babies and painting

A couple of hours ago, I was holding Liam in my right arm and Evan in my left arm, bobbing both up and down in an effort to get them to stop crying.  Softly singing Johnny Cash ballads, I paced the floor with my armful, hoping that my crooning might summon Morpheus to guide my boys off to his somnolent abode.  As I sang, I thought to myself  "I should write me a blog tonight, to let everybody know that I am still writing blogs, but have been a bit busy these past two weeks."  When I would otherwise be writing this blog at one in the morning, as I typically do, instead I've been singing my boys to sleep.

As far as the daytime is concerned, things are going very well in my world of painting.  I am glad to say that my cell phone has run out of batteries. I'll explain what this means for my situation:  my only phone charger is the type that you plug into a car, and so I only get around to charging it when I am driving.  But when I don't drive, I don't charge.  Last week, I barely drove a mile from Tuesday to Saturday- quite an achievement in suburban Long Island.  I spent my entire week painting, some days for ten hours.  When my phone runs out of batteries, it is a wonderful catch-22 which means that I am not distracted, nor is it likely that I will be distracted any time soon.

I am gearing up for the Memorial Day weekend exhibition in Manhattan- the Washington Square Outdoor Arts Exhibit.  It is the same venue as last September- me in a tent, on a sidewalk, happily hawking my painterly wares like a beer vendor at Shea Stadium.  It's my chance to talk to people about my work, and so I'm really looking forward to it.

I have a lot of painting to do between now and the show.  I've been working on six paintings, two of which I'll show here.  I intended to show this following painting sooner, but it was in such a raw state that I couldn't post it.

The Artist's View, 24" x 24", oil on linen

detail, Artist's View

This painting is the view that an artist sees when doing a self portrait by a mirror.  It may take a while to figure out, but I think that's why this painting might be enjoyable.  Maybe you can't ever figure it out...

Here is a progress shot on the violin painting that I previously posted.  The painting is a few days further along.  I'm still working on the overall rhythms of the piece, and sorting out what is happening with the background.  I am painting in a new way recently, in that my paintings are taking much more license on what I am seeing- colors are altered, values are heightened or subdued, lines are made more calligraphic, patterns are emphasized, etc.  The best example of this altering is in the sheets of the music- you can see how the pages complement the lines of the violin.  This was not the case with the actual pages, because in actuality, the music fell off the edge of the table like flaccid pasta.  But here, I've painted them with the lyricism of music itself.  I am always straddling this fence of painting what I actually observe, and painting what I would compose.  I think that too far in either direction might take away from the piece- too literal and it becomes banal, too much license and it becomes stylized.  Speaking in general terms, banal art is depressing photorealism, and stylized art is simply inapplicable and irrelevant.  I would like my paintings to draw from the two worlds of reality and fiction, and to repeat a quote from Goethe, to draw "out of the worlds of truth and falsehood, [and] create a third whose borrowed existence enchants us".

Lyrical, 18" x 24", oil on linen

Lyrical, detail

horror vacui

There is a field off of the Long Island Expressway in which is grown corn, lettuce, tomatoes, what not.  The produce is fine, nothing special.  The layout of the land is nothing spectacular.  But this field holds my destiny in its hands.

When I was spackling, back ten years or so, my dad would send me into jobs deep in Nassau County.  Entering certain congested areas within Nassau, I had to brace myself as one might mentally prepare for entering an overcrowded elevator.  Some of those neighborhoods were so densely populated, their roads so congested, the highway traffic overflowing in such a way as to bewilder any young man who had grown up between Connetquot Park and County Wicklow, Ireland.  I couldn't understand why anybody would design neighborhoods in such a way as to eliminate any empty space.  Dense population is not a problem, provided it is balanced with empty space.  But in some of these neighborhoods, every last centimeter of land was surveyed, marked, plotted, paved, alotted.  Who would do such a thing?  My spackle tools in hand, I looked out of the window of a home, not to see a broad expanse of green, not to see tree tops stretching into infinity, but innumerable roofs disappearing into smog.  Didn't anybody understand the need for empty space?

