Saturday, September 28, 2013

Jacob Maris Lends a Hand

Setting Off this Week, and a wee, Moonlit One

As you may well imagine, getting the large doorframe painting to New York presents a sizeable (sorry) problem.

But the confraternity of artists, not to mention the Sint Lukasgilde, prevailed upon Jacob Maris (Dutch, 1837-1899) to offer his ferry boat. Here you can see us making a trial run.

Worked on some different things today, including this 10x12" (25x30cm) panel.

After all the attention to the doorway, it was nice to not have any straight lines, and no obvious perspective.

Hope you're all painting well, and that you're getting set for DPS---- and for the October Weekend Workshop.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Vermeer and the Dutch Boy

A Portrait and a Film

In 2000, Kim and I bought this Dutch portrait in Paris. It lived in our house in Burgundy. The pensive young man is now owned by friends in France. It has no signature, but is dated 1649. 

My friends have sent along a photo, of which this is a detail. It's very blurry, but you may get the idea.

I spent some time trying to determine by whom it was painted, but I couldn't find a match. My supposition is that he hadn't yet reached his majority, suggested by his gray costume... a bit older, I surmise, and he'd be in black. If I get another, better photo, I'll post it. I'd like you to be able to see the detail in his lace collar and to have a better idea of his face.

Also on the Netherlandish subject, Mary Graham writes that she will be going to see the National Gallery (London) film about Vermeer, in Peterborough, New Hampshire, on October 10th.  (Thanks, Mary).
I've bought tickets to a more local theater for the same event. Perhaps you can find a theater near you. Here's a link to the distributor of the film. 
Remember, it's only being shown on October 10th. 

Classes! Classes! Classes!

October Classes

Now that the doorway painting is preparing to be off to New York next week. thoughts turn to the three classes scheduled for October.
Kate Bonita, just getting warmed up
There will be a weekend plein air workshop, Saturday, 19 October and Sunday, 20 October. For more information, or to register, please email Sarajean Graham at

There will be two, separate sessions of the world-famous Dead Paintings Society, Friday, 18 October and Friday, 25 October.

Here's a painting, before resuscitation, from a previous DPS session, and a photo of it, resting comfortably, after the class.

You can see more about the DPS session featuring this painting here.

If the DPS is new to you, you can read more about it here.

The only difference in the two upcoming classes is that I'll be demonstrating on my own dead paintings. Resuscitation begins at home.

To register for either or both DPS sessions, please email Sarajean at

Finally, here's a photo from my old Newburyport studio. I'd figured out my compositions on these canvases in charcoal. The largest are 18" x 24" (45x60cm)

Paint well!
Hope to see you in class.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Final Edition

The Door to The Golden Age

Thanks to John Raleigh of Newburyport (, I now have a photo of the doorway painting.


On John's fancy computer the image is much better than I've just included, above. This is a bit blotchy and a bit yellow. We can ascribe that to my monitor (I hope). In any event, if you're local to Newburyport, I can recommend John to you for photographing your work.

The painting is being picked up by the art movers soon, and will be trundled off to the New York location. Here's some information about the show which takes place from 9-13 October at the Seventh Regiment (Park Avenue) Armory, 643 Park Avenue, New York.

Thanks to all of you who came by the studio to see the painting. It was great to see so many old* and new faces.

*Kim tells me I should have said "familiar faces" not
"old faces". Apologies.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Time Travel

The Door to the Golden Age

Some of you know that I've been working on a large project to be exhibited by my New York gallery, Arcadia Contemporary, at the fine art and antiques fair to be held at the Park Avenue Armory, in New York, from 9-13 October.

Steve Diamant, owner of Arcadia, first broached the idea, in April, of something out-of-the-ordinary as my submission to the event.

I wanted to come up with something that was contemporary, but also something that would give a respectful nod to the fine antique furniture and old master paintings in the show.

I remembered Charles Willson Peale's painting, Staircase Group, in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, painted in 1795. You can find more about it here

Here's a photo of it which I found on the web. The museum-goers in this photo will give you a better sense of the installation, and of the scale.

