nine hours

Today in the studio, I had an inspiring model, beautiful sunlight, and an altogether wonderful setup.  And after nine hours of painting, seven of which were with the model, I was very tired.  For the last hour, I couldn't even see what I was painting anymore.  In fact, my eyes were not tired, but the processing chip of the computer in my brain was not functioning anymore.  The only thing I can liken it to is the experience I've had of running five miles in a race.  On the fifth mile comes the out of body experience, in which my legs are no longer attached, my lungs are not my own... my being is just moving forward listlessly.  Perhaps this was the best stretch of painting, in which my conscious mind sort of shut down.  Perhaps, though, it is the time in which I undid all the good which I had labored over.  And so, I am wondering how the painting will appear to my fresh eyes tomorrow morning.  Whatever the case is, it feels good to be back in the studio, working long days again.

home again

So, after two weekends in the city, the Washington Square Outdoor Show has ended.  I'm so very tired, I can't describe.   The second weekend was unusually slow and hot.  However,  notwithstanding the heat, I enjoyed the fact that some friends came out to greet me.  One of my friends, George Jochnowitz, made his way out to the booth with a special surprise- he wore a handmade shirt that reads "Down with the Communist Party," written in Chinese.  The shirt was actually a gift given to him by anti-communist Chinese protesters in China, and he wears it on the anniversary of the Tienanmen Square Massacre.  George tells me that some Chinese people in New York read it and respond with an affirming smile, and others shoo him away.

Saturday, I baked in the sun.  I could have practically worn a cheesy, eighties headband, in order to keep the sweat out of my eyes.  Needless to say, this weather was not conducive for exhibiting artwork.  The people were few, and those who did venture out were in a rush to get out of the sun.  And then, the weather forecast for Sunday threatened thunderstorms, rain, and powerful wind gusts.  Before I set up my tent, I decided to wait and see.  Sure enough, the gusts of wind came.  And if the rain came,  I was faced with the problem of having a truck that lets in lots of rain- potentially soaking my paintings.  So, instead of exhibiting, I decided to head back home.

I'm happy with the show overall, as I had a lot of nice conversations, a few excellent sales, and several promising portrait commissions.  I've already had some people whom I had met in the city come and visit my studio and look at some additional paintings- that's exciting for me!  Although I do wish that second weekend went better, I'm not going to let it bother me, especially as there are so many good things going on right now.

Here's a few drawings I quickly did on Saturday.  The fellow next to me was a wood carver, and he bided his time by chiseling away at a small sculpture.   After I sketched him a few times, I took the photo with my cell phone- I thought it would be interesting to see the two side by side.   I sketched this while I waited for the midday sun to pass...

the photo

So, the Washington Square Art Exhibition, weekend one, has ended.  Although the days were hot and muggy and the crowds were spotty, it was very worthwhile.  I met some interesting people, and I had a few excellent sales.  I'm thrilled!  I'm also very tired- I finished closing everything up at 2 a.m. last night.

It is difficult to explain, because although it was enjoyable, it was difficult.  Showing your art work on a sidewalk in New York City is somewhat like standing naked on a sidewalk in New York City.  People stroll by, and you feel so... self conscious.  And there is that pressure of the sale, that if you don't make that one sale, the whole endeavor is not financially worthwhile.

One particular thing about the weekend made everything go very well.  One fellow, Fred, whom I had met the year before, and have since become good friends with, invited Margaret and me to stay at the apartment belonging to him and his wife.  So, instead of driving sixty miles home every evening, I walked one block over and knocked on his door.  I was greeted by a glass of chilled wine, a platter of cheeses, piano playing, and good conversation.  I really am so blessed.  The mornings were so lazy- we woke late, listened to more piano playing by Fred, and then sipped coffee on a bench near Washington Square.

One thing in particular stood out in the entire show- as I took down my tent on Sunday evening, I saw in my peripheral vision a woman lingering nearby.  She had taken a photo before Margaret and I even noticed she was there.  I don't want to come across as melodramatic in recounting these things, but the emotions that passed over her face were so strong.  Then I realized what had moved her.  As I had taken the paintings down and leaned them up against a building wall, Margaret sat and rested, holding Evan.  It was not at all staged.

