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.

lanny of lily's, a face of islip


The third face of Islip, two hour progress shot. Lanny is the bartender at Lily Flanagan's, in Islip. He's from Ireland, and he's a great guy.

My brothers and I have a practice with Lily Flanagan's. We walk by their window on Main Street, and if Lanny is behind the bar, we enter for a well poured Guinness, a burger, and good conversation. You may call it elitism, but us imbibers of stout with refined pallets must be discerning.

impasto, and washes

This is the fourth day of working on this canvas, and I'm really pleased with this painting.  In an effort to capture that glowing light that was falling on Jimmy's face, I loaded on more paint to the side of the forehead, the beard, the nose to cheekbone.  Three years ago, I stood in the Pitti Palace in Florence, and was in awe of a painting which glowed from fifty feet away.  A painting of an old man, the light was glowing off of the canvas.  There was such life, something I can't put in to words.  As I drew closer, there was thick, goopy paint clinging to the canvas.  These thick impastos were globbed on, but I noticed that the thick paint was beside thin washes.  Impastos, in the context of thin, turpentine washes.  It was a sudden revelation, that these impastos only worked because they were sparingly employed.  Were the whole canvas thick, impastoed paint, then thick, impastoed paint would have no significance.  As time went by, my understanding of pairings crystallized.  In order to have light, you have to have dark, in order to have impastos, you have to have thin washes.  This applies to the other arts as well.  In order to have the soaring harpsichord climax of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5., it has to be compositionally surrounded by the comparatively quiet flute and brushy strings.  In Hugo's Les Miserables, in order for Jean Valjean to be grace in Christ, Javert must be the Mosaic law.  In Bill Watterson's work, in order for Calvin to be chaos, Suzy must be order.  Impasto, and washes.

Between you and I, there is substantial art historical evidence that Rembrandt was a spackler, as well as a painter.

painting of old manJimmy, oil on linen, 10" x 14"

jimmy, impasto, full

jimmy, detail   jimmy, impasto, beard

the first face of islip




I know, I know, I know how cheesy this is going to sound. But, my wife is incredibly beautiful. I love painting her. I look at her, and I think she has the most striking, perfect features. Her gaze has such intensity. The first face of Islip, in the Chase Manhattan series. No, this blog will not feature the series in a chronological order. Nothing in my life flows that consistent and orderly.

jimmy, day one





A few months ago, I walked into the Chase bank on Main Street in Islip. I submitted a written proposal to the head of the bank, which basically said that I'd like to paint and then exhibit nine portraits of typical people from Islip. In order to obtain clearance, my proposal went from there to some figure higher up in Chase Manhattan corporation, and was then accepted. Chase Manhattan has approved of the exhibition, and pending the success of the Islip exhibition, it might perhaps travel to other banks throughout the New York area.

My wife Margaret was the first portrait. Here is the second portrait, a portrait of an old friend, Jimmy. He is the janitor at the Islip high school, and a janitor at the Islip Presbyterian Church which I used to attend. For a year, the church was kind enough to lend me their chapel as an art studio, and Jimmy was there everyday, laughing and telling stories. I'm going to be perfectly honest for a moment- I'm thrilled with this painting. Just four hours work, and it has such presence. I'll never know what makes some portraits instantly click- it's gotta be Jimmy's awesome hair and beard.





"DAAAAAAAD!!!! Evan peed on the floor!" was the cry that ran through the house. Moments before, I had just emerged from the shower, hair still wet, and now my little son Quinn was on my knee, and I was wiping food off from his face. Typically a sweet, compliant eight month old, today Quinn was being quite resistant to the prunes and oatmeal that I was attempting to shovel into his mouth. "Well, Evan, is it true? Did you pee on the floor, did you, a three year old, pee on the floor?" I yelled across the house. Evan came running up, face flushed red, and he blurted out "Yes, I did pee on the floor, but that's because you were in the bathroom, taking a shower, and you hate it when we knock on the door when you're in the shower." I stared at him. He had a point. "Daaaaaaad, dad, dad, dad, is it true that fossils come from dinosaurs?" Liam screamed, as though he were shot. "Dad, I'm sorry I did the pee on the floor, I never do that, it was an accident" Evan stammered. As I directed the spoon towards Quinn's mouth, his dimpled hand shot up in the air and sent the spoon and prune/oatmeal sludge heavenward. Down it came, descending in brownish showers on tray, hair, and floor. Quinn smiled the cherubesque smile that belongs only to infants, an untainted smile which humans later trade in for words. "DAAAAAAAD, why do fossils only stick in rocks?" Liam yelled. "Daaad, I'm sorry for the pee pee, can I get dressed now?" Evan pleaded, looking like a forlorn Charles Dickens character. Quinn started to cry. Evan started to cry.

