Monday, April 29, 2013

Dog Days


A propos of nothing at all, I send you some dog paintings that I have enjoyed.

It's worth noting that among the artists below are some with whom you wouldn't normally associate animal portraits. 

Think about enlisting a dog in your next painting. 

Sir Alfred Munnings (1878-1959) A Pit Bull named Weller

Francois Bard (1959- ) Paulette, 2007

George Stubbs ( 1724-1806 ), A Foxhound, 1792

Next is my late dog, named George Stubbs, R.A., but just Stubbs for short-----at 4 months.

Donald Jurney, George Stubbs, R.A., 1989

Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899) Brizo, a Shepherd's Dog

Sir William Nicholson, 1899
The Nicholson print, above, has been described as an animated tea cozy. I like the Scottie (and you know I like Nicholson).

Rosa Bonheur, Tayo, 1870

John Singer Sargent, Pointy

Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904), Etude de Chien de Terra-Nuova, 1852

Sir Henry Raeburn (1756-1823), A Dog

Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923), Portrait of a Jack Russell, 1909

Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), Dog from Ornans, 1856
And to close, a personal favorite by Gerard ter Borch:

Ter Borch (1617-1681) A Boy Ridding His Dog of Fleas, ca. 1655

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hard Work

This Weekend's Workshop

We had a great group of hard-working students for this weekend's workshop.

The first day we went to Battis Farm, situated in a lovely landscape, in Amesbury. Everyone did a grisaille, and made a drawing, complete with color notes. No one, to my knowledge, violated the no photographs rule. I even offered $10 to anyone who would turn in a fellow student. Seems that everyone either had learned that no one likes a tattle-tale, or no one broke the rule.

Today we painted out-of-doors, behind my studio building, working on yesterday's (dry) grisailles by adding color. A lot of very good work was accomplished in these two days. A number of the students are already enrolled for the May weekend (18-19). I believe we still have 4 places still open.

There will be a June weekend, 8 & 9, and a July one (20 & 21). Let me ( or Sarajean know if you'd like to join.

Here are some happy painters.


Friday, April 26, 2013


A Recipe for Disaster

Consider this recipe, from

Chicken Fricassée with Lemon Mustard Sauce

Gourmet | February 2004
Adapted from À la Pomponnette, Paris, France

yield: Makes 4 to 6 main-course servings

active time: 45 minutes
total time: 1/2 hours
There may be more sauce than you need to serve with the chicken. Use the leftovers on mashed potatoes or simply freeze for another time.


  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 (3 1/2- to 4-lb) free-range chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/4 cups dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 500°F.
Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. While oil is heating, sprinkle chicken with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, then dredge, 1 piece at a time, in 3/4 cup flour (total), knocking off excess. Brown in 4 batches, turning over occasionally, until golden, 5 to 6 minutes per batch. Transfer to a platter as browned.
Stir together carrots, onions, garlic, cream, wine, lemon juice, mustard, thyme, bay leaf, and remaining teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot, then bring to a gentle boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally. Add chicken (chicken will not be completely submerged) and partially cover pot, then braise in oven 25 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and braise 20 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a clean platter and keep warm, loosely covered with foil.
Pour cooking liquid through a sieve into a bowl, discarding solids, then stir in water. Melt butter in a 2 1/2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons flour and cook roux, whisking constantly, 3 minutes. Add cooking liquid in a fast stream, whisking vigorously, then cook at a bare simmer, whisking constantly, 5 minutes.
Serve chicken with sauce.

Recipes such as the one above are often reviewed by readers. One might find something like this:

J. N., Bakersfield, CA
I recently made this for a weeknight supper for my family. I didn't have a free-range chicken, so I substituted 1 1/2 lbs. of ground pork that I found in the freezer. We prefer salted butter, so I used that, and my husband doesn't like mustard so I used ketchup instead. It was too much of a fiddle to do all that chopping on a weeknight, so I substituted a package (10 oz.) of frozen, mixed vegetables. The kids don't do garlic, so I left that out. Instead of the wine, I chose half a carton of grapefruit juice that I'd wanted to use up. All in all, I found this too time-consuming. My family definitely didn't like this recipe. I won't make it again. 
I often get questions about substitutions...Galkyd, Gamsol, Turpenoid, this brand of colors instead of that, etc. 

The materials I list are ones that I've used over a long career. I find that their particular qualities are those that I want. This does not mean that you must use all, and everything, I list.

