Susan's "subject matter, context and medium...present a coherent artistic vision"
John Torreano, Clinical Professor of Studio Art, NYU

"Great stuff. Love your work."
Seymour Chwast

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Land, Sea and Air

xxxxxxxxxxxxRiptide, mixed media on linen, 50 x 40 inchesxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

A riptide and I have a great deal in common. Strange as that may seem, I can explain the   similarity:

A riptide  is a strong current of water that flows away from the shore. As a painter, I, like the riptide, produce a strong current of energy that flows away from  the shore–the shore of “everyday.”

If you are a swimmer, the riptide will pull you away from the safety of the shore. If you are a viewer, my paintings will pull you away from the safety of "everyday" and into the unknown.

I serendipitously happened upon the above image for Riptide while standing on the balcony of my  Fort Lauderdale studio. The balcony is poised over the Atlantic Ocean and is closed off from the studio by glass doors. While looking through the doors I realized I was in a strange new place.  I could clearly see the ocean and sky (reflected on the glass) along with the studio and bedroom spaces beyond the doors, including more double doors, and the furniture beyond that. This confusing yet beautiful image of land, sea and air superimposed on one another enchanted me. I was caught in the current, a riptide if you will, and pulled away from the safety of "everyday."

I hope you will all join me in the unknown on the third weekend in March, 2016 when the Guild 5 FortyFive in Fort Lauderdale  presents my solo exhibition, Land, Sea and Air.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Making of an Artist: The Ten Second Introudction

WE SHOULD ALL PRACTICE  the 10-second introduction. I have learned that you can hold a person's attention for that long before his or her mind starts wandering. Below is the best I have come up with, and I must say, I feel a little like Robert Di Nero in Taxi practicing "You lookin' at me?"  Here goes:

"I'm a painter. I explore and rearrange the beauty of the natural world, fusing humanity with nature. The end result is more beautiful than each of them alone. Would you like to be rearranged?"

Castle in the Sky, mixed media on linen, 36 x24 inchesMMMMMMMMM

Most likely Di Nero would have said, "You lookin' to be rearranged?" OK, OK! I might not use the last sentence. I have to ask my coach.
I'll use the above or a similar image on a card to handout to all of the people who ask, "What do you do?" Because, we all know that a picture is worth 10-seconds worth of words!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Art Trinity: the Painting, the Painter and the Viewer

The painting and the artist at Monmouth Museum
The painting and the viewers

The art trinity: Painting, Artist and Viewers


We, painters  and viewers, had a wonderful time at the fall 2015 opening of Portraits  completing the three-way transaction that exists among the painting, the painter and the viewer. The reason the shows are so satisfying is because the art trinity is not really complete without the viewers.

The paintings, in my case, Catcher, are the stars of the evening. For me Catcher represents harmony between humanity and nature. Once created, however, Catcher became an entity unto itself.

As an artist, I am merely the technician that made Catcher happen. I did this by filtering the model  and all the images that make him up through my mind's eye. I kept the final image translucent, so that viewers can bring their own interpretation as to its meaning.

Most of the viewers told me that they could not figure out whether it was a peaceful image or a disturbing one. That contrast in a work is what makes a painting successful. An art critic/journalist tells us which pieces he decides to write about:

"It is the paintings where I don't get what the artist is trying to do that attract me. They remain with me. I keep thinking about them, trying to figure out what the artist is up to. When I understand what the artist is doing, I say,  "Oh yes, that's nice," and move on because the work no longer engages me."

You're on your own now, Catcher; thanks for being thought provoking!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Monmouth Museum

Catcher, acrylic on linen, 36 x 24"

THE FALL ART SEASON is upon us and I am thrilled that my first scheduled exhibit for the season will be at Monmouth Museum in its  exhibit PORTRAITS: A Juried Exhibition. 
The Museum Curatorial Committee selected, my painting Catcher.