She smiled, shook our hands warmly, and left.  And today, she sent me this image and a nice email.  Her name is Jayne Freeman, and she runs a public access program on parenting and pregnancy.  As an artist, you grow accustomed to always being the composer, and then somebody comes and sees the very thing you've composed in a different light.  Here is her photo.

For more info on Jayne Freeman's television program, visit her site at, and her blog at

hogan's goat

I walked into the bar, and instantly knew that I had dressed wrong.  To wrongly gauge the proper dress attire for a drinking establishment is ensuring a swift social death, before you've really even started drinking.  You can sit at the bar for hours, and nobody will even say hello.  As I grabbed a seat as a bar, I could feel the scowling condescension of the other individuals.  I braced myself, I reassured myself that all was well because I was here to meet Murphy.  You see, I'd worn a sharp, button down shirt with a semi-trendy pair of jeans, and a clean pair of boots.  Problem was, I was at Hogan's Goat in Bayshore.

I found Murphy, greeted him, and grabbed a seat at the bar.  The bar was a rough plank of wood, with some polyurethane slobbed on it.  The floor was peeling linoleum.  The stools felt like they had three and a half legs.  The pint glasses looked a bit cloudy and greasy.  The clothes were soiled.  The chins were unshaved.  The guy who sat next to me at the bar hunkered over his drink, his shoulders bunched up like a vulture, his neck droopy, his eyes disappeared into dark sockets.  I caught him looking over in my direction with disdain when I asked the bartender what beers they had on tap.  "The beers they right in fronta ya, whaddya think, I gottanotha tap in the back?" the bartender kindly chirped.  People looked over with scorn.  I saw that they were all drinking Bud Light, they were all tired from a long day of work, and they were all unhappy to see what they perceived to be a yuppie walk into their watering hole.  "I'll have a Magic Hat" I stammered.

What the people in the bar couldn't figure out was how I knew Murphy.  Murphy is to the south shore as the Fiddler on the Roof is to the Jews of Russia.  Murphy holds much more power than any elected political figure, Murphy has more influence than any pastor, than any local mafia kingpin.  Okay, I may have exaggerated some of the details there, but people in this bar really love Murphy- he's always there, drinking a light beer slowly.  How was I able to sit next to Murphy, and call him my friend?

A guy strummed away at an electric guitar in the background, crooning Jimmy Buffet tunes as the crowd got increasingly drunker.  But I never listen to Buffet, so I couldn't chime in, which made me feel more out of place.  That I didn't sing along was added cause for their suspicion.  When one of the songs ended, Murphy banged his glass and got everybody's attention.  In a raspy voice he called out "Everybody, this is Kevin McEvoy."  The room was silent.  Someone from the side of the bar says "Who gives a rat's ass?"  Murphy says "The Artist."

The room went silent, then everybodys eyes opened wide, and in one, unanimous shout they cried "NO FUGGIN WAY!!!!  NO FUGGIN WAY!!!  I DON'T BELIEVE IT'S THE ARTIST KID!!!!  You're the guy that painted Murphy?"  And the musician put down his guitar and said "I gotta print of ol' Murph in my living room," and the bartender said "He's hangin in my pop's restaurant down the road, I seen him de other day, Murphy up on the wall framed, lookin down at ya while yer eatin ya burger."  "Murphy's in our bathroom, man, right above the sink there.  Hell man, I don't believe that you're the guy."  People just kept coming over.  "HI, I'm Peggy, yaw paintin of Murph is so sexy, shit man, I can't believe it's you who done it.  You got a smoke?"  "Man, Murphy's like my best friend, man, thanks for doin that paintin.  Damn kid, that thing is great."  Forgive my too accurate depiction of the account, but the expletives are as colorful as the people, I could no more leave them out than refuse to paint wrinkles around old, expressive eyes.  Apparently, everybody had gone onto my website, downloaded the painting of Murphy, and printed him on their computers.  He's literally hanging all over the place- in a well known restaurant, in homes.