Margaret was gone for the night, off doing income taxes. I was home alone with the kids. And I still had two hours before they went to bed. I stared at the wall, and thought to myself "Okay. Billions and billions of people have done this before, growing these life forms, guiding these misshapen balls of entropy along the obstacle course of infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. But if billions of people have successfully raised children, then why is it still so overwhelming? How many millions of books about parenting have been published? Shouldn't child rearing have been fine tuned by now? Shouldn't child rearing benefit from the ages in the same way that technology has streamlined the raising of longhorns in the Southwest?" More screaming emerged from the other side of the house, somebody was scolding me for not having enough Transformer underwear in their dresser drawers. And as I shoveled more food into Quinn's mouth, I said out loud "Raising children is hard. Shut up, carry on, and laugh."

Once in their pajamas, I chased the boys around the house. Tonight, I would be a ferocious dinosaur with rabies, chasing after little velociraptors. Liam laughed so hard, that tears rolled down his face. Evan laughed so hard, he had to go run to the bathroom to avert another urinary disaster. Quinlan half crawled, and cackled and giggled with delight. I placed Liam and Evan in their beds, prayed with them, and headed to Quinn's crib. I braced myself for the customary hour or so of fussing and half crying, in order to send Quinn off to sleep. As I held him in my arms, I parted the curtain, and the last glint of daylight revealed a dark storm front in the sky, like a giant bruise above the tree line. I sat on the bed with Quinn, and the rain began to slowly fall on the holly leaves beside the bedroom window. Deep rumbling, and the first thunderstorm of spring was approaching. Quinn placed his head against my chest, and looked out the window with me. The rain fell heavier, and the cool breeze began to sway the curtains. Quinn cooed softly. Short little breaths gave way to longer breaths, gave way to sighs, gave way to the gentle drone of sleep. In just moments, Quinn was asleep on my chest, and the house was silent except for the distant rumbling of the fleeing storm. I never knew a deeper joy.

I woke early in the morning, and headed to the studio. My students came for still life class, and I pulled my son's boots out of my bag. I began to teach still life painting, addressing the flow of light over form, about the play of dark against light, of weathered pine against the glowing varnish of maple, of man made materials against natural forms, of rough textures against smooth surfaces, of the decaying effect of time against the luster of the new. And as I spoke to my students about their paintings, I began to paint on my own new, fresh canvas. Dad's boots, and Evan's boots.

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,"- that is all
ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

carpe diem


My Wife, painting in progress, oil on linen, 12" x 18"

Carpe Diem
By Robert Frost

Age saw two quiet children
Go loving by at twilight,
He knew not whether homeward,
Or outward from the village,
Or (chimes were ringing) churchward,
He waited (they were strangers)
Till they were out of hearing
To bid them both be happy.
"Be happy, happy, happy,
And seize the day of pleasure."
The age-long theme is Age's.
'Twas Age imposed on poems
Their gather-roses burden
To warn against the danger
That overtaken lovers
From being overflooded
With happiness should have it
And yet not know they have it.
But bid life seize the present?
It lives less in the present
Than in the future always,
And less in both together
Than in the past. The present
Is too much for the senses,
Too crowding, too confusing—
Too present to imagine.

great neck high school



My brother's mother in law recently got in touch with me.  She is an enthusiastic, supportive person who loves art, follows this blog, and enjoys the rambling road of my artistic career.  Peggy works at Great Neck high school, and asked me if I were at all interested in speaking to the students there.  The moment I heard of the opportunity, I was on board.  A quick conversation with the head of the art department confirmed the general theme behind their invitation:  Come, speak to the students, and demonstrate to them that right brainers can do right brainy things- and afford food, too!

