the spackler

10 minutes

3 hours

3 hours, detail

8 hours

Well, I didn't really want to do a self portrait, if you want the truth.  I actually was hoping to find somebody, maybe hire a model, but I've been unable to get anybody into my studio to sit for a painting.  I oftentimes read that Rembrandt painted self portraits so that he could delve into his inner psyche and find the spiritual condition of his being at a particular point in life.  I think it's because, oftentimes, he had no model.

And why the theme of a spackler?  Because I've been wanting to paint a construction worker for the longest time.  And, I think that paintings of painters are so utterly boring.  How many times can you look at the same setup- palette in left hand, brushes in right, furrowed brow, deep look in eyes... to me, nine out of ten self portraits seem to be saying "IF YOU ONLY KNEW HOW DEEP I AM."

D. Jeffrey Mims, Self Portrait

And besides, it's much cooler to paint forearm muscles straining under the weight of a heavy bucket, weary eyes, hair disheveled... needing a coffee.  "Write what you know" advised the late Frank McCourt.

As well, this painting is probably my manifesto against Bougeureau, and all things classical.  I don't know why, I am just getting tired of all of the world of contemporary classical painting.  My painting is a parody of one classical sculpture, but I won't say which.  Bougeureau paints peasants with perfect, peachy pink skin, delicate porcelain hands, and exquisite peasant clothing.  I just want to step into Bougeureau's paintings and rustle everybody's hair, throw mud at their clothes, make a fake fart noise.  This lazy shepherdess is getting absolutely nothing done.  If I were a shepherd, I would fire her in an instant, it's obvious she's useless.  Imagine her fending off the wolves from the flock.  She belongs on Madison Avenue, sipping a pomegranate martini, checking her iPhone.  Looking at this painting, I understand how Mark Twain wrote of Jane Austen "Everytime I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up [from the grave] and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone."

Bougeureau, The Shepherdess

I just want to paint an exhausted worker, covered in spackle dust, wishing he were home.   Tired, yet generally content.  I'm going to be working on this painting for weeks and weeks, I'm sure.  I thought it would be interesting to show the various stages that this painting goes through, before it "arrives."    And, that's assuming that the painting is going to arrive, or even that it's on the right track to begin with.   Look at the photo at three hours- that face is not at all what I intended.  Too much angst, when I wasn't trying to convey sadness at all, just weariness.  The painting at eight hours is so rife of problems, I'm ashamed to show it.  But, I ran out of hours in the day, and will have to wait til tomorrow to resume painting.

The thing about painting, or about art in general- is that the idea looks crude and awful in the beginning, but you have to plow through to the end.  Probably, the most precious advice I could relay is to never be precious with a work of art- amputate limbs, move eyes, change colors of clothing, etc.  I walk into the studio with fresh eyes, after a coffee, and realize how terribly off my work is.  And then I change it.  If you are sympathetic towards the successful qualities of your work, yet ruthless with your errors or misses, then you can arrive at the manifestation of the gut feeling you had to begin with.  Hopefully.

8 hours, detail

the insufferable insufflate

I sat in the plush leather seat, giddy with delight to have a couple hours to myself, alone with a book in the cafe of my favorite bookshop.  Robert Frost says that "Happiness makes up in height what it lacks in length."  And so I sipped my latte, leafed through the pages of my book, and relished the silence.


I recoiled with ninja like reflexes, expecting there to be something resembling a small explosion.  There sat a man, with a book facedown on his chest, inhaling deeply, eyes closed, with a goofy smile on his face.  He was sleeping.  He was in a very deep sleep.  He was snoring.

At first, I was so annoyed.  I thought of getting up and nudging him, saying "Excuse me sir, you must have fallen asleep."  All of the other latte drinkers shared in my scorn for this snoring leviathan, disturbing our intellectual repast.

Then, the man snored so loud, he knocked the book off of his stomach.  He looked around.  He smiled at his audience.  He stood up, stretched, moved to a more comfortable chair, and... immediately fell back asleep.  He was a professional.  He did this regularly.

