Monday, February 6, 2023

Madame et Le Chien, oil on linen, 22" x 30"

 I have a close friend who is naturally elegant. She is tall and graceful and has lovely refined features. She also has a beautiful and elegant Weimaraner named Greta. Whenever I see them out walking together I have a strong urge to paint them in a double portrait. But I had not figured out how to do it and elevate it beyond being a pedestrian likeness. Also my friend is modest and I couldn't imagine that she would enjoy the process of having her portrait painted. One day I was perusing a gorgeous book on John Singer Sargent with full color plates and I was mesmerized by the studies for and the the final painting titled "Madame X" which Sargent painted in 1883 of the young socialite Virginia Amelie Avegno Gautreau, the wife of the French Banker Pierre Gautreau. It is a stunning and mysterious painting. As I was studying it the subject Madame Gautreau suddenly brought the image of my friend and her dog Greta to mind. There was something so familiar. So after doing a few sketches I decided to paint Greta and have Madame Gautreau stand in for my elegant friend. I composed the painting so that Greta's stance and profile mirror Madame X's, and in a setting that echoes the late 1800 period. The breeze lifting the sheer curtain and what the subjects are gazing at beyond the window- remain a mystery. 

Here is more about the original Madame X, which caused quite a bit of controversy in its time.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Two more "A Lifetime of Dogs"

 Late summer and early fall of this year brought me two more commissions that involved painting the dogs from someone's lifetime. In my mind I equate this to painting a glimpse into what someone's heaven might be, because for me I would like to see the menagerie from my entire lifetime waiting at the gates for me to arrive. We would pick up just where we left off  and they would all get along beautifully. Of course my vision would include cats and a few horses, and maybe a couple guinea pigs. 

The painting I finished in August was for a gentleman on his 80th birthday. I was asked to paint it by his family and they gave it to him as a surprise.  They wanted him present in the painting, quietly sitting in his yard enjoying the company of his current dog as well as the dogs from his past. He often had two at a time of a certain type- all beautiful. The family provided me with whatever photos they could come up with as well as descriptions of a few when a photo couldn't be found.

"Dogs of a Lifetime", oil on linen, 24" x 30"

The second painting was for a friend who was the owner of an architectural salvage shop in DC. She is a collector herself and has a beautiful home filled with interesting and exquisite objects. She also has a wonderful sense of color and has had a fantastic collection of dogs over her lifetime as well. She is a delightful individual and has a special charm and glow. Even though she didn't want to be present in the painting I wanted the painting to "feel" like her in spirit and mood.  As we chatted about the painting she told me about each individual dog, how they came to be with her, and their unique personality and disposition. I got very attached to them as I painted them and wanted to do each one justice. On the day I delivered the painting, I finally got to meet the beautiful Tessa in person and I got the feeling she was quite content with her likeness...or it might have been the treats.  

"Donetta's Dogs", oil on linen, 32" x 32"

Donetta and Tessa

"Living with Goats", oil on linen, 30" x 40"

I started this painting as a tiny gouache sketch sometime last summer. It was inspired by the goats we see every morning on our early morning walks up Hayes Hill Road in Mill River, Massachusetts. At the top of the hill there is a farm. A young farmer lives there with his family and every time I pass I wish I could tell him how much I admire him. Farming is hard there is no doubt about that. I always hope that the beautiful view from his hill makes up for his early and late hours, the search for enough land, hauling food and water for all the creatures he is raising... and never mind the weather being temperamental and uncertain. And then there are the goats. I really hope that their crazy antics and funny voices bring the young farmer some joy and that he is not too overwhelmed by the weight of his responsibilities to enjoy them. I started thinking that maybe I should add some goats to our menagerie of cats and dogs, but then I thought again about the reality of that... and did this painting instead. 

Living with Goats 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

A Lifetime of Animals, oil on linen, 42" x 42"

oil on linen, 42" x 42"

The inspiration for “A Life with Animals” came last October from conversations with the individual who asked me to paint it.  The concept for a painting like this is very organic. I listen to the individual tell me stories about their life, their passions and the animals they have loved, and slowly the idea emerges, followed by the seed of a visual portrayal of the idea.  In this project there were so many inspiring stories, so many wonderful creatures, that the initial concept kept growing and expanding over time.

My first challenge was how to place all these creatures into the same space yet have it feel cohesive and somewhat natural – a very happy peaceable kingdom. I liked the idea of making the setting the large room of an English-style country house with various areas for seating, and opening to a landscape. Since many of the animals were rescued from dire situations and given a second chance for comfort and love, I thought that should be reflected in the painting – all the creatures living harmoniously together in a beautiful and cozy home. 

I started by drawing a floor plan on grid paper as if I was figuring out where to put furniture in an empty room, then I slowly added the animals and moved them around until they each had their own spot. Then I did a perspective drawing on paper to create a deep space within which I could arrange the composition. Using photographs and descriptions of all the animals, I did a number of preliminary drawings so I felt like I knew them before starting on the canvas.

On the linen canvas, I always begin with a reddish orange imprimatura, then grid it so I can scale up from the perspective drawing. First I draw the space in charcoal, then add the figures. 

Once the drawing is complete, I do a grisaille (gray tones) underpainting. When that is dry, I start working over that in transparent color glazes.


Along with the animals there are some objects depicted that are unique and personal to the owners of the painting, such as the scale of justice, the hats, the bluebird and robin, certain attributes of the interior and the landscape. 

There have been times in my career when a painting sort of takes over and paints itself. This was definitely one of those. I think perhaps the spirits of all the lovely creatures had something to do with it. I am just grateful to be the person who got to hold the brush.  

