20 July 2024

Pinkie promise!!


This will be my last post about politics! I promise! Really! A Pinkie promise!!

But, just out of curiosity, I was wondering how many others out there have experienced the following phenomenon this past week which goes like this: How many others, friends and otherwise, have you met in the past few days who regretted Trump survival after the assassination attempt by a lone American with an AK-15 military grade weapon?

Of course, we should be glad that all the news organisations around the world, even the most renegade ones to the left, have showed discipline in their messaging that violence is not an option in America, but just how many people really feel this deeply in their hearts?

What does that say about us? In America, and for many around the globe who believe that Trump is another form of cancer like Hitler, assassination seems appropriate. 

This is an extreme position for extreme circumstances and one that I find dicey, as it raises a host of morally uncomfortable questions for me and maybe you too?

I don't have a concrete response to these nuanced feelings about this event except that I too, need to believe that political violence is a troubling path to a destructive end for America, and/or any country for that matter. 

So for me it's more of a practical solution despite my hesitant mindset and moral weakness. It's about making a wise choice for myself, rather like sticking to a diet by not consuming foods that I know I really want to eat, but at the same time, knowing they're not good for me. More precisely, they're not helpful to my decision to respect the diet I've chosen to follow in the very first place. 

18 July 2024

Trump Squeeze

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 10 June 2024, oil on canvas board, 30 x 25 cm

Will there be a place for poets in a new muscular Conservative America where its leaders have channeled fictional television stars?

While so many of us watch on with horror, the American Experience undergoes a new chapter where the wrench has been turned tighter to the hard right. Where will it end? Can the system withstand another round of a Trump Squeeze on our America?  

Will queer folk be carted off along with the un documented people picking our fruit and vegetables?  and creating Art in an older version of America?

Like most of them, this study from almost a month ago, came quickly. We have had lots of rain for weeks on end, so I've only been out to the beach sporadically. But according to the Méteo we seem to have a string of clear, crispy, and cold days ahead of us providing me with many opportunities at the beach.

But the Trump Squeeze pressing America at the moment gives me pause to reflect upon how fragile our system really is in this new world of Reality Television. Maybe it was inevitable that it come to this but nothing is a given. Look at what's happened to the poor people Ukraine. Only eighty years ago it happened in Europe. Ouch.

The Right Wing in America (and elsewhere) is a dangerous Christian Nationalist movement that tolerates little outside of its small-minded boundaries. It's a kind Marxist state itself, and they must know it themselves because they try to hang iton the rest of us in America. It's Trump's favourite grade school antic, accusing his adversaries of the behaviour he is guilty of himself. Ha Ha... I won't bore you anymore with this as most you all know it already. But hey! I get to vent once in a while.

I like the study above very much even if it's not great, it's mine. And in this difficult moment of gaslighting I can at least tell the truth for myself.    

10 July 2024

Inside and out

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads 24 June 2024 oil on canvas board 
30 X 25 cm

Magnificent skies over these weeks! Seas are lovely too! I didn't initially like this study from two weeks ago when I had finished it at the beach but since then I've warmed up to it. As everyone knows, it's never easy to assess one's work just after it's been finished. Best to just stay in the flow, and later see where the river takes us.

It feels like I've spent my entire life trying to adapt myself to what's on the 'paper'; What's in the 'instruction manuel'. What I mean is that I've always been trying to learn certain things in life from the outside, as if looking in, like I need to plug myself into an external power source to charge my learning ability.

Of course, that's how many of us have learned, yet for some reason some of us never found our way back to into that intuitive space held deeply inside us after all our stints at schools and universities.

For example, when I studied piano many, many years ago (as an adult) I spent too much time trying to sort out keys and chords 'on paper', and ditto for the inversions that I dutifully copied out endlessly in order to understand them. Now, yes it's great to do this work up to a certain point, but not if it's at the expense of actually 'playing' the chords and keys to sort out what's going on for the most important audience: My ear! In Jazz, I eventually understood that 'real study' comes from learning hand positions on the piano keys not from figuring them out on 'paper'. In fact most kids have always learned from just playing in a group while driving their neighbours and family crazy until they left home to become rich and famous.

But for the rest us who studied Classical music, we are condemned to a great degree, to learn sheet music the old fashioned way. And yet in previous centuries, what we think of as 'Classical' music today, was usually just always taught orally through improvisation. Lutes, and early guitars, like a Capella, and in cultures like India, where everything was transmitted one to one, either through instruments or like stories and poems, as oral history. 

But anyway, learning to paint cannot be approached any other way than to just paint. One can study colour theory till they're blue in the face, but unless they get messy with colour on a palette they probably won't get very far. 