But remember, if the resultant painting isn't a hit, it may be because you substituted ketchup for transparent red oxide.

Just sayin'....

Some of you have been asking about what I was going to put beyond the hedges in the Vertical One. Here's a phone shot (lacking some crispness; also a lot of glare on the top and left side) of the current state of the center of the painting. But you'll get the idea. Much to be done. There will be a sapling on the left, with bits of spare foliage lit by the sun. What's there now is just some marks, rather like a post-it to remind me of what I want to do.

Tomorrow, with glorious weather forecast, will find us at the first of the two-day Spring plein air workshops. Perhaps I'll get some photos of the assembled throng, to share tomorrow night.

N.B. Please remember that registration for the French Workshop will be closing soon. So, if you've been putting it off, give in----and join us.  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Finding a Style

Looking for a Personal Style

There's much gnashing of teeth about the frustration experienced while artists are trying to find their own style. 

If it's any comfort, these eight small-ish paintings from 1986-1987 demonstrate that I had it no easier than you. Not only do these paintings have quite a range of landscape subject, but they are quite different from each other in technique as well.

It seems I had to try out lots of things before my particular persona started to emerge. Your way of looking at things, and painting them, may take a while to emerge. Don't despair. I got through it, and you will, too.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Summer's Colors

Greens Served Seven Ways

One must suppose that most landscape painters like the color green. Or at least they don't hate it.

Today I'm posting 'green' paintings, some by familiar names and some by people you've probably never encountered before. The purpose is two-fold. First, as always, to introduce you to painters whose work you may want to know. Secondly, I want you to get in the habit of looking in unexpected places for technical cues and color and compositional ideas. Often we find an artist who has failed to make history's cut, perhaps born at the wrong moment, who nonetheless has a lot to teach us.
And, of course, we never go amiss in consulting the titans.

The first one today, Walter Clark (1848-1917), is certainly not a household name.  I have some issues with this painting, but I so enjoy his choice of composition, an unexpected plunging into the landscape, that I'm happy to forgive him some minor faults.

9x12.25", Charleston Renaissance Gallery

Frank Bicknell (1866-1943) was a member of the Lyme art colony. He's not much of a household name either. I include him to show you how a painting can be both blue-green and yellow-green at the same time.

William Langson Lathrop (1859-1938) is a favorite artist of mine. He's a fellow who is now getting more recognition. This painting, not a typical Lathrop, was painted when he was thirty years-old. It's rather odd, but it has a lot to say about green.

Hawthorne Fine Art Gallery

One of George Inness's great paintings, Summer, Montclair, has recently been given by Frank and Katharine Martucci to the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown. And it's certainly green.

Below: Alfred Sisley (1839-1899), Avenue of Chestnut Trees near La-Celle-Saint-Cloud, 1867.

And here's Monet's The Bas-Breau Road, Fontainebleau.

And Fontainebleau, the Bas-Breau Road by Corot:

The green time will soon be upon us, here in New England. Already there's a haze of cinnabar green in the trees.  

So take a moment to think about the myriad greens at your disposal, remembering that the green of April is not the green of July.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Coupla Things, or Three

April 22nd Awards*, Details, and a Roadside Plant

My apologies to you for being so long absent. Events in and around Boston have kept me from my task.

I'm presenting two April 22nd Awards today. The first is to Julius Jacobus van de Sande Bakhuysen (Dutch, 1835-1925) for his painting Milking Time. He gets his award for his extraordinary control of a great number of closely hued and closely valued Greens.

The second April 22nd Award goes to John Arnesby Brown (English, 1866-1955). He gets his award for his masterful juxtapositioning of warm and cool colors. Brown is best known for his paintings of cattle against tumultuous skies. I came across this one at an exhibition entitled British Impressionism, at the Barbican Center, London about fifteen years ago. I really liked the painting, and it's stayed with me. 

The exhibition of which this was a part was soundly panned by several critics. They complained that it was watered down French impressionism, and had nothing much of merit to it. I, having viewed the show, wanted to throttle the reviewers. It was that I first met the Glasgow Boys and a number of other artists with whom I had been unfamiliar.

I suppose their point was that the paintings broke no new ground, as if the point of art should be, always and in all cases, on the cutting edge. So much for any resonance that Rembrandt's self-portraits may have for you. It's old news.