See a video of the painting here:

Images of the painting in progress: 


Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Sleeping Women

A theme I seem to return to again and again in my paintings is the image of a woman asleep. There is a long tradition in the history of art of a woman sleeping so I am not the first or last artist to be attracted to this subject. Perhaps it's because when you gaze upon someone asleep the potential for looking into their mind, their dreams, their virtual reality is so tempting and inspiring. Do they dream of the ocean, or the stars, or the face in the moon, of love, or perhaps of horses or herons? Hopefully all the dreams are beautiful with few nightmares. 

Some of my recent Sleeping Women paintings:

The Dreaming of Horses theme grew from having frequent bad dreams or "nightmares"  over the past few years. When I would wake up anxious and fearful,  I would try to focus on what I would rather be dreaming of- And I decided I would always rather be dreaming of horses. 

I love the Richard Diebenkorn painting "Sleeping Woman" from 1961 so I decided to depict that painting on the wall and mirror it in the sleeping woman on the sofa in the painting below. 

"I'd rather be Dreaming of Horses" 24" x 24", oil on linen

The next Dreaming of Horses was done for a friend who loves horses. That is her horse Piper peering in the door at her and gently touching her hair with his soft muzzle. And her beagle Riley sleeping near by. Have you ever noticed that you sleep more deeply with your dog or cat in the room? 

I'd rather be Dreaming of Horses II, 24" x 30" oil on linen

A painting I did a couple years ago- A woman has come home from work, had a sip of wine and dozed off on her sofa exhausted.  She had waited all day for the moment when she could feel
safe and unthreatened in the company of her cats. In her dreams her cats have become her guardians and stand over her like protective angels while she sleeps deeply and peacefully.  

"Shine Theory", oil on linen, 50" x 50" 

And another woman asleep is Henrietta. It was the middle of winter, cold and bleak. Henrietta was looking at a photo of her favorite painting by Matisse called "Still Life with Sleeping Woman" and started dreaming about a warm climate, the sea, a breeze, when two beautiful great blue herons materialized and flew through the open window. Henrietta kept on dreaming...

"Henrietta and the Herons", oil on linen, 24" x 30" 

And my most recent sleeping woman painting... She wondered why she always felt a little fuzzy 
when she woke up from an afternoon nap.

"Afternoon Nap", oil on linen, 30" x 40"

And one more that has a lot of meaning for me personally and which has a poem that accompanies it.

"We are just passing through like the river..." oil on linen, 36" x 48"

He came to me in the night
two weeks after he departed this earth
I heard him climbing the stairs
which he had not done for years
I awoke and could see his silhouette on the landing
back lit by the hall light
his big strong head and shoulders monumental

I got out of bed and tiptoed to him
and sat down
He leaned against me and spoke in a deep baritone
which I always imagined he would have
I am sorry I left without explaining
But you shouldn’t grieve for me
We all know we will be leaving and moving to our next life
Who is We? I asked, pressing my forehead against his
The Animals, he said.
We exist before we come to earth and we exist after we depart
We learn while we are there-
about human frailties and strengths
about cruelty and kindness
and we give selfless love to those who care for us, to those who need us
Then we get our next assignment
and we depart
So please don’t grieve for me, you see
We are all just passing through like the river.

If you look through my website you will see more sleeping women.
Hope you enjoy them.

Here are some of the images of the wonderful paintings referenced in this post and others that inspire me.

Matisse "Still life and Sleeping woman"
Diebenkorn "Sleeping Woman"
Balthus "The Dream"
 Rousseau "Sleeping Gypsy"

Vermeer "A Maid Asleep"
Girogione "Sleeping Venus"

Monday, February 22, 2021

High Tea with Friends, oil on linen, 36" x 36"

 This painting was a particularly enjoyable and successful collaboration between the client and myself because she is a designer and we speak the same visual language. The first time we chatted on the phone we hit it off and it was clear she had studied my paintings closely and really understood the formal elements- composition, geometry, perspective and color. She had a wall in her dining room picked out so that determined the size. She also wanted a deep space so that it felt like another window. She liked the painting I did a few years ago titled "Rabbit Summer" so that helped us with the narrative and structure. She also had some wonderful palette ideas that would work with her dining room. Springer Spaniels have always had a place in her life as well as a beautiful garden behind her home in West Virginia... and she is known for her baking talents.  The outcome is "High Tea with Friends".

"High Tea with Friends"

color samples for the palette 

Thumbnail sketch

Monday, January 11, 2021

Alfred and Friends on the Farm, oil on linen, 20" x 24"


Alfred is the fellow sitting right in the center foreground of the painting looking out at you and he is a very lucky guy. He was adopted by a wonderful family who had recently lost their beloved Spaniel so in a mutual arrangement he filled their hearts with joy again, and they are giving him a life any dog would envy.

Next to Alfred is his buddy Lily. Lily is a demure city girl living in a nice building on the upper east side of Manhattan. She goes to the beauty parlor regularly and lives a posh life with her mum. But when Lily goes to visit Alfred on his farm, she becomes quite another beast completely, and has been known to get appropriately muddy for a farm dog. 

Behind the pups in this pastoral setting are Mason and Jake, Alfred's very curious donkey friends. Whenever Alfred is near they watch him closely and appear to be amused by his antics.  

And back in the field are the beautiful farm cows grazing peacefully. 

This painting was a surprise for Alfred's family from his grandmother who is also the former director of the Tatistcheff Gallery NYC where I exhibited by work for many years and my close friend. She  stealthily collected photos of the farm from her son and sent them to me one my one. As a writer, she had an amazing ability to describe all the subjects' personalities in great detail so that I could get them on canvas. It was  a cheerful project to work on together and now I look forward to meeting all the characters in person one day!