dad's gremlins

My father yelled up the stairs, and Sean and I raced out from our rooms.  In the driveway, there slumbered a decommissioned telephone company truck, its metal walls a chalky flat white, the wheel wells accented tastefully with a touch of red rust.  My dad would throw the handle of the sliding door on the side, and the door emitted a shriek as it begrudgingly grinded ajar.
In we would go, climbing over halogen lights, leaping dusty piles of drop cloths, tripping on sanding poles, hurdling shop vacuums, extricating our feet from misshapen plastic crates.  Eventually, I would pick this spackle bucket to sit on, and Sean would pick that one.  Then we looked about- I chose the metal grate, he chose the hole in the shelving.  We inserted our arms into these openings, much in the same fashion that a rock climber wedges his appendages into facets of sheer, rock wall cliff.  A turn of the key, and suddenly the van grumbled awake.  My dad looked through the wire mesh that separated the cab from the back of the van, and yelled "Are you guys holding on to something?"  "YEAH!" we screamed back, giddy with excitement.  The van took off, and as we rolled around the corner we yelled "WHEEEEE!".  And the debris in the truck slid from back to front, and now from left to right, and we happily held on to our grips as tightly as our little hands could muster.  I was ten, Sean was thirteen, and we were on our way to a spackle job with my dad.

At a red light, with the engine idling, we could shout loud enough for my father to hear.  "Dad, a spackle bucket fell over and opened!!  I got spackle all over my leg!!"  "Okay, okay, we'll clean it off when we get there."

Arriving at some enormous castle-like home on the east end of Long Island, my dad would throw the side door open.  Life could present no greater joy than a huge, empty construction site, deep in the woods, three quarters of the way through completion.  Reams of nail-gun nails, still in their wire binding, looked remarkably similar to machine gun bullets.  Two by four debris could be assembled into just about anything.  Spackle bucket lids made superb ninja star disc things.  But first, we had to help my dad bring some stuff into the house.

And so, the drama began.

"Uhhh, Kevin, where is my six inch spackle knife?"  "Sean, Sean, this halogen bulb is broken.  How did this break?  Did you break that?"  "Kevin, uh, where's my phone?"  "Uhhh, what is this extension cord caught on?"  "Uhhh, what is the hose for the vacuum caught under?"  "Where is the hand held heater?"  "What happened to the screen on my cell phone?  Who cracked it?"  "I only have one sheet of 200 grit sandpaper- where on earth did the packet of 200 grit go?  Where on earth?"  "It's like, come on, what happened to the drill?  Oh, there's the drill.  But, come on, what on earth, where on earth is the drill bit?  The battery pack?  Oh, it's in the cab.  But oh, agh, the cab is locked.  Where are my keys?  Who took my keys?  The, the... it's as if..."

And then he would say it.

"It's as if there are these gremlins, these little gremlins just running around, tying up my extension cords.  There are gremlins, crawling through my van, breaking my cell phone antennas, popping off the lids of my spackle buckets, gremlins spilling coffee all over my Hagstrom maps and making their pages stick together, making my halogen light bulbs break.  Agh."

What amazed me most was his amazement.  He managed to retain this sense of wonder- nay, awe- for the absence of reverse entropy in his spackle van.  I mean, the entire universe abides by one law of entropy- order always descends into chaos.  But, my father seemed indignant that his spackle van stubbornly refused to go from chaos to order.  A scapegoat was needed.  Hence the gremlins, his organizational frustration reified.  Gremlins notwithstanding, he managed to run one of the biggest spackle companies on Long Island, with the signature of his company being absolute perfection.  Try as those fangled gremlins may, my father left every homeowner satisfied with a perfect spackle job.

One December evening, at fifteen years old, I sat down at my kitchen table with pencil.  For hours and hours, I drew my father's gremlins.  The drawing spanned several days.  I framed the drawing, on the 22nd of Christmas or so, and had it ready by Christmas morning.  As he unwrapped his present, I clearly recall him laughing so hard, that he nearly had tears rolling down his cheeks.  What a wonderful thing that, sixteen years later, my father still brings this framed drawing down from his bedroom.  Tonight, he brought it down to show some guests, while Margaret and I visited.  And as I looked at my drawing, I laughed too.  I apologize for the poor quality photos I've taken, I hope to get the drawing scanned soon.  Hope you enjoy this drawing, as much as my father still does.








liam's violin, dad's violin



So, Liam busied himself with crayons and paper at the kitchen table, then approached me. "I paint violins too, da da." Then he pointed at my nearly finished painting, hanging on the wall. And, life is good.


A while ago, I received an email from a fellow in St. Louis, Missouri.  He really liked my paintings, and asked me if one of the violin pieces on my website were available.  All of my violin paintings are sold, but I told him that I could do another, in the same vein, were he interested.  He was interested, and so our dialogue began.  The exciting thing was, his commission featured the very things that I most enjoy painting.  And so, he would be getting my very best work.

Some weeks later, and here is the painting that he commissioned.  I've been unable to feature it on this blog, as of yet, because the painting was actually a surprise Christmas gift, given by the man commissioning, to his friend.  A bit confusing, but suffice to say, I am able to feature the painting now.  It's not entirely finished, as I have a bunch of finishing touches, and modifications here and there.  All told, I am very, very pleased with this piece, it was just such a joy to paint- and I think that is evident in the actual paint application, itself.


Before the strings went in, I painted in the rosin dust, which comes from the bow being drawn across the string.  A proper violinist never lets rosin dust accumulate, as it damages the varnish on the surface of the wood.  A fiddler lets rosin dust accumulate, to show that he is not a proper violinist.

strings in, scroll in, b

I've been incredibly busy, painting away these past few weeks.  I have five commissions underway, most of which are surprises, so I am unable to feature them on this blog.  But, what I can say is that it is wonderful to be painting so much, for about nine or ten hours a day.

The following commission is of that same boat cabin, featured a few blogs back.  The boat has real significance, to the fellow receiving the painting.  He went through a really difficult time, and his response was to move down south to the Carolinas, buy this boat, and fix it up in a harbor.  He spent weeks, months, restoring every inch of this vessel.  And as the boat came together, so did he.  So this is not really a painting of a boat interior, but it symbolizes much more, which I tried to convey in light.  I love a painting that has an irony, in that the subject is simple, but the meaning is much more.


A short while ago, I set out to the south shore docks with my easel, palette, and brushes in hand.  I stretched over a wide gap between dock and boat.  It was about seven in the morning, and as my foot made contact with the surface of the boat, I realized there was trouble- the whole boat was covered in frost.  My foot slipped, my brushes flew in the air, and as I spun about in the air, I managed to throw everything on board the boat.  Just as I was about to fall into the water, I caught the edge of the boat- and was saved from a dip in the icy, oily dock waters.  It was twenty something degrees- ah, the perils and travails of the painter's path, you never know where this action packed career will take you next.


Seven years ago, I stared at the portrait model, and wondered where to go with the painting. Though I was pleased with the rendering of the face, the empty area of the canvas was so big, making the face seem dwarfed. The model wore regular jeans, and a light colored top, but the composition was lifeless. I had to adjust the painting composition, it just needed some movement. So, I sat and stared. While Beverly and I discussed various things about life in Florence, we both stared at the painting. She said it was a good likeness of herself, but there was something missing.

Eventually, our conversation turned to other things. Beverly began to talk about her years spent as a ballet dancer, in a prestigious ballet company in London. I could see that she was quite ambivalent about her past. Was the discipline of ballet enabling, or crippling? It surely demanded everything. But to give everything to a passion, what in life could be more fulfilling? We continued in this dialogue for a while, and then I realized- I would like to paint Beverly in her ballet shoes. It could be a terrible idea, but it could be a wonderful idea. No matter. Just paint it.

She brought in her ballet shoes, and we adjusted the pose. As she looked out, I could see that she herself was curious. Would it ruin the painting, to have her feet curled underneath, or would it make the painting? I never know the answer to such questions. The only way in which I can find my answer is to paint it- if it is good, it stays. If it is bad, it goes. That simple. So I began to paint in her shoes. They were a soft pink, with white straps. I worked quickly, slashing paint down on the canvas. Twenty minutes passed, and there they were- pink ballet shoes. And I paused to consider the change. And I considered the change to be terrible, and very, very unsuitable to the painting. There is nothing wrong with painting a ballet dancer in ballet shoes, but this looked like I forced it on the painting. I grabbed some turpentine and a few paper towels, ready to wipe off the shoes.

Just then, the door of the studio burst open. It was Charles Cecil, and he was there to give his usual critiques of the work. Normally, I had to wait my turn for his review, but he looked across the room at my easel, and his eyes widened. "My God, what have you done? It's hideous. I mean, come on, it's horrendous. Garish, tacky, trite, sweet, saccharine... pink. Good heavens, my dear boy, what were you thinking? I mean, Kevin, I'm terribly disappointed." I tried to speak, but he was on a roll. "This is, this is just inconceivable. I mean, pink shoes, pink ballet slippers- what possessed your mind? I was considering that you might have a future, but now... craft can be learned, but taste... you are either born with it, or not." The other students in the room held their breath. I responded in saying that that this was the way that I painted. If I had a thought, it went down. If the thought was good, it remained. If the thought was bad, it was wiped out. I thought about the shoes, and so I painted them. I did not like the shoes, and so I would now wipe them out. And that is the difference between a work of art, and an observed documentary. Works of art evolve, they are meanderings of the mind, sometimes purposeless wandering. I just had to wander, and sometimes that involved retracing my steps. After all, wasn't that the virtue of oil painting, over frescoe? Oil paintings are not set in stone, they are evolutionary, in the same way that writing or music or poetry or even math. Isn't that why there are so many changes that become visible, when you x-ray the paintings of Velazquez, Rembrandt, Titian?

Charles paused, winced with his eyes, and said "Fair enough. But I'm still going to call you twinkletoes." Everyone in the studio laughed, it was funny.

And every so often, Twinkletoes would be called out across the room, and I made sure to not turn my head.

Seven years later, I am working in my studio in New York. If I have an idea, I put it down, no matter how absurd. This idea may be an entire painting, or it may be a small change in composition in a small part of the painting. As I painted with the model, I saw her clasp her hands a certain way, and it was very elegant. And so, I put the two hands down. Forty five minutes later, after having painted furiously, I took one long, hard look. The two hands was not a nice addition to the composition, as it was really clumsy, and took all the attention to the wrong place. And so, I pulled out some paper towels, and began wiping. Having regained the canvas surface, I then resumed painting, this time placing one hand. It worked wonderfully.

I'd rather be twinkletoes than be timid.

imageTwo hands

imageTwo hands, closeup

imageTwo hands, wiped out

imageOne hand
imageOne hand, and the composition works, the path of light is recovered


And I like this bit of painting

great day of painting




So, today was a wonderful day, spent painting. It's nice to spend about seven hours, working alongside a fellow artist, with models. I wake up some mornings, and I just can't believe that I am able to paint for a living. It's just wonderful, I'm so grateful.



Seven years ago, Margaret and I bought a plane ticket to Florence, Italy. In my studies at the Charles Cecil Studios, it became immediately apparent that I was painting with a poor set of brushes, and that I would needed an entirely new set. We went to Zecchi, one of the finest art stores in the entire world, located beside the Duomo in Florence. We selected dozens of their very best bristle brushes, their very best Martora Kolinsky sable brushes, and we went to the counter. And, when the sum was tallied, we placed our money on the counter, giddy with anticipation.

Seven years later, I phoned Zecchi and made another large order. When the sum was tallied, and after administering smelling salts, I gave them my debit information. Conveniently, a fellow painter who studies at my studio, Saul, was in Florence, and he was able to pick up my order from Zecchi. And today, Saul brought my order back to New York. Watching him enter my studio with Zecchi shopping bags, I was excited.

The past few weeks I've spent a great deal of time in New York City, at events revolving around Converge, the show in which I recently exhibited. I was honored to meet many of the top artists in the world. They were from this gallery, from that gallery, from this coast, from that coast. They studied in Norway, they painted in Paris, they exhibited in San Francisco, they plein air painted in Burma, they summered in Maine, they argued aesthetics at the National Arts Club. Attending the event was the president of this and that art club, the arts writer from the New York Times, director emeritus of this and that arts association, this and that magazine, this and that gallery, this and that. Wonderful, thrilling, delirious excitement, and yet so intimidating. So many thoughts. So many new faces. So many new considerations, so many voices, so many lofty compliments, so many harsh criticisms, so much to digest. How incredible to have the audience of the art world, and yet taxi drivers, lawyers, street vendors race by, never slowing. What of it, is art a vital organ, or is it a pastime? I lay in bed at night, feeling like a newspaper tossed about in a whirlwind, amidst silent skyscrapers.

As Saul dropped the Zecchi bags to the floor, I reached in and pulled out my new brushes. Italian brushes are singular, in that every part displays proud craftsmanship. From the glowing wood handles, to the dense packing of the hair, to the particular snap of the ferrules' response- I was pleased. And then, I noticed something. I walked across the room, held up my old brush, and stared in disbelief. Seven years of painting, and look. Scores and scores of canvases, hundreds upon hundreds of days, thousands of hours in the studio, standing at my canvas, my arm in motion, my hands flying, my eyes searching... and this material brush, succumbing to my vision, like rock before water.

