Showing posts from June, 2018

Rembrandt Self Portrait

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is perhaps best known for its great Rembrandt paintings. The Night Watch and The Jewish Bride are there, and as a bonus the museum has The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis on loan from Sweden, while the National Museum in Stockholm is being renovated. I will show drawings from these in future posts.

My familiarity with the large scale of these later Rembrandt paintings made his earlier work surprisingly small. The Self Portrait from 1628-1629, sketch shown above, is about 9 by 7 inches. To paint the hair, Rembrandt scratched though upper layers of paint, as well as applying finely drawn shapes with a small brush.,_by_Rembrandt.jpg

Like the sketch that I presented from Copenhagen in my first blog post, this drawing reflects how I felt at the time, mixed in with the forms of the painting I was looking at. This mixture of content I find rich and interesting. As an artist one of my favorite things…


Amsterdam was the third place that I visited on my trip to Europe in 2016, after Madrid and Paris. I arrived late at my Airbnb, due to weather-related flight delays flying from Paris. There was stormy weather over Europe at around that time. While I was in Amsterdam a storm hit Paris and the Seine flooded. They had to remove artwork from the basement of the Louvre. I saw a photo of a walkway along the Seine, where I had just been a week ago, underwater.
Keeping my Airbnb host in Amsterdam waiting was not something that I wanted to do. Research that I had done before my trip indicated that Dutch culture values punctuality, so I was sorry to be late. I wanted to participate in life there, as it is lived there, as much as I could manage. My decision not to have cell phone service when I was in Europe, since I use the phone so little, was not helpful at that point. My sporadic communication about when I would arrive, when I had a chance to send an email, would have been quicker and bette…

Morning Light, Old Campus

When I got back to Bloomington, after my trip to Canada last summer, I wanted to keep up the practice of landscape sketching that I had started in Toronto, so I would walk or bike over to the Indiana University campus and draw. After a few days of sketching I found a particular bench that had views that I liked, by a path in the old campus area, and would go there. Most of the time I would go either at sunset, or at the beginning of the day. This sketch shows the morning light that day, coming up on the edge of Dunn's Woods on old campus. It was a challenge to make that quickly changing light arrange into coherent patterns in the drawing.

Queen's Park, and Other Public Spaces

Yesterday’s drawing, from Queen’s Park in Toronto, included people sitting on benches, at a central area in the park with seating around a statue. Most of my other landscape sketches, from Toronto, like the one above, and here in Bloomington, have not included people. It can be a good exercise, sketching from people going about their everyday life. Since people move a lot, and quickly, the artist has to fix a position in mind, and stick to it, put it down on paper before it’s gone. Perhaps I should do more of it.
On the other hand, I do not like to intrude into people’s lives in an unwelcome way. I am often, I might say usually, in a state of mind of wanting to sort things out, and wary of conversation. Perhaps that person across the way is working out a difficult problem, and doesn’t want to be stared at just now. I do want to respect that.
If you don’t want to talk with people, why come to a public park? Why join the paseo at sunset in Madrid?
Some European cities are known for th…


Last May and June I visited Canada, spending two weeks in Montreal, then a week each in Ottawa and Toronto. I spent a lot of time drawing in museums, but in Toronto I discovered that the Art Gallery of Ontario, which was a short walk from Elise and Ian's wonderful airbnb where I was staying, did not allow sketching in pen. Disappointed, I decided to go elsewhere, for the moment.

On a previous trip to Galway, Ireland, I had liked walking around the campus of the university there, so I headed over to the University of Toronto. Across the street from the campus is Queen's Park, which looked inviting. I ended up returning there several times to draw.

To make the images easier to see, and to edit the thoughts that I share, I have digitally removed text from the above image, and other sketchbook drawings. Along with drawing I wrote notes to myself, about what I was thinking and feeling. The combination of visual and verbal notes, recording outer- and inner-directed exploration, mak…

Life Studies

Here is a page of life studies, of Will, from a figure drawing session at Indiana University. This is from 2017.

Velazquez and Rembrandt

This is a scan of a sketch that I did last month, from reproductions of self-portraits by two of my favorite artists, Velazquez and Rembrandt.

Philadelphia Landscapes

Here are a couple of installation photos from a show I had in Philadelphia at Smile Gallery, back in 2007. The show had a mix of portrait, figure, and landscape paintings. Many of the landscapes shown here were painted over the course of a few weeks in the spring of 2003.

One of the landscapes in the Smile show was Early Spring, Haverford College. It is one of several that I painted on the college campus, which was about a 20 minute walk from the house I grew up in in Ardmore, a suburb of Philadelphia. The scene in front of me actually looked very little like this painting, there was a dense clutter of trees and shrubs and I saw much less of the building. I liked to edit freely, and adjust the remaining elements of the design carefully until I felt that they were in the right place.

Rainy Season was one of the paintings in the show that I had painted from the front porch of the house in Ardmore. It rained a lot that spring, which kept me from going out to Haverford College.

