18 June 2021

"Hey!,,, You hadda be there!"


Two studies from last week done on the same day, one after the other, as the afternoon sank into dusk. 

The top one is more classical; conventional even, and closer to a verisimilitude which appeals to a certain crowd of art lovers. But, I like it nonetheless, and I accept it as an accurate response to Nature at that very moment in the afternoon. Its colour (and drawing) is mostly true. 

Below, is certainly a fanciful iteration of the fireball which appeared briefly, only to fade into embers of memory like after watching fireworks. But at the apex of bliss, there is a kind of crescendo which does lend itself to an explosive d√©nouement, as the French like to say. 

(And as we used to say in the Bronx of my youth; 
"Hey!,,, you hadda be there!")



14 June 2021

Evening Prayer, Brunswick Heads, 11, June 2021


This is from the other night which I post with an apology due to the awful RSS feed which my small group of followers received. !!

Truly awful! But Google Blogger has knocked off their RSS feed which was used to send out the notice of posts which I make. So, I scrambled around and found another one, but it too, will soon be discontinued because of the advertisements which are truly disgusting unless any of my readers have fungal issues with their toe nails. 

Mailchimp will hopefully be taking over as soon as I get it up and running.

In the meantime, be creative, and be full of the devil.

12 June 2021

at the beach, an actor unsure of his lines


Evening Prayer Brunswick heads, 6 June, 2021, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

The weather has been a bit crazy and it has kept me in the studio instead of getting to the beach later in the afternoon. This study came out the other night and though I didn't like it at the time, it seems to look better to me with each passing day. Below, is another one, the first done that night. It's smaller because I hadn't painted there in a week and felt insecure, suddenly feeling like an actor on stage who wasn't sure of his lines. But it worked enough to get me to the next three before I packed up in the cold twilight.

     Evening Prayer Brunswick heads, 6 June, 2021, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

08 June 2021

other people's s**t, in both sitcoms and in real life

I read something the other day which got me to thinking about something which normally remains rather discreet in our everyday lives. It was a profile on somebody, maybe a celebrity or something, certainly someone in the news currently in a any event. In it this person recounted that they never, could never clean their own toilets; "That's what maids are for", they reasoned. (Ouch!) 

The very few times in my adult life when I had the service of a housekeeper at home, I always cleaned the toilet myself before they arrived. 

I would never wish for another person to clean up after me like that. And moreover, it seems too personal, too degrading if I think about it clearly. This attitude might have become cemented into my thinking from reading so many Zen "How to" books during my lifetime. And though I have never been in an ashram where one would routinely be assigned toilet duty, I  somehow developed this sense of modesty through other means.

(Full disclaimer, I was raised with maids as a young child, and they (the maids) routinely cleaned up after us in those early years)

I still carry a bit of shame over this fact. But I left home quite early, at the age of twelve, and I quickly learned to take care of myself in this regard, and in other domains too. Hey! we grow up the best we can, though sadly, many never do.

And so to broaden out the scope of this idea further, it got me to thinking about just how much s**t other people expect us to put up with or clean up. Actually, just how much s**t do we throw out to others while expecting them to deal with it? If Youtube is a barometer, then we are all in trouble.

But then I do live alone which makes the whole thing a lot easier for myself and others. 

When I watch films or television sitcoms, I understand just how the screenplay is loaded to the gills with discord, because without it, one wouldn't have a story. All of drama is about discord between characters, husbands and wives, family members, lovers, workplace colleagues, etc, etc. 

So, without any discord, what would relationships look like? What would our lives look like without altercations with others? Would the answer to this be peaceful or boring? 

Again, I live alone so my issues are well hidden from view, so I am imagine but I certainly know that others wouldn't agree that I am the easiest of people. 

And I guess this is why Trump came to power for four weird years.

03 June 2021

i-calendar and the daze of our lives

A funny thing came up this morning as I was writing about how, and when I first came to France to live. I went into i-calender and went back into time to look at September, 1972. I realised quickly that I must have arrived around the 12th or so of that month. 

But looking at the i-calendar in it's monthly configuration, I noted that it had anchored within it the birthday dates of several friends whom I had only met many, many years later. They are in it from the future, as it were.

