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! 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

"Citizen of the World"

This painting was a surprise for the recipient. I am always a little wary of doing paintings as surprises because art is so personal. But in this case I knew that the fellow commissioning it for his wife would have great insight into what she would like. AND she is a dear, long time friend of mine- which made the experience especially wonderful. 

She grew up in Malta and from a very early age she knew she wanted to make her life about travel. She went to school in Switzerland and ultimately became a leader in the travel industry. So her husband wished to make the painting about that and call it "Citizen of the World" because that is how she has always felt, and lived her life. 

"Citizen of the World", oil on linen, 24" x 36"

The painting shows a young girl, looking at a globe and writing in a journal- perhaps planning future itinerary or writing about the journeys she has already taken. Some of her favorite books as well as books about travel and an atlas are in the bookcase below. Golden Retrievers have always been their family dog.  In the distance between the arches I melded together New York, Paris and Malta, all places where she spent time and which are dear to her heart, as if they were one landscape. 

In the middle distance, there are two luzzo, traditional maltese fishing boats, which visually help make the transition from foreground to distance.  In the foreground architecture, on either side of the arch are a Maltese Cross, and the emblem from the Rosey School in Rolle Switzerland, which she attended. The school emphasizes an international atmosphere which obviously had a big influence.  A family of swans floats near the steps, symbols of her family life. I based the color scheme for the painting on Maltese tiles. 

Here is the watercolor study for the painting 

And the painting in two stages- the underpainting in progress, and then with the first glazes

A Maltese cross, The Rosey School logo, and a Maltese Tile 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

"7 pm with Hopper and Bonnard" (If Edward Hopper's Model had lived during the Pandemic and had Pets")

2020 has been a very strange and disorienting year so far with lots of new phrases and expressions being added to our lives. One of these is the concept of "Staying Home" in order to "flatten the curve" and slow the spread of the COVID 19 virus. Besides sometimes being challenging- staying home had some silver linings mainly because people slowed down and had time to try things and do things they didn't have time for in their normal full and busy lives. Many people were sheltering alone which reminded me of the Edward Hopper paintings of single figures isolated in a room. Other people saw this relationship and many Hopper paintings were shared on social media. 

One of the last little trips I made before the pandemic hit, was a road trip with two friends to see the Hopper Hotel show at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. I have always been a Hopper devotee. My uncle, an art historian and painter, was a lecturer on Hopper at Washington University in St. Louis, and since I learned to paint from him, I looked at a lot of Hopper paintings over many years. I even named one of our dogs after him... The show in Richmond was fantastic and I fell in love all over again with the painting "11 am" which I have depicted on the left hand wall in this painting.  I also stole  the wonderful figure from Hopper, reversed her pose and made her the woman isolating alone in "Staying Home".

"Staying Home" oil on linen 36" x 36"

But she is not alone at all. Another silver lining to the pandemic was that many people realized that it was the perfect time to bring a dog or cat into their lives. Pets are companionship and comfort and that is what we all needed. A record number of animals were pulled from shelters and placed into loving forever homes. So the woman in this painting is surrounded by her dogs and cats in the warmth of a cozy interior. The other painting on the wall is Bonnard's "Woman with Dog" -another favorite painting of mine. 

Other activities that people were doing while staying home are represented in the painting; such as learning chess, (I think the cat is winning), making sourdough bread, and doing hours of handicrafts such as knitting and needlepoint. My daughter was staying home in Brooklyn. She described her experience being in the city and sometimes called us to let us hear the nightly 7 pm ritual of people coming to their windows, shouting and beating on pots to thank the healthcare workers for their hard work, devotion and personal sacrifice. So that is what is going on in the buildings outside. 
I titled the painting "7 pm with Hopper and Bonnard" to echo the Hopper painting titled "11 am".

"Sanctuary" oil on linen 36" x 48"

I was working on this painting at the beginning of the Pandemic so I titled it "Sanctuary". The room is a place of calm and reverie, isolated from the chaos and stress of the outside world. 

Formally the painting is a play on the Matisse painting “The Piano Lesson” which is on the wall. The real painting hangs at MOMA and I visit it whenever I am there. It is a mystifying work of art. 

In "Sanctuary" the boy at the piano is the reverse image of the boy in the Matisse. Other elements I have pulled into this painting are the arabesques of the wrought iron balcony, the angles, horizontals and verticals which are either opposing or aligning with those in "The Piano Lesson". The colors also relate to Matisse’s palette. The owls have found the sanctuary to their liking and the head of the boy in "The Piano Lesson" has always looked quite owl-like to me. 

Monday, April 27, 2020

Contactless Portraiture in the Covid Era

I thought I would take this moment in time to write a little bit about how I do a portrait whether it is a simple portrait of a person or a pet, a complex narrative  portrait, or something in between. 
"Portrait of a Young Poet"

"Toby with Jed and Bizzy"

A narrative portrait is collaboration between the artist and the subject of the painting. The concept is based on portraits from the Renaissance in which the artist depicted aspects about the life of the subject as well as a painted likeness. Renaissance portraits of noblemen often had the person in the foreground, with a view behind him of his lands, armies or fleet of ships. Sometimes the subject wore his jewels to convey his prosperity or held a book to indicate his intellectual life or a globe to denote his worldly travels.  I became interested in this form for a number of reasons. The speed of modern life and the advent of the digital age make it difficult to keep a “hard copy” of our family history. It is rare that people have time to keep photo albums or write journals. The idea of a narrative portrait is to tell the story of the subject or subjects, in the case of a family. This can mean telling about their lives, their professions and interests, their relationships, and their connection to one another. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a particular moment in time but can make references to things from the past or even look into the future. The idea is to create a family heirloom that will be passed on from one generation to another. I suggest that when the painting is finished the family write a short document about who is in the painting with an explanation of all the references that are made, putting it in an archival envelope and placing it in the back of the painting. 
The process can be completely virtual without me ever meeting with the subjects in person and when it is finished the painting will be shipped to the client. It starts with an email exchange in which I send a series of questions to get to know what the client is looking for in terms of the painting size, who is to be the subject or subjects of the painting, the setting for the painting, etc. 
Once I have this information, we set up a phone call which could also be a facetime or a zoom meeting. And at this point I ask for a few photographs to be emailed or texted to me as beginning resource material. After that I start working up a composition. This is a small sketch on grid paper with written notations. I email the sketch to my client for changes or approval. When the composition is set, I often ask the client to take specific photos and email them to me, if necessary. Then I build the canvas using all archival materials and start drawing, then painting. If the client is interested in seeing the process, I am always happy to send photos as the painting develops.

I was thinking that at this point in our lives with family members isolated apart from each other, working together virtually to discuss and conceptualize a painting, then have me execute it, could be a meaningful project.  I also love doing single portraits as well as painting a human with their four-legged best friend, or just the four-legged friend. Please feel free to contact me for more information.

Preliminary Sketch for "Shadow's Woods"

Final Painting "Shadow's Woods"

Preliminary Sketch for "Come for Drinks"

Final Painting "Come for Drinks"
Preliminary Drawing for "Sunday Morning with Shelties"

Final Painting "Sunday Morning with Shelties"