rochester scene

I originally intended to black out some of this one, to show it’s a distant memory that I can’t quite grasp. For some reason, the fields behind my house in the rural suburbs of Rochester, NY, in November and March on a dark day are intensely nostalgic for me. I imagine there being some cold wind in this picture. The forest in the background is rather large in real life, so it’s a little skewed – it would be closer in reality than it is in this painting. This is about 16×20″ or so, oil on canvas.

rochester scene

nothing’s changed for me

Here’s an example today of a piece that took a wrong turn. I loved the initial sketch, even though it was not where I’d intended to go at all. (I was working on a series “50 dead faces” and this is most certainly a bright and living and happy face.)

nothing's changed for me sketch

Then what happened? I went at it with charcoal and a marker, and more pencil, and ended up overworking – the worst. Well, it turned out ok, but just ok. I was more pleased with the initial drawing, although that itself was unfinished and had to be completed into something. Can’t win!

nothing's changed for me

living in an old country

Here’s a process post. I started out with a sketch that was supposed to be part of another series I’m working on (“dead faces” – 50 of them – I’ll explain in the future) but it took on a life of its own. Specifically, I thought it looked a bit like a noh mask.

living in an old country sketch

So I wasn’t sure if I should leave it as-is, not touch it, let it be just in this form. It didn’t seem finished, but I didn’t want to ruin or overwork it. Then I hit on an idea: ink! It turns out I barely had to use any, because the charcoal I did the sketch with reacted so well with the water, but I did it a little. Here’s the result, which I’m extremely happy with.

living in an old country

musing on figure drawing and 2013 piece


I’ve done a lot of figure drawing for a really long time – over 15 years at this point. The key, in my opinion is strict observation. By this, I mean looking at the figure as you’re drawing, rather than looking back and forth too much. I almost always start with a contour, although I’d like to branch out into mass and gesture more than I currently do at some point, for the challenge and variety.

My method is to begin with contour strictly observed from the figure and often a little “off,”  but more true to what’s actually there than a meticulous start. You can easily get off proportion if you spend too much time putting details in the face or torso before getting to the legs. It’s better to get a rough idea of the shapes first, then go in and start adding basic detail like large blocks of shadow, and finally some selective smaller details. I often am working at a time limit of maximum 15 minutes, so I really have to prioritize which details I put in. I try to think of what’s most significant and most representative — what will allow me to convey what’s there in the fewest lines or shapes possible? It’s better, I think, to imply what’s there than put in every detail — leave some of it up to the viewer to infer and put together.

This is a figure drawing from a 2013 art class on watercolor and mixed media, done in ink and white gouache. The ink is obviously both pen and brush. I started first of all with a pencil, but sometimes on other drawings I do the contour in a Sharpie marker so I force myself to observe carefully from the very beginning rather than depending on being able to make corrections later. It’s both restrictive and freeing.

I also appreciated the shape of the model in this session. People who model tend to be, while usually not perfect (I did run into a guy whose email was greekgod@ before though), smaller. This model was a completely different kind of person from what I am used to working with and it was a delight.

woman figure drawing

some girl (2015/01/18 sketch)

A girl I drew with a pen that has a brush end. It’s 10×14 or so in real life, so I had to photograph it and it got all gray. I filled in the background with white and then ended up liking the effect, so I have left it this way. I drew this without a reference and was pleasantly surprised with the result.

20150118 girl sketch

tree book: stage one

I received this blank accordion book years ago, beautiful paper and a gorgeous Japanese painting on the cover, from my dad and stepmother. One day, after going on a road trip all over the South with my best friend in 2005, I decided to paint trees. Now, trees are basically my favorite thing to draw or paint anyway, but what I particularly wanted to paint were trees from Mississippi – the ones that made me feel like “I am really in the South now.” Pine trees with vines. Here’s what they look like:

mississippi trees

So I started this book years ago with an ink painting and got as far as approximately one page in. Back in 1999, I received a book from a loved one and managed to fill all 80+ pages with ink drawings, without pencil or erasing (my personal rule for that one). Then I gave it back to him as a surprise several months later. They looked something like this:

batbook sample

My goal was to do the same thing with the tree book, but clearly I didn’t get very far. However, I recently picked it back up and slowly, slowly, I’m trying to progress. The problem is that the ink I’m using now appears to be a different opacity than the ink I started with (I seriously think it’s the same ink, because I always buy the same brand, but who knows), but I’m going to stick with it despite the inconsistency. I want to bring it forward with the trees changing into different species as the book goes on, but I haven’t figured out that transition yet. Anyway, here’s where I am now:

tree book sample

Wish me luck. I guess it’s not a surprise for the people I want to give it back to anymore, but since it’s apparently my life’s work, maybe it’s best I just show it now anyway.