Nathalie, whom I met in 2010 was a girl of eleven years that year, and Alan, whom I met about three years later was twenty one, Anthony, from the UK, I met in 2008, turned twenty seven years old that year in 1972! And so it went, etc, etc. For each month of the year, the i-calendar had embedded within it a chrysalis of the friendships I would eventually share with so many different people.

It's totally silly and irrelevant to anything or anyone but myself, of course. But it also allowed me to see into the timeline of my own life through friends whom I would come to know, appreciate, and love alongside of it.

As I continued to peruse the calendar moving quickly up through the years I saw many of my other friends turning and churning through their own lives. W was fourteen in 1973 and I would find out that she had been raped at that age. X turned 20, beautiful; she ran through men like a country auctioneer at a cattle farm. Y was eight and lived in Pakistan in a diplomatic enclave, and dear Z was six years old in the South of England and now has three boys 17, 16 and 13.

And in the same spirit, here is a painting  done in landlocked Dieulefit which I painted of the sea several years before I actually began working from the sea here in Australia.

oil on canvas, 150 X 150 cm

31 May 2021

Early Prayers beckon the animal spirit


(circa 2017)

                                                                             (circa 2017)

I stumbled upon these early paintings last week when I opened up an old hard drive. I had thought that much of what I did at the beginning of this series wasn't very good. But I wasn't too fazed because I imagined that eventually I would get somewhere if I persevered, and so I continued. But seeing some of these today surprised me for several reasons. The main one is that I had forgotten just how raw  and  'expressionistic' they were. I had not been working from a motif for several years prior to  this series at Brunswick Heads and I was out of practice. I had forgotten how to see. 

In a sense, I attacked the motif with a very different feeling than I do now, for better or worse. I reacted to the motif more with my gut than my eyes. And because of it, they seem to me now much less picturesque, for lack of a better word. And yet, they too, are still 'seen', which is to say that there was a vision somewhere during the painting process. 

The first picture directly below is probably the best example of what I am trying to express in words. It has 'Nature' in it but it requires a leap of faith at the same time.

It is a graphic interpretation from the gut, and of the gut, as if I were somehow painting what goes on under the surface of the motif. But now, on the other hand, I seem to be painting the very skin of the motif, the sexy light-filled surface of sensuality. 

Thus, the work being done four years later is different, something I regret a little because  I really like these older things despite their flaws. I see in them something primal and a little 'animal', and there is a raw feeling in them which is sometimes lacking in the present work. 

                                                                            (circa 2017)

                                                                             (circa 2018)

                                                                            (circa 2018)

(circa 2018)

                                                                                (circa 2018)

30 May 2021

Sui generis of ubiquity, bUt for the SuPerWorLd

"Some NFT collectors believe that owning early, prominent crypto-tokens will eventually be like owning rare, first-edition books or priceless paintings." NY TIMES  

This new, ripe world of NFT's is a scary place for traditional creators. To be really honest, I try always to keep an open mind when it comes to Art, even if I don't always do a very good job at it for I have strong beliefs like everyone else. bUt this Brave New World of NFT's makes me very nervous indeed.

I have always loved graphic art on every level, from stamps to product designs, to logos and corporate names because everything fascinated me. It is something I would have done when I was young if I had been more focussed. I would have gravitated to the northern countries which are so good at this kind of graphic sensibility: The Dutch, The Finns, The Swedes, The Danes, The Russians! 

I spent a few years playing around with Photoshop before it became easier to use. I learned to make all sorts of things with it because I really enjoyed it. Nowadays, every wiz kid in elementary school plays around with it easily. This is a new world of technical creativity, or creative technique?

There was one thing though that I always found difficult for me; It was that Photoshop and Illustrator both gave me so many interesting choices that I went into shock when I had to commit to a final decision. So very many layers looked so good.

But the thing I love about the Painting process, the way I practice it, is that there is commitment to the sensual resolution of a picture with oil paint. But I will surely be a thing of the past, soon enough I fear. Nothing to do but keep at Painting.

Though I do understand that NFT's are not graphic designs, they do yearn for the same kind of universal imprint accessible to the widest audience. They are creative digital reproductions, after all. Their aim is to please us, to entertain us in the temporary and unreal place of our minds.