On my way back from these spackle jobs in Nassau, I would pass a field south of the Long Island Expressway, just west of route 110.  There, in the middle of this wasteland of hulking, unimaginative, corporate buildings, was this field.  A green field.  A pretty green field.  The sensation I received from viewing this green field was somewhat like happening upon Gwyneth Paltrow in a white Grecian dress in the middle of the plumbing department of Home Depot.  I told myself, at nineteen years of age, that if that field were ever paved over with concrete and McMansions, I would have to leave Long Island.

When I returned from Florence, six years later, I passed that field on the way back from the airport.  In my absence, there was a fungal outbreak of homes- McMansions had overtaken most of the field.  Didn't the Long Island-powers-that-be know that weary commuters returning from Manhattan needed that large, abstract mass of green?  Okay, maybe it's a bit melodramatic to say that the field had held my destiny in its hands, but the fact that it was developed is a stinging metaphor for the worst case scenario of suburban sprawl on Long Island.

And so I ask myself, doesn't our culture understand the need for empty space?  "Horror vacui" is a term used to describe the fear of empty spaces.  Horror vacui describes a canvas that is overwhelmingly busy in every possible area of space.  Mentally deranged art often displays properties in keeping with horror vacui.

Neil C.K.R., medium unknown

When I talk about empty space, I mean that it is a dialogue between the positive and empty space.  Between the substance, and the air surrounding the substance.  Between the person, and the space surrounding the person.  New York City would not exist, as we know it, if it did not have Central Park.  Everyone would kill each other.  It would descend into money mongering mayhem.  All that concrete needs green, all that culture needs nature, all those people need birds, all that capitalism needs lassitude.  And so, Manhattan owes its success to Central Park.

New York City

And so it is with good art.  With art, the information you put in is as important as the information you leave out.

And so it is not with not good art.  It is not a coincidence that our culture produced photorealism- a terrible peversion of naturalism.  Photorealism is nature sifted through the colander of computers, and as such it includes all detail and excludes nothing.  Confusion, too much information.  Consequently, in photorealism there is no climax and there is no humanity.  At other points in history, Long Island's sense of space was seen in the claustrophobic clutter of Pollock's abstract expressionism, then the meaningless, minimalist void of Rothko.  Sigh.  It's as if Long Island were sitting in the car, and to get the right temperature, it is turns on heat full blast, then AC full blast, then heat full blast, then AC....

Pollock, Horror Vacui

Rothko, Vacui

Nature, when it is sifted through the strainer of the human spirit, when detail is selected and rejected at will, can create the climax of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35.  Think of the empty space surrounding the figures in Sargent's group portrait of the Boit children.   Contemplate Courbet's "In the Painter's Studio," which is twelve feet tall and twenty feet wide, and you will see how the empty upper six feet of the painting is as essential as the figures on the bottom of the canvas.  Painters are not observers, but composers- we select and reject detail to create a climax on our canvas.  So it is with musicians, as well- that silent pause in the Handel's Hallelujah chorus, just at the very peak of the climax, is as important as the choral outburst that follows.

Courbet, The Artist's Studio, 12 feet by 20 feet

Sargent, Daughters of Edward Boit, 87" x 87"

People on Long Island do, of course, understand the need for empty space.  It's interesting to me that while Long Island has played a role in birthing the current movement of painters that exhibit these naturalistic sensibilities on canvas, it also has created land protection associations such as the Peconic Land Trust.  If Long Island homes were filled with paintings that reflected these values, the neighborhoods would have better civil engineering.  Every thirty homes would, out of innate necessity, be balanced with a decent sized, empty field.  Every five strip malls would be balanced, out of a felt sense of aesthetic harmony, with a stone fountain.  Every ten parking lots would be balanced with a broad swath of birch trees.  Every corporate building would have an orangerie in the expansive center atrium, over which the glass walled offices would look.  Every mega mall would have a generous tract of forest encompassing it, as a sort of purifying penance.

Sometimes I think that the Industrial Revolution came too early to this country, that we would have done well to have a nice Dark Ages, so that we would all be forced to stew over the importance of stone fountains, idle time, and empty space.

oil sketch, 12" x 16", oil on linen


I was working in my yard the other day, rototilling the back lawn, reseeding the lawn, pruning rose bushes, pulling weeds.  As I worked away at the soil, I found myself consumed by the thought of the paintings I want to be doing, but am not doing.  I've been painting a lot, and I've been producing smaller paintings based on some interesting and random themes.  These paintings have been going along well enough, but to be honest, I'm not content to be working in such a scattered way.  I stay up at night, consumed by the thought of paintings that I want to channel my energies toward.  I stare at the ceiling, brimming with eager energy, thinking of these works.  But when I wake up, I am reminded of the fact that I don't have the canvases made for them yet.

