Friday, January 25, 2013


 It seems a perfect night to do my weekly MFA blog report as the snow falls outside blanketing the Philly region with it's second little dash of snow this winter. It was good week at school, I felt things were clicking better and I felt a bit less frustrated except for my Drawing Class with Bruce Samuelson. I burned out a ton of "bleh" drawings and though we had a good model, I felt pretty foggy and uninterested until the end of class, my last drawing being the best one--though I wouldn't call it a fantastic thing. The lighting was pretty flat, mostly cast from the big north facing windows above in studio 1021, but there was little contrast or interesting lighting on the model, so everything was kinda' flat--and I really find that lighting uninteresting and I realize I really am kinda done with drawing the model flipping about like a seal on a stand or floor. I want to do much more interesting things so I'm hoping the class pics up, or it will be too much of a repeat of the undergrad class I had with Bruce.

I'm super excited and working hard on paintings and the pic above is of two I have going right now. The bottom one is from life and has a ways to go and its another in what I'm calling my Bride series, though that probably won't be the final name. I am also still working on paintings of those abandoned homes and using video I shot as a source for my paintings.  I feel the power building and I am so happy to explode into the studio at home or at school and love working on these ideas. I wish I could just paint every day for a year and do nothing else, but alas, I can't for now, but I am making the most of it. I had my first crit with Dan Miller and really enjoyed it. Dan has been with the school for decades and is the senior teacher since Professor Grimley retired. I haven't had Dan as a teacher since first year but I guess I was surprised how much he had been aware of my work at school all along. In talking with an artist like Dan, who is a great print maker and has been around a long time, seen a lot of art styles, changes and waves in his life its great to be able to talk to such a literate and vital mind. Dan's in his 80's and sharp as a tack, his feedback and observations about my current work were a good 'pilots checklist" as I call it. It certainly made up for what I felt was a rather disappointing final review from my first semester as far as having anything useful to walk away with. One critic supposedly marked down her comments even before my work was set up according to a friend---I know not everybody will like my work, but come on---give me something to work with. We have to deal with rejection as artists, nobody likes it, but you have to be tougher than nails. I was reject from the last Gallery 128 show and a recent Brandywine plein air event in the last two weeks. You don't like it, but you just keep painting, dam the torpedoes, I know if there are a lot of "abstract painters or artists" as judges I stand a slim chance on getting into some shows as they don't dig what I do. But again, you pick up your rejected painting or drawing, go back, close your studio door and keep swinging the brush.

In Scott Noel's MFA Painting Class we returned to the "fishbowl" as I call it, or the elevator lobby on the 4th floor. Scott had the setup ready and he and Patrice the model sat for us. It was a very "minty" set-up with Scott's favorite color scheme. Inside-outside was the theme of the day and what do you do to adjust the colors and values to keep both worlds harmonized?  Scott always has the way of almost letting you think you are winning and then saying, no, no carrot this week--pretty good, but lets see where you are in a  few weeks. The hardest thing about this set-up is looking into the light you eye have to adjust to the light, and it makes it harder to judge the values on your canvas. I always find I have to adjust the colors when I see them in better light. Again, a wind sprint of a painting and Scott always the energetic task master hopped up and ran around couching and prodding us all the entire time. I should have gotten in early and so I ended up not having a great view, traffic was crazy so i was late--and "dem's the breaks!"

 Scott brought in one of his recent works  which was a nice example of what he was trying to convey to us in the lesson-setup he had for us. The world inside stays inside and the world outside stays outside and that require you to make decisions and choices that don't always mean you are painting things exactly as you see them, where do you make those choices, take the chances to push things inside or outside. He had plenty of examples by Sickert,  Corbet, etc.

This is my painting from this week, sorta' ehh, but I think I kept the inside in and the outside out.

Scott had us all drag our stuff back into the studio to line them up for our crit. I love watching him talk he's such a energetic teacher---I should do a series of paintings of him lecturing.
This is the one drawing I was happy with from Samuelson's class, it's in litho crayon on newsprint.
We also had a quick floor meeting about the upcoming school-wide Open Studio Night which happens next month. Many people wanted to have a theme, and many were bandied about--but honestly I want no part of it. I feel that people should be more professional and make the place look great and conduct ourselves as professionals, not high-school. A Halloween party is one thing, but I want people to view my studio as a studio of a professional artist, which I am. I'm all for team spirit and pitching in, but art school while fun should be much more serious too when we present our face and our work to the public. I think we should try and dispel those obvious notions so many have about artists being dirty, crazy or lazy---even if we are sometimes or work that way. So I'll let the other students do as they will, but I will do what I've done the last few Open Studios, make my studio bright, clean , full of snacks and open for the curious and interested.