The bartender tapped the counter and said "I'm Matt, nice tameecha, next one's on me buddy."

I can't tell you how nice this was, as I head off to the Washington Square Show tomorrow morning.  I'm so eager to take a canvas back to that bar, and paint those people laughing, brooding, lost, pensive, singing.  I have to figure out a way to paint them.

I'm famous at Hogan's Goat in Bayshore- what could be cooler?

Murphy, oil on linen, 45" x 45"

the painting peddler

"Beeaa heaaa, beeaaa heaaa" cry the beer vendors at Yankee Stadium.  And as they peddle their inebriating wares, so in my parallel world I set up a sidewalk booth on the other side of New York City and cry "Paintins here, paintins here, buy one for da price o' two and get da second one free."

I've been painting, staring at paintings, scrubbing paintings, happily contemplating paintings, cursing paintings.  In all, I am very pleased with the body of work that I'll be showing the next upcoming weekends at the Washington Square Outdoor Art Event.  It'll be this coming three day weekend, and the following weekend.  The 29th, 30th, 31st, and the 5th and 6th.

The only problem I can foresee is that I have been doing a lot of gardening lately, and so currently have half of my truck bed filled with mulch.  As you know, decaying organic matter does not exactly smell pleasant.  So, I've got to go scrub the truck bed with bleach.

It's a funny thought that the paintings that hang at the most important museums in the world are oftentimes termed as "priceless", but before their illustrious lives on the walls of a hallowed hall, they had other lives altogether.  They leaned against kitchen tables, they were rolled up in closets, they were stuffed into backpacks in the Alps, they were in the hulls of fishing boats off of Maine.  One of the most important Da Vinci paintings has a particularly interesting history.  A man browsing a flea market happened upon a kitchen cabinet that had a beautiful old master painting mounted onto it.  He purchased the piece, and later found that it was the face of St. Jerome, which is now a centerpiece of the Vatican collections in Rome.  Last spring, when I stood in front of the painting and copied it, I could see that the wooden panel had, indeed, been cut.  Forgive me for following up a Da Vinci anecdote with my own unworthy story, but it is funny to think that my paintings will be spending a few days in the same pickup truck bed that was filled with mulch the day before.

St. Jerome, Da Vinci, oil on linen,

the interruption

I had been in the studio for seven hours the other day, painting a self portrait.  I had taken a couple coffee breaks, but other than that, I had just been painting.  I was determined to get this portrait locked in, so I just grit my teeth and kept working.  And then there was a knock at the door- who was interrupting my work?  It was my good friend Dave, and he had his guitar case in hand.  I was so glad he randomly stopped by, I needed a break but hadn't allowed myself to have one.  Then, another knock at the door.  It was another two friends with guitars, Dave Moore and Ronny, randomly stopping by to play music with me.  I pulled out my fiddle- or is it my violin?- and we began to play.  Two minutes later, Margaret showed up with Liam and Evan.  As we all played music, I saw my next painting.

A Time to Talk

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don't stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven't hoed,
And shout from where I am, 'What is it?'
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.

Robert Frost

The Fiddle and the Violin

The Violin and the Fiddle, 18" x 24", oil on linen

At the age of fifteen years old, my father brought home a violin from a spackle job.  Somebody had given it to him, and in turn he gave it to me and my brothers.  I promptly picked it up, and drew out of its wooden frame the most glorious, divine strains of mellifluous melody known to mortal man, the things of which angels whisper to eachother with joyous rapture and effulgent gaiety.  Not really.  It actually sounded like somebody put a cat in a blender.  But I loved it, I absolutely loved it.