There is a holly tree beside my back fence, a tall, handsome figure that has the command of the entire back yard.  It is a beautiful tree, very well shaped.  I place a chair underneath this holly on a summer day, enjoying the dense shade that it provides.  In the winter I am cheered up by its lush green glow, while the fair weather friends, the other trees, are nothing but bare bones.  Lately, I've been concerned because the holly has been a bit spotty, and the leaves have been a bit yellow.  As I guided the snorting, rearing rototiller along the yard, I approached the trunk of the holly and noticed something.  All along the very base of the trunk were numerous small branches, their arms bedecked with the lush, spring foliage of young holly leaves.  I suddenly remembered a conversation I had with an arborist friend of mine:  these small branches harness all of the energy of the tree, at the expense of the tree itself.  These small branches, called suckers, literally suck the energy right out of the tree.  You have to remove them with a sharp pair of pruners, right at the base of the trunk.

Although I am satisfied with how much time I spend painting, I just want to focus better.  It's not that I'm discontent with my work schedule, it is that I am eager to focus on what's important to me, in painting.  But to create these works, for this step forward in painting, I have to think differently.  I have to identify which is the tree, and which is the sucker.  I enjoy writing this blog, it helps me clarify my thoughts and focus on what is most important, and is a wonderful dialogue between myself and those who are interested- "tree".  I have no mess sink to wash my brushes in, so I have to drive across town to the warehouse to wash my brushes- "sucker".  I spend so much of my time absorbed with trifling little details- painting random thoughts, ordering art materials, making canvases, running out to the store to buy turpentine, etc.  These suckers are preventing me from doing the things I want to be doing.  I am going to attack these larger works that have consumed my thoughts, and remove these suckers with sharp pruners.  I found a hard working person who is happy to make a bit of money on the side by making canvases for me.  I'm going to build another wooden palette, several feet long, which will attach to a folding bench, so that I can mix a generous portion of colours without running out of space.  I am going to order larger tubs of paint.  I am going to book models to pose for the paintings that I am thinking of.


I sometimes fear the younger generation
will be deprived
of the pleasures of hoeing;
there is no knowing
how many souls have been formed by this
simple exercise.

The dry earth like a great scab breaks,
moist-dark loam --the pea-root's home,
a fertile wound perpetually healing.

How neatly the great weeds go under!
The blade chops the earth new.
Ignorant the wise boy who
has never rendered thus the world

- John Updike

classical art

Salisbury cathedral soars above the grassy main and rooftops of the surrounding city.  At a staggering 404 feet,  this cathedral's spire is the tallest in all of England, and is the tallest surviving pre-1400 spire in the world.  It has the oldest surviving clock in the world.  It has one of four copies of the Magna Carta.  The stained glass windows are bewilderingly magnificent.  The interior of the spire looks as if it were woven by a wooden spider, with giant cedar beams running to and fro in an ordered chaos.  Faces emerge from carved reliefs on the sides of pillars, chests, altars.  The intarsia glowed with rich layers of varnished wood.  The overall harmony of proportions was never violated by the vertical thrust of the entire cathedral.  Upon exiting the building, I gazed upwards at the beautiful spire piercing the sky, and I could think only one thing about this magnificent church:  I don't like it.

My wife and I got into the car with my friend Jenny, and discussed what we would do next.  Jenny grew up in the country nearby Salisbury, so she knew the area well.  As we drove along, I was perplexed by the question of why I did not care at all for the Salisbury Cathedral, this cherished gem of architecture that was beloved by all England.  What was it that failed to grip me?  Where had the cathedral gone wrong?  Why didn't I like it?

The car rolled along the wrong side of the road, winding its way through the beautiful countryside of Constable's England.  With my head against the glass, I watched as the rolling fields gave way to forests, gave way to farms.  "We're almost there" Jenny said, in her soft English accent.  "We will have to do a bit of walking, as the parking has been relocated to the other side of the road.  They've built a tunnel though, so we can easily cross."