Friday, January 18, 2013

PAFA MFA 1: Spring Week 1

 The first week of my Spring MFA 1 semester just wrapped up and I sit here in my studio on the 9th floor on a Friday evening, 7-11 coffee in my hand looking at my latest painting fresh out of my mind onto the easel. I just had a great impromptu crit with Michael Gallagher--in fact my second one of the day as he gave me some great feedback on the piece above, which he saw this morning nearing completion in our first critique of the semester. That's a great thing about the school, and of course about Mike, the ability to snag somebody and drag them into your studio. As we discussed the piece we also went down and looked at a few pieces on the 3rd floor by several of our faculty including Kanevsky, Noel, Pyfrom, Shils, etc.
 I had meetings with all of my local critics ( meaning critics at school) and have to meet the visiting critic soon. The biggest change is that I have gone from drawing almost exclusively last semester back into painting--firing on all jets and working large. I started out with the painting above which is 30 x 40, and painting from life. I have an old wedding dress and had my friend model for me with it and then I set up a cloth running from the ceiling down and wrapped about here head. I blocked it in and set about painting it in and after about 3 hours or lass I reached this point and decided to stop. I have been reading and looking at a lot of Edwin Dickenson as well as Andrew Wyeth, I'm currently reading his biography. I was very interested in Dickenson's drawings and the Premier Coups or one shot paintings he did. I love painting something in one session if I can, even if its a long one. I want to keep that sense off relaxed-anxiety I get when painting  in Plein Air. Its relaxing in that you are outside, its beautiful--but the whole thing is alive and moving and the sun is moving--time is rushing. I go from calm to anxious, to calm--and that feeling I want when working in the studio or from photographic sources.
This was the next painting, done in one sitting working from the same sources I shot with my model, I shoot many pictures and move the camera and work to not be a slave to the photo, I don't project them I draw them onto the canvas. Again working fast and a bit unsure...working looser and more abstract--which I am not always sure or as sure as I am with my more tradition closed form tyoe painting. Anyway I figure art school is about risk, so I should risk more in hopes of growth. After painting on it a while I got a bit frustrated so I scrapped it down quite a bit and ended up liking the results.

I was also happy to be back in a painting class as a spot in Scott Noel's MFA Painting Seminar opened. It was Old Home Week as it was the same classroom, same models, same props and the same Scott--all be it maybe a bit more open to us and our processes as Master's students than in the undergrad. I have been loving these KAFKA Brushes .These are my favorite brushes right now, hold paint great, are flexible but stiff enough to almost use them like a palette knife. I have used them on most of the paintings above and completely on the painting from Scott's class. I have my first class in my research Seminar with Kate Moran---hmmm, well it will be interesting, we are covering my least favorite type of art and period of art, from the 70's on--ugh. We already had some interesting exchanges and she said she could see I was going to be trouble--to which I replied--yesss--with a smile. Lots of what I consider t o be BS about the artist taking their hand out of the work, which I didn't buy or agree with. Anyway I am up for a great debate and to toss some rocks too, I will stand up for craftsman ship, skill, painting as well as ideas.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Let's Start It Off!

 To day was a big painting day in the studio, or actually in my living room as I'm home on break from school. I painted both of these today--so it was a big painting day after a bit of a break. The landscape is based on a picture that my Dad shot of a barn someplace in Michigan. I painted another piece based on one of his photos a year or so ago, and he got such a big kick out of it I decided to do it again and give it to him as a Christmas present. Its 16 x 20 in Oil. The SPIRIT piece below was a commission I had left to do, it was for the same guy who also wanted the Phantom piece, and since I was a long time getting this done and he requested a color piece I did this quick-pulp-like image in oil and it's also 16 x 20. When it's dry I'll post them out. So I plan on keeping the painting fires smoking and have another piece roughed already, but two paintings in one day is enough for today....