My model for Catcher was my nephew Madison McLaughlin. While trying to get his likeness on canvas several unwanted McLaughlin faces (Madison's mother, father and  brother) appeared  on the work in progress. I gave myself a pep talk, saying, "Well, you're in the right gene pool, maybe the deep end of the gene pool, but the right gene pool nevertheless."

I continued working until I "got" Madison.  It occurred to me that this might be the main difference between artists and non-artists. A non artist will simply say that he can't draw something.  Sometimes artists can't either, but we keep on trying until we can.

I hope you all come to opening night, September 18 from 6 to 8. If you miss it, the show will be there through mid-November.  I would love to meet each and every one of you in person.

  Here's the link -

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Guild - 5 Forty Five, Ft. Lauderdale

 one of the best things about being an artist is the artist's reception at exhibits.  That's where I get to meet all sorts of wonderful art lovers and talk about my paintings and art in general with them. 

Susan McLaughlin, artist with George Curi, collector

Above is a photo from my solo show, Botanically Correct at The Guild. That's George Curi, my self-declared number one fan. Behind us is my painting, Wings, the poster child for Botanically Correct. 

 I love the amber glow of this shot and the confusing proliferation of hands surrounding us. The hand on my shoulder looks as if Wings is emerging from the canvas to give us a giant hug, but it is actually George's hand. The hand between George and me looks like it's George's but it is Wings' painted hand. The fingers on George's shoulder look like Wings' fingers tapping George on the shoulder,  but they are mine. And  then there's Wings' hand to the right of George which looks real enough to pinch him.

And so it goes, just as I have always thought, art and life are interchangeable!

George emailed me the day after the exhibit writing:

" I loved your use of color.  It was so bright.  I felt so cheerful in your gallery.   Especially, in contrast to the darker pieces featured in the adjacent galleries. You really are a true inspiration.  A very rare, but wonderful quality to possess."

Thank you, George!

A better look at Wings and a couple  other Botanically Correct creatures.

Wings, acrylic on linen, 36 x 30"

The Man Under my Bed, acrylic on linen, 36 x 24"

Loose Ends, acrylic on linen, 36 x 24"

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale

HERE I AM SHOWING  Alice's Aura at my very first museum exhibit.  It was the Spring Juried Art Exhibit at the Museum of Art of Ft. Lauderdale AN Academy of Art and Design. It was curated by their director and lead curator, Bonnie Clearwater. The staff at the museum told me that Ms. Clearwater thought my art was a cross between Alice Neel and Frida Kahlo.

They placed Alice in a  premier location in the gallery, directly in the center of the window looking out onto the street. Not only did it look out on the street, but it looked across it to where  the paintings of Frida Kahlo  and Diego Rivera were showing at the museum's main exhibit.   I felt thrilled and humbled at the same time to be showing in such proximity to these great artists.   I hope some of their  greatness rubbed off on me!

Even if it didn't, I was proud to be there!

Here's a better look at Alice's Aura

Alices's Aura, Acrylic on linen,40 x 30 inches

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Enter, wood, metal, porcelain and paint 7 x 8 inches

SOME PHOTOS from my  solo exhibition, Bucolia,  in Miami at Meeting House where the gallery is as beautiful as the art.  The show was curated by Moira Holohan, who in addition to being  a talented curator is a talented artist in her own right.  Since we couldn't find the right word to describe my paintings for the show, I coined the word Bucolia from  the words "bucolic" and "melancholia."

In addition to medium and large scale paintings, my sculpture, Enter, was displayed as well as a series of digital paintings entitled Going to Pieces

Going, digital  painting , 24 x 30 inches

The artist and studio assistant

Golden Lady  (left) and Out of the Woods

Fairfield Porter Gone Bad (right)

Alice's Aura (left) and Entropy

Exit , pen and ink, 8 x 11 inches 

Enter sculpture (center) and   Bi-Directional (far right)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Tumbling Into Art

Niagara, digital painting
Marble tile which inspired Niagara

 I am constantly amazed by the ubiquity of art.