Making my way up the path, I was halted in my steps by the looming, hulking figures of Stonehenge.  They were stone shepherds of empty fields, brooding monolithic giants quietly overlooking the lush, green plains of Wiltshire.  These powerful stones, resting against eachother, commanded the deepest awe, even fear.  I stood transfixed, unaware that was blocking the path.  I moved to the side and stared in wonder.  Why had these been placed here?  By who?  When?  Who would go to such lengths?  Why am I shaken to the core?

It's not the intention of this blog to descend into theological polemics, and discuss Christianity versus paganism.  But I am concerned with the concept of the initial spark, and how a spark can eventually burn land hundreds of miles away.  I am concerned about the original document, before it has been xeroxed, and then the xerox is xeroxed, and that xerox is xeroxed, etc.  One thousand, two hundred years after Jesus's limp, whipped, bloodied body was nailed to a wooden cross, the cathedral of Salisbury was erected.  Twelve hundred years after God became a man and hung out with peasant fishermen, the Salisbury cathedral was created.  And yet... it somehow seemed more like a symbol of English pride, than a manifestation of "the meek inheriting the earth."  I may be forbidden from ever joining the Anglican church for saying so, but the Salisbury cathedral seemed pompous and insincere.  It seemed like Jesus was the original document, and then a copy was made of him, then a copy was made of that copy, and then...

Stonehenge seemed to gush with sincerity, a natural response to the experienced world.  A people striving to make peace with the divine something.  Striving to understand.  A people, now labeled "Neolithic,"  in all of their perceived simplicity, erecting a sublimely beautiful something to a someone, to the universe.

What am I talking about?  What does this have to do with art?  With painting?

There are classical art academies in New York City, classical art ateliers in London, classical art studios in Shanghai, classical art books, classical art magazines, classical art DVD's, classical art coffee mugs, classical...  I feel that the current movement of classical art is the Salisbury Cathedral.

I'm not condemning classical art, nor am I condoning a reactionary primitivism. I am condemning the pursuit of classical art for the sake of the pursuit of classical art.  Art is not about art.  Art about art is as useful as an extension cord plugged into itself.  Art is about life.  Right?  Was Michelangelo pursuing classical art when he painted the Sistine Chapel, or was he wrestling with God in the same way that Jacob wrestled with the angel?  Was Chopin pursuing classical art when the brown washes of his melancholy chords explored the range of human emotions?  Was Chardin pursuing classical art when he painted the beautiful, mundane objects around him?  Keats when he contemplated ideas of mortality, of beauty?  The "classical artists"  that we have apotheosized were more human than we give them credit for.  When you place somebody on a pedestal, it is hard to remember that they once walked on the ground with you.

I guess I'm writing to say that I am worried about the current movement of painting, classical realism, which I am oftentimes lumped into.  I am worried that it is an art form that does not respond sincerely to the wonder of being, as Stonehenge does.  But rather, classical realism is preoccupied with perfection, with greatness, with distinguishing itself from the pagan practices of abstract art, and being elected into the canons of "high art" along with the artistic saints of ages past.

On my end of things, I'm just going to keep painting, playing the violin, and enjoying a glass of cheap, homemade wine with my friends.

The Fiddle, in progress, oil on linen, 20" x 26"

The Fiddle, in progress, detail

The Fiddle, in proggress, detail

The Fiddle, in progress, detail


To read more on this theme, in the parallel world of music, read this fascinating article by Alex Ross:



At 5:03 a.m., March 11, Evan Dever McEvoy was born. Margaret is in great health, and Evan smiles an unusual amount.

For such an overdue baby (eleven days), the delivery went very quickly.  We checked into the hospital at 1:30 in the morning, and three and a half hours later Evan came into the world.  And now I sit in Stony Brook hospital, Evan in Margaret's arms, watching a rain storm move across the tops of the trees.  I am so content as I write this, I can't describe.  Light reveals and darkness obscures, but as you'll see in this drawing, we need both the anxiety of suspense, dark, and the relief of satisfaction, light, to appreciate our world.  It's as if Evan knew that the only way to create a climax is to keep the viewer in suspense.

Evan, pencil on handmade paper, 8.5" x 11"


As I wait for the baby to come, I've gone into standby mode.  I get a coffee early in the morning, enter my studio, set up my easel, mix my paints... and then get very little done.  I'm working on some new paintings, wrapping up some older ones, but really, I am just waiting for the baby to come.  The expected delivery date for the baby was last Sunday- a week ago from today.  And so yesterday we spent the day walking along the ocean beaches, trying to evict my wife's all too comfortable tenant.

I've been staying awake at night, staring out the window, more excited and eager to paint than I can describe.  For the plans I have in painting, there aren't enough hours in the day.  I am looking forward to beginning a new wave of paintings in my studio.  Maybe this surge of creativity is owing to all of the energy that comes from receiving another life into this world.

Being that I haven't written in a while, I wish I had something of real substance to offer tonight.  But, all I have to offer is this short little entry- I'm not scared, just eager and waiting.

narcissus by the sea

Narcissus by the Sea, 18" x 24", oil on linen

Over the past summer, I jumped in on an art event in which the artists paint outdoors on the north shore of Long Island.  Several dozen artists paint in a selected area for two days, and then submit their works for auction on the third day.  In case you haven't gleaned this from my portfolio, I am not really a plein air painter of landscapes, and I am not really inclined towards rapidly executed performance art.  That's not to say I don't paint outdoors- I do, but oddly enough I am always drawn to do so on grey days, or at night.  And I am able to paint quickly,  but not when somebody asks me to do so- then it feels gimmicky.  I paint quickly when something needs to be painted quickly, but otherwise...

So you may have noticed that I wasn't altogether comfortable participating in this event.  However, there was something fun about stepping outside of my usual setting, and trying something new.  I would just have to do something that combined figure painting with outdoor painting.

I asked Margaret to pose for me, outdoors, in a summer dress.  It wasn't possible, because she was too busy watching Liam.  I stayed up staring at the ceiling the night before, wondering what to do.  I didn't want to just paint a seaside scene, but I didn't have a model.

I woke up at four in the morning, packed my truck, and headed to the painting sight.  There were no other artists there yet.  I was glad, I didn't want anybody to see me and my strange setup.  I walked far down a beach with two easels, a mirror, a palette, brushes, paints, coffee, bug spray, etc.  And I began to paint by 5:30 a.m.  Spackling definitely taught me how to wake up early.

I set up two easels, one with a canvas, the other with a large mirror.  The easel with the mirror was about fifteen feet away from the easel with the canvas.  The light was changing drastically every fifteen minutes.  I initially found this change to be frustrating, but soon found it to be useful.  The change in lighting enable me to choose different effects, all of which would heighten the picture.  The light at dawn did a great job of lighting the boats in the background.  The light at 11 a.m. fell on my face in an interesting way.  I selected what I wanted, and rejected what didn't work.

When I finished the painting, I dropped it off at the gallery.  There were dozens of other paintings- scenes of the sea, a bridge over a lake, an old pickup truck.  There were some really beautiful works.  But, nobody else had done a painting of a person.  Needless to say, nobody had done a self portrait.  Ugh, I was a bit embarrassed, and so I titled it "Narcissus by the Sea."

Later that day, the outdoor auction started, and the auctioneer began to sell pieces.  One by one, every piece sold in the neighborhood of 200 to 600 or so.  When it came to my piece, he boomed "Here's a talented young artist from the Florentine scene of painting.  Let's start the bidding on this piece at 1,000.  Do I hear 1,000?"

Crickets chirped contentedly in the background.  A squirrel scolded a bluejay for flying too close.  A car quietly drove by.

"Umm, do I hear 1,000?"

I think I heard one hand clapping.

"Umm, do I hear 950?"

I heard a mosquito buzz.  Slap.  It was dead.


A woman nearby squeezed out some sunblock.  It sounded like ketchup.


O good Lord, please, wouldn't it be a good time for the rapture right now?



"Okay, well, we're going to put the painting away, maybe somebody will be interested in it later.  Wow, first time that's ever happened."  The auctioneer took the painting off the easel, and put it on the ground.  I wondered why they didn't have defibrillators on the premises.  I wondered if there was a plastic surgeon out there who could successfully redo my face, so as to render me unrecognizable even to my mother.

Then from the crowd I heard "600."

I looked over, and a woman had her hand in the air.  I thought of kissing her, but that would've been inappropriate for many reasons.

"750" said another bidder.






"1,250."  The auctioneer smiled a broad, toothy grin.  "1,250, do I hear any higher?  Any higher?  Sold."

After a round of smelling salts and a bucket of icewater poured over my head, I came to.  Okay, maybe the salts and icewater weren't necessary, but in my nerdy little world of painting, I felt I had finally understood what it was to be Rocky.


My wife and I are in the final stretch, eagerly anticipating and fearing February the 28th.  The doctors tell us that this is the day on which Margaret's body tells the baby that it can no longer house it, and that it has to vacate the premises as swiftly as possible.  We're told that although the baby is comfortable in its current living quarters, it will be expecting to be ousted around this time, as any professional tenant warily anticipates the arrival of the sheriff at its front door.

And so, with pregnancy on the brain, and with lead paint in my fingers, I find myself drawing metaphors.

Tonight I sat at a cafe in a local bookshop, sipping a cup of coffee, leafing through a book I've been looking forward to conversing with.  I looked across a few tables, though, and I saw an old man with a white beard, contented eyes, and hunched shoulders.  He had a way of looking at nothing, his arm slumped over a chair, his eyebrows raised...  I was so absorbed in the rhythms of his aquiline profile, that I found myself reaching for my pencil before my hand told my brain what it was doing.  I sketched rapidly, I only had seconds.  In the space of twenty five seconds, I had this sketch.  Then the old man got up, grabbed his coffee and book, and slowly plodded away, pausing briefly to look at a magazine.

I was left alone with my sketch, and my thoughts.  What had I just done?  Why had I just entered into this fury of sketching, a twenty five second trance of scribbling graphite lines on paper?  Why?

I was being birthed.

Long Island is currently undergoing a lengthy delivery, birthing me as an artist.  Ordinarily, this region of the globe busies itself with its first three offspring:  Money, Education, and all things Material.  But, having had these three wretched children, Long Island decided it would give it another go, and try to birth a final child who appreciates both its parent and the world into which it was born.  So really, the birth of this artist has more to do with the desires of the parent than the child.

I go several months without ever thinking of the word "original."  I never enter my studio, and think to myself "Now, what has never been done before?  I really must do something original today."  I really just try and paint whatever it is that I feel, letting the humming engine of my emotions override the irritating dictates of the intellect.  The conception of a painting is the most difficult stage, because I am trying to figure out what is actually true, consequently beautiful, in the world around me.  I am preoccupied with the people and things surrounding me, and I am constantly plagued by the thought that I am not keeping up with the observed world.  Murphy's eyes, a Vietnam Veteran who is silent concerning his past.  Margaret's hands, holding her womb as if she were touching another person.  Old work boots.  Spackle tools on a bench.  "Originality is more concerned with sincerity than with peculiarity" says Harold Speed, a writer from a time long ago.  And then I remember the haunting beauty of the old Mexican folk song as it was sung by my friend Helene... "Todos me dicen el negro, Llorona, el negro, pero, carinoso."  Why did this song resonate?  It was a song birthed by a people, and Helene was, for the moment, the vessel through whom it was coming into being.

There is a pendulum that began swinging eons ago, which in recent history has swung from the Dark Ages to the Modern Ages.  It is a pendulum which swings between community and individualism.  In the Dark Ages, it swung too far towards the community, so much so that the importance of the individual was squashed.  Institutions crushed members, governments crushed people, religions crushed faith.  When it could go no further, the Enlightenment, Martin Luther, and the French Revolution ushered in the idea of individualism, and in doing so brought about the change in direction of the pendulum.  Several hundred years later, the pendulum has swung too far again, this time in the opposite direction.  This swing has brought the pendulum too far towards individualism, creating a focus on the self that is more of a cancer than a virtue.  And so, citizens matter more than the government, spouses matter more than the marriage, and artists think that they matter more than the people.

I think of all of the paintings that people have bought from me, and are now hanging in homes from New York City to Mount Sinai.  I think of the paintings hanging in the home of my mother and father in law, and how each purchase encouraged Margaret and me.  I think of all of the enthusiasm I've received in shows, galleries, in booths outdoors in the rain.  Thoughtful books sent to me in the mail, emails from readers, newspaper articles, knocks on my studio door...  All of this support enables me to say something about the world we live in.  And suddenly I realize that this birth, this art, actually has nothing to do with me- it is a people coming to appreciate themselves.  My favorite artists all seem aware of this sense of participating in a culture- Pablo Neruda belonged to the Chileans, and was birthed by the city of Valparaiso.  He wrote such tender poems about the old women, with their little birdlike legs, going down to the sea to wash their clothes in the cold waters of the Pacific.  When I visited Neruda's home in Valparaiso, I understood his affection in his poems for the city of Valparaiso, and I understood the Chileans affection for this poet.

lived art

Several years ago, the front door of my house was falling off of its hinges.  The door was sagging, rotting, peeling- returning to dust.  One day, when the door looked like it was drawing its last breath, I let out a sigh as I entered the house and decided to look into buying a new one.  Half moon doors, however, are typically custom doors.  They cost ten times as much as you might imagine.  After extensive searching on the internet, I let out another sigh.

And then I thought about all of the doors that caught my eye throughout my life.  As a young boy, when I lived in Ireland, I remember that the doors in Dublin had such character, and would often say something about the people that lived behind them.  I remembered Florence, and how I rambled through the alleyways taking photos not of the cathedrals, but the doors of people's homes.  I remembered Rome, the classical grandeur of its doors having a wonderful dialogue with the wasting efforts of time. Thessaloniki, Greece... Tallinn, Estonia. But most of all, I remembered Valparaiso- the city with the most beautiful doors in the world.

In one of our east end excursions on Long Island, Margaret and I came across a man who tears down barns and then sells the wood.  Margaret said "Don't you dare start another project.  Don't you dare."  This fellow in Baiting Hollow had thirty or so salvaged timbers from a 150 year old barn from upstate New York.  I bought seven planks for 100 dollars, and threw them in the back of my truck.  Problem was, I soon found that the doors had 150 years of lead paint on them.  I had to remove all of the lead with a chemical peel system- excruciatingly tedious work.  That alone was spread out over the course of six months...

Once the planks were ready, my father in law, Dever, and I set to work.  Over the course of months, we sawed, chiseled, drilled, (cursed), hammered, and varnished.  The looking glass in the door is actually the bottom of a wine bottle, cut off.  The gnarled door knocker is from an antique hawker outside of the Boboli Gardens in Florence.  Dever and I spent so much time, I can't remember how many days it took- I couldn't have done it without him.  When it was done, we both stepped back in amazement- it was beautiful.  It was art.

One of the most moving artistic experiences I've ever had was my visit to Sorolla's house in Madrid, this past spring.  He built sunken pools, fountains, tiled benches, columns covered in wisteria, carved dining room tables, murals... his home was art.  And then I noticed that many of his painting were actually done in his home, his daughter is seated in front of the tiles found on the walls of his home.  His lived in art became his painted art.  He lived art.  As I stood in Madrid, I became eager to return to Islip, to my home.

Here is a cropped image of a painting that I began in the summer, but wasn't able to get far into.  It is a scene that takes place every day in our house.  Margaret plays the piano with the front door open, and light streams through the doorway into the room.  No matter what I am doing, this scene always manages to stop me and glue me to the floor.  I might consider the world of music to be able to transport the human spirit in ways that the visual arts never can, though I'm not entirely certain of this.  Anyway, it's become obvious to me that I am trying to paint music.

I have to wait for the warm weather to come around again, before I resume this painting- I have to continue this painting in warm, spring and summer light.  Margaret hasn't even been put into the painting, so I've cropped the image, and left out the raw canvas, to give you an idea of where the painting is headed.

I once heard an interview with James Taylor in which he said "I was enjoying playing the music so much, it's a nice coincidence that other people like it too."  I couldn't agree more.

Chopin's Nocturne in E Flat, 45" x 45", oil on linen

liam asleep

Liam Asleep, pencil in notebook, 4" x 6"

This is a drawing that I did of Liam, as he fell asleep in his carseat.  Margaret had to go and grab something, so I was left with Liam in the truck.  I did this drawing for about fifteen minutes, before he woke up.  I really like this drawing, as simple as it is, because it has some energy in it, something tender that paintings don't always have.  There is so little that is necessary for a compelling work of art...

I've posted two blogs today.  I've done this as a sort of thank you to those out there who are reading this- I have been stunned to see that there are seventy something people on any random day, reading my ramblings.  This short post is out of consideration for my readers who don't have too much time on their hands, and still enjoy the window into my world.

The next post is sort of a history, a tiresome tome, recounting the training I received as an artist.  It's longwinded, but I needed to write it.

Thanks so much for all of your interest, it is so encouraging.