I recently told my friend, Daniela, who has started painting this year, to make a copy of a Van Gogh to see what she could learn. In today's world, copying a Van Gogh is one of the best ways to learn about colour. 

But Non-Figurative Abstract Painters will hate even just the idea of this because it means getting their hands dirty! Ha Ha. But also, because it will prove to be really difficult, and it might disclose to them just how inept they really are when confronted with the basic craft that makes up Painting; that of colour and drawing. 

So one needs an inside, and outside, to be an artist. Here, for fun, is a magnificent early portrait by Van Gogh, who is a great example of an artist who held onto his intuitive skills whilst at the same time learning the exacting craft of Painting. 

28 June 2024

Curvy is cool

Elliptical bliss! This screenshot came from the NYT months ago and with my apologies to the photographer, whom I don't credit here. It's from an Art Book Fair in Paris if I remember correctly.

But let's be honest, doesn't it look so French!  I cannot add to it, it's just really cool, and so far outside of linear thinking.

The image of the curved table below was also clipped off from somewhere,,,, but alas, I don't remember from where. I'm a huge fan of screenshots and use them all over the place, but because I am so poorly-organised they jitterbug higgledy-piggledy at their own leisure across my laptop and are hard to find when I need them them. What can one do? I do remember though, that it was from an article about Dining Solutions, and I think it was about Mexico. 

Basically, I'm finally at a pretty satisfied place in my life. Today I live in a glorified industrial shed, outfitted like a home but a shed no less. It's funky and crowded with too many paintings but it's home, my own. One thing that makes it really warm is the old wooden floor I built into it, and so it has a graceful feeling to it too. And because I built every bit of it with help from different 'tradies' as they are affectionally called here in Australia. I know every square millimetre of the house.

But I'm here, and today I'm happy because my preference is to "want what I have" in my life instead of always "having what I want". At my age I'm no longer a collector of anything. And yet when I saw this curvy table, I kind of melted and thought to myself; "How very cool". So, despite the fact that I have few dinner parties here in Australia I know that one day I'll have a table like this, made for me.

But honestly, the secret truth is that a successful and intimate dinner has only to do with the host and the guests, not the table nor even the food. Many will no doubt disagree with me, but a great dinner can be made on a cheap metal table, a few cans of sardines, a salad, some wine and sparkling water with some good bread (and cheese). But what is absolutely essential is to be surrounded by pretty cool people who have good values, a great sense of humour, and a deep cultural curiosity about everything in life. What a table to be nestled into with such a crowd! 

And really, who doesn't love the curve? Isn't it just Nature's way of making us all smile?

And anyway, curves are everywhere, from Diego Velázquez to Zaha Hadid's magnificent London Aquatic Center designed for the 2012 Olympics.

But in truth, I was never a curvy or a cool kind of guy. I have always revered the crisp honesty of the square and rectangle, a manmade abstraction ripe for making paintings. But to be honest, I've always been a vertical square! OK, a rectangle maybe because I'm on the tall side. And I'll admit that for most of my life, I've been a really uptight guy who needed control, something to hang onto, anything to kill that insecurity that's lived deep in the depths of me like a jelly fish. But if there is one thing that cannot be controlled it's the cool curve, and like Life, it goes where it wants to. 

But I've always been suspicious of the curve for another reason; Too many ugly and sentimental things have been fashioned from it since the beginning of time.

I've hated the copy-cat mentality of trying to imitate Nature's squirrelly designs out in the architectural and commercial worlds. Tree trunk lamps, (!) for instance, make me quite nauseous. But it's also the Steiner-inspired homes that have galvanised hippies the world over to recreate these awful, awkward shaped dwellings that I find equally dreadful. Honestly, if I wanted to live like a hobbit I would just go to New Zealand. Face it, I'm just a square.


22 June 2024

Proust, Aurelius, Seinfeld!

Increasingly I've come to understand that Marcel Proust was way ahead of his time in so many ways. He was one of the first successful Post-Modernist writers to have understood the importance of exploiting his own shortcomings and indulgences to a serious world through his solipsistic prose form. 

Although Marcus Aurelius had written about a practice of stoic virtues centuries before him, Proust appears to have applied it to a modern, worldly, life-style with his lengthy tome, In Search of Lost Time. He predicted before it was fashionable, a life predicated upon the virtues of curiosity and creativity, of just keeping our senses alive and useful only for the sake of owning our own lives for better or for worse.

It occurred to me recently that perhaps the genius of a sitcom like Seinfeld is that it follows in this tradition à la Proust, of solipsistic reverie and delight in the belief of redemption through pleasure and curiosity. Though their characters were not exactly epicurean nor cultured, they tried hard for success in Manhattan despite their obvious flaws mostly those fueled by their own divine ignorance. 

