sanguine sketching

When I lived in Florence and attended the Charles Cecil Studios, one of my favorite weekly events was the Wednesday night figure sketch.  There was no instruction, just an open studio to the public.  The model would come, and in this setting we could experiment with different media.  Joining this group were some of the artists from the studio who were also my teachers.  After a while, we started to experiment with red, white, and black chalk.  Though I'm abbreviating the history and definition of the term, this was our take on "Sanguine Drawing."  Tinting the paper with watercolor, and using a variety of chalks, charcoals, and graphite.

After a few years, I came back to New York with a bunch of really beautiful sketches.  I put them up for display at many of my little venues, such as Washington Square.  I was pleased to see that many of these sketches sold, and quickly.  Unfortunately, I never photographed any of them, except for the first photo in the following series.

I'm returning to this sanguine technique, in my studio in Islip, here on Long Island.  Here's a brief photo summary of the technique, as I practice it.  The sketch at the end is about half way done- by the time I came to render the arm on the right, I had to call it a day- I had to run to a dinner that my wife and I had arranged with friends.  But, I'll be resuming this drawing on Monday, when I teach classes.  I had a conversation with some of my Cecil Studio friends, and this confirmed what I've long felt- the single best thing I can offer is to paint and draw beside my students, as I myself had received instruction at the Cecil Studios.

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kay erwood, day three



Kay Erwood is so cool. So many stories, wrapped up in one person.  Speaking with her, I understand that optimism is willed, it is a choice.  Kay lost her beloved husband, Walt, three years ago. She's not the slightest bit bitter, rather, she celebrates their love, their story, with every story she shares.  She has such a contagious joy, when out of any of us, she could be the one lamenting.

While my brushes furiously work at the canvas, Kay and I just talk for hours.  She turned to me during today's sitting, three hours into the portrait, and said "Man, Kevin, we just have nothing to talk about."  I laughed pretty hard.

To capture that animation, that laughter.

day two


When Sorolla painted the fishing boats of Valencia, he hired the boats for the day, so that they would stay put. I get it. Commercial fishermen work hard. They are a really generous, accommodating group, especially Pete, the captain of this boat.  But he's so busy, heading out at four in the morning, that it's difficult for me to pin down the boat and get that early morning sunlight.

when I run, I sense his pleasure

I'm back at Whitecap, starting a big new painting.  I'm incredibly excited to begin this work, it's been a long time coming.  First time I've painted in a week- and that feels way too long.  I hope to have it finished, or even just far enough along to exhibit, by the time I get to the Montauk Art Fair, on August 16, 17, and 18th.  You know, I find accounting to be difficult, computer work mundane, setting up tents in New York City in 100 degree heat less than rapturous, and I find building easels at night in my garage to be wearying... but oh, when I finally stand in front of the easel, and there is no sound except the distant hum of diesel engines, and the quiet breathy sweep of the brush on the linen- then I understand Eric Lidell's words.

"God made me fast.  And when I run, I sense his pleasure."  -Eric Lidell




los altos, california, painting, and irish music

So, my wife, children and I have all returned from California.  It was a whirlwind of a trip, from the Los Altos Outdoor Fair, to the portrait demonstration, to a large series of sketches I did during a sermon at Union Presbyterian, to a bout of the flu that knocked me and my family down flat.

Adobe Photoshop PDFHere is a short progression of the portrait demonstration which I did at the Union Presbyterian Church in Los Altos.  The sitter for the painting was a wonderful fellow by the name of Art, whose wife Margaret Sloan is an excellent artist (visit  Having found out through this blog about my trip to the Los Altos area, Maggie came to my booth to say hello.  She and her husband Art are both very talented musicians, and they invited me to a nearby pub for an Irish music session.  Irish music sessions are basically events in which a mixed bag of friends and strangers all meet, and share tunes, and others join in as they identify the tune, or as they learn it.  Art is a great fiddler, Maggie is brilliant on the tin whistle, and I, well umm, I umm paint fiddles and manage to squeak out a tune now and again.  If you listen to this video, you will see me fiddling to the right, and then Maggie jumps in on the tin whistle and rescues me from what had reluctantly become a solo.


