Last Days of Summer

Girl with Umbrella, Central Park, August

Girl with Umbrella, Central Park, August

Here we are in the last days of summer.  It was cooler, chilly even, and now hot again, so confusing.  Do the dogs shed their coats or grow them?  They look at me wondering since they think I have the answers. This weather must perplex many a mammal with fur.  The shot was taken in the 90s with a film camera I bought for $50 from a friend.  It’s a small Olympus that I still have.  Heavy by current standards, I carried it everywhere usually loaded with Kodacolor 200.


For many summers I took students out on the land in both Vermont and in New York, a few times in Venice.  It is the best kind of experience for learning to concentrate amidst all the distractions and difficulties of being unprotected while trying to paint.  Students hate the first week or two of it and then learn the routine of becoming part of the environment and the pleasure of what they witness.  They become sensitive to all these things they hadn’t noticed when they just walked through the land.  This is more so in the city.  This was taken just as the rains hit and paints and canvases had to be protected quickly.  One prepares for that and all was saved.


Things change but Central Park is still beautiful in the rain, in August, when the weather is odd and we find old photographs to remind us.

Thinking about Software

Interior for a Flash movie, drawn in Adobe Illustrator on a Wacom Tablet

Interior for a Flash movie, drawn in Adobe Illustrator on a Wacom Tablet 

My fun in learning Illustrator and Photoshop was about the way it extended consciousness.  I am not aware of any way that it altered or expanded my imagery or my narrative, but more that it opened possibilities as a new extension of my eyes and hands.  No matter what current theory proposes, Art is always an extension of the corporeal, specifically of touch.  This is especially true for the painter.


So what do these other interfaces do, in their abrupt reduction to the flat screen?  They trigger off ideas that may not have been released otherwise.  To draw on a tablet or with a mouse gives an Other kind of experience that is thrilling and re-equilibrating, not equivalent to a piece of charcoal in hand, a brush or a pencil as it caresses a page, not better, never more sensuous, but in a delicious thrill unique and its own.  No artist should deny himself that experience.


The two modes aren’t in competition.  They are just different.



I am much less interested in seeing the work that computer interface produces than I will be retrospectively in looking back at the way the consciousness of the artist will have changed.  If it does.


Remembering Watergate


Tonight CNN airs a special on Watergate and Nixon.  I follow these new views and additional documentation since it is a time that is inextricably tied in my mind to my studio.


It was a hot summer.  I was living on the Upper West Side with a studio that had taken over the bedroom.  The bed was pushed into the corner so my equipment would have enough room.  I had used the dining area of our kitchen prior.  The bedroom was spacious in comparison.  It was a west light, not great, but a double window.  I recall the largish (36″ x 40″? 40″ x 50″?) still life I worked on during those hearings.  It was a table setting with a yellow drape running across a white tablecloth and a plate, silverware and some playing cards.  I had a terrible time bringing light into it though it had titantic weight, every form heavy, even the cards.  I struggled with values and chroma, stroke by stroke as I listened to John Dean, John Erlichman and especially Alexander Butterfield testify.  I remember the moment that Sam Dash asked Butterfield about the taping system.  I put down the brush and turned to stare at the radio.


On the Upper West Side, some stores put televisions out on the street so people could clot around and watch the news.  Nixon went onto resign and 20 years later my painting, along with all my early work in storage, was lost when I couldn’t afford the fee.  Some of these survived and have wound up in collections.   If my still life is intact and looking at someone, I hope it still gives off the vibe I felt at that momentous time.