The above digital painting, Niagara, which I drew and painted on my Wacom, was inspired by a tumbled marble floor tile at my new home in Lauderdale by the Sea. When I arrived here, I noticed art all around me. I am not referring to the scenic beaches, sunny skies, palm trees, or Atlantic Ocean against which our home is set. I am instead referring to the images I found on our tumbled marble flooring.

Although my plan was to take the month of December off and give myself a refreshing respite from art,  I simply could not do it. Gazing into the natural compositions, shapes and textures of each of the blocks of our patterned marble floor, I became inspired and started to paint.

Here is some more of the floor-derived art I tumbled into.
Not so bad for a floor!

Thin Ice, digital painting

Marble tile which inspired Thin Ice

Kiss, digital painting
Marble tile which inspired Kiss

Self Toast, digital painting
Marble tile which inspired Self Toast

Newborn, digital painting

Marble tile which inspired Newborn

Nosy, digital painting
Marble tile which inspired Nosy

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My World

Wildflower, acrylic on linen, 30 x 24 inches, croppedxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

One of the best things about being a painter is that I can create my own world. In addition, I have developed my own vocabulary of meanings in order to make my world a better, more perfect place.  In my world, all things are  equal. There is no hierarchy. Human beings, animals and botanicals all have the same importance and are fungible. The painted images above might seem bizarre at first glance, but actually work as absolutes in my paintings.

 Wildflower is one with nature. The snake/armrests provide comfort and support as they enclose and embrace Wildflower. The snake's forked tongue even becomes a bracelet for her. A butterfly sits atop her head as beautiful as any chapeau and even extends its veins onto Wildflower's face as a decorative and symbiotic gesture.  Wildflower's  braids defy gravity, twisting and twirling gracefully through the air. Though hair, they take their serpentine cue from the snakes.  Wildflower is so botanically correct, her pale pink decolletage is made made up of flowers. Actual 100-year-old pressed wildflowers, violets, adorn her neck.

And that's the way things are ... at least in my world.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Two Foxes, acrilic paint on linen, 36 x 24 inchesxxxxxxxx

 Painting Consuelo, acrylic on linen; 40 x 36 incxx

LAST NIGHT  I had the honor and pleasure of being included in the show Protinus with an extremely accomplished group of painters right in the middle of the zeitgeist at Dacia Gallery, NYC.  The paintings of mine that were curated for the show are shown above.

Dacia is a beautiful, intimate  gallery, well located on the Lower East Side (53 Stanton Street).  There was an excellent turnout for the opening. Lee Vasu, an artist himself, is the curator and co-founder of Dacia along with his business partner, Damian Salo. Lee and Damian are very nurturing to their artists. They had all the artists give informal talks about their work at the opening.  It was very inspiring and a lot of fun! I loved showing there.

You you can view my talk at

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Man Under My Bed

The Man Under my Bed, acrylic on linen, 30 x 24 inchesXXXXXXXXXXX

MOST GOOD PAINTERS strive to create work that causes them and their viewers to experience a strong rush of emotion. Painting one of my childhood fears worked as such a catharsis for me.

As a child, I had a downright frightening imagination. The subject of the painting above, The Man Under My Bed, in fact lived (I believed at the time) under my bed. Despite all the pretty pink bedding and lacy pillows on the top of my bed, there was a threatening, dark, evil abyss beneath.  My own childhood ying and yang.

I firmly believed that if I were to get into my bed the normal way, i.e. walking up to it and climbing in, The Man underneath would reach out, grab me by my ankle and pull me under. I knew that if he caught me, I would have to live out the rest of my life under my bed with a monster
in that cramped, dark, coffin-shaped space.

Fortunately, I devised a way to insulate myself from that horrible fate.  It involved some acrobatics.  Much to my mother's amazement, every night I would stand a yard away from my bed and take a flying leap onto the bed to stay out of The Man's reach. I exited the bed in the same way, standing on the edge of the bed and jumping in one giant three-foot long leap over the danger zone.

When I started this painting, I didn't realize I was painting my old under-bed nemesis until I completed his face and he started smirking out at me from the painting. I had thwarted his kidnapping approach, so now he was trying to get me under the bed with what passed for him as come hither looks, wine from his brain and flowers. If I had started out painting a non-specific mythical half-man/half-beast with ram's horns, I ended up painting The Man Under my Bed.