One year later, I was taking classical violin lessons, and practicing several hours a day, much to the chagrin of my family.  I played that same, stupid tune "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" so many times that I nearly lapse into seizures whenever I hear it now.  But I was elated to have callouses at the tips of my fingers.  I had a very accomplished classical teacher, who had played for a prominent philharmonic orchestra.  My teacher was pleased with how quickly I absorbed new material in these lessons.  My progress was owing to the fact that I practiced several hours a day, and was determined to catch up to the other students that had been forced, by their parents, to take violin lessons since they were in the womb.  Classical music came naturally to me, I was fascinated with the sequential structure of learning that could produce such crisp, clean sound.  I wholly submitted to the rigors of classical training, from the arpeggios that climbed the fingerboard, to listening to Itzhak Perlman on my discman as I went on the bus to school.

About two years into my classical training in the violin, my grandmother came over the house.  As I played "La Cinquantaine", she approached me with a polite smile.  It sounded beautiful, but I could see she had a criticism.  She said "It's time you learned how to play the fiddle.  Be ready tomorrow at two, I'll pick you up."

Nanny (as my grandmother is called) picked me up at two sharp, and dropped me off at the home of a well known Irish fiddler, Pete Kelly.  I came armed with Bach, Dvorak, Mozart, Kreutzer, and a heaping dose of cockiness that came from earning an advanced chair in a local orchestra.  Pete smiled at the door and said "Helloooo, hellooooo, beautiful day, isn't it?"  I instantly liked him, he had such a soft and gentle manner.  We sat down in a quaint little room, and he said "Well, play something for me."  Huh?  Play what?  I'd been practicing a Dvorak piece for several months now, I could knock his socks off with that.  Here goes.

I finished the piece with a brilliant double stop, and left the body of the violin separated from my body so as to allow the wooden frame to resonate.  He stared at me without smiling.  His eyelids were heavy with an underwhelming, nauseous disdain.  "Now, do you have any tunes that you like?"  The air was still.  His dog came up and layed down at my feet.  Pete Kelly opened up his violin case, applied some rosin to his bow, and plucked his strings to see if they were in tune.  And then, the hair of the bow drew breathily across the D string, and a deep, brooding, sonorous Irish air filled the room, a slow dirge like tune that sounded like it had emanated from the lips of thousands of men and woman over thousands of years.  I felt like curling up into fetal position on the floor, as I realized what a sniveling student I had been.  I was humiliated.

He placed some Irish music in front of me, and said "play that."  I asked him "How?"  Problem was, there were only notes on the page, no bowing.  How would I know when to use an up bow, when to use the down bow?  When did I combine notes into one bow?  Where was the forte, where was the pianissimo?  He just smiled.  I played it.  To describe how I played the tune, I can only give the visual metaphor of a German rocket scientist performing a Brazilian tango.  He winced.  Then Pete picked up his fiddle and said "Like this.  It's felt."  As he played the tune, his eyebrows raised and furrowed, his shoulder leaned in, now out.  He moved forward in his seat in the high point of the tune, he subsided when the resolution came.  "Kevin, you're lucky to have had good classical training.  Now you can learn to play this music with great clarity.  That's a real advantage in Irish music, many Irish musicians are sloppy.  Bach will help you.  But you have to..." and he shook his head slowly, his eyes closed with a slight bit of despair.  Words failed him, and I understood.

"It's felt."  For me, Pete's words became the most important words in my art career.  Having begun to play so late in my teens, I very soon realized that I was not exactly Carnegie Hall material, nor would I ever be.  But the freedom I soon discovered was in coming to love the violin, rather than conquer the violin.  Pete Kelly taught me how to love music by feeling music.  I would never go back to detached, dry technique again.

Years later, in a deconsecrated medieval cathedral in Florence, I again underwent intense classical training at the Charles Cecil Studios, only this time it was in classical painting.  But I was prepared- I had learned my lesson from Pete, and I knew that I should never shut my soul off as I poured myself into hundreds of hours of acquiring technique in acquiring drawing and painting skills.  "Brainspun" is the adjective Leo Tolstoy created to describe many classical works of art.  While guarded against this brainspun element, I also acknowledged that I had so much to learn from the classical world of painting.  Every day as I walked to class across the city of Florence, I reminded myself that I was to delight in what I was painting, not conquer it.