The reviewers' comments reminded me of a remark by Elisabeth Luytens (1906-1983), daughter of the famous architect Sir Edwin Luytens. Ms. Luytens became a well-known composer, working in a very modern idiom. She characterized the work of a number of other English composers, those working roughly at the same time as many of my favorite artists, and in a decidedly lyric-pastoral manner, as "the cow pat school." Ouch! 

Sadly, John Arnesby Brown was blind for the last thirteen years of his life. Remember that the next time you play hookey from the studio.

*The April 22nd Awards were just begun today, by the way. I might have named them for Richard Diebenkorn, a favorite artist of mine, whose birthday is today.

Thirty years ago, when I was very much still in thrall to the Hudson River School, a friend encountered me on the street in New York. I was carrying a book of Diebenkorn's work. He was aghast, deciding I'd finally gone crackers. In fact I believed then, as I believe now, that good painting is good painting.

Although it wasn't an intentional choice (I promise), you'll notice that there are some color harmonies in Diebenkorn that are echoed in Arnesby Brown's painting, above. 

Next up is a reminder that, even though it's merely Spring, it's already time to begin storing nuts for the winter. Here's a drawing I made, maybe thirty years ago, of a common mullein (verbascum thapsus). It's usually found growing in disturbed ground, in waste places. There are some verbascums suited to the garden, but not this one.

(Not sure what I spilled on this drawing, but it wasn't headed to the Albertina in Vienna, in any case)
I have included this plant in countless landscapes when I've needed a vertical weed to animate some area of a painting. Each time I do, I'm thankful that I took twenty-minutes, some day long ago, to draw it. 

Make yourselves a small group of drawings of common landscape elements. They will pay you back handsomely in the years to come.

Last, and probably least, are a few details for you from the Vertical One. As I explained to my wife, when she asked me how it was going, it's in the ugly phase. By this I mean that, though there's paint everywhere on the canvas, most of it is only holding the place for the final layer. For instance, here's the underpainting, if you will, for the tiled shed roof. 

Using this as a basis, I will actually paint the roof on top of these colored scribbles, though much of this layer will still show through. These tiled roofs appear, from a distance, to be of somewhat uniform color. But, as you get closer, they are made up of tiles with quite different hues. These can be the result of differences in the firing temperatures for example. Roofs of any great age have had many tiles replaced and the colors rarely match. Modern roof tiles tend to be quite uniform in color, and they often look, in the mass, very mechanical. They seem too even, too perfect, whereas old tiles feature all the charming distress of age. When I replaced the roof on Pont Chevalier (my first house in France), I had the roofers save as many of the undamaged old tiles as they could. They managed to save enough, from the two sides, to roof the public side with old tiles. 

Here's a portion of the tree mass, with the same sort of tentative under-painting. The matrix of leaves and branches is tremendously complex. When I paint over this section, in the final act, much of this will show through, adding a random complexity which makes for a more dynamic and exciting surface. This detail is about actual size.

As I said, it's now in the ugly phase, and it all looks like a dog's dinner. But one of the advantages of having some experience is knowing that this is only a phase. There's no need to despair. From these random marks, if I'm lucky, may come a surface of great beauty.

Here's hoping!


A French question for my Francophone readers (you could comment here, or might email me at
I'm painting what we would call a 'lane' in American English. It's a farm track, probably only used a few times a week by a farmer on his tractor.  It would be a trial to drive on it in a regular car, and there's a likelihood it wouldn't be possible.
Thus, if I wanted to call a painting "The Lane to Pont Chevalier",  but in French, would I use le chemin or la voie, or something else entirely? Thanks.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Vertical One, Part 4

Details---and Odds and Ends

Chris Quidley, from the Boston and Nantucket galleries, came by to pick up the cows, the hayloft, and the recovery room paintings today. It's time for them to go see if they have a public.

Thinking about Jezebel and Her Sister (the cows), I was reminded of the painting by Paulus Potter, a Dutch painter who died, aged 28, in 1654. Among the 100 or so paintings he painted is The Young Bull, dated 1647, when he was only twenty-one. It is in the collection of the Mauritshuis, in the Hague.

The painting is huge, (93 x 133", 236 x 339 cm), and an amazing accomplishment for an artist of any age, especially a 21 year-old.

Mark Tansey, an American artist who paints largely in grisaille, painted his painting, The Innocent Eye, with more than a nod to Potter. Tansey's painting is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It is also large, 78 x 120", 198 x 304 cm).