Now that I am an adult (chronologically at least), I realize that The Man Under My Bed doesn't really exist– or at least he doesn't live under my bed. To the great relief of Mr. Depingo, I can now enter and exit my bed by walking up to it and climbing under the covers. After painting the above, though, I am now concerned that The Man has simply relocated himself. I therefore exercise extreme caution when I walk past my flower beds.

Ever seen a gardener do flying leaps to enter and leave her garden?


Monday, August 25, 2014

Coming Out

Sketcchbook pen and ink drawing- Girl Smoking

Digital drawing - Girl Smoking Flowers 

Painting, -  Coming Out, acrylic,  on linen

My latest painting, Coming Out,  is currently being exhibited  at the AIR Gallery in the group show Kaleidoscope in Newtown, CT.

It is is yet another  example of my being inspired by an old sketchbook drawing. The sketch of the smoking girl is the basis for the painting. 

The first sketch shown above is the original drawing.  On the second sketch,  I used Photoshop to layer flowers over the original and reduced the flower-layer's opacity, so I could see both the girl and the flowers clearly. This became the working drawing which guided  my  painting. After building up many layers of paint for the girl and the flowers, I added the insects, wings and unraveling pupa. I then added cut paper.

As the the butterfly in the painting  is "coming out" of her  pupa, so is the painting "coming out" of the drawing.

Again, artists, never throw out your old work, no matter how embarrassing it is!

To see more sketchbook-to-painting work follow this link:

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Privilege Is in the Painting

 Chicken Coop, McLaughlin, 30 x 24 inches

I SAW A FASCINATING PLAY last night– The Pitmen Painters by Lee Hall. A true story, it centers around a group of English coal miners who transformed themselves into renowned artists known as the Ashington Group. The miners, who referred to themselves as "pitmen," worked on their paintings at night, after performing long days of backbreaking labor in dark, dank, dusty, oxygen-deprived pits in the ground in Northumberland. What a breath of fresh air (literally and figuratively) painting must have been for them.

The miners' original idea was to enhance their lives through an art appreciation class. They were to meet once a week in their hut with Robert Lyon, an instructor in art history at a local college. After the first few meetings, however, Lyon discovered that the minors lacked sufficient vocabularies to understand his talks on the great art of the world or even to discuss the slides he projected among themselves. Instead, he brought in paints, brushes and canvases and told the men that they were going to start to paint.

The pitmen vehemently protested that they couldn't possibly paint because they had no skills or training in anything, let alone art. Most of them had left school and commenced working in the mines at around age 10. Despite their misgivings, Lyon prevailed and the men started painting. The instructor encouraged them to paint what they felt inside. As they continued, painting not only enhanced their lives but gave them self esteem. One of the pitmen, after completing his first painting said:

I was shaking–literally shaking—‘cos for the first time in me life, I’d really achieved something that was mine…. And I felt like for those few hours there—I was my own boss.

Lyon's advice, painting what you feel inside, is good advice for any painter, including myself. I have been learning Photoshop recently. This involves drawing and painting on an external tablet while watching the work appear on the computer monitor. Pretty tricky when you're not used to it! Though I am convinced Photoshop will eventually enhance my work, the learning process has temporarily set me back some in terms of drawing and painting. It has negated (temporarily, I hope) my formal, graduate-level university training. I feel that I am starting all over again. So I can empathize with the pitmen. I have heeded their instructor's advice and have started to paint what I feel inside, rather than worrying about my technical acumen.

While Photoshopping, I painted my cat predominantly purple because I couldn't find a way to switch to another color. While practicing color gradients, everything I produced looked like a Jimi Hendrix album cover. Don't let this get around, but when using the polygonal lasso, I could not stop it. It lassoed everything in my drawing, then my house including my dog and cat and then went after me. I finally had to pull out the electrical cord, shut the door and leave the house in order to escape. Then I said to myself, "Yes, I'll draw what I feel like inside–which was a glass of wine. Eventually, though, I became comfortable with my new friend, Photoshop, just as the pitmen did with their brushes, paints and canvases.

I, like the miners, discovered that you get better results when you think of painting as a means of self-expression and not of perfection. My nascent Photoshop paintings and drawings, though far from technically perfect, really do express what I feel inside.

After the Ashington Group became famous, Lyon wrote a dissertation about the project and was appointed to a professorship at the Edinburgh College of Art. The Ashington's Group's star painter, Oliver Kilbourn, complained to Lyon that he was just as talented as the Professor, and, indeed, a good enough painter to be in the professor's position. Kilbourn believed that the only reason Lyon, and not he, held the position was that Lyon was a member of the privileged upper class and had the advantage of advanced education and training which was not available to the working class. To that the professor replied with something I have known and felt my entire life:

The privilege is not in the class, the privilege is in the painting.

Paint on,

* You can see the Ashington Group's paintings *here.
**Thanks to Li Gardner, my teacher, for keeping me out of the Photoshop insane asylum.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Severed Cords

Hi Mom,

Happy Mother's Day. I actually liked it better before the umbilical and telephonic cords were cut. Nonetheless, I hope you are having a heavenly day in heaven. Probably all the days there are heavenly, so what do you call it when it is a special day? I would love to know, but unfortunately we never get to talk anymore, what with you in heaven and me on earth.

With all of the new technology, I can't believe I can talk to someone in Pakistan on Facebook, which is true, (that's you, Farhan), which is thrilling in it's own way, but I cannot talk to my mom! I'm amazed that some brilliant astrophysicist has not yet figured out how to enable us to talk to those we love after they leave the planet. After all, we (or at least those of us who are old enough) have watched astronauts walk on the moon. We saw them take their one small step for man in boots so unattractive it made me cringe.

What about doing this for mankind? Let the people who are missing their mothers talk to them. I think that would be a worthwhile scientific endeavor. I would rather spend money for that than to watch one small step in some majorly ugly boots. Which one would you vote for? I know my vote is going for talking to my mother. Her name was Babe Bisgood and she was more interesting than any astronaut.

Since no one else seems to be working on it, I have applied my astonishingly unscientific, nontechnical mind to the problem. Hey! You never know–a fresh outlook and all. I'll never be hired by NASA. I've got a different kind of mind. I think I've got it! I'm confident it is original thinking. What if we simply dial our old phone number from when we were children (in my case, SPencer 9-6134–wish I had my childhood princess telephone on which to call). Your parents and you carry the old number with you like some sort of primitive precursor of the barcode. Why do you think you've never forgotten your old phone number in the first place? This is the reason. It's just that nobody ever realized it before. I am not even thinking of becoming famous here; I'm just thinking about talking to my mother.

OK. It's Mother's Day and I'm going to try it. I'm calling. Here goes...SPencer 9-6134...It's ringing......that's a good sign...... no answer. Well, maybe mom's out for Mother's Day. I hope so and I hope she is having a wonderful time. There is no recording asking for messages, so maybe there is no voicemail in heaven. Maybe God's not that into technology. I should think not. After all, He's very old.

No answer...that's OK. No problem, mom. Love you and catch you tomorrow.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Alice's Aura

 Alices Aura, 40 x 36 inches

MY STUDIO IS ON THE SECOND FLOOR at Foxglove. Mr. Depingo rarely ventures up there, so he doesn't really know what I'm painting at any given moment. I have ideal lighting in the studio, four skylights and two walls of casement windows facing north and south. When I'm almost finished with a painting, I want to see what it looks like in different lighting, so I bring it downstairs.

Last night, after Mr. Depingo, who is naturally skittish, had already gone to sleep, I brought my current work, Alice's Aura, downstairs. I had just finished watching Local Color, a movie about the relationship between two artists. Because most of my intellectual and emotional life is devoted to art, if I am not painting myself, I watch others paint. This film inspired me to study my own painting, so I brought Alice downstairs and propped her up on the wicker love seat on the porch.