And in that moment, all of the voices, all of the magazines and newspapers, all of the arts clubs and all of the homeless sleeping outside all of the big galleries of all the big cities of all the big countries, they all suddenly fade away. And as you stand alone with your brushes, you are Jane Austen, sitting beside your window, in your chair, with your ink well, in your world.

i come to the harbor alone





Steve's Boat, 18" x 30", oil on linen, about half way through this painting

Every now and then, a very fun commission comes along.  Somebody asks for a painting that is so out of the ordinary, and I usually tell them "Okay, I've never done this before, but if you're paying for it, I'll do it."  And so it was that this fellow came to commission a painting of the inside of a boat cabin.

And there I was, at dawn, painting away, my easel rocking slightly on a boat tucked away in Bayshore.  And as I painted, I realized that I needed to rewrite a certain hymn, as it is lacking somewhat in modern application.  I saw Maurice Sklar in person, years ago, and he performed this very song on the violin, while I stood just feet away- and I've been in love with the violin ever since.  To fully appreciate this hymn, please right click the following link and open it in a new tab, and read the lyrics aloud as Maurice Sklar plays the violin.  (see for more information on this musician.)

03 In The Garden

"I Come to The Harbor Alone"

I come to the harbor alone,

While the dew is still on the main stays,

And the voice I hear falling on my ear

The Son of God to me conveys


And He walks with me and he talks with me

And He tells me that I am his own,

And the joy that we share, as I'm painting there,

None other has ever known


He speaks, and the sound of His voice,

Is so sweet, the outboards cease grumbling

And the melody that he gave to me

Within my heart is rumbling


And He walks with me and he talks with me

And He tells me that I am his own,

And the joy that we share, as I'm painting there,

None other has ever known


I'd stay in the harbor with Him,

Though the light around me is fading

But a cell phone call, says my infant small

His diaper's full, he aint waiting


And He walks with me, and he talks with me

And He tells me though I'm in the zone,

It is only fair,  I've painted my share,

I'd better high-tail it home

opening night at converge

The opening night at Converge went very well.  The show was packed with hundreds of people, and the energy was so great, it really is one of the most exciting shows that I've ever witnessed.  My painting was received very well, and I had a lot of interest, with many people wanting to talk about the piece. It was wonderful, people came from all over- many collectors, patrons, friends, some driving over a hundred miles to get there.  One of the best things about the night was getting to meet the other artists.  There were artists who I had wanted to meet, all of my life, and now I had the chance to exhibit alongside of them- what a great evening!

The Salmagundi Club, the art venue on Fifth Avenue, wrote a blog on the show, featuring me!  I am including the link here, as I think it will do a good job of covering the evening.  Click on the following link, and enjoy!



Those of you who know my wife, personally, are well aware of the grace and serenity of her carriage.  She speaks softly, her mellifluous voice borne upon the winds of this world in airy dalliance, her strain a constant diapason of glee.   And so it was with this winsome elegance that she entered my studio today, whilst I painted merrily, and she wistfully parted her ruby lips and spoke "What the heck, I read your blog today, and it's been terrible.  I mean, wow, when was the last time that you had a decent entry.  You gotta write some more, come on- jeez."

Sheesh, I'm sorry.

Truth be told, I'm painting more than I can ever remember.  I've had several commissions going at once, I've painted a great deal with models, I've set up easels on boats at six in the morning on the South Bay.  But, my hour of blogging has been redesignated, or rather, repurposed- instead of sitting down at ten in the evening with my laptop and a cup of decaf coffee, I strap on something called "Baby Bjorn."  It is a front ended baby carrier which is delightfully similar to the gun holster of an undercover cop- every time I snap the baby carrier on, a saxophone lets out a long, smooth Chicago jazz note, a nearby streetlight slinks into my dark office through the crooked venetian blinds, and I become police detective McEvoy, ready for a night of cigarettes, hard liquor, and fearless crime fighting.  But then, I realize that Quinn is screaming crying, and I grab some baby wipes and my sweet little three month infant, and I snap him in.  We head out the front door.  Quinn and I take long walks together every night, sometimes an hour and a half long.  In the cool night air, we amble along wooden docks, we saunter along quiet main streets, we cheerfully watch the neighbor's homes flicker with the warm, romantic light of flat screen televisions.  And by the end of the walk, thank goodness, Quinn is asleep.

And the past few weeks, I have been immersed in the upcoming show in New York City, "Converge."  I am thrilled to say that I will be featuring my huge painting, "Inmates", at gallery 25CPW, located at sixty second street and Central Park West.  I am so excited, as I will be showing with some of my favorite artists, both from home and abroad.  I would be very pleased to have all of you come out to the reception, this Thursday, November 15th, from 6 til 9 p.m.  The show runs until the 27th of November.  Visit the website of the exhibition for more details,  This is my biggest exhibition venue, yet, and so I am going to make a special offer- buy one painting for the price of two, and get the second one for free!  Hope to see you there.