28 May 2024

Whoa, Whistler, whatever, whenever.....

My apologies in advance for the sloppy presentation of Whistler's work. They were taken years ago from a wonderful book I have had for years entitled Whistler's Nocturnes. 

This first image, just below, is the infamous gouache that caused a scandal and a famous court case in London. The Art critic John Ruskin, in a newspaper, famously wrote, 

“....ill-educated conceit I have seen, and heard, much of cockney impudence before now; but I never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public's face."

Whoa... If only Trump had such linguistic flair! 

This small but stunning gouache entitled Nocturne in Black and Gold, done in 1875, was the recipient of Ruskin's ire and for which he was sued by Whistler for libel, which Whistler subsequently won.

That it was painted in the 19th century is  astounding, just about as astounding as most of Turner's watercolours in fact. 

Such abstract vision by both these 19th century artists is one of the great teasers from that century.

His love of shadows and the musky dusk of fog left a big impression upon me when I was a student of painting in sunny Provence back in the early 1970's. Like Whistler, I too, had had a more natural affinity for the Northern 'gloom-pleased light' of rain and shade, but like an unhealthy habit, it was gradually forgotten after a few years of living with radiant light. 

And following this, I thought, what the hell,.. here are some of my other favourites by Whistler, of whom one can never get enough.

21 May 2024

Sophie's Choice


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 13 May 2024, oil on canvas board, 
30 X 25 cm

This from last week, the only one from the evening because I lost the second one due to impatience. I think in seven years here I've only scratched out three disasters and the third one was last week. It was a beauty until it wasn't and it quickly went to CODE BLUE and it couldn't be resuscitated.

Failures are tough to accept but they teach me lessons each time, and to be fair, there are lots of these studies I've killed over time when I realised that they weren't very good anyway. Of the thousands done I think only a small portion are any good. The real lesson is whether or not I'm improving over time. If I'm just making photocopies then I should give up and just play piano. 

Though I know this motif is super simple, with few difficult drawing problems, it's still challenging to create an interesting version each evening. This is all about colour, pushing the foreground into the picture plane towerd the horizon line while bringing the background up to the front using the sea and sky both instantaneously. One can easily stuff that up. 
But I do like this one though even if it meant the loss of the second one like in Sophie's Choice. 

But anyway, we are rolling into winter skies now that begin to bloom uncontrollably like bashful nuns at the sight of a handsome priest (and unabashedly pink!) 

It's been raining all over the Southern hemisphere for months now and bringing catastrophic consequences for tens of millions of people on several continents. Brazil has been hard hit especially. A friend just returned recently and told me that his family had lost everything while many in America say that Climate change is fake news. 

I'm grateful I live on a hill.


11 May 2024

Court room follies


My hats are off to all these intrepid artists! I was thinking about what a shame it is not to see someone one using an iPad Pro, ..... 

They are all amazing but I think my favorites are the smallest and least finished of them all, the quirky quick sketches by Jonathan Alter who is a journalist at NYT, among other things. From looking at all of the work it's clear that he is the only one working from an i-pad, I believe. Good Choice!

Elizabeth Williams whose simple delivery pleases me a lot. It's cleanly organised and the likeness's are spot on. But I like Bill Hennessy also for the formal structure and the wonderful likeness's of each of the Supreme Court. 

Jake Tapper, a host for CNN, also has a great talent for this business! 

Among the two wildest Expressionitas are Christine Cornell, who I saw on a panel at CNN this past week is a cool woman who lives downtown, and Jane Rosenberg, who I also saw interviewed on MSNBC. Their work is somewhat similar and at times surreal in what they choose to draw but equally important, what they choose to leave out. These are some wild renditions of Donnie Boy!

All of these artists have my respect because of the kind of work it is. They must suit up, show up, and get it on with no excuses! Gotta love that!

05 May 2024



 Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 30 April 2024, oil on canvas board 30 X 25 cm

               Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 30 April 2024, oil on canvas board 30 X 25 cm

From last week came two interesting studies from me. I had to drag myself out of the house where I was nursing a Cold but I could see from the comfort of my sofa that the sky was showing great promise for that evening and I knew I had to go. 

They reveal something slightly new, a direction towards which I've been leaning recently so I'm pretty happy with them. The weather, sadly, has been so unstable these past few six months that it's been really difficult to navigate the rainy clouds. So when it does look decent, 48 hour Cold or not, I will be out the door. 

My desire these days is to work more freely and without any conceptual constraints that orbit around in my mind. And so, the new commitment is to paint wildly and with abandon, locking onto a visual sensation of colour like in a dogfight with an enemy fighter. I'm on his tail, undeterred by any doubts in my head.

These skies are still always so surprising despite having painted them over and over again, year after year. The only thing that changes, is of course, me.