And despite the cynical and slightly adversarial overtures towards others, the Seinfeld crew were generally decent but crazed people who were just looking for gratification like the rest of us. The genius of this sitcom reveals how a quartet of hapless, selfish, and lazy New Yorkers who thrived despite their flaws and still have fun. The more they showed off their worst sides the more we loved them for it.

(What has this got to do with anything?)

Nothing, Ha Ha, but the winter skies have been really spectacular lately and they have afforded me loads of pleasurable fun these late afternoons. 

Yet it's true that lately, I've been aware of how much I use this word fun. I paint for fun, as I tell people, and I play piano for fun too, ditto for when I play tennis. In fact, at my age, I try to avoid anything that does not bring me a bit of fun. But when life brings me sour cherries I'm not the least bit sour towards the world at large. And that, my friends, is what I have learned from Marcus Aurelius. In fact his own tome, aptly entitled Meditations, had a great effect upon me when I read it day by day over a year. 

But, anyway, here at the beach indeed, there are lots of people looking for pleasure (and fun) and finding it everywhere. This is after all, Australia where there is no complex about being happy. These are beach walkers, surfers, and a hardy bathers who jump into the cold ocean at dusk in winter time. Dogs too, happy, of course, and there are plenty of kids laughing and playing on the sand. Small families can be seen far down the beach, and this reassures the rest of us, those slightly pessimistic amongst us who have difficulty in imagining any kind of future for humanity.

But, tonight is the Winter Solstice and the waxing Gibbous moon is at 99.2% which is essentially full, though not technically, because according to the calendar, the moon will be officially full tomorrow on the 22nd of June. Dr Google tells me that a full moon falls on the Winter solstice only once every 19 years. 

Alas, I'm also a bit of a moon watcher because it affects the colour of the twilight 'Bloom' as I like to call it. This means that it's more difficult to paint on the few days leading up to a full moon due to the excess light that can kill this marvelous 'Bloom'. So, I'm up on this 'moon thing', and my phone is quite used to me looking up the 'moon phases of Byron Bay Australia' to verify my plans for painting at the beach. I can secretly be quite organised sometimes actually.

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 19 June 2024, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

This, from the other night reveals the craziness of the visual world, at least from the point of view of a painter. On a night like this  I barely seem to have the time to think, it feels like every time I raise my head up from the palette the colours have shifted slightly (towards intensity) as the earth approaches the evening hour. Like a caterpillar the colours appear to obey the slow and patient heartbeats of the earth's rotation. 

Me, I remain firmly fixed upon the sandy dune where I work for these sessions. There is nothing to do but follow the Arcadian ritual using a few paintbrushes as magic wand. 

Today, I wonder to myself as I write this; just how many painters have tried to follow this celestial rite? Am I the only fool?  

16 June 2024

An old road, for old folks

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 29 April 2024, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Here are two different kinds of pictures. This one above from April was an experiment of sorts because I had gone out with the idea to just make a few quick studies. When finished on the easel, I rather liked it, it was an image that looked complete in itself after just a quick and spontaneous beginning. It was easy place to stop. 

I put it up on Instagram and to my surprise it was well received, yet the more time I spent time with it, the less I liked it. But a few days later I was able to look at it anew and I saw it differently. Like in early Spring time, I saw sprouts of something new in it. I glimpsed a future, still unknown, and a bit crude even, but possibly a new destination maybe.

I think a painter needs to always ask themselves (but not while working!) whether or not they are on a new trail or just a comfortable footpath. The answer to this can sometimes come as a jolt for someone when they realise that they might just be covering old ground. But hey! It's not the end of the world, it's just an old path, no big deal, enjoy the view, while it lasts. 

But this is an essential spot check, part of an inventory if you like as when the guy from Head Office comes over to inspect once a month to make sure that everyone isn't just goofing off in the smoke room, high on Red Bull.

But the other hand, this painting below is more recent, and as I've already said, the weather has been so dreadful and damp after six months of rain that it is a relief to have stellar skies again. 

But regardless, I recognise that this hasn't put me on a new trail despite its bright colours and somewhat sexy appeal. I mean, I actually love it, yet after spending time with it, it feels already like the past for me. But of course that will not stop me from foraging along this well trodden footpath. Like I said, it's comfortable, and one which I'm familiar with for the time being. Until I make newer trails I'll be exploiting what I know. Unfortunately, it's slow progress for us mortals.    

And Painting, like aging, is a gymnastic  affair, and one needs to stay fit and be nimble if we desire to navigate new trails. And, he or she, who stays fit, will have certainly covered the most ground in this creative life. 

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 4 June, 2024, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

09 June 2024

tortoise, not the hare

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 7 June 2024, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Finally, the weather has turned and the winter brings a calmer sea often turning pale turquoise then crazy pink in June and July. 