My rage turned to admiration.  What a funny person.  In fact, I then found him to be so funny, I thought that he was hysterical.  I started laughing so loud, so hard, I had tears running down my face.  After a while, he heard me laughing, and woke up.  He smiled, and returned to his snoring opera.  It seems like life offers you the funniest material, when you are sad and need it the most.


There's something in me that loves the fellow in the National Gallery in London who tripped down a flight of steps, bumped into the famous and priceless Greek vase, and shattered it.  There is something in me that loves the kid who caught the ball over the edge of the wall of the stadium, and lost the world series for some baseball team (was it the Yankees?)  There is something in me that loves the Eliza Dolittle, at the horse races, screaming "Cooome on Dova, MOOOVE YER BlOOODY ARSE!!!"  As I sat and hastily sketched this man, watching his immense stomach heave up and down, watching the scrunched up faces emerge from books to sneer through black rimmed glasses... I was in heaven.

ralph vicinanza

I am very sad tonight.  I won't hide the fact from you that, tonight, I have no resolution for my sadness, no whimsical climax to my writings that will rescue the reader from melancholy.  A good friend of mine just died, and I am so sad.

A few years ago, I had my paintings hanging in a Gatsby mansion on the Gold Coast of Long Island.  There was some event going on, and as the endless crowds were guided through the halls of this monstrous Mill Neck castle, some of the crowd stopped to admire my paintings.  Most kept moving.  I lingered in the vicinity, hoping that somebody would be interested.

I gave up waiting for a bite, and went wandering elsewhere.  Looking over my shoulder, I saw a man walking towards me with purpose.  "Kevin McEvoy?"  he asked.  I said yes.  He energetically said "That painting.  That painting of the Sicilian man, the dark features... did you do that?"  I was excited to hear his brimming enthusiasm.  I replied "The painting of Roberto... yes, I did."  "Well, Kevin, I would like to buy that painting."  I hesitated.  My wife had written down some pretty high numbers for the paintings, which I felt were a bit overzealous... but I told him the price.  "Sold.  Here is a check.  Ralph Vicinanza is my name.  You've obviously trained in the tradition of Sargent, right?  Don't answer, visit me and tell me all about you and this painting.  Please bring the painting to my home as soon as possible.  There is something going on in that painting- the triangle of white highlights.  Brilliant work.  I'm very pleased."

Roberto, collection of Ralph Vicinanza

I was stunned.  The show ended a few weeks later, and I brought the painting over Ralph's home.  It was difficult to find, as his home was a mansion buried in a forest that was spotted with other mansions.  This was the Gold Coast that I had previously spackled, though now I was reentering this orbit as an artist.

The grounds of Ralph's home were stunning.  The layout of the land and home were artistic and inspired- from the towering dark trees, to the winding paths that lured one forward... I knew that his grounds must have been designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the creator of Central Park.  The house was a charming, brick structure, with a faded white wash over the red stone.  The roof was a mossy slate.  I couldn't recall ever seeing a more cohesive residence in my life, where the architecture and the land coexisted and intermingled more naturally.

With trepidation, I rang the bell.  "Come in, come in, you're just in time.  Can I get you something to drink?"  He had a few friends over, and invited me to join them.  His home was littered with art, from Picasso to etchings of Charles Dickens, from Baroque bronzes to abstract expressive canvases.  Ralph was a buoyant entertainer, a conversationalist, a wit that was teeming with energy.  I sat down, and he began to interrogate me.  Where... who... how... when... he wanted to know everything about my training, about my background, about my life as an artist.  My glass was continually refilled with some excellent wine whose name I couldn't pronounce. 

That night, I had a hard time figuring out where Ralph had come from, what he did for a living.  He never talked about money, never dropped names, never talked about status, never talked about cars or careers or all of the things that Goldcoastians might wax loquacious about.  He talked about life, about traveling, about literature, art, geometry, nanophysics, Frederick Law Olmstead, Joseph Campbell... and above all, mythology.  But eventually, I found out that Ralph was Steven King's agent, along with dozens of other prominent authors.  And he was a movie producer.  And a tv film producer, etc.  A google search shows that he's somehow done work with the Dalai Lama.  But Ralph would never talk about these things, I had to glean these facts from his friends.

Over the past few years, we regularly went out for dinner, exchanged emails, met up for a drink near his building in New York City.  He was always so giving towards Margaret and me, buying paintings regularly.  He knew he was enabling me to pursue my career as an artist.  Without his support, I don't know how those years would have gone.

Josiah, collection of Ralph Vicinanza

 When I returned with a body of work from either Florence or my studio in New York, he invited me to bring over my works.  He was polite until invited to be honest.  Then, he was a merciless critic- bestowing unrestrained praise on one work, and ruthlessly rejecting other pieces.  Through the years, he maintained one warning above all others: "Kevin, don't ever become a bar mitzvah/dedication/baptism/christening/50th anniversary/CEO painter."  He would always say to me "If you let these people have their way with you, they will have you painting their botoxed faces for the rest of your life."  He urged me to paint true life, the human spirit, the marriage of the real world with the fantasy of human imagination.  He really was an agent for Steven King.

In one instance, I saw him fill with rage.  I was doing a portrait commission for a couple in Muttontown.  There was no end to their money, and no beginning to their knowledge of art.  Or life.  Upon finishing a nine foot wide double portrait of their children, they mandated that I "Paint the background with the huge figure of the Eiffel Tower.  Make it look like the children are sitting on the lawn beside the tower.  You know, that romantic tower in France."  I disagreed.  They threatened me.  I was livid,  I was enraged.  I nearly tore the painting to shreds.  I stopped by Ralph's home, and upon hearing the story he grew so angry that he nearly couldn't talk.  He was half laughing, half yelling.  He told me to hold my ground, and to never give into their idiocy.  I didn't give in.  I won.  There's no Eiffel Tower there, today, thanks to Ralph's reassuring rage and support.  The painting finished, the couple were upset with the lack of the Eiffel, but very pleased with everything else.

He sent me a text a week ago, saying he was sorry that he hadn't been in touch.  Business had been overwhelmingly consuming, and it was nothing against me, he was just swamped.  He hoped I understood.  I texted him back, letting him know that everything was fine, and that it would be nice to meet up and talk at some point in the near future.

Today, someone called and gave me the news.  Ralph had died of a brain aneurysm on Saturday.

This story ends abruptly, because quite honestly, it ended abruptly.

A year ago in Madrid, I stood in front of Picasso's La Guernica.  I was utterly moved by the pain of this piece, a testament to Spain's grief over the death in war.  Something that particularly seized me was the tongue of the mother crying over her dead child- that sharp tongue, a dagger piercing the empty space...  and so it finds its way into my painting, as a broken wine glass, piercing the empty space.  After I got the news that Ralph had died, I returned to my studio.  I began a painting in a fury.  Though only a detail is shown at the beginning of this blog, the canvas depicts a violin that had been silenced, a book that had been thrown facedown, a glass that had been shattered.  This painting somehow depicts, for me, the sense of loss when someone is gone.

And so, If I could conclude this blog, I would say that Ralph was an encourager.  He did nothing but encourage me for the past few years.  Steven King cites Ralph's friendship as a major influence on numerous works.  I've read that Steven King began writing in the boiler room of his home, to drown out the distracting noise of his family.  Though I never heard him praise himself to say it, I would imagine that Ralph was the encouraging voice that Steven King needed to hear back then.  Ralph came alongside others, and with them, created art.

Davide, collection of Ralph Vicinanza

gary and the portrait demo

About four years ago in Florence, I was hanging out in the sculpture studio of the Charles Cecil Studios.  There was a knock at the door, and Charles Cecil came in with another man whom I had never before seen.  The man had a mixed look of awe and bewilderment in his face, and I knew instantly what was going on- this fellow was from one of the other art schools in the city, and was touring our school.  I myself had once been a wanderer in the stone alleyways of Florence, searching for direction.

There are, for the record, no schools in the city of Florence.  There are cults.  You pick your high priest, swear loyalty to him (never "her"- unfortunately the established pagan priest order is obtusely patriarchal), then you donate the finest animal from your flock, brush vermillion paint (other schools prefer English Red) over the doorpost of your apartment, and give your master five years of your life.

On top of this, you had to prove your loyalty to your new high priest by cursing the names of the other pagan cults in the city.  And so around the Cecil studios, throwing in some slurs into random conversations was always a good idea- "Good heavens, those Florence Academy students, those blokes don't know anything about painting eyes...  Quite right, John Angel students are a bunch of pencil-rendering twits."  Part of being a Cecilite was bearing artistic persecution from the other painting cults.  We bore these verbal attacks like brave martyrs, indeed.  "Man, you Cecil students know nothing about figure composition... you Cecil students use such goopy painting medium, what's up with that?"  We would stand our ground under such burnings-at-the-stake, aware that our present sufferings only validated our stewardship of artistic truth.  In short, Cecil Studios, Florence Academy, and Angel Academy were all fighting for the right to be called the sole heir of the holy way of the Old Masters.  We made regular petitions for painterly power to Michelangelo and Velazquez.  Some cults called upon stranger sources for power, invoking the names of Sargent, Sorolla, even Repin.

So, this man "Gary" was contemplating leaving the cult of John Angel Academy, and converting to CharlesCecilism.  Conversion was no small matter- people had been castrated, keelhauled, even racked for such disloyalty.  But his conversion was understandable- the rituals of engagement to be an Angelite are quite onerous, indeed.    You see, John Angel required his followers to observe all of the burdensome minutae of the John Angel law (one must do pencil drawings of plaster figure statues for a full decade, before one is allowed to view a nude woman in the flesh.)  But in order to attain enlightenment, for Cecil it was more a matter of having your heart in the right place, rather than observing innumerable artistic rites.

So Gary defected from Angelism, and came to study with Charles.  We instantly became friends.  He was from the high desert in central Oregon, I was from a suburban desert in central Long Island.  He was fond of Paul Simon, I was fond of Johnny Cash.  We shared a distaste for Rubens.  He married a woman who is more beautiful than he is handsome, so did I.  He loved lampredotto, so did I.  And we both shared a love for stout, and playing the guitar and fiddle.

Gary came with his wonderful wife, Janna, and stayed with us here in New York for the past two weeks.  We had such a great time- we played music, painted, and laughed.  And here you can see him sitting for a portrait demonstration in my class at the Hampton Studio of Fine Art, in Riverhead.  It was a two hour session, and I think that the classroom of students really benefited from the demonstration.

Gary and Janna had such a wonderful time that they are planning on returning to Long Island for a month, every summer.  Gary feels like Islip is a refreshingly unsophisticated artistic utopia, where you can paint in the peace and quiet of a small clamming village on the south shore.  To be a bit more ecumenical about the matter, Long Island has a bunch of different Florentine schools represented.  Most are aware of the fact that, Florentine or not, we're all a bunch of bumblers trying to do the same thing.  But who knows, maybe more artists will come over and paint in Islip too, making more converts to the Florentine way...

Gary Thomas, Gustavo

Gary Thomas, Gustavo bust in clay

Gary Thomas, Above the Chaos

back to the studio

So, the second show, here on Long Island, has come to a close.  I am glad to be back in my studio, to be back home.  Today, Liam and I picked tomatoes in our garden, and it was wonderful to be in the silence of our backyard.  And in my thoughts, I am already preparing for what I have coming up next, and thinking about fifteen canvases that are waiting for me.  They range from a few postcard sized canvases, to a 70 inch tall canvas.

I had a wonderful show in Setauket, at the Gallery North Outdoor Show.  I am so glad to say that my most recent painting, Patricia, again won a prize.  I received second in show, and I couldn't be happier.  People on Long Island really responded well to the works I exhibited, and this means so much to me.  The prize, coupled together with an excellent sale and several portrait commissions, made both of my shows very worthwhile.  I'm really pleased.

Displaying your work can be hard- it is a vulnerable thing.  But, there's no other way to grow as an artist, than to simply stick your neck out, and see what the feedback is.  I am constantly thinking about this.  When I was in high school, I had my first experience in "putting your work out there."  I had a violin solo in front of a couple hundred people.  I got on stage, I played a hymn, and it went terribly.  But, I confronted the fear of playing in front of people.  And the next time, well, I didn't do better, I just did a little less bad.  And the time after that, I didn't make people cringe.  And the time after that, I think I played decently.  That's the way it is with showing paintings- the act of exhibiting my work is, in itself, liberating.

I'm contemplating my next set of canvases.  One thing that was interesting about my shows is that many people were very interested in the figure drawings that I displayed.  Their interest confirmed my desire to do more figure drawing and painting.  I'm so excited to begin this next wave of paintings.

Here's a sketch that I did a short while ago, in a studio out on the east end of Long Island.  It's small, rapid drawings like these that have me thinking about the possibilities in figure painting.  Robert Frost, in speaking of the act of artistic creation, says that a poem is not brainspun, but "begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness.   The author Harold Speed describes a thread which runs through all successful art:  the finished art work has all of the passion, power, and excitement that was found in the initial moment of inspiration.  The challenge of all art is to carry that initial inspiration through to the very end. 

Drawings will, oftentimes, surpass the painting- they are more immediate, closer to the source, closer to  "...a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness."  I typically just jump straight into a painting, working out the problems on canvas.  In upcoming figurative works, I will be focusing more on drawing, and then refer to these sketches as I work on my paintings.

to build a fire

So, the show in Washington Square has drawn to a close, and I am back home with my family.  New York City is, as always, filled with the most fascinating people.  I enjoy meeting these people so much- from a gifted accordian playing woman, to an enthusiastic and soft spoken man from Kenya.  I find myself sometimes wishing I had a studio a little bit closer to the city, so that I could entice these people to sit for a painting.

I'm pleased to say that the painting of Patricia won fourth in show.  This painting, in particular, matters to me because it think it is a work with a unique fingerprint.  A music composer who stopped by my tent told me that with this painting "I was finding my voice."  That compliment really resonated with me.  In addition to this prize, I had a sale, which I am greatful for.  The show was well attended, and I received enthusiastic compliments from so many people. In fact, I oftentimes found that there were so many people in my booth, that I didn't get a chance to talk to everyone.  Though, to be perfectly honest, my overall sales did not go as well as I had hoped.  I don't claim to entirely understand, but my feeling is that the consumer confidence might be affected by a slow economy...  But I'm looking forward to my show next weekend, and who knows, there may be something great just around the bend.  And so, I'm just choosing to dwell on all of the good feedback that I received.

As I wait for my next show, this coming weekend on Long Island, I am thinking about my plan for the next wave of painting.  There are two figure paintings which I've been wanting to do, but have been delayed by general busy-ness.  This summer, I was able to get together with an artist whose work I deeply admire, Angel Sanchez Ramiro.  Having had a few really nice painting sessions and conversations with him, I was able to rethink and refine my approach to figure painting.  I learned how to incorporate my ability to draw into my large scale works- this is a real step forward for me, I believe!

And so, with enthusiastic reviews,  I am pushing forward and working even harder.  Margaret shares the same sense of determination and optimism.  In fact, before I came home from Manhattan, I stopped at one of my favorite bookstores, the Strand (on Broadway and 12th street.)  I picked up a short story by Jack London, To Build a Fire.  Before I began the long drive to Long Island, I read the story in a local cafe.  It's only a few pages long, but it is such a powerful piece.  To Build a Fire is one of my favorite works of art.  Jack London has an endearing and inspiring way of slapping his readers' faces, in order to remind them to keep moving forward.

signore mazzini

New York City, at seven a.m. on a Sunday, is one of my favorite experiences in life.  It's like that girl you always wanted to talk to, but never could because you're always with her in large groups of people- and then you finally get the chance to steal away to a quiet place.  I'm sitting at the Grey Dog cafe on University Place, sipping a coffee, staring out the window- a scene so picturesque, I feel like I'm in some corny movie with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.  But it really is that nice here, on a crisp autumn morning.

It's the Washington Square Outdoor Show, and I'm back in the city showing my paintings.  I'm sitting here, pondering how today might go.

But, there's another story that's swimming in my mind.  I have no reason to connect it to this blog, except that this morning has elicited similar feelings in me, feelings I had on a day three and a half years ago in Florence.  A feeling one gets in a city empty of tourists, if only for a moment.

A sea of tourists had just passed through the city of Florence, and like all good hostesses, Florence had accomodated them with a cordial smile and entertaining small talk.  But, high tourist season was over, and like any good hostess, Florence breathed a sigh of relief and bolted the door behind the last Rick Stevens tourist to leave her dining room.

So the city was empty, and I was walking around with my palette and easel.  I set myself up in an alleyway around the corner from the Ponte Vecchio.  As I mixed the paints and watched the alleyway take shape on my canvas, I began to realize that this was "one of those paintings."  Things were just working out, from the very first strokes.  I was pleased.  This wasn't a pretty painting, in the typical Tuscan vein.  There was grit from diesel engines on the wall of the alleyway, walls were cracked and peeling.  But there was a medieval street chapel in the middle of all of this, and the light hit in a particular way.  The scene was incredibly beautiful.

A man came up and watched me paint for some time.  After five minutes or so of observing, he exclaimed (in Italian) "Brilliant, I love it, well done.  How much?"  Many people will ask me similar questions, but seldom do they do anything.  I gave him a rather high price, as I didn't really believe that he would buy it, nor was I willing to part with it for a low price.  He said, on the spot, "SOLD.  Come to my house.  It's right there.  Signore Mazzini is my name."  And then he pointed to one of the doorfronts on my canvas.  "That's your house?  It's beautiful."  "Yes, it is.  You painted it well.  The building is believed to be fourteenth century.  Come by when you are finished, and I will buy your painting."

The man was old, and I watched him slowly trudge up the hill, using the cracked plaster walls to steady himself.

One hour later, I knocked on his door.  "Chi c'e? (Who's there?)"  "L'artista."  "AAAAH, veni, veni, veni (come)!"

His apartment overlooked the whole city of Florence, with the Arno crawling underneath his windows.  The walls were covered with art, from fourteenth century wooden panel paintings, to sketches by either Pietro Annigoni or his contemporaries.  On these paintings, the frames alone were works of fine art- hand carved wood, with rubbed gold leaf.  The pottery looked ancient, and his household utensils looked like museum pieces.  I was so flattered to even have made this man pause in his footsteps.  This was one of those secret Florentines, the people who you always dream of meeting, but never get the chance.  They are nearly impossible to befriend- they survive the tourist culture by a defense mechanism of detached elitism.  And here I was, in Signore Mazzini's dining room.  He had prepared a beautiful spread of food and wines- Tuscan and Neapolitan meats, cheeses, olives.

His wife stayed in the kitchen the whole time, preparing dishes.  (She's happy there, Signore Mazzini told me.)  In his home, at his dining room table, Signore Mazzini transformed into an extroverted entertainer.  He spoke no English whatsoever, and so I had the opportunity to hear him paint his many stories and life tales in his colorful Florentine dialect.  He was so curious where I came from, where I learned to paint, why I chose his street.  He wanted to know what New York was like, he hadn't been there for decades.  He wanted to know why we declared war in a desert in the middle east.  He was thrilled to see me painting in the vein of naturalistic painting which he thought was thoroughly dead.  He had been an art dealer, and so this was his passion.

Conversation went on like this for two hours.  In one of those rare events in life, we were able to talk as if we had been friends for a long time.  As it was dark, and as Margaret was waiting, I had to say goodbye.  Notwithstanding the Chianti and limoncello, we spoke for a short while longer, and said goodnight to eachother.  He urged me to come back soon.

A few days later, I found out that my wife, Margaret, was pregnant.  My head was spinning, and I found myself a short while later, with Margaret, on the Queen Mary II, heading back to New York.