I'm glad my cow painting wasn't under such close scrutiny.

There are some of you who crave details of brushwork. If that's you, tonight's your night! Here are three details from the Vertical One. They are somewhat smaller than life-size, but they are more 'like' the painting than most of my photographs. Last night's large version was much too contrasty.

Of course these jottings are just the underpinnings for what will transpire on top. I'll try to remember which segments I've excerpted and produce some identical details as the painting moves along. 

Weekend Workshops

As you know, the April Weekend Workshop is filled. The May Weekend Workshop (May 18&19) is about two-thirds full at the moment. Because of this response, I'm willing to schedule a weekend workshop for June 8-9, and July 20-21. If you'd like to register for the May, June or July workshops, please contact Sarajean or me (

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Vertical One, Parts 2 & 3

What I've been doing Since Sunday's Post

I didn't post last night for obvious reasons. The tragedy in Boston (some 35 miles, 56km away) overshadows everything. But, in the spirit of "carrying on," here are some photos from yesterday and today.

On Sunday, I made the ballpoint pen drawing for the large vertical painting, and posted the photo of the drawing.

Yesterday, when I got to the studio, I drew in the basic composition on the 78" x 48" canvas, in charcoal. Apologies for this photo.

I then fixed the drawing, preparatory to making a grisaille. At the end of yesterday, it looked like this. I hadn't painted the top left corner.

This is painted with ultramarine and burnt umber. I'm not sure what will be beyond the trees. I'm also not sure what I'll do with the trees, generally. They have too even a bottom foliage edge. Plus, I haven't thought about what foliage belongs to which tree, or about sky holes. Not being sure what I want to do with the the possible edge of the trees-yet-to-come on the left side, I decided, for now, to paint them all the way out of the painting at the top. I can always design the mass later.

This is what it looked like, yesterday, on the easel----for scale (in black and white).

Today I worked on reinforcing the drawing. I added the trees at the upper left (for now), and added some transparent color all over the painting. I stress that it's all transparent color: burnt umber, ultramarine, permanent madder brown, Prussian green, sap green, transparent yellow oxide and ultramarine violet. You know me---no opaque color until you've made your decisions, and your drawing and values are correct.

You'll see, because I've only used transparent colors so far, that it has rather a watercolor feel. As I begin to use opaque paint, going forward, I'll try to keep as many transparent shadow passages as possible.

I need to think about sky holes, the general shapes of the bottom of the tree foliage, whether I'll keep the tree mass in the upper corner, and what I'll have in the distance, beyond the tree trunks.

One reason to fill the upper left with foliage is to confine the viewer to the road and the distance beyond the lane. If I allow sky, or some portion of distant landscape in that corner, it may draw too much attention, thus diluting the image.

Stay tuned!      

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Sketch for Ye Vertical One

Three Going Off to Market, One Staying Home

It appears, through no fault of mine, that three new paintings will be headed off to Quidley&Company this week: Jezebel and Her Sister (the cow painting), 42x48" (106x123 cm), the painting featured in the Recovery Room posts, 36x60" (91x152 cm), and the Hayloft, 36x28" (91x71 cm).

Of course the one that's staying home doesn't have any paint yet. It's the blank one, with Todd in front of it, 78x48" (198x122 cm).

It's daunting to have that monster on the easel, plain white, staring back at me.

But we will conquer it! Today I made a drawing for it, on a cheap lined tablet, with a ballpoint pen. Had I known I'd like the drawing, and decide to use it as the basis for the initial charcoal drawing on the canvas, I might have done it in pencil, on decent paper.

But maybe, because I wasn't using better materials, I was more relaxed as I noodled around with the idea. It's often true that your best work comes out when you fool yourself into believing that it doesn't count. Too much attention to making an initial drawing perfect has spoiled many a good idea.

When I hot home, I scanned the drawing in black and white. In Photoshop it developed some pixelated portions (which I rather like) in the darkest passages. I'm going to say I put them there on purpose.

Here 'tis. If you have comments, let me know. The drawing is a remembrance of the lane leading to the first house I owned in France. The foggy painting, in one of the recent archive posts, is of the same lane. Actually, this looks somewhat closer to the real place.


The dark mass on the right, leading into the picture, is a verge and a hedge. Sorry it got so murky. Won't be in the painting.