I've had a good week and this one I like particularly because it says what I feel. 

For me, I think the more I paint the easier it becomes to access the bridge to my own emotions.

Let's face it, we all have emotions that sail through us like clouds but to exercise a craft; music, writing, painting, whatever, we develop the means to solidify them and deftly seal them into time for ever. 

As happens often through steady work, large avenues will open up more frequently and they appear to go on endlessly, and like luck, whole vistas of opportunity spring up like giant billboards along the way to beckon us further.

All those visual dreams I've had while walking the twilight beach since first coming here 25 years ago begin to take form. 

Hey! I'm slow! I know that, my path is one of the tortoise not the hare.

04 June 2024

Spartan appeal

Henri Matisse, oil portrait, 1930's? (1869 - 1954)

It's June! Time to fall in love with someone! And how I love this woman! I cannot seem to locate its provenance nor when it was painted but something tells me it was late, perhaps 1930's or 1940's...? 

Henri Matisse was such an innovator, an artist who truly experimented with so many different graphic approaches to representation. I admire him for this even though I might not be crazy about some of his solutions. But I love the many pathways during his artistic lifetime. 

What pulls me into this portrait is the expressive simplicity. The drawing appears to naturally come out of his many austere line drawings made during several decades before his death. I love the Spartan appeal to emotional clarity found in these late portraits. 

The background is a scratchy flat black and reminiscent of a grade school blackboard altered by striking white crosses. The flat portrait seems to stand out by colour alone, the golden head and hair is housed within a wonderful pale broken pink dress. And pink and black are my favourite combinations when paired together one next to the other.

I guess one gets it or they don't. I cannot say anything more about it except that it's the kind of portrait that makes me want to get back to making portraits!  

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 of what's already been done then I should give up today and just go 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 and back toward the horizon line while at the same time, bringing the background up to the front using the sea and sky both instantaneously. One can easily stuff all this 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 at the same time fools in America say that Climate change is fake news. 

I'm grateful I live on a hill here in Australia.


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 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.

26 April 2024

Dreyer's English!


This is a book for any writer or reader. As I love books about Grammar I jumped on it without hesitation after hearing an interview on RN with the author who was visiting on a book tour. And it's a cracker, as they say here in Australia. A clever, witty New Yorker, and no surprise, he's an editor at Random House.

It's an incisive book full of all the subtleties of both British English and US English.There are lots of differences and similarities between them, relevant and otherwise. As an American living in Australia it took me a long time to navigate these nuanced distinctions. 
For pedantic types, reading this book will become an obsession. With plenty of humorous anecdotes he goes into all those pesky rules to follow, or not, concerning everything ones needs to know about creating a coherent idea. Are they two ideas or one sentence? Or both? Is "Or both" even a sentence? And, do I have permission to break a rule, if indeed, it is even a rule in the first place? How to use commas, colons, italics, etc, etc... Myself, I'm always returning to older texts, forever culling and rephrasing sentences, nitpicking endlessly over the smallest details in the sentence structure. And personally, I'm perfectly asstounded by all the spelling mistakes I make. 

And for my Francophone friends up North, in the land where Capitol Punishment is dished out (metaphorically,... S.V.P.) to the illiterate barbarians who invade from The US (mostly  Los Angeles), I say, Bonne Lecture! 

24 April 2024

STOP! when the going is good!


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 19 April, 2024, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Here are two things from a few nights ago. It's been so rainy that I've not been able to get out very much. Alas,... my spirit goes a little flat without these sessions at the end of the afternoons. But a taste of the winter skies are already present and it's becoming cooler in the evenings though the days are quite mellow yellow. Perfect!

I really like the one above, it borders on the dangerous region of verisimilitude, but Hey! It came out that way, what's a fellow to do? 

It was the first study and I spent more time on it than I usually do. This could be a change for me for the better. I enjoyed it, and it speaks to that particular evening in a specific way which I suppose is the point isn't it? Actually, the point is to have fun, but after that comes the meaning of it all so they say. But I wouldn't do it if I didn't find it fun. I use the word 'fun' as the fun that most children usually have at that period in life. Everything is fun! Or It's a drag! Life was certainly simpler when i was a kid. 

But like for kids, fun implies anything that engages someone of any age, because generally speaking, a child doesn't differentiate between activities the way adults do. Something is either cool (fun) are it isn't, n'est-ce pas?  

The study below came at the end of the session. It was just a sketch of an idea that I loved but I went too far unfortunately. It's OK though, but it isn't the wild, wooly study of feeling that it was after just five minutes! Alas, one day I will learn to just STOP! 

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 19 April 2024, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm