I'm sitting at the terminal gate in the early morning, overlooking the runway at the JFK airport. I rolled up a painting on a cardboard tube from Home Depot, slipped that tube inside another cardboard tube, and checked the whole tube into baggage as my luggage. I'm heading to London. Though my announcement is sudden, the trip's been a while coming. I've been very eager to enter the most prestigious portrait competition in the world, the BP Portrait Competition, of the National Gallery in London. Shipping the painting was more expensive than bringing the painting in person, and so, here I yam.

But there's more to my trip. There's a certain disillusionment with the gallery scene in New York City. The New York art market, by and large, has an indefatigable appetite for a four level cake. First, sultry images of languid Delilahs reclining nude on suggestive white bed sheets. Second is the edgy, the shocking, the ironic, brazen faced jolt, created by people who define themselves by what they are not, rather than by what they are. Third is the ironic. Michael Gormley said to me "Irony is safe- if I'm joking, and you're sophisticated enough to laugh at my joke, and if art is a joke, in fact if life is a joke, then we are all safe- we've eliminated the risk of sincerity, of commitment." And lastly, fourth, the plein airlandscape.

By no means do I mean to say that my criticisms are altogether representative of the New York scene. The most beautiful, sincere painting I've seen in the past year was at the Century Club, by the artist Daniel Bennet Schwartz. I became a painter in order to speak about life. The full spectrum of life, from the beautiful trust in the eyes of my infant son, to the leather hands of the illegal immigrant. Studying with Charles Cecil, I was constantly reminded of the human spirit in painting. In painting, in sculpture, I came to see the human spirit, made in the image of God.

After Charles Cecil Studios, most of my artist friends returned to London. Among this group are some of my favorite painters working today. A number of them have done incredibly well for themselves- some joined galleries, some opened painting schools, some opened painting studios, some painting portrait commissions, some sculpting vast marble reliefs for cathedrals, some have painted the Queen of England. My dialogue with these painters was so true, a dialogue I've really missed. And so, to London I go!





I was painting Margaret and Quinn, and I was focusing on the beautiful way that a mother kisses a child.  I don't mean to throw a dark note in here, but in my college psychology courses I recall reading about children who were deprived of touch, when very young.  The absence of physical contact creates a void in the emotional makeup of a person, and they actually found that touch was necessary for healthy emotional and mental development.  Somebody told me today that teachers are no longer allowed, or highly discouraged, from making any physical contact with a student, whatsoever.  As I worked away in class, one of my teachers at Smithtown Christian School used to gently touch the side of my teenage face with the back of her fingers.  It was so tender, so motherly.  I had terrible acne, and it moved me beyond words to have Goldie Sarcona, a sweet old Brooklyn Sicilian woman, let me know that I mattered.  Touch.

As I painted, Quinn grabbed Margaret's arm, so much so that his little fingers depressed the flesh of her shoulder.

Suddenly, in my mind I was ushered into the Villa Borghese, in Rome, where three and a half years ago I stood.  I was beneath the magnificent, majestic Bernini Statue, in which Proserpina is being whisked off by Pluto.  His hands sink into her flesh, leaving a depression that is so believable, so true, that you could almost believe the marble is warm to the touch.


I hastily sketched this moment in, and then, my little boy woke up.  I'll return to this area next time.  It's only shorthand painting, only briefing touching on the hand and the flesh- but oh, what a moment.  This is painting from life.





a tape measure

tape-measure-paintingThe Tape Measure, 8" x 10", oil on board

This is a painting of a tape measure.  Fifty years from now, dear reader, you will be approached an art historian who has seventeen degrees from Yale, Columbia, Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, Haverford, Oxenhaveastanfordacademicwaterboardford, and who is a graduate of Eaton.  You will be able to spot him instantly, by the fact that he is wearing a black turtleneck, and has connoi soars all over his mouth.  This art historian will turn to you, whilst you both ponder this enigmatic wonder of a small painting, and the art historian will quote something from Camus that is terribly dark and deep and existentialish and all like totally trans and dental.  You have my permission to then turn to the art historian, and say "No, it's just a tape measure.  It's like shiny and stuff.  I like it.  I probably like it for the same reason that magpies like shiny things.  It's just a tape measure, and, well, that is good enough."  Then walk up to him and tickle him mercilessly, until the security guards usher you out of the gallery.




I've been having so much fun this semester, teaching figure drawing and painting.  I've had Dan sitting, wearing all black, his two pronged goatee, and a psycho-heavy metal guitar.  So fun.

I've been painting so much lately.  And, I've also neglected to update this blog with all the painting that I've been doing.  Sometimes, I have so much momentum with painting that my gutters fill with leaves, my oil goes unchanged, and my beard goes unshaved.  But, I"m painting, and I'm excited to say that I'm producing things I've never done before.

This drawing is small and simple, but I think it has a nice way about it.  I've learned a bit about planes, about line, about softs and sharps... and while my hand does these things, my being is free to roam.  What I guess I am trying to say is this.  Craft is utterly important, so much so that I crossed oceans eight times, to learn.  I've chipped away at the craft of painting in art studios within decrepit houses on stilts, in the hills of Valparaiso, Chile.  I've squinted in an effort to understand the use of lead white in flesh tones, in a small art studio in a Presbyterian chapel, on Long Island.  I've  sketched on hillsides in Ireland, and discovered that a rub of my thumb could simulate fog, quite well.  I've discovered how to pair bare linen against thick impastoes, in alleyways in Italy.  All this time, chasing after craft, but to what purpose?  So that all of these advances my become so routine, as to become subconscious.  Lately, I've realized that my act of painting has acquired a fluid motion, which implies that the craft is not in my primary thoughts.  I'm doing things without thinking, the craft has gone subterranean.  I'm free to roam, uninhibited by technical thoughts which crippled me, just two years ago.  No, I don't mean to say that "I've arrived."  What I mean to say is that years of study and work are just the means to the end, that virtuosity is not the end pursuit, but is rather the vehicle by which we arrive at delighting.  How wonderful.


a spilled guinness

"I will astonish Paris with an apple."

- Cezanne

"Take your apples, Paris.  I will astonish Islip with a spilled Guinness."

- McEvoy

"Actually, I was bit hasty.  I have a musician friend named Helene who lives in Paris.  She will think this spilled Guinness is pretty good."




back in the studio







Like so many, my family has had a recent bout of the winter flu, and I've been quarantined at home for the last few days. Though I myself am healthy, my wife and son were pretty sick.

It's a funny thing- just a few days away from the studio, and there was such a slow in momentum. It took me a full two hours to get into the rhythm of painting. I began by painting the violin, heightening this, subduing that, placing the strings, globbing impasto on here and there. I'm pleased, I feel it is one of my best violin paintings.

Then, Tom came to pose. I only had an hour and a half, and so I painted rapidly. At the end of the session, in about three minutes, I hastily gestured the arms in. Here's the result. I'm not happy with the bit of work I did on the arms, it doesn't look right. Oh well, that's what I get for rushing, I'll have to wipe that off tomorrow.

commercial fishermen



For nearly a year now, I've been so eager to do some paintings down at Islip's commercial fishing docks. I love the proportions of the docks, it is one of the few places that you can feel dwarfed, in suburbia. I love walking beneath the tall masts, boat cargo cranes, huge, hulking, ocean going boats, bright green trawling nets on giant spools in the back. And here and there are the boat hands, the captains of the boat, wending their way in and out of the warehouse, talking as they go.

The painting that I did for Starbucks, a year ago now, placed me in the midst of all of this wonderful commotion. I got to know a few of the captains by name. They described the state of fishing, the way it used to be, how uncertain the future was. One day, the Kristina Marie came in. It was one of the midsized trawlers, and it came chugging slowly into the slip. The captain, Pete, was alone. Today he was upset.

"Unbelievable. Just unbelievable. You just can't trust anybody" he muttered, as he began throwing the fish into baskets. There were scores of beautiful fish, piled up on the floor of the deck. I was painting there on the docks, and I stayed quiet. Pete looked up, and asked how the painting was going. I told him it was going well, then I asked him how his catch had gone. "The catch was fine, as you can see. But as I just came into the canal, the guy radioed in. He told me he didn't need 'em afterall." He paused, looked down at the water. "Rules are, I have to count them all, then head back out to the ocean. Then, by law, I have to drop the dead fish into the water. All that, scores of fish, hundreds of dollars, now for nothing. Just because some bait shop owner doesn't care about fishermen." Coming to know a bit more of the fisherman's plight made me want to paint their world even more.

A year went by. My studio was opened, my baby was born, my school was started, my kitchen floor was replaced, life happened. Yesterday, I returned to the commercial docks, and asked Pete if I could paint his boat. Pete was there with his golden lab, doing this and that. I described how I had a model, an older man, and wanted to do a painting of a commercial boat captain, his hand on the wheel, returning from a day on the water. "Sure, Kev, you can have the keys to the cabin, whatever you need."

A friend of mine, Tom, agreed to come and pose for the painting. Today, we went down to where the Kristina Marie is docked, and I set up my easel on the boat. I placed my five foot wide canvas on the easel, I readied all of my paints, sketched things out, and he set up. But, the weather was brutally cold, below thirty degrees, the wind chill even lower, and I realized that I'd better do some preliminary sketching in the studio.

Tom and I returned to my studio, and I just simply began a painting sketch of his face, on a small canvas. This composition is not necessarily going to be that of the finished painting. I just wanted to do something, involving light hitting his face. As I moved paint, dragged bristle brushes, feathered sable brushes, I realized something. I've learned a new way of painting, lately. I've been painting so much, these past weeks, and I've suddenly stepped into a new way of loading paint onto the canvas. I discovered how to manipulate lead white paint by mixing it with marble dust, and trowel it on to get the effect of light that I've always been looking for. I saw Rembrandt do that in a painting at the Pitti Palace in Florence, only I never knew how he did it until today. I don't know if it is evident to the onlooker, but when I brought home this three hour sketch to Margaret, she was so astonished by the new way I learned to apply paint. She said it glowed.

So, it was a cold but wonderful day.

divine chiaroscuro


imageday three progress

Our little Quinn had a bit of a difficult time this past month. He had sinus congestion, which led to a cough, wheezing, and a double ear infection. Though he was never in serious trouble, Margaret and I are relieved that he's recovering, and has finished a round of antibiotics.

I lay on the couch, Quinn giggling and smiling at me. He slowly drifted asleep, his tiny frame on my chest, rising and falling in time with my own breathing. As I listened to him softly wheeze, I reflected on how raising children could be so wonderful and so difficult, at the same time. It's probably because life is so wonderful and so difficult, at the same time. But were it not for the small challenge that my little infant faced, I would not have known the tender, womb like embrace of a mother. If I did not know the tenderness of a mother's embrace, I would not have been able to produce this painting. And suddenly, from the commingling of wheezing and giggling, pain and joy, shadow and light, a divine chiaroscuro.