There is much more to write, bout my trip to California. I really, really liked it there.  It seemed every bit as productive as New York, but it had a uniquely creative spirit nurtured by a willed, slower pace.  So much happened in my visit.  An hour and a half long visit with the generous and encouraging gallery owner, John Pence.  A couple dozen conversations with individuals interested in portrait commissions.  Learning of San Francisco's taste in aesthetics, and how strikingly it can contrast with New York City's.  I hope to write again soon about Los Altos Land, a land of Google, Apple, and Yahoo catrillionaires, a land flowing with milk and honey, with zero humidity, Tesla cars abundant, and charming, little, freestanding bookhouses, like small birdhouses on posts, bookhouses which proliferate free literature throughout the town, as the herds of bicycles silently go zipping by, and 'neath the towering redwoods and eucalyptus there is borne aloft from bungalow windows the melodic strain of juicer machines, their vitamin rich songs gently wafting down silent cedar avenues.  Aye, indeed, were I to sell my home in New York, I'm certain that in Los Altos I could afford a spacious, charming, slate shingled mailbox.


It took me a few weeks to finish up a bunch of my paintings.  It took a day to take a trip to the Omega Framing factory in Yaphank, where I selected and purchased my frame lengths.  It took a few hours in my garage to cut and assemble frames for all of my paintings. It took thirty something hours to build crates for all of my paintings, and pack the crates with all of my work. It took a while for my father in law and I to shrink wrap all of the crates on a shipping palette, and load it in to the back of a tractor trailer.  It took my wife Margaret a day on the computer to design a new portrait brochure, and have it shipped to Los Altos.

I'm delivering a big painting to a fellow who already purchased. In front of me is a couple days of exhibiting in Los Altos at the outdoor art fair, followed by a portrait demo at Los Altos Presbyterian. I'll be locking in a large commission, which I'm able to paint back at my studio in Islip, and months later send back to the west coast.

The kids are asleep in the back of the shuttle, en route to the airport.  The paintings arrived safely in Los Altos.  The portrait brochures are printed, and awaiting us too.

And my wife is understandable asking me to get off my phone, because we're sitting in traffic, near the Manhattan midtown tunnel.

If for a moment, I dwell on how much work it is to pull off an exhibition in California, I just think about Lewis and Clark taking a couple of years to make it from the east coast to the Continental Divide. And then, I tell myself to quit whining, in just hours I'll be on my friend's back porch in Los Altos.

Life is good.







the spilled stout

framed"Spilled Stout"

Back in December, I received an email from a man named Bob in St. Louis.  Through an internet search he had come across my paintings, and he was particularly taken by one of my violin paintings.   All of the lawyers at his law firm were looking for a surprise gift for the head of the law firm who is an Irish fiddler himself, and Bob was selecting the gift.  The thing was that all of the paintings were sold, and I had nothing similar to offer him.  And so, he immediately suggested a commission of a violin painting, along the lines of a favorite from the online gallery- a red violin on a blue chair.  I broke out my brushes and began to paint, delighting in the beautiful rhythms and flow of light, working long days to get it done and off in the mail.  By the end of December, the painting was mailed to St. Louis, and I'm told that his boss was thrilled.  It was a wonderful, enjoyable commission.

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After a few weeks, I realized that there was a story in that painting.  And, though the painting felt like it was complete, it seemed to me like there was a whole other story to be told.  I stewed over it for a while, then I decided to go for it- a pendant painting, to match the other.  Kind of like a before and after.  I spent the past four months working on the second half of this painting, which I called "Spilled Stout."  Today, I finished the painting, and framed it in my garage, and I am packing it up to send it to my show in California.  There is a story told with these paintings, and though I could write down that story, but then I'd be bastardizing the visual medium of the paintings.  I'd like for you to see them side by side, the St.Louis painting on the left and the new one on the right, and for you to see your own story.  Could I make a suggestion?  Pour yourself a stout (or wine if you are sofistercated like that), and click this link for Dezi Donnelly the fiddler.  While the music plays, look at the paintings, sip your stout, and wish to God that you were Irish.

spilled guinness beside bob's fiddle copy"Perfect Pour" and "Spilled Guinness", oil on linen, 18" x 24"

me and evan

me and evan




So, I worked quite a bit more on this painting. I had a bunch of things that needed to be heightened, other things subdued. The risk I run, by going back in to a semi-finished painting, is that I may be exchanging spontaneity for precision.