Alice Bisgood, my late Aunt Oddie, was the model for this life-sized painting. I prefer painting someone I know rather than a professional model. Doing so adds depth to the portrait because of the non-formal dimension the model's personality brings to the painting. Even when I am painting a portrait, I am painting shapes, not facial features or anatomy. The fact that I knew Alice makes the painting of her more challenging because in addition to rendering her shapes accurately, I have to take into consideration the intangible quality of her personality. After studying Alice to determine what needed to be done to complete the painting, I left her on the love seat and went to bed.

In the middle of the night, Mr. Depingo was awakened by our dog, Bella, who barked to be let out. In that indeterminate space between dream and wake, he passed through the kitchen, and viewed my painting in the dim porch light. Startled, he jumped because he thought there was a strange woman sitting in our porch. I am glad he didn't try to stab her with a kitchen knife.

As a figurative painter with a formalist bent, like Edouard Manet, the father of modern painting long before me, I am more concerned with shapes and paint–its flow and the patterns and marks it makes. I know that they are the content of a painting more so than any model or subject matter. I know better than to try to paint my subjects literally or "realistically" although I have been accused of doing so. I explain to my accusers it is not even possible to paint realistically because my subjects are three-dimensional and my canvases are two-dimensional. So to even approach the look of reality, I or any other painter has to distort the subject severely when translating from a three- dimensional subject in a two-dimensional format.

Still, the image of Alice was "real" enough to scare Mr. Depingo. What does it mean that Mr. Depingo was startled when he saw the painting? Of course, it took him by surprise, but it also means that my painting techniques worked and Alice's significant form, true inner nature, or aura, if you will, rather than her mere outward appearance, emanated from the painting.

The painter's own aura can be sensed in a work as well. If you look at Willem de Kooning's Women paintings, you will sense de Kooning's aura immediately and strongly. The first time I saw one of these paintings in person, my heart raced, I hyperventilated and nearly fainted right on the floor of the Whitney Museum. The spirit of de Kooning lived on and emanated from the paintings. It seemed as if he were right there with me. It was overwhelming.

Because my use of paint captured Alice's spirit, the painting has a strong emotional pull. I am proud that this painting caused the visceral reaction that it did. It probably means that I am a competent  painter ...or...perhaps...

Mr. Depingo is a big baby.

Paint on,

PS. The philosopher Walter Benjamin asserted in his famous treatise The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction that with the advent of mechanical reproduction, the aura of a work is diminished. I believe that you cannot experience the painting's aura by viewing it in digital form either. This in turn means that you're just going to have to come to my solo show at the Good News Cafe and Gallery (October 2 opening) if you want to really experience Alice's Aura.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Visitors, Wanted and Unwanted

Blue Shutters

THE FLOWERS  at Foxglove are very similar to my friends in that they visit us in the spring and summer. My popularity greatly increases during those seasons because we live right on a lake. The flowers, like my friends, stay for a bit while I enjoy their beauty. But after a brief stay, they depart. Although I miss them, I do not despair because I know they will return the following year.

The perfect blooms of pieris japonica are one of the first to visit me in spring. The sight of its pendulous, clustered creamy flowers peeking over the deck warms my heart and quickly gives me winter amnesia. Then, as if to distract me from pieris, forsythia arrives, bright-yellow and sending its wild flowered shoots skyward. This is an unruly sight, but truly electrifying. Indeed, with its shoots standing on end, the shrubs look like they are being electrocuted. We never prune our forsythia. The part that does not stand straight up tumbles over an eight-foot row of trellises between lake and land and down the other side above a narrow path, creating a golden passageway between land and lake. At the lakefront, forsythia arches over and down our seawall, painting the lake yellow.
I enjoy all this yellow but it makes me feel hot. I need a breeze now. Luckily for me, the lilacs, with their twenty-foot high fluffy heads of foliage, start producing their fragrant lavender and white panicles. The extra weight causes these extremely tall shrubs to sway, fanning me with perfumed breezes off the lake.

