About the Artist1 Newsletter for 2011: “Everything Builds”
2 Newsletter for 2010
3 Newsletter for 2009
4 Paintings in Their Homes
Winter 2009-2010 Newsletter
Happy New Year and best wishes for the start of a new decade. This year has been the culmination for me of several years of work in different areas.
Since 2004, the experience of living in the small city of Saratoga has put more and more distance from my prior experience of living on a farm. Much to the concern of galleries and customers who grew accustomed to my paintings of cows, sheep, chickens and domestic geese, I've stopped making stock paintings of such and am continuing with farm animal-themed paintings by commission only. This opens up wonderful opportunities for shifting focus.
Oil painting is a difficult profession when one experiences allergic reactions to both traditional and modern oil solvents and thinners. There has been no readily available roadmap for the construction of technically sound oil paintings without use of turpentine, petroleum distillates (mineral spirits), citrus-based thinners or essential oils. In March of 2008, I took a workshop in oil painting techniques and materials in Haverhill, MA, given by Rob Howard, the founder and director of the arts supply company Studio Products (*closed in 2011).
This demonstration-packed immersion into the scientific principles underlying oil painting answered my questions about thinners, and many others. A year and a half later, after replacing my mediums, amending my painting techniques, and doing further research, I've written an online tutorial, GREEN PAINTING, to make a thinner-free roadmap available to every oil painter. A number of fellow oil painters are currently proofing the work, and in the spring I plan a press release to art schools and art publications. Oil painting without thinners not only allows people with allergies to use this medium, it allows oil painters to paint at home near their loved ones or in shared studio spaces without affecting air quality;
and it reduces the environmental impact of oil painting.
The National Museum of Racing on Union Avenue in Saratoga has a lovely library upstairs, available to the public by appointment, with a section devoted to equine art. In the winter of 2008-9, I experimented with improving my painting by spending time studying the great masters of equine art. The museum kept the library at 50 degrees last winter. So, bundled in heavy winter gear, I sat several hours a week to study the work of George Stubbs, Richard Stone Reeves, LeRoy Niemann and others. Not only was this immensely helpful for training as an equine painter, it was also immensely interesting hearing Mike Kane, Al Carter (the museum's librarian) and other people discuss (in the warm break room) the preparations for the annual August inductions into the Hall of Fame.
In the spring I finished my first Graded Stakes Race painting. Although I have painted racing horses before, this is a "historically accurate" painting, meaning that the action is unchanged from the moment it occurred. I took the photo that forms the basis for the painting from the clubhouse turn, during the Woodward 2008.
This is a great location from which to photograph a race ñ not to get the finish line action, but to get a race view with the starting gate arrayed behind, and the late afternoon sunlight providing dramatic shadows across the horses' musculature. Curlin had a way of coming through for his fans, and he provided me with a perfect race photo ñ with all the contestants arrayed as if for a cavalry charge, which is rare on a turn.
The racing season of 2009 was the second year that Siro's Restaurant hung a few of my paintings a few of my paintings in their main dining room. This year I set aside an hour or two several days a week to be a regular at the piano bar, with occasional visits to Siro's back tent and the outdoor bands.
The wonderful world of the Saratoga racetrack, spiced with strong personalities, fabulous outfits and gorgeous summer weather, came vividly into focus - much more so than it had while watching from the paddock rail or the winner's circle fence.
Siro's also provided one of the big highlights of my summer when I was invited to sit and visit at the table of jockey Robby Albarado, his wife Kimber and his agent Lenny Pike, thanks to a portrait I had done of Robby (and Curlin) that was hanging in the main dining room. Unexpectedly from this fierce competitor, I found Robby to be gentle and kind, and the threesome to be gracious and welcoming. I heard about Robby's long-time association with Lenny (only Calvin Borel has stayed with his agent for longer), about their trips to Dubai, and that Curlin's owners had seen my portrait ñ and had commented that Robby was painted better than Curlin (clearly, the NMR visits were only a beginning).
During 2009 I completed several interesting commissions. In the spring I completed my second major multi-figure composition
- a painting of the Congress Spring, in Congress Park in Saratoga, surrounded by a collection of people enjoying the park on a sunny summer afternoon. In 2007-8, I had taken a class in making multi-figure compositions.
The key to this format is variety: some tall, some short; some standing, kneeling and seated; some in shade, some in sun; some moving, some standing still.
|I also completed a portrait of a local family; and in the fall, completed a series of twelve paintings of saddle blanket numbers from the racetrack; and a painting for a summer-local purveyor of fabulous hats.|
Meanwhile I kept up with weekly studio classes at the Woodstock School of Art in Woodstock, NY. The focus of my classes this year has been portraiture.
Painting live models forms the backbone of professional portraiture, because one learns in a studio session how to interpret the information given in a photo. Almost all professional portraiture is from photos. This winter, I discovered that the entire third floor of Skidmore's Scribner Library is devoted to art, with thousands of books on painting (and heat!). I'm starting with Joaquin Sorolla and Rembrandt van Rijn, and plan to study humans as portrayed by the greats this winter.
Best wishes for a safe, wonderful and happy New Year,