This painting is practically my self portrait.  On the right is "Thais" by Massanet, a beautiful piece, especially in the hands of Itzhak Perlman.  The piece on the left is "An Spailpin Fanach", which translates from Gaelic to "The Wandering Laborer."  The piece on the left is actually a sheet of music that Pete Kelly penned by hand for me during one of our lessons.  I love each of these pieces equally.  These are the two sides of my existence, I suppose.  The construction worker and the artist, the Fiddler and the Violinist, the Fiddle and the Violin.

david leffel

I am up late tonight, tired, but I couldn't go to sleep without writing down my thoughts.

Margaret and I, along with our friend Fred, went into the Master's Show at the Salmagundi Club in New York City.  Masters Show is an exhibition by a hand selected group of artists from all over the country, many of whom are the top in their area of painting.  There are some really nice paintings in this show.

I'm amazed, every day, at the fact that I get to paint for a living.  And yet, there is that struggle that comes with being young, and making your way in the world.  By using the word "struggle" I don't mean "hard times" necessarily, and I'm not alluding to finances or politics.  I'm talking about the uncertainty, the way in which life sometimes requires moving forward, even when there doesn't really seem to be a path.  Standing in booths on sidewalks in the rain, brushing rainwater off of canvases that have been labored over for weeks.  Commissions that fall through.  Paintings that I store behind the couch, perchance they might sell one day.  I don't allow myself to dwell too long on these things, I just have to dwell on the many good things that are occurring- the commissions that have happened, the paintings that have sold.  I think about the man who came out to my tent in the middle of a rainstorm, and purchased a painting with a smile and a warm conversation.  But as I wandered the Salmagundi Master's Show, I was self conscious of the fact that my dress shirt was also my painting shirt, and that I had yellow ochre oil paint running the length of the bottom of my shirt.  This stained shirt somehow was a symbol to me of the struggle, and it made me feel like an outsider at this event.  I felt a bit like the mutt that wandered into the Westminster Kennel Club.

A good friend of mine, Fred, joined me as we walked around the room and looked at the paintings.  And then, a small painting grabbed me from the other side of the room- a beautiful, modest painting of a pink azalea in a blue chinaware vase.  It was so beautiful because it was so unpretentious.  It was vibrant, but quiet.  And it's size was captivating- just the size of a postcard.  The background was a deep, vibrant brownish black, with a brilliant light emanating from the petals.  But, it was not sappy- it was understated and calm.  Just beautiful.  Eventually, my eyes wandered over to the name tag as I wondered who had painted it- it was David Leffel.  For those who don't know his work, he is one of the big names in the art world.  For years, I've had the deepest admiration for his work.  I turned around to see that my friend Fred was speaking to David, and I was called over to say hello.

David was kindspoken, warm, and interested in what I had to say.  Margaret joined us, with Evan, and we all talked for a long time.  He described his years in New York City, his current life in New Mexico, his paintings.  But he never bragged.  He was even self deprecating.  He asked me where I exhibited my work- wryly, I replied "The prestigious venue of a tent on a sidewalk in the middle of this city."  He smiled and said "Me too.  For two and a half years.  Same show, in a booth.  It was fun, it was hard, but I got my name out.  You have to keep going, that's the thing."  He went on to say that he had gotten his beginnings slowly, agonizingly slowly.  He smiled warmly, and encouraged me to continue.  "It's what I had to do.  It's what we all have to do."  He signed a copy of his book with a thoughtful encouragement to me.  I was so greatful for his transparency, he could have acted proud and detached, but instead he was sincere and honest about his life.  That's probably why I've enjoyed his paintings so much.

Afterwards, I read the first couple pages of David's book.  His story begins with such a struggle- the struggle of trying to figure out what to do in life, the struggle to learn to paint.  He tells stories of innumerable rejections from galleries, grants, fellowships, etc.  He tells stories of traveling to Montreal, Canada for a hoped-for interview for a fellowship, being stuck in the streets, paintings in hand- all in subzero weather.  Every studio he had, in those days, was broken into and robbed, once while he was in the studio.  And he writes "Through these early years of learning, questioning, and paying attention to everything, I discovered that this is the essence of life.  External circumstances one makes of them what one will, but learning and paying attention, beauty is what living is."