Just when I am feeling soothed by the lilacs, the riot of the rhododendrum explodes. I am accosted by mound after mound of rhododendrum flowers, their long trusses in brilliant shades of orange, scarlet, hot pink and white seemingly mocking me as a painter. They scream "We can paint better than you." They are right. These loud, brightly colored shrubs can paint a better picture than any artist . Even the forsythia looks pale by comparison, so it slowly fades away. I am braver than the forsythia; I stay put and use the rhododendrum for inspiration.

Sometimes, we have a guest that I really don't want. Her name is multiflora rose. Her rambling, arching canes rise directly from a crack in some boulders beside our cottage. I greet her every year with mixed feelings. On the one hand I admire her tenacity and in-bloom beauty. But on the other, she is uninvited, ubiquitous and invasive. I hate to be violent, but soon I must start pulling her out by her roots.
I hope I never have to do that to any of my human friends.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Cropped left panelxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Cropped right panelxxxxxxxxxxx

WHAT HAPPENS IN FLORIDA, STAYS IN FLORIDA.  Um...actually it doesn't. I'm going to share with Depingo's readers what I did this winter in Fort Lauderdale.

I took the class Explorations in Painting with the excellent, classically trained  painter Natassia Loth.  She teaches painting at the AN Academy of Art and Design/ Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art. Even though I have advanced degrees in painting from Parsons and NYU, Natty is the best teacher I have ever had. The class is designed to push the painter past her comfort zone.

During the 10-week class, I produced the 30 x 48 inch diptych Beachcombers. These are the "pushing it" materials  I utilized in the making of this mixed media piece.


Acrylic extender. It is much more efficient than what I was using (acrylic medium/varnish) for keeping acrylic paint wet and  is especially useful in rendering skin tones.

Rough pumice gel which creates a textured surface.

Beach sand mixed in with clear varnish for a beautiful overlay of color and a softer texture

Gak which imparts a shine to the work.

Transference which gives an iridescent glow useful for the nacre (pearlescent interiors of seashells.}

Oil stick which gives you s a gentle translucent color over existing layers of acrylic paint.

Modeling paste for affixing various broken shells, pearls, crab jaws, shark bones  and other bling to the canvas.  In my painting (above) the boy beachcomber's nose is painted but the girl's is a glued-on shell.

And my favorite - glitter.

Indeed, I was pushed past my painting comfort zone–almost to the point of no return. It was so much fun! But in the end, I love the result. So did Natty and the other painters, who compared my compositional use of shells to Georgia O'Keefe's use of flowers.

Paint on,

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Body and Soul

I RECENTLY PAINTED my best friend, Kenneth Feldman, who I call Feldy. At the first session: I sit him down in a possible pose, studying intently every feature of his face, body and posture. I take into account all of this physiognomy and store the information in my brain. But now I must mix it with the intangible "patina" of Feldy, such as his personality, wit, intelligence, background–indeed, his soul. If a painter attempts to portray a person by considering only the body without taking into account the soul, she is no different than a house painter.

While we are deciding on the right pose, Feldy mugs. He pulls his lapel, which sports a boutonniere, up to his nose and smells the flower. I love this pose and and tell him that this is the way I want to paint him. Curiously, Feldy says "Please don't paint me that way. I'll look too fey." I am not sure what he means, but choose another pose. Even though he is a delightfully lighthearted and amusing model , I choose to show his more serious side.

In my mind I have blended his "patina" with his physiognomy, so I feel I am ready to block in the paint on my canvas. This involves exploring the shapes of his face and body and constructing them with paint, running my brushes up, around and over the various facial forms to "flesh out" the paint rough. I round out the cheekbones and forehead, I build up the volume for his nose and lips, and I darken around his eye sockets so they will appear sunken–on a lower plane than the rest of his face.

I continue the block-out of all of Feldy - his neck, shoulders, torso, pelvis, legs, right down to his feet. All these anatomical parts are merely shapes. But through my exploration and manipulation of them I know that I will reveal Feldy's soul. His essence, not just his form, will be reflected in his portrait.