I decided to make my own painting-on-the-floor, and decided on an 85 x 37" (221 x 94 cm) canvas, quite close to the dimensions of the Peale painting.

Of course, I'm a landscape painter, not a deft figure painter. So I sent this quick drawing back to Steve, with a hold-the-place sketch where the landscape would go. I just wanted to explain the concept in case he hadn't seen Peale's painting.

He signed on to the idea and I began to ruminate about it. I ordered stretcher bars from Upper Canada and made sure I had enough linen.

Before I could begin, I had some other commitments to attend to, and I had weekend workshops and the French Workshop to tackle.

I did make some new sketches, and retrieved some from years ago that I thought might work.

I made some photocopies of the door frame proportions so that I might jot down ideas as they came to me.

Here's one where I was thinking about a New England rural view. In the other I must have been thinking about filling that upper-right corner. One of the big issues was that the view is so tall and skinny, not suited to most landscape motifs.

It was when making all these little sketches that the thought hit me: the doorway would cast a shadow on the the sky, or on the tops of the trees! Egad! How to get around that???

My solution was to make a vestibule or ante-room between the door frame and the outside. This way the shadow would be cast on the murky wall above the second doorway. In the version below, I drew the vestibule with a doorway to the outside and stuck an old drawing from my sketchbook into the space.


Of course a hidden advantage to the vestibule was that the painting, while still extremely vertical, was now less so.

Some of what immediately follows has already appeared on the blog, as it happened. But it's followed by what I've done during my silence. Most of these photos are are inexpert ones done with my phone.

When we got back from France, I spent a good part of July working on the paintings I'd started there, and fooling about on some canvases that were kicking about the studio. I spent a lot of time stalling on my project.

Finally, on 25 July, Nick came by the studio to help me stretch the canvas.

I made a small canvas-on-panel on which I could try out some ideas.

You've seen sketches for the center one and the right one, above. I added an urban one, just for variety.

I spent some time thinking about the illusion I was trying make. At some stage, my thoughts went to Holland, remembering two plein air oils I'd done in Delft when I was first starting out (1980).

They, in turn, made me think of my life-long love for Vermeer which, of course, brought to mind his small masterpiece, The Little Street (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).

And then it came to me. I would make a doorway which led, not only to another world, but also to another time. Like Alice Through the Looking Glass and myriad other stories, I would open a door through which one could walk. Then, crossing a vestibule with four paces, one could step out into a street in Holland during the time of Rembrandt and Vermeer. Any moment Vermeer might walk down the street, Fabritius calling after him. Eureka!

If you're an artist like me, you've probably always wished you could plop down in Barbizon in the 19th century, or be at a cafe with Sisley and Monet. Perhaps you've wanted to be in Rome or Florence during the Renaissance, or to join Metcalf painting in Vermont. Here was a way to indulge those fantasies, taking art lovers with me.  

Here was the magic door!

Well, it ain't finished yet, The frame has yet to be painted, and there are lots of refinements to make within the painting. Thanks to Nick Corvinus's perennial good cheer and great industry the frame arrived last night, ready to be prepped and painted.

There was little girl painted in, and painted out. Then another came down the street, and she remained. I found that toy balls were often made of terracotta, and she's contemplating one. A dog took up residence near the doorstep, but he was so present that he distracted viewers from the rest of the painting. I shooed him away.

But, despite the mis-steps, I now have The Door to the Golden Age. I hope, for anyone with imagination, it will be a portal to another place and time.

As you'll immediately realize the image is askew, and the lighting is appalling. It also is somewhat blurry. In the sky, at the top, are clouds and birds, all blown out by my track lighting. Ah, well...

For those of you within hailing distance, my studio will be open from 10:00-11:30, both Tuesday and Wednesday (17th & 18th) mornings, if you should like to come to see it. All are welcome so, if you have an interested friend or two, bring 'em along. 14 Cedar Street, Amesbury, MA, 3rd Floor, orange door. 

See you then!