The art department was incredible.  The students' work was exhibited on every square inch of the walls, and the quality was stunning.  The teachers were clearly doing a fantastic job, as the classroom had enthusiasm in the air.  There was no question here of momentum- in fact, I found that my speech was only a matter of me catching up to what these teachers were already doing well.

And now, I pause this blog to bring you back to an event in my own high school experience.  In tenth grade at Smithtown Christian School, I found myself, like most of humanity, to be terrified of speaking in public.  I dreaded standing in front of an auditorium.  I dreaded attention from groups.  One day, in a dark auditorium, after hours at school, I set up my violin and began to play.  The auditorium was empty, and so I played with force, allowing the deep dark notes to echo and reverberate off of the back walls of the auditorium.  The soft, high notes stayed ringing in the air for many seconds after the bow finished drawing across the strings.  As I played some tune by Dvorak, somebody called out "Wonderful!  Now, you are going to play in the worship group with us."  The head of the worship music group had wandered in a back door, and she had been listening for a while.  I instantly recoiled into my shell, a snail whose antennaes had been poked.  She insisted that I play this coming Wednesday, in an evening service, in front of the whole church- several thousand members.  I said no.  She said yes.  I said no.  And on, and on.  Finally, I said yes.

I lay awake at night, a trembling tenth grader, wondering what embarrassment lay ahead of me.  I was going to play "We've a Song to Sing to the Nations."  I practiced it for hours and hours and hours, until I didn't need the sheet music.  I whistled the tune as I walked.  I tapped the time while I leaned my head on the window of the bus.  I was terrified.  But then, it dawned on me that I would remain terrified of performing in public, until I did it enough times to overcome the fear.  I had to do this.

I stood on the stage, and the director of worship walked up to me.  "Oh yeah, Kevin, you're going to have to begin the song when the spotlight comes on you.  The room is going to be black, and then the spotlight will come, then you'll play a few measures, all the other lights will slowly come on, and I'll join in on the piano."  There I stood as the events of the performance unfolded, my legs wobbly, my hands sweating.  Once cued, I took my spot, and set up the music.  The lights went off, the room was black.  I waited for the spotlight.  And waited.  And waited.  It was absolutely silent.  The women whispered from the piano "The spotlight must think you begin your solo, while it's still dark.  You'll have to just start."  I responded with a trembling voice "But, I don't know the first notes.  I can't see."  "PLAY!" she said.

I brought the tune to mind, and I began to play.  Oh wonderful, divine muse, inspiration descending from Elysium, oh how my fingers became these young, nimble deer, leaping and jumping whithersoever they pleased.  No, really, I was playing whatever came into my head.  I played sharps here, now a few flats there, I trilled on the E string, the pulsing vibrato now accenting here, the spare open string there.  Staccato in this spot, now spare trilling there.  And as my fingers glided over the fingerboard, I reflected on the fact that I was playing absolute, utter nonsense.  I was not even playing metered music, in time.  I was lost, in the dark, and I was light years away from any melody resembling the hymn "We've a Song to Sing to the Nations."  If I had to name my improvised tune, it would be "We've a Stammering Squeak to Shriek to the Captive Peoples."  As I racked my mind for the melody to the hymn, my improvisation continued, and I cursed the spotlight guy, and I cursed the spotlight guy's mother for birthing him, and I cursed Thomas Edison for inventing electric lights, and I cursed the inventor of the violin.  After a minute or two of this agony, the spotlight came on.  I could see my music.  I played the first measures correctly, the piano boldly asserted the new melody, and the congregation sang forth in "And the darkness shall turn to dawning, and the dawning to noonday bright..."  Relieved of carrying the primary melody, I now played harmony.  The song ended, and I descended from the stage and melted into a puddle of shame.  People came, patted me on the back, and said that it was kind of good, like, like in this one spot it sounded like a gypsy tune.  I thanked them for their condolences, and headed out the back door.

As I stood in the warm night air, my face hot and flushed with adrenaline, I thought "The worst has happened.  I could not have done any worse."  I was mortified.