I've actually learned a lot as a painter, in the past two months. I've been putting in some really long hours at the easel, working on various pieces, fighting for that particular glow of light, that particular saturation of color. And as I've sought these artistic solutions, I've had to reinvent some of my technique. As I've furthered my understanding of pairings of washes against piles of thick paint, I've realized something- my painting finish is inadvertently emulating that of David Leffel's, even Sorolla's. (Not saying I'm as good as.) And why has my painterly effect emulated theirs? Because they were trying to capture light, and a particular painterly attack is what it took to get that effect. Thick paint against thin, and the ends justify the means. Some people tell me that they want to paint more brushy, and they will ask me how to become more painterly (not that I am necessarily a brushy painter, but away from a computer screen, there is some thick paint, or boogers as my son identified). I never know how to respond to that "becoming brushy" question, as if brushiness were in of itself a pursuit. If you want to paint brushy, then see brushy.

My little guy, Evan, is a tough little bruiser of a three year old, and the fire in his belly keeps me laughing all day long. He seems slightly ashamed of his self perceived aggressive nature. But I know that, if properly directed, his aggression be a gift, a rapid river rushing, carving out hillsides and forming the landscape. It's police commissioner Teddy Roosevelt, standing down Tammany Hall corruption in New York City. It's Edward Elgar producing the Enigma Variations. It's Jane Jacobs taking on Robert Moses, and saving Greenwich Village from demolishment.

Evan came to paint with me in my studio, the other day. He saw how far along this painting had come, and he stared in wide eyed wonder. He pointed up to the painting, and said "Dad, that's my work boots, and your work boots. That's us. You really love me."

Being an artist is difficult, yet enjoyable. Being a father is incredibly difficult, yet overwhelmingly and inconceivably wonderful. Could an artist, could a father, wish for anything more?

"Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them."-Solomon, Psalm 127, verses 3,4, and 5

Video | NBC New York!/on-air/as-seen-on/83rd-Annual-Washington-Square-Outdoor-Art-Exhibit/209438741

So, the interview at NBC studios was incredible!  I think the funniest thing is that I spend my career trying to piece together what Jackson Pollock deconstructed, and yet in my every bit of publicity, Jackson manages to eke his way in .  Pollock was often heard to say "I just gotta get Picasso off my back." I'm often heard saying "I'm more interested in the people who built the Pantheon, than the ones who tore it down."

The Washington Square Outdoor Show went very well, with a few nice sales to a few new buyers. I'm now wrapping up a semester of classes at the McEvoy Studio, framing a couple dozen works, packing a crate full of paintings and shipping them to an exhibition in California, locking in a portrait demo outside of San Francisco, forging ahead with the"Nine Portraits of Islip", formulating a proposal for a large painting in a major hospital, finalizing a large commission for a church on the west coast... forgive me for the bloglessness!  Things are wonderful, but lark of mercy, things are busy.  Good busy, though, with lots and lots of painting!

You know, in relocating my studio to Islip, my hope was to be able to approach my art career in the same fashion that the Vietcong waged guerrilla warfare. Paint, paint, paint while in the thick of the suburban jungles of mid Long Island, then launch sporadic attacks on urban fronts with finely tuned paintings.  So far, all is going according to plan, because I am able to put in a good nine hours of painting at the studio, and still bike home in time for soccer practice with Liam and Evan.



After the longest break in my blog's history, I now write to say that there have been a slough of wonderful events, one after the other.

But first- happy anniversary, wife. Nine years, tomorrow. Three continents, one desert, two oceans, one mountain, a salt plain, and now three boys. What an adventure.


What's more, tomorrow on WNBC2 News, this Wednesday the 29th, between seven and eight p.m., I will be interviewed live, in a five minute special.  The prime time news program is called New York Nightly with anchorman Chuck Scarborough, on NBC's 24/7 news station, Cozi.  The special is about the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibition, and how it helped launch my career.  During the interview, they will be featuring some images of my paintings.  This is a great chance for me to feature my work, and a great chance to talk about how the outdoor venue that began with Jackson Pollock went on to forge the careers of great realist painters such as David Leffel.

I had a great show this past weekend, at the Washington Square Outdoor Exhibition.  Notwithstanding the wind and rain on the first day, there were a few great sales, and many great connections with people from all over the world who walk the streets of New York City.  I will be exhibiting next weekend as well, so feel free to come out and meet me in my booth on the sidewalk, above Washington Square.  I'm on the west side of University Avenue, between 9th and 10th.