I sometimes thought of Signore Mazzini as I painted in New York.  I felt so bad that I never let him know that I had left the city.

A year and a half later, Margaret and I were back in Florence, with our little baby Liam.  When Margaret was asleep in the apartment, I scooped up my little boy, and headed up the hill to Signore Mazzini's house.  I couldn't wait to show him my little boy, ask him how things were, apologize for disappearing.

I rang the bell.  Nothing.  I rang again.  Nothing.  I rang again, and an old woman's voice angrily said into the speaker "Chi e?"  I explained I was the artist whose painting hung on her dining room wall, and would like to see Signore Mazzini.  She paused, and said "Signore Mazzini... non e.  Signore Mazzini... e morto."  He had died.

And so, if my kids are studying painting in Italy, and want to trace my footsteps there, I hope they read this story and somehow manage to get Signore Mazzini's grandchildren to have them over for an entertaining dinner, and to possibly see a little painting of mine in the Mazzini dining room.

whitecap bulldozer

At dawn yesterday morning, when I was wandering the yard in Whitecap docks and looking for material to paint, I passed by some beautiful fishing vessels, a landlocked row boat that was overflowing with potted flowers, some fishing supplies leaning up against the wall.  Each of these caught my eye, but somehow I wasn't captivated.  I kept wandering the docks, then decided to walk inland a bit, to the warehouse area.  There, I found this rusting brontosaurus, living out its last days in front of a run down warehouse.  The light on it was beautiful- some of the bulldozer was bathed in the early morning rays, some of it was thrown back into darkness.

But, aesthetics aside, it just somehow seemed like a visual version of a Johnny Cash song.  The tractor felt right.  And, it's nice to not take something too seriously, and just enjoy painting.

The critics are raving about this piece, I am getting such good coverage.  I brought the painting home, and Liam flipped out.  In keeping with his love for tractors, he said "Dad, I love tractor."  So, I feel good about the painting.

Then the section foreman said, "Hey! Hammer-swinger!
I see you your own hammer boy but, what all can them muscles do?" and he said,
"I can turn a jack I can lay a track I can pick and shovel too."
"Can you swing a hammer, boy?" "Yes sir, I'll do anything you hire me to."

"John Henry", Johnny Cash

Click here to listen to the audio track for this painting.


Leaning over a fishing net, a short cigarette bouncing from his muttering lips, a budweiser in his right hand, he looked up at my truck.  "Whoda hella you?"  he growled.  "Umm, I'm a friend of Steve's.  He told me I could park my car here."  Putting down his fishing nets, stepping off of his little boat, he walked up to my truck, put his hand on the window, and said "Is that right?  Steve said that, huh?"  It was useless to pretend like I wasn't frightened.  He wore dark glasses, practically opaque, that covered up his eyes.  He smelled like bait.  He had the darkest brown skin I'd ever seen on a caucasian.  "Umm, I just wanted to paint.  That's all.  Steve and Kim said I could.  I'm Kevin- your name is Pirate, right?  I met you a year ago, at a party here."  "Ohhhh, you're da artist kid.  Go knock yaself out."

And so I wandered around to find a spot to paint.  Pretty soon, clouds rolled in and I hurried to set up my easel and paints.  I was on Captree Island, painting at the home of my friend Steve.  In the past, Steve said I could paint there anytime I wanted, but he said that I should just clear myself with Pirate, his "keeper of the gate."  Steve and Pirate are good friends, even though they are from different universes.  Steve lets Pirate use whatever dock space he wants.

The thing was, I didn't care too much about the landscape scene that I supposedly came to paint- I came to (hopefully) paint Pirate.

I first met Pirate a year before, and was thoroughly fascinated by him.  "Pirate" is the name that he goes by, I don't know his real name.  He's an older man who lives on some obscure tiny island on the Great South Bay, in a house with no electricity.  He used to be a bay constable or something, but now he does numerous odd jobs around the bay- catching bait and selling it to fishing shops... I don't know what else he does for a living.  He never does not have a can of Budweiser in his hand.  He has the most interesting face I think I've ever seen.  His stories are short, but I found myself straining to hear every last word.  In the tradition of great oral historians (and painters for that matter), Pirate tells a story in a manner by which the telling of the tale is just as important as the story itself.  And underlying all of this, he has a kindness that was unique.  I had seen Pirate talk with children before, and he had a warmth, a kindred spirit towards young, inquisitive minds; an openness that is lost on most adults.

