Second Prize!

January 30, 2011


Apples in an Old Wooden Bowl, oil on canvas, 12×12 in.

I got a nice surprise yesterday, I found out this painting won second prize in the Salmagundi Club’s “Square Foot, Round Feet” exhibition. All paintings had to be either 12×12 in. or a circular format with a diameter of 12 in. (I can’t imagine doing a circular painting but that’s just me.) Awards are always a nice surprise, we should never expect them, and definitely not put too much weight in what it means to win, but it’s always nice to get recognition from an organization like Salmagundi where the quality of the work in the exhibits is always high.

I love painting a still life, I always do them from life and typically paint them alla prima, finishing them in one session and working wet-into-wet. Most of the ones I paint are in the 11×14 or smaller size which allows me to work quickly. This is usually important as I don’t have much room to leave a still life standing for an extended period of time. I like to get a lot of movement in my compositions, therefore, my set ups are relatively complex with a lot of elements in them that contain repeating forms, colors and textures. Setting up a still life is composition in 3D, if you get the rhythm going in the set up, it’s going to be present in your painting and make it come to life.

This exhibit is currently on display at the Club until Feb. 11, along with the Black and White Show. The reception is on Feb. 4 from 6 to 8 pm, I hope to be there for the awards ceremony, stop in if you are in the neighborhood. For more information, visit or call 212-255-7740.

Madison Square Park, oil on linen

January 27, 2011

Madison Square Park, oil on linen, 9×12 in.

This is a small painting I plan to offer in the Salmagundi Club’s spring auctions. The auctions are going to be online this year, with real time bidding online as bidding is taking place at the Club! I will post the dates of the auction and a link to the bidding site as auction dates draw near. The first auction is in early March, and the paintings will be on display at the Club for a week prior to the first auction. Online bidding means more people will be able to bid on works without having to attend the auctions in person, hopefully this will drive bids upwards and increase the number of people participating. More to come in February…

Chinatown, Alla Prima Oil on Linen

January 24, 2011

Chinatown, alla prima oil on linen, 9×12 in.

Salmagundi Spring Auctions are coming up, and this spring, there will be LIVE online bidding, so you don’t have to be at the Club to bid on the pieces in the auctions. I want to put 3 pieces in as I usually do, so I have started gearing up since the first auction is in early March. The first piece I plan to submit is this little alla prima of Chinatown. I painted this today, I did a much larger, horizontal version of this a few years ago. It was purchased by a collector this summer. I’ve always wanted to revisit this idea in a vertical format, and so I thought this would be a good opportunity to do so.

I used a limited palette (burnt umber, ultramarine, alizarin, cadmium red, yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, naples yellow, king’s blue and titanium white). I like working this size, it allows me to get in enough information yet prevents too much detail, particularly on the figures in the foreground. This creates more of a mass of people, or crowd-like feeling, which in turn enhances the sense of motion and spontaneity in the painting.

Work-in-Progress with some color added

January 21, 2011

Mapping in color on this work in progress, 30 x 30 in. oil on canvas

figure detail 1

Figure detail 2

Figure detail 3

I’ve begun the process of working on this in color. I took a left turn and decided to abandon both ideas of unique palettes on this–it has to fit in with other oil works I’ve already done. I plan to have half of the show be works in oil and the other half acrylics, but it must be cohesive beyond just being works of figures in the urban landscape. The colors need to relate to one another from painting to painting within each medium without any odd ball palettes. The acrylic portion of the show will be a little edgier, more graphic and with wilder colors, so I have a little more experimentation room within that media. For the oils, I need to keep to a bit more of my typical limited palette, so that’s the direction I’ve headed in with this one. I hope to finish it today or tomorrow.

Work in Progress: Urban Figures

January 18, 2011

Work in progress, oil on canvas, 30x30 in.