Prices for these things are skyrocketing but in crypto-currencies only, so it is hard to value them.

Some enterprising companies are selling virtual plots of land over the whole earth. For about $8000 one can buy a virtual square approximately 500 X 500 anyway. In this brave new world everything is for sale in a make-believe world using make-believe currency. 

Many people seem to be slowly slipping away from reality as if on a large boat, one which I will certainly miss, but can wave to from the dock.

28 May 2021

Help! is on its way! the Brilliant Morse code in 6:40 minutes

Here is a short video which both explains and teaches how to use the universal language of Morse code. By employing three short signals, three long ones, another three short ones in succession, your life could be saved one day.

Remarkably, it can work in all sorts of ways; visually, audibly, or even tactilely through the senses (if one could only touch another person in silence to communicate distress). This is useful obviously if you find yourself at the Opera in Paris one evening, and you notice that Donald Trump has slipped into the seat directly behind you. You will then need to signal to your date this information in complete discretion. 

One could also sing it, blink it, hum it, tap it out with fingers on a surface, make a ballet in the air of it, using fingers like a magician, or pleading for help with hands like a conductor. 

But if you are a smoker, and adept, you could blow smoke rings in the air and cry out for "Help!" at the same time.

26 May 2021

Evening Prayers are sometimes answered

                                                                        20 May 2021

20 May 2021 

These are all from last week, a pot pourri of different skies. It was a week of seasonal change when the south winds came through bringing the chill of winter.

22 May, 2021

  20 May 2021

20 May 2021

20 May 2021

22 May 2021

David Hockney needs an English lesson! Tut! Tut!

I watched this very short BBC video on Hockney talking about Van Gogh.

It was charming in the way that he can certainly be, and he is an artist through and through but at one point he said something which took me by surprise. He described Van Gogh as 'a miserable fellow'. It was shocking because I have never heard anyone say such a thing about dear Vincent. I admit that I thought about it for a long time. Something about it hits a false note. I am sure that Hockney did not mean it in a derogatory way, at all. He obviously adores Van Gogh. But still, I found it false.

I have never thought about Vincent Van Gogh in this way, but truthfully, I don't think anyone ever thinks of him this way, it's just not something one would hear about Van Gogh.

One knows that he had a difficult life, even maybe a miserable life. And too, he did live among misery, unmatched perhaps, when he went to the Borinage region of Belgium and lived amongst the poorest of poor miners whose lives he documented in so many drawings and paintings, notably most famous; The Potato Eaters.

But to hear that he was a miserable man! It is a description which denotes that he was an awful man, a scoundrel, an unkind man worthy of four-lettered adjectives attached to his name. Mostly though, it is a misuse of the English Language for any speaker living on either side of the Atlantic. 

Tut Tut!

20 May 2021

Mt. Fuji by Tokuoka Shinsen on a bed of fog

Mt Fuji, by Tokuoka Shinsen, 1963

Here is a remarkable image which I saw in Japan a few years ago. I bought a postcard of it and it has been on a wall in my kitchen ever since.

What I appreciate about it is the tremendous simplicity by which it was conceived, an idea that has been presented to us with a minimalism of both style and form. It is a portrait of Mount Fuji, solid and sober, sitting on a bed of fog. Fujiyama, as it is known in Japan, also sits back into the painting by an uncanny display of discreet virtuosity. The foreground is the natural colour of the paper, and by leaving it at the base of the painting the artist solves the complex problem of distance in a picture with the ease of a gentle mist.

I really love this image as much today as when I first saw it in Japan. It has shaped something inside my unconscious but I haven't yet understand it completely. 

15 May 2021

the i-cloud, the jewel, and the fisherman

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 13 May, 2021, oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 13 May, 2021, oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 13 May, 2021, oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

Three studies from the other night, a very hazy sky, quite beautiful, but I couldn't get a handle on it. I was a bit distracted by a Spanish woman who had come up to talk and watch. She's lovely woman, a lively, creative gal who loved what I was doing but it created an enormous distraction for me. I have so little time there during those moments when the sky opens everything up like when a soprano hits a a peak in the final act.

Many people come by so I am used to now, though I am still generally camera-shy. Over these past few years I even agreed to allowing photos and videos to be taken. And though I don't catch most of them, there are many who sneak photos and videos when they think I don't see them. Anyway, I am a big hit with most of the kids who come up unabashedly and want to know just what the heck I am doing there on that dune.