And so, here I was, painting a landscape on Captree Island.  The landscape was fine, I suppose.  The thing was, I had driven to Captree to talk to Pirate, to see if I could somehow get one step closer to painting him.

I walked back to Pirate's boat, and found him collecting bait fish with Steve's little five year old son.  "There he is.  You see him, little buddy?  He's the albino I been tellin you 'bout.  Remember him, buddy?"  The little boy looked up, elated, and said "Yes, yes, Uncle Pirate, I remember the albino minnow.  He's beautiful!  I can't believe he's lived so long!  Good for him!  Last time we saw him was in the beginning of the summer!"  Pirate smiled.  "Okay, buddy, we'll let that little albino go.  Don't worry any, you'll see him again.  Let's go check the crab traps."  They jumped into the run down little boat, and motored away through the marshes.  I watched them pull up crab traps.  It was so cool to see the little boy learning all of these things.

I looked into the water, and there in a school of fish was a little white minnow.  An albino minnow.  I would never have noticed something like that, never in a million years.  But, I suppose that's the reason why I have to paint Pirate.  He represents something lost in our homogenized society.  He's the refined hobo, the floater, the last person truly connected to nature on the South bay.  It's as if he's more a symbol than a man.  An avatar, I suppose.  He's like the fiddler on the roof- only he doesn't have a fiddle.  He has a can of Bud.  And, he's not on a roof- he's in a run down little Boston whaler.

Somewhat sullenly, I worked on this sketch for the next hour or so.  Then I closed my easel up, cleaned my paints, and accidently dropped my favorite brush over the side of the bridge and angrily watched it float away.  I slowly drove back home to Islip, contemplating my next strategy for the painting of Pirate...

the letter "jee"

So, as my wife has kindly pointed out to me, it's been some time since my last blog.  There are numerous factors that attribute to this dearth of blogging, but chief among them is my dear little son, Liam.  In exhibiting his Thomas Edison aspirations, he decided to experiment with the keyboard of our only computer.  From the other room, we heard our darling boy chuckling away, saying the alphabet out loud, chirping with glee.  We came into the room to find that he had successfully pried off about thirteen keys, and proceeded to throw them around the room.  After several hours of intensive surgery, my wife emerged from the room with a dismayed face.  She pulled down her sterilized mask and whispered "I did all I could... I'm so sorry, I don't think that Dell is going to make it."  Okay, perhaps the situation is not quite so dire, but we never did get the letter "g" to work again.

In the wake of this minor tragedy, Iwrote a few emails and simply left out the letter g.  This caused a few problems in comprehension, as you might imagine.  And so, I have taken to composing emails, etc, on the obliging notebook computer of a friend.  Problem is, this little notebook computer is as bright and efficient as... well... I'll describe it.  You ask it to open a graphic file of modest size, and it looks at you with its jaw slack, hair protruding from its nostrils, eyelids covering half of its pupils, a bit of drool coming out of the corner of its mouth.  It spits a bit of tobacco into a little cistern, wipes its mouth, stares up at the sky, and says "Dunno if dat dere files a gunna fit into dat dere umm, whatchamacallit, dat fangled thing that ya, ummm, the uh hard drive is... it's a hard drive to route 66 this time a year... umm.... wudja ask again?"

Notwithstanding the computer impaired, I am painting away.  I've been working on a bunch of small sketches.  I've got my two shows coming up, the show in Washington Square, and another show in Setauket, Long Island.  I've got a load of big paintings, so I decided to enjoy myself for a few weeks, and work on some smaller sketches, just for fun.  I've included some smaller sketches here, along with some details of the painting of Patricia.  Recently, I've been learning how to enjoy paint for paint's sake.