Just started this one, here is the under painting in burnt umber on a cobalt turquoise background (tinted gesso). Still thinking about the palette on this one, I will be using it in my show at Gallery Egan in May. I will either take this in an earth tones direction or experiment with a CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) palette. The latter is a replication of the colors used in 4-color process printing. I have always wanted to try that same concept with paint, just not sure if this is the one I will choose for that process. When I get in a situation such as this and am trying to determine if a palette will work on a specific painting, I will usually do a pastel or acrylic study, it may be time for that at this point, since I don’t want to jeopardize the outcome of the big piece. It is always better to try something out on a prototype if you are uncertain of the effect you will get using an experimental process. It is worth the investment of a little extra time and effort.

Class Notes – Art of Pastel 1/14/11

January 14, 2011

still life demo, pastel on Pastelmat, 7x9 in.

Drawing Matters!

This is my motto for the week’s classes. Often times, representational painting students become frustrated if their paintings lack depth, dimension and a professional look that says “I’m in control”. This can be particularly challenging to students who wish to paint in a loose, expressive style. The key is understanding the importance of structure (the drawing underneath) and the fact that loose does not mean the same thing as sloppy.

In order to support the layer of color on top, the under painting must be drawn with correct forms, values, proportion and perspective. In today’s lesson, I focused mainly on form and value, next week I will review proportion and perspective.

In the demo above, I began by blocking in the forms–each object was drawn as if it were transparent, this helps in getting things placed correctly. It also allows you to better see the forms that make up the whole object–in other words, look for geometric shapes that make up each object and build upon them to get the right overall form. For example, I began by drawing the ball of the wine bottle at its shoulder, I bisected that with a center line, then made my top and bottom ellipses for the neck of the bottle and the base. Once that is done, all that’s left is connecting the verticals. It is much easier to create symmetry and proportion this way than it is to draw one half the bottle and then try to match the other half exactly.

Next, I began mapping in the darkest values (still working monochromatically) all the way through the mid tones and leaving the paper uncovered for the lightest lights. Now we’re ready for color, again starting with the darkest darks and working through to the lightest areas.

As for technique, try not to blend if you can avoid it, layer one color on top of another and don’t rub them together, let them mix optically. The amount of pressure you use with the pastel determines how much or how little of the first color laid down shows through. Try to limit the number of colors you use so that the piece remains harmonious, make every stroke count in order to retain movement and spontaneity.

Pastel is wonderful for producing expressive, bold, colorful paintings. Next week, I will do a monochromatic still life demo to further illustrate the concepts of form, value, and proportion when working directly from a live set up.

The Strand

January 13, 2011

The Strand, oil on canvas, 11x14 in.

I painted this little alla prima piece this morning (it took about 3 hours, everyone always asks me “how long did that take?”). The Strand is a famous used and rare book store in NYC. It’s on Broadway at 12th Street. Inside it smells like old paper, just like a bookstore should, a perfect place to spend a cold, wet rainy afternoon in the city.

I wanted to experiment with  the colors in this, given it is an overcast day, I thought the combination of varied greys and bold reds would make a strong statement. I also love the way the angles of the scaffolding and the rectangles of the buildings carve up the composition into such basic geometric forms, so I wanted to emphasize that as well.

I began by working on a yellow ochre toned canvas with burnt umber to do the underpainting. On top of this, I worked alla prima (wet in to wet) using burnt umber, ultramarine, alizarin, yellow ochre, cadmium red, cadmium yellow, cadmium barium yellow light,  king’s blue, naples yellow, naples yellow light and titanium white. I used a wide variety of primaries to obtain multiple shades of warm and cool greys. When you have a painting that is heavy on the greys, mixing them out of a variety of primaries is the best way to get a wide range of variation.

Compositionally, I let the architectural elements break the space up into bold geometric forms that balance off one another through variations in size, value and color. The piece retains its perspective and sense of depth through the use of a wide range of values mapped in at the underpainting stage. The colors used on top work together to further create movement and balance.

I plan to feature this piece in my spring show “Loosely Structured” at the NJ Visual Arts Center in Summit. I will post more details about the show as the date gets closer.