Feldy patiently subjects his body and being to my artist's gaze. The work on the paint rough progresses smoothly and quickly. For me, the purpose of a rough is simply to get the paint onto the canvas. At this point I do not concern myself with any likeness these embryonic paint splashes might have to my model. However, in this instance I am struck by the remarkable resemblance between the painting and Feldy.

After that first day, I could not work on the painting for ten months. Sadly, almost immediately after, Feldy was diagnosed with late-stage melanoma. I did try to help his body though, trying to restore or at least maintain what was left of his health, by escorting him to and from doctors, keeping him company while he was being treated, transporting him to and visiting with him in hospitals, bringing him meals, newspapers and clothing.

On one occasion, I even bathed him when a nurse was not available. I was struck by the similarity between running a warm washcloth over his physical face and running a brush over his painted face. Toward the end, Feldy had to be moved to a hospice. While he was there, I realized that I had been so concerned with his body that I had forgotten the importance of his soul. Sadly, I then had to watch his soul drain out of his body bit by bit until it was gone.

A rabbi told me that I shouldn't feel so sad about death. It is not the end. Our bodies are just temporary homes for our souls. Therefore, we should view our bodies as just short-term rentals. He assured me that the spirit of Feldy lived on.

Soon after the funeral I got back to finishing the painting. Although I usually use multiple layers of paint when finishing a painting, Feldy's required very little finish because the rough was so "right." While working on it, I remembered that Feldy didn't want me to use the pose with him smelling his boutonniere because it made him look too "fey." I finally looked the word up in a dictionary and learned that the first definition given is: "chiefly Scottish: fated to die, doomed; marked by a foreboding of death or calamity."

Still, the spirit of Feldy lives on.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Life and Times of Loose Ends

Loose Ends attacking Attorneyman, 2 x 3  inches,  pen and ink, digital color, 1992
Loose Ends for New York Law Journal, 5 x 4 inches, pen and ink, digital color, 1994

Loose Ends,  40 x 36 inches, acrylic paint on linen, 2013

of figments of my imagination that keep re-appearing  in my work. You can see an example of one such figment and his evolution in the above three works.  This character, Looose Ends, was created for and first appeared in Attorneyman, a weekly comic strip I illustrated and wrote for Skadden News and Notes in the early 1990's.  He was a supervillain who created loose ends everywhere he went.

Subsequently, the New York Law Journal gave me an assignment to illustrate an article regarding a  problem law firms were having at the time–Alcohol in the Workplace. The art director gave me my politically correct marching orders, which were that I was not to have any liquor bottles, alcoholic beverage glasses or slumped bodies in my drawing. I thought to myself,  "Why don't you just tie my hands behind my back?" However, I accepted the challenge and got to work.

Loose Ends was my man for the job. He passed all of NYLJ's requirements for the drawing. A lawyer trying to write a brief under the influence would certainly create many loose ends; the waving streamers visually suggest the whirling of a mind inebriated.  To drive the point home, I drew a wilting, curled pencil.

Loose Ends went on to be an advertisement for Quo Vadis, a NYC paper company. The caption was, "If only I'd used a Quo Vadis planner, I wouldn't have so many Loose Ends!"  This ad was noticed by the French blog J ai Rendezvous Avec Ma Vie, which featured  Loose Ends and more of my art in a post.  I don't know exactly what they wrote because I don't read French, but Loose Ends looks the same in French as he does in English.

Today, Loose Ends is all grown up. He is larger and more colorful as a painting, and currently making the rounds at NYC galleries. He still has the streamers but today two birds are tangled in them and flying off with them. Eccentrically dressed, he sports a dragon fly as his tie. His ancient eyes have fallen out of his head into a nest he carries around on his lap for just such emergencies. Indeed, today he shines with the densely layered patina of a highly traveled, well worn old drawing who has had a good life.

I  still care for him, in a nostalgic sort of way, but  Loose Ends is a thing of the past. I don't have any currently, and I hope you don't either.