Returning to my friend Fred's home around the corner, he played a Chopin Mazurka for us.  It was hauntingly beautiful, Chopin seemed to be contemplating the same thoughts that I contemplated tonight.  Watching Fred identify with this music, and pull the tune out of his Steinway, I suddenly understood, almost in an epiphany, the common human struggle.  Who was I to think that, tonight, I was the only one struggling in that room of people?  Each of us are unsure, each of us are so limited, and we plod along and pull pieces together slowly, steadily.  But in time we gain clarity, we gain understanding, and as we pull all of this together, out of this searching we find the art in living, a beauty in struggling.

David Leffel, Self Portrait

a day

I thought it might be interesting to document a day in the life of a painter.  So, here goes.

5:27 a.m.-  Liam wakes up, proceeds to smash me in the face, shouting "Eggs please."

6:20- Eggs, coffee, and hot chocolate.  Liam insists on pairing everything we own- "Dad's coffee cup, Liam's coffee cup.  Dad's shoes, Liam's shoes..." etc.

7:14 a.m.-  We bike down to the water.  By this point in the day, my thoughts have gained momentum.  As an artist, I find the mornings to be challenging- I'll explain why.  When I spackled, I knew that if I worked nine hours, I would get nine hours wage.  But, as an artist, I can work nine hours and have nothing to show for it- in fact, the painting could be worse off than before I began.  On the other hand, I could work nine hours and have the greatest painting to show for it.  It is this uncertainty that is so daunting for a father of two.  Only an hour or two into the day, I'm already standing at the top of a hill with a snowball, ready to roll it down a hill of wet snow.  I just have to pick the right hill.  And so, here is my vaccination against thoughts run amok: looking out on the water of the bay, I recite verses that have been memorized by heart for years now.  "For I know the plans that I have for you, plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future"  Jeremiah 29:11.  "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalms 37:4.  "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."  Proverbs 16:3.  I remind myself that I will indeed produce bad paintings, but I just have to fight my way through it, in order to produce the next painting (which might be great.)  One time, I went down to the boat yard where my father in law keeps his old sail boat.  I went and sat on the edge of the docks with Mararet.  Suddenly, beside the boat, a snorkel appeared, then a head, then a face... it was my father in law.  He had a metal tool in his hand.  We asked him what on earth he was doing, and he replied "I'm scraping the barnacles.  She's dragging.  Need to move faster."  That's what reciting these scriptures are to me- barnacle scraping, removing the anxiety, fear, and self doubt that wants to creep in.

As I focus my thoughts on these good things, hopeful things, I find that I am better able to see beauty in simple things.

8 a.m.-  Liam and I head back to the house.  I head to my studio at the Islip Presbyterian Church.  They have been really kind to me, and let me use a beautiful north room for a studio.  It is ideal, I don't know what I would do without it.  Being that it is a room which belongs to the church, I have to move furniture everyday.  I move all of their couches, tables, etc. to the side.  Then I run into the church basement and begin schlepping my easels, paints, what not.  I set up my still life, lay out my paints...

8:40 a.m.-  I begin painting, running back and forth across the length of the room, stopping often to look and think.

10:30 a.m.- I stop painting altogether, sit down, and stare at the painting for a long time.  What am I trying to say in this painting?  I've intentionally juxtaposed the wine glass and bottle with the flimsy, portable music stand.  I thought it would be funny to show the two in the same painting.  I want to mess with people's ideas of classical music- why can't you place your music on a flimsy metal stand?  A few friends have looked at the painting and think that I'm successful in pitting the highbrow and lowbrow against eachother, though perhaps too much- they say it is distracting.  Many composers, such as Mozart, Dvorak, did derive many great orchestral pieces from "peasant music."  There's a million paintings out there, better polished than this, with perfect violins and wine glasses and wedges of cheese and what not.  I wanted to make a whimsical pairing, to catch people off guard... sheesh, I'm stumped as to what to do.

10:45 a.m.-  Time to stop staring at painting.

11:02 a.m.- Okay, no really, time to stop staring at the painting.  Time to get going.

11:10 a.m.-  I get up and get going.  I have to pick everything up and move it over to my house, to begin my afternoon painting of Margaret playing the piano.  The moving is not so fun.

11:32 a.m.-  Set up in the house is done.  Ready to start mixing paint.  This is why I always wear gloves when I mix paint- the side of the tube popped open when I squeezed it.

11:45 a.m.-  Margaret puts Evan to sleep.  I can begin to paint her now.  I've been able to work on the rest of the painting, but not on the figure of her.  As of today, I've only spent a couple of minutes painting her figure.

1:43 p.m.-  Hunger pangs.  I eat a quick lunch.

1:50 p.m.-  Resume painting.

2:45 p.m.-  Run for coffee. It helps me clear my head.  There's something in me that needs some time to talk to people, leaf through a couple pages of a book, something to clear my head.  Eyes are muscles, they get tired, and so I need to let my eyes relax before I resume painting.  A coffee for me, a tea for Margaret.  I'm thinking about the painting, wondering what's right and wrong with the canvas...  Margaret tells me to relax.

3:34 p.m.-  My brother Chris swings by.  I'm consumed by the painting.  I'm not a multitasker, I'm a super uni-tasker.  I'm having trouble with some things in the painting, and getting frustrated, and consequently super focused.  Perhaps this super focusing skill can be detrimental in art, though, if taken too far.  In my case, while I focus on the problems in the painting, I sometimes forget to pump my heart, inflate my lungs, etc.  Chris has a way of making fun of me, so as to let me know that it is only pigment smeared on linen- he succeeds to get me out of my funk.  I'm a bit more optimistic about the painting.

5:45 p.m.-  I am done painting today.  The light has changed, and so I place the painting on the floor, sit far away, and stare.  And stare.  My thoughts range from "It is the greatest thing I have ever done," to "I bet you I could paint the canvas black, screw legs into the wooden frame, and use it as a nice coffee table type thing."  This is how I view any painting when I am working on it.  And six hours after I've painted, as I type, I am staring across the room at the painting and thinking that this is one of my favorite paintings I've ever worked on.

6:00 p.m.- Time to clean up.  The thing I like least about being a painter.

I don't know why or how I end up with so many dirty brushes.

I pour out the old mineral spirits, with the pigment settled on the bottom, into a new, clean jar.  Then I clean all the brushes in the spirits.

Palette dirty.

Palette cleaned.  I use ten acity to clean it.

I place a bit of my medium (sun thickened linseed, etc.) on the palette.  An amount the size of a quarter is good.

And the palette is cleaned and oiled.  The oil creates a beautiful glow (a nice foil to color), and it seals the wood so as to prevent the wood from sponging out the oil in the paints.

6: 32 p.m.-  Not done yet.  Have to go wash all of the mineral spirits out of the brushes.  If I don't, the mineral spirits will eat away at the ferrules of the brush.  I wash them in soap and water, then hang them over a ledge, at an angle, to dry.

6:50 p.m.- Not done yet.  Now I have to go move all the furniture back into its place in the house, so that my longsuffering wife doesn't leave me.  Right where I stand to paint, the chandelier hangs in our dining room.  So that I don't smash my head into it, I tie it back for the workday, and bring it back down at the end of the day.  My poor wife, putting up with this.

Furniture is back in place, normality can now resume (relatively speaking.)

the gallery seen

"Oh my God, you are so cute, you're just the cutest little most adorable thing!!!!!"  she exclaimed.  Everything she said was an exclamation.  He smiled a broad, perfect toothy grin, and replied "Well, that is how I feel.  I'm not interested in finding a girlfriend.  I'm interested in finding a wife.  I am just tired of being a successful, wealthy guy, bar hopping in the Village.  I just want one of those cute little things that I can call 'mine', and wait for her to ruin my life"  he sighed and looked up at the sky.  "Oh my God, you are so, oh my God, so totally domestic and cute!!!  I just want to take you home and eat you!!!!  Yum Yum Yum!!!!!!!!"  she said with scrunched nose.  Laughing ensued.