The next day, people came up to me, and said "Kevin, you did really great last night.  That was such a cool intro.  It sounded like some type of Irish, gypsy tune.  What a relief to have a break from the same, stale, Christian music intros.   You really changed it up.  You doing it again soon?"  And the consensus was in- it actually pretty good.  In my panic, I had reverted to the wandering, ambling dirges that I would play for hours on end in the solitude of my room.  Though it wasn't the hymn they requested, it wasn't a catastrophe either.  That same week, they had me join the music group as an official member, and I soon came to perform in front of several hundred students a week.  After a while, I was invited to retreat centers upstate New York, to play a little hymn in front of several thousand.  I joined an Irish ceili band on occasion, and played reels til my hand ached.  Years later, I stood on top of a table in the middle of the Thanksgiving Feast at the Charles Cecil Studios, surrounded by a hundred Europeans who floated in our artist circle, and I played jigs and reels at full dancing speed.

I came to love performing the violin in front of crowds, and this led directly into me enjoying speaking in front of crowds.

As I stood in front of the Great Neck auditorium, I shared with the students about my art career, and the response was wonderful.  Mark Twain said that speaking in public should be as fluid as speaking to your friends in the pub- I couldn't agree more.  I spoke about my paintings, my effort to receive classical painting instruction, my experiences in the art world, the time I spent teaching classical drawing to inmates in a jail- and the students responded.  They laughed, they leaned forward, one student cried, the group seemed engaged.  As I spoke, I reflected on how I once sat in their seats and was terrified of speaking in public.  What's more, I also had sat in their seats and had been terrified by the challenge of becoming an artist.

to try

As I sit down to type, I am struck by the difficulty of summing up the current state of affairs.  In my studio,  my four classes are moving along wonderfully.  In fact, I was forced to turn away a student for the first time, as there are currently more students than there are openings.  I've finalized a couple of sales, one painting which is going out to California.  The corporation of Chase Manhattan bank has approved of an exhibition, which will feature 9 to 15 smaller canvases depicting the faces of people from Islip.  My trip to London was incredibly exciting, as I was able to reconnect with all of the Cecil Studios painters who I've been longing to catch up with.  There are such exciting things, my friends have done some pretty great works, and I'm energized by their dialogue.  I may have landed a London gallery, in the gallery district.  And as the flowers miraculously poke their soft heads through the hard, brittle scab of earth, the forward momentum of spring seems to have carried my world of painting along.

And then, this morning, the BP Portrait Awards emailed me to say that there were roughly 2,000 applicants to their show, and of that number, they have decided on the top 55.  And I am not in that number.  They also said something in the email about how the English beat up the Irish really good in the 18th century, and how Cornwall was taller than my great great great grandfather, and how I was always the last kid in the gym class to get picked for basketball, and how I failed my sequential 2 regents in math and had to take it twice, and how I let that one goal up in college soccer.  All this in one email, while an animated figure of an Englishman in a powdered wig shook his head "no", while shaking his finger and giggling a distinctively high pitched English giggle.  I might have relayed the email to you with a smidgen of embellishment, but suffice to say, my painting was denied.

I'm pretty good at perspective- I have to be, or else I wouldn't survive as an artist.  But sometimes, for a short while, I am sad.  And so, dear reader, as your eyes run across these lines of mine, I'd like you to know that being an artist can be hard.  You work so hard, you give it your best, you place yourself out there, you invest lots of money, you cross an ocean with a painting, and you...  fail.  The courageous lion within me swells his chest, points his paw to the sky, and declares that there is a silver lining, and by God, I shall find it.  But, then I realize that sometimes, it's just grey and cloudy, and its rainy, and I've worn the wrong pair of shoes, and woops, would you look at that, I've just stepped in a puddle.  And now my socks are wet.  And I don't have an umbrella.  Yes, sometimes, there is no silver lining, sometimes it is just cloudy.  The word "depressed" has displaced the word "sad", as our generation has overpsychologized and disparaged this normal, healthy, reflexive, human emotion called sadness.  In a post-romantic world, modernism would somehow have us believe that life should be a flat line, and that peaks and valleys are intruders.  I disagree.  I'm sad, I will be sad for a short while, but I'm not ashamed.  Because, as I ready myself to paint for the next few hours, I remind myself of one thing and am deeply encouraged.  I tried.

february 2013 061

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us,

to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

-Paul, Ephesians 3:20