Well, I struggled the other night, but it was still so lovely to be working there. I do accept everything, even all those pictures I consider to be failures, dissecting them mentally, then discarding them later in my sleep.

But this evening, alone and ready to pack up, I thought to myself: one more for the road! This became the third study of the evening, the one with three yellow clouds. 

I feel so lucky because I thought it was a bit of a mess when I packed up in the dark. But the next morning when I retrieved it from the boot of the car I liked it immediately. It's always a mystery to me how what comes up in a session is almost never ever intended. Wished for, most certainly, but never could it really be anticipated. In my case, it's because I work so fast, like lightning. My creative process seems to be downloaded every millisecond from the i-cloud above. From where else would it arrive? It was certainly not in my possession when I set out to paint.

I chalk it up to the magic of painting out in Nature.

The first two studies proved to be just 'so so', somewhat uncertain. And that uncertainly  led me blindly to the third and final study which was the jewel of the evening. It was the prize which the fisherman had waited for with patience.

11 May 2021

Winter skies! Blushing without shame!

Winter skies creep into the twilight here on the north coast of New South Wales. I awakened this morning with the feeling that I have a lot to look forward to. This season beckons those giant, delicious red winter skies which linger over the purple sea, Mmmm.

The image came to me today of myself as a fly-fisherman, who, at the start of the season, makes a coffee in the early morning with a new jolt of joy in my heart, knowing that I shall be fly fishing for the next month or two. 

I actually tried fly-fishing once many years ago when visiting a friend in Alaska. Very cool exercise, perhaps not unlike T'ai Chi, but with the addition of a meal afterward. I caught a King Salmon to everyone's surprise. We should have eaten it that night, but I wanted to bring it back to France to offer my friends Anne and Sam Bjorklund of Beaurecueil, who fed me for several bachelor years after I had arrived in France when I was still young and skinny. 

The fish was frozen for a few days, then packed up in a container of ice to survive the 18 hour trip to Aix. Sadly, when I arrived we put it again in a freezer for another few weeks before the planned dinner. When it thawed out it looked pretty miserable, full of worms, so I quickly went off to pick up some fresh fish at the supermarket! 

I can be so stubborn! It was a foolish decision but I really liked the idea of bringing Anne Bjorklund a freshly caught King Salmon from a  cold river in Alaska all the way to Provence in the July heat. We lost the fish, and sadly, two weeks ago, I learned that we lost Anne who died peacefully in her sleep in Memphis Tennessee.  

Just for fun, I post several older paintings done back in 2019 or 2020, I believe. They reveal the incredibly diverse variations (and possibilities) that can be done here on a beach in Australia at the dusk hour.

06 May 2021

Tea Tree invading the sea and the sky


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 2 May, 2021 oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 2 May, 2021 oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 2 May, 2021 oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

A trio of small studies from the other night that I felt lucky to pull off because the sky was so difficult and confusing. I had waited until the melodrama of the sunset (behind me) had dimmed and a soft embalmer of colour appeared in front of me. It is a marvellous moment when it happens because it is never sure to happen. 

When it does, it's great, yet often it won't. And when it won't, an awful darkness descends over the lifeless sea and into my spirit.

When clouds do shut the light off I always feel a bit lost. Then on the deserted beach when the twilight clouds gather like a pack of wolves and eat all the light that remains, it is time to wing it by working from memory. This can often be a good thing though, but in a different way. It's like falling off the trail on a long hike, it requires a bit of luck, some quick thinking, and a firm resolve to get back on track before nightfall.

Anyway, the ocean had a red tint to it because it had been raining hard for several days beforehand, and the deep orange-coloured Tea Tree lake behind the beach had overflowed into the river, then into the sea

Tomorrow is another day.

03 May 2021

The curious case of Katherine Bradford

I didn't know of Katherine Bradford, but then I am not in the loop, and besides, there are so many painters out there I am amazed I know about any at all.

I used to be subscribed to videos shot of shows around New York by James Kalm who renders a great service to those of us outside by posting regularly. In his earlier days he was often chased out of galleries not because they were fearful of images being sent out to the world (why would they?) No, they chased out guys like him because they could, because they are snobs and they have to maintain that frosty, snobby facade to protect their cool. 

