by the left hand of a week ago.

same paper and carbon pencil, with water wash.

this hand went down without a preliminary sketch, as if i were tracing it.

20 October 2007

morning, ravello

Fabriano Artistico CP 300 gsm, 9" x 12". about 15 hours.

this is another view of the scalloped coast southeast of ravello, on the morning after the huge thunderstorm of october 6.

this is a studio painting from photo documentation. it completely expanded from my original concept, primarily because i wanted to control the light. i did the clouds with a gummy primatek paint, which gives them a fleecy look but made them treacherous to edit.

the landforms are perylene green, dioxazine violet, chromium oxide green and various iron oxides. the sea is layers of a lot of different blue, green and rose paints.

i liked the connection between sky and ocean. modern thinking is that icy comets fell to the hot young earth and from those skyfallers came our oceans.

19 October 2007

siena, red dress on

Arches CP 300 gsm, 14" x 10".

whenever siena comes over i make clothing requests. the red dress she brought on her own, said she found it in a bargain sale bin.

i was photographing her against a blue background sheet, and just stepped back to take in the edges.

i painted her arms and bare leg to show her strength, and gave her a confident expression.

i painted the skin tone as close to golden as i could get without going into yellow. the hair i can't explain.

18 October 2007

right by left

Arches CP 300 gsm, 12" x 9". wolff carbon pencil, water.

this is my right hand drawn by my left hand.

the hand poses with geneva got me thinking about the hands as symbols of role relationships in society.

also i didn't know how well i could do with my left hand. it quickly steadied and progress was slow but controllable.

the lines came out softer than i would usually draw them, so i wet them with a brush to create a wash background.

17 October 2007


Arches CP 300 gsm, 10" x 14".

this was done from photos of siena taken before the italian trip. i was trying her out in various combinations of clothing and in different pose stations around the studio.

i have gotten a lot of mileage out of that couch. it's a nice simple form, the dark leather contrasts nicely with human skin, it defines a strong perspective reference, and it is fun to paint the luster and reflections.

i like the pose and the colors of the painting. the drawing and painting partner without one overcoming the other. the pose is restful but the setting is dynamic.

16 October 2007

home again

Arches CP 300 gsm, 12" x 9".

today was a grueling travel day, including an 11 hour flight from frankfurt to san francisco. we got in at the rush hour so we stopped at a favorite japanese restaurant for a jet lag dinner and a late drive home.

next day i walked up our road and was glad to be home. west sonoma county, you can't beat it for beauty -- mountains, ocean, forests, little towns, great estates, it's all here.

this is a painting i started a year ago but never got around to finishing. now that i am back i am ransacking the studio, digging out old work, and finishing pieces that have been waiting for me to get to them.

15 October 2007

street off via garibaldi

Arches CP 300 gsm, 14" x 10".

this alley was off the via garibaldi, where jan and i strolled for lunch after we had finished touring the biennale.

laundry is a sign you are off the tourist routes. every alley in the area was festooned in this way, and we passed by on two separate days.

i made this painting larger format in order to analyze the shapes. i was rough with the colors, so the shadow light is not convincing, but the sky is very nice i think and i like the overall design.

14 October 2007

grand canal

Arches HP 300 gsm, 10" x 14".

this is the prospect of the grand canal north from the accademia bridge, about 10am.

this was the laggard of the cluster of paintings started with it. the perspective drawing was difficult and tedious to do freehand, and the canal water took a lot of layering to get right. then there are all those windows ...

the "castels" along the grand canal are a marvelous sight. each one rides on a huge plug of wood pilings, and each structure is timbered to the rafters like a ship. they literally cruise on the marshy soil. there are many subtle displacements of the vertical walls, like the uneven pitch of wave rocked rowboats tied to a pier.

venice is for me the most remarkable functioning city in the world; it works because its industries have always been compact and "clean" -- commerce, art and tourism.

13 October 2007

behind the galleria

Fabriano Artistico CP 300 gsm, 12" x 9".

today we spent some time on the south island in the dorsoduro, eventually ending up at the ca' rezzonico and its interesting 18th century collections.

we passed this alley once to check out shops, and then passed through it on our way north. it was already late in the day.

12 October 2007

morning gondola

Arches CP 300 gsm, 9" x 12".

everyone has a gondola picture in them. the problem is getting it out.

we passed this gondolier on his way to work as we rode the vaporetto to the biennale park at the west end of venice. the italian pavilion had some wonderful paintings, including polke and richter. we then rode the vaporetto up the grand canal and walked to the ca' rezzonico.

the gondola is sepia, blackened with phthalo green (side) and phthalo blue (top). the sky is cerulean over gold ochre. the water is sepia + phthalo green and blue.

11 October 2007

venetian alley

Fabriano Artistico CP 300 gsm, 12" x 9".

despite her knee jan put in a good day walking. we strolled to the teatro fenice and santa stefano, then down to the academy bridge and the gallery.

this view is somewhat distorted by the wide angle lens and moreso by my copy, but the walls really were leaning.

we spent a lot of time wandering byways in venice, and we got lost a few times, though never for long or far from a restful trattoria.

i may do this one larger format, with a better analysis of the light.

10 October 2007

san giorgio maggiore

Fabriano Artistico CP 300 gsm, 9" x 12".

today we packed up, took the huge hydrofoil from capri to naples, then flew to venice, and after a long water taxi ride reached our hotel (londra palace), just two canal bridges away from the doges palace. my first reaction was "venice, at last." i was starting to look forward to getting home.

this classical church sat on an island directly across from our hotel. i never could see its geometry accurately, even when drawing from a photograph.

somehow the struggle to visualize the form fell into a childlike boxiness and color pattern. i put all the major kinds of boats in the canal along with it ... tourist boat, delivery boat, luxury yachts, and vaporetto.

as we churned toward the hotel on a water taxi i told jan the flat round thing was the plug they pulled when they needed to drain the canal.

09 October 2007

marina piccola, capri

Arches CP 300 gsm, 9" x 12".

this was a rest day for us. we got up late, shuffled around capri looking at shops, then went back to the hotel to relax. i painted this view of the marina piccola, the little marina on the south side of the island, from our terrace.

the marina is shadowed by an enormous chunk of limestone, pocked and gouged with rockslides and caverns. i outlined the rock in charcoal to give it weight, and emphasized the contrast with the dark sea.

08 October 2007


Arches HP 300 gsm, 10" x 14".

today we left amalfi for capri, on one of the mid sized ferries that ply the coast here, capacity about 100 people. we had a spectacular panorama of the sorrento peninsula during the trip.

the painting is of the island of capri seen from the bow of the ferry. the air was clearer after the storms and farther from the urban sprawl, but even so the air had a veiled, whitish quality as if distant objects were seen through a screen.

i had no memory of pictures of capri so i was surprised at how it is really a huge rock, almost like a limestone casting of yosemite valley turned upside down and plunked in the ocean. the near cliff is the site of the villa tiberius, and tiberius used to throw slaves off the cliff as a rebuke for cold soup. the town of capri is behind and below it, in the center of the island. we stayed on the right hand side, on a cliff overlooking the large ocean stranded rocks.

07 October 2007

a ravello fountain

Arches CP 300 gsm, 12" x 9".

after the storm we had a relaxing day in ravello. we walked the town, saw the infinity terrace and the surrounding mountainside villages, watched the light change and shopped for ceramics. we had a great lunch in a popular trattoria, and got there before the crowds did.

i painted this outside the hotel, my foot propped on the rim of the goldfish pond. i have never before painted a goldfish pond, this is my first.

i knew the iron railing would be difficult but i decided to paint it anyway. i had the block resting on my upraised knee and had to switch legs every 5 minutes or so. the paints were out of reach so i stooped to recharge my brush. an effort.

06 October 2007

stormy sunset, ravello

Arches CP 300 gsm, 9" x 12".

this day we left naples in a limo and drove around the bay of naples to sorrento, across the peninsula from sorrento to positano, and then back up the coast to amalfi and from there to ravello.

we arrived in the afternoon at the hotel palumbo, walked a bit around the town, then watched from our terrace as a storm blew in from the south. this was the view around sunset.

the storm was fierce, and several times blew out the power in ravello and the towns along the coast. we already had tickets to a mozart piano concert, but got drenched in the short dash to the concert hall ... the road to ravello had been washed out and the pianist could not appear.

05 October 2007

certosa di san maximo

Arches CP 300 gsm, 12" x 9".

a slow day for us; we took a short walk to the funicular up to the high hills of north naples, and took in the view near the certosa di san maximo. after viewing the museum collections we took a taxi back to the hotel and recuperated for some late afternoon shopping.

this is the courtyard of the certosa, a very pleasant corner that had an unusual corkscrew monument surrounded by stone balustrades which were decorated with marble skulls, some with wreaths on their crowns. i never did find out the meaning of this little construction but it was a lot of fun to paint.

04 October 2007

via dell'abbondanza, pompeii

Arches CP 300 gsm, 9" x 12".

we spent the entire day with a hired limo visiting pompeii and then herculaneum, which are about a half hour south of naples.

herculaneum is famous for the almost complete preservation of several large villas owned by the rich and famous of rome, but pompeii is more impressive for the sheer size of the site. in particular, the granite paving stones have been perfectly preserved, almost as a photograph of the foot traffic of the ancient site. the water troughs show the scuffs and wear of buckets dragged over the edge, and wagon wheels have worn deep ruts between the raised stones citizens used to step across the muddy and befouled streets.

03 October 2007


Arches HP 300 gsm, 12" x 9". Daniel Smith PrimaTek paints.

jan and i went to the antiquities museum to see some of the art salvaged from pompeii and classical sculptures salvaged from the gardens of roman estates. there was also lots of old amber. then we wandered for lunch and sightseeing in the commercial alleys of the old town. i was waiting for jan outside a gift shop when this young woman stepped out to make a cell call.

i used only primatek paints, and it shows in the monotonous quality of the reds and the overall granularity of the drawing. the paper had the density of parchment when i was done.

i like this image and might do a better job on it someday. the cool greens and blues advance, and the warm shadows retreat. exactly contrary to the rules of color theory!

02 October 2007

vesuvio at dusk

Arches R 300 gsm, 7" x 10". Daniel Smith PrimaTek paints.

we left rome on the high speed train to naples, which crawls the last half hour of the trip. we checked in and walked across the street to the castel d'ovo to watch the sun set on vesuvio.

the air in naples is very smoggy, or brown foggy, so we never had a clear view of the cone during our stay. the red light reflected from the dirt vapor to give the peak, its base bejeweled with white buildings and the first indoor lights of the night, a brooding and ghostly presence. jan reminded me that the volcano is past due to erupt again.

01 October 2007

the vatican museum

Arches CP 300 gsm, 10" x 7". Daniel Smith PrimaTek paints.

today was our vatican day: after retrieving my wallet lost in our predawn taxi, we visited st. peter's and then queued for 3 hours with all the other tourists waiting to get into the vatican museum, which is an all day endeavor to see.

there is much expected in the vatican -- the sistine chapel, of course, but also the lacoön and the belvedere apollo -- but also an unexpected collection of egyptian relics (and a few relic old egyptians) and a fascinating long hall filled with ancient roman busts, nearly all of them anonymous citizens commemorated at death or as tribal ancestors.