Studio View

Here are a couple of photos from June 27, 2014. The photo on top is just the left side of the composite photo below. These are views of one of my previous studio spaces, which was in a large apartment, with a large living room. I moved there after finishing graduate school in 2010, and enjoyed the fact that the living room had the same working area, 14 by 20 feet, as I had in my graduate school studio in Morgan Hall. I put down a canvas tarp over the carpeting, stapling it into the baseboards at the sides of the room, and attached pieces of canvas, with clear plastic sheets on top of them, to two of the walls, to protect them from paint.

For lighting, I got cheap floor lamps from Target, and put daylight fluorescent bulbs in them. That system worked well for me, and I continue to light my studio that way.
Now I work in a smaller space, and have my paintings in storage.
When I first moved in to that studio I was working on large paintings, with groups of life size figures in landscape…


This is a sketch of a self portrait by Goya that I did in the Prado Museum in Madrid.
Velazquez and Goya are two great artists closely associated with the Prado, and with Spain. I have been interested in the work of Velazquez since high school, when I first got involved in art. But my appreciation, and understanding, of Goya, has developed more recently.
The Prado has Goya’s collection of ‘Black Paintings’, work from late in the artist’s life that show his despair for humanity. You can see more here: They are in a room on the lower level that was usually crowded, but I managed to spend some time there.
In that room were two more paintings by Goya, The Second of May and The Third of May. They depict public revolt against French occupation of Spain in 1808. Napoleon had seized power by sending in troops, stating deceptively that they were there to support the Spanish army. The French therefore entered with minimal resistance, and Napoleon in…

The Forge of Vulcan

Today I thought I would post some more sketches that I did in Madrid, at the Prado. They are from The Forge of Vulcan by Jacopo Bassano, the painting that I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post. It was the first painting from which I started drawing on my 2016 trip to Europe.
Here is a link to a reproduction of the original painting:
Yesterday when I was looking for that link I came across a different one for The Forge of Vulcan by Bassano. But this painting was not at the Prado, it was at the Louvre. It had all the figures I remembered, faithfully enacting their usual roles in their usual places. But it seemed a bit different. Perhaps it was in a slightly lighter value range. And it felt more gestural, less meditative, than I had remembered. Here is this other link:…

Hot Like Madrid in the Summer

It’s hot, here in Bloomington. For the past few days I have been contending with the heat by staying in the studio all day, working on the computer and on the paintings. When it finally cools off a bit, at around 8:00, I have headed out for a nice bicycle ride on the trail. Catching the last rays of sunlight on the Clear Creek Trail, while getting some exercise, is a very nice thing about being in Bloomington.
In his travel guides Rick Steves talks about the paseo, the traditional evening stroll in warmer countries in Europe. If it is hot all day, it makes sense to stay in and try to keep cool, then come out when it is less hot and try to feel like you are in touch with the rest of the world. It was a part of being in Madrid that I loved.
People just walk around the wonderful city, through the old streets and neighborhoods, though Madrid is relatively young for a European city. Some stop at bars and restaurants and celebrate with friends, but some just enjoy the leisurely stroll. I …


Today’s image is a detail of a commissioned portrait that I did in 2009. I had almost forgotten about the painting, until I discovered this photo on my external hard drive. The portrait was painted in acrylic, which interests me since I am now working on some paintings in acrylic, my first time returning to the medium in a few years.
Acrylic is a challenging medium, if you are used to working in oil. It dries quickly, and is less highly pigmented than oil, so the colors are comparatively muted. I worked almost exclusively in acrylic for a few years, from about 2005 to 2009, after I discovered that I was allergic to the alkyd medium that I was using to make my oil paint dry faster. My palette tended toward muted colors, even after I returned to oil painting (using non-toxic linseed oil as a medium), and I am now thinking, for the first time, I think, that it could have been the acrylic paint itself that lead me, at least in part, toward the limited value and color range in which I wor…

Life Studies

I thought I would post a new drawing today. This is a sketchbook page, from around October 2016, with two studies from a life drawing session at Indiana University here in Bloomington. Like the sketch from yesterday, it is drawn in pen. This drawing has clearer form description, and closer resemblance to the model, than the sketch from Copenhagen that I posted yesterday.
Some viewers may find it a better drawing, and others may not. And some may not care to assign this kind of relative worth. But if you do want to think about which you think is better, I think it depends on whether you prefer to see free expression of an artist’s feelings, or a more nuanced presentation of external factors. My usual approach when I am working is to push from the former to the latter. I start with how I am feeling at the time, all the time, to some extent. Then I keep working to include more and more of the external information that I see. Or external information that I imagine, based on memories of …

Why Am I Doing This?

Why Am I Doing This?
I have decided to write a blog about art and travel. Things that I like to think about, and talk about, tend to fall under these categories, so it seems to make sense.
Why am I doing this? One reason has to do with something that contemporary artist Vincent Desiderio has said about art making in general, that it is a process of self-enlightenment for the artist. Bo Bartlett, another major contemporary artist, with whom I had the good fortune to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, spoke of an idea that I think is similar: making art is a way to wake up.
But art serves the viewer, as well as the artist. I hope that this blog, like my artwork, may be interesting and useful to other people.
I am working to link this to my Facebook account, which will, I hope, help more people see it. This calm little interface on Blogger that I am now using is more to my taste than is the dense web of information that a Facebook page has to offer. So if I can start my co…