His videos were quite wonky (which he always admitted light-heartedly) and they could make you sea sick watching them BUT, he was in on the game which I liked. He is a painter himself, and came into Manhattan from Red Hook to dodge security at the big shows in SOHO and Chelsea.

In any event, he interviewed Katherine Bradford at one point a few years back, and I saw some of it. From just from that interview I was immediately attracted to her sensibility with paint and form.

This past week Hyperallergic (an online art review) did a small blurb about a new show of hers in New York. Here are some images from that but also others I culled from Google which pleased me.


And though generally speaking, artists dislike being told that their work resembles others, even great heroes of the past, I cannot abide by that etiquette so I will say that I find that there is a bit of Milton Avery and Philip Guston lodged inside her colourful chromosomes. It is a great compliment I think because both are original and distinctive painters who actually understood the long history of Art; Painting, notably. I like her pictorial imagination as much as I like her wild colour harmonies. I also find these pictures to be remarkably unified. Ms. Bradford expresses what she needs to express, but nothing more. This is a quality I like in a painter (in a writer too).

Her ideas, of which in each picture there are plenty, never seem to be corrupted by her own painting technique which kills (through vanity) so many other painters over the long haul of art history. But her technique is so hidden that I hesitate to use this term. So let's say, the paint never seems to smother the quixotic  ideas assembled on her own personal stage. The unity of the painting always seems paramount, and we are so grateful.

I know it is a hard pathway into that space between figuration and 'abstraction'. Many painters fall on their backsides attempting it. She appears completely at ease in this, in the same way that most children do. There is an unabashed kookiness in so many of them, (and not a faux-kookiness which seems so √† la mode these days). 

I see in her work a desire to create a cogent language out of this ‘kooky’ originality by using her Painting sensibility to create a bridge out to others. Too many painters don’t seem to care about that. 

But of course, they are contrived nonetheless because that's what paintings essentially are. Pictures are contrived distortions to convey a reality. Whether they work to convincingly convey reality is obviously not just up to the beholder but also to the painter’s competence over his craft. And reality these days seems to be a pretty contested fact.

Art criticism then comes into play in order to throw this conveyance upside down. Suffice to say, for myself, the ultimate pleasure I receive from a picture is how much or not, I enjoy seeing it. If I own it and can see it every time I go from the bathroom to the kitchen I will spend a lot of time with it, and this will alter my feelings about it. But maybe I will just see it once a year in a museum, then how will that experience also temper my enjoyment? How does a picture (or work of art) stand up against time? Doesn’t it need a language, which however arcane, sufficient enough to speak to another generation? 

I also like the strong graphic bones with which she attacks her drawings for each picture. They have the bite of a pit bull. For instance, I love the woman below in the yellow bathing suit diving into the ambiguous-looking coloured water. It's a discreet and multi-coloured grey which binds the entire surface together as if it were a giant jigsaw puzzle. 

And it's a bit kitsch! But it also portrays a woman, as if on her last day on earth, she takes her very last dive. 

The colour harmonies in this kitschy picture work so well. It is this sophistication of colour which separates an image like this from a painting hanging on the wall of a motel room outside of Carson City, Nevada. 

I like these works because they are weird and quirky, and they express a primal quality which is unusual, unusual to succeed that is. I am thinking of the Grand Dame of Primal in Edvard Munch's 'The Scream'. I like weird and quirky, and primal. I wish in fact I could be more primal, in my own work. 

Often, I am  attracted to things which I don't always understand, things intelligent, and things strong, but if original and they possess sufficient form, then I am all in. Obviously though, this has created enormous problems in my choices in women. (!)

I was asked by someone who reads this blog, why I don't delve into Art criticism in depth regarding many of the images of which I speak. I replied that I understand that people do not have much time, especially for a blog like this, so generally I try to keep it short. The purpose of this Blog has been, after all, to just throw ideas out to the world, both pictorial and cerebral. But over 11 years, it’s actually been an opportunity to learn how to write. And because it's my own content, of course, I post a lot of my own work, because I can.

'Brevity is the Soul of Wit' so they say.