I shifted uncomfortably.  The metal ledge on which I was seated was cold.  A couple of women came out and stood on the sidewalk.  They began to converse.

The woman with blonde hair began "Oh my God, what a genius, he is such a genius, he's like totally the deepest guy, and I never even knew it.  I mean, he was like doing these totally incredible paintings while he lived in my building in Pittsburgh, and like, I said to him, dude, you totally have to show these paintings in New York City.  And he was like 'dude, I totally would love to show these paintings, but I can't until I find the right woman to paint.'  And that must be YOU!"  The woman with brown hair half whispered "Yeah, we had a real connection.  He is totally the most profound guy, he is actually really into Zen Buddhism and stuff.  He's like spiritual, but not religious.  What a genius."  Muses are, by contract, required to be wistful and talk in half whispers, so I couldn't hear much else of her conversation.

I've done a nearly perfect job recounting these conversations, but I will confess that they have been touched up for editorial reasons.  In the first conversation, I would have to say that the woman was born without a space bar in her conversational keyboard.  In fact, instead of a space bar, she was given two exclamation point keys.  I've inserted spaces, for sake of clarity.

I shifted uncomfortably again.  The metal ledge seemed to be getting colder as the minutes limped by.  It was "gallery night" for me in New York City, and I had made my tour of the paintings, gotten my complimentary glass of inebriatory fluid, and was now regrouping and collecting my thoughts outside of the gallery.  The show was sold out.  The paintings were of pretty women.  Perfect, pretty women.  Perfect, pretty women, and gold leaf.  All of them.  I swished my wine in my glass.  I sifted through the innumerable business cards that people had placed in my hands before I even got a chance to ask for their names.  I looked at pictures of Liam on my cell phone.  I waited for some of my friends to exit the building.  Eventually they did, and I enjoyed walking across town, talking with them.  These friends were nice to be with, a breath of fresh air.

I had somehow been invited to the after party at a local bar.  The artist, his fan base (predominantly beautiful women), and his collectors all grabbed a large table in the corner of the bar, and formed a semicircular wall with their backs.  Those without money and/or the figure of a goddess had to wait on a line which formed at the left rear corner of the semicircle.  I will call this group the "petitioners," an allusion to the days of yore when, one day a year, peasants would wait at the gates of the king's palace in the hopes of entering his presence.  Gucci pocketbooks dangled from the crooks of elbows, manicured hands caressed martini glasses.  As they patiently waited to enter into the holy of holies, the petitioners laughed somewhat too loudly at the jokes that wafted over the wall.  I nursed a Guinness on the sidewalk.

Far from the madding crowd, I stared out at the urine yellow light trickling out of streetlamps onto the pavement below.  I wondered about the whole idea of producing art that is so completely obsessed with beauty, that it divorces itself from the existence of pain.  As if on cue, a figure of a man came hobbling along under the street light.  He held out his cup to passing people, and I watched them recoil in revulsion.  He approached me, and asked for some money in a strange accent.  I told him I couldn't give him any money, but could buy him food.  His eyes widened, and he readily accepted.  We stepped into some local Cuban place, and waited on line together.  As we talked, I found that he was from South Africa, and he was living on the streets of NYC.  He had fled a bad political situation years back, and had found himself tangled up in a bad social scene here.  His eyes were pained.  He couldn't stop saying thank you to me, he must have said it three dozen times.  I wanted to invite him back to the bar with me, but I knew it was a bad idea to bring him around alcohol.  As well, if he returned to the bar with me, he would be to those people something like Edgar Allen Poe's "Red Masque of Death."  We shook hands and said goodnight.

I'm telling you, I'm not cut out for this New York City gallery thing.  The galleries are the holy grail for any painter.  I wondered, all last night, how I could so engineer my career as to never step foot in one of these cultural black holes again.  I just want to paint, to talk with people, to paint, to talk with people.

Homeless, pencil on paper, 3" x 4"