Tuesday, December 23, 2008

a few quick Christmas thoughts

Elf is an excellent Christmas movie, and I bet I'll still be watching it ten years from now. That's right, it will be a Classic. Great Rankin/Bass touches. Speaking of, I watched a few Rankin/Bass things this year, and boy, some of them are trippy and strange in places.

Lots of little articles lately about the darkness of It's a Wonderful Life. Duh. I love that movie and I don't care who knows it.

A Christmas Story is great, but I'm conflicted about the 24 hour marathon.

Macy's does a great job with the whole Santaland thing. We took our son this past Saturday and were only on line for twenty minutes. The Saturday before Christmas. Very cool. Last year it was more than an hour.

I will improve [have improved [3/11/09] the quality of the holiday card pics, but am glad I put them up, even in the less than perfect photos that they are [were], because it's good to see them all in one place, and I've enjoyed going back and thinking a little about what went into each one.

Driving to Toledo for Christmas. Wish us luck.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday card, 2008

Skater, 2-color linocut.

This year's model. With an assist from 2000. I guess I thought maybe it was time for something a little prettier than usual, elegant, not to say 'girly' but maybe a little less boyish than usual. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Holiday card, 2007

Untitled, 2-color linocut on metallic card stock.

I like this one, too, another one with snowfall. But cozier, with the inside point of view. And bittersweet again, because we had to put our cat Buzz to sleep that year. Very hard. And yes, that cat is definitely based on Buzz's cuddly, pear-shaped body.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday card, 2006

Drummer Boy, linocut.

My oldest brother said this was my first 'religious' card, since he interpreted it as related to the Little Drummer Boy song. Others thought it was one of those drum-playing toy monkeys, which I can also see. I don't really care either way, and in fact, made it so it could just be your generic kid who got a drum set under his tree. But I have to admit that 'Rum pum pum pum pum' was on my mind when I made it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday card, 2005

Untitled, 3-color linocut.

This is a real favorite of mine. The three colors work well, the simple image is nice, and so is the polka dot snowy sky, which I'd used before and would again. And the hat. My son had a hat like that, and that's where it all came from. And maybe also from those baby bjorns, where you carry your kid in a harness on your chest, so he's kind of right in your lower field of vision like this. So if the 2004 card was a nod to my father, 2005 was a nod to my son, who was old enough that year for his first trudge in the snow.

Holiday card, 2004

Table rod-hockey guy, linocut.

This one has gotten mixed reviews. I don't think folks always understood that it was a figure from a hockey game toy. But I still like it and stand by it. I have my reasons.

So, 2004 was a big year. I became a father. And about six weeks later, my own father died and we all were on a plane to Toledo for the funeral. My dad had seen pictures of his youngest grandson, but unfortunately, he never had the chance to meet him in person. I remember him telling me over the phone, maybe the last time we ever talked, "He looks like a character, Pack. I can tell he's a real character."

My dad was a good father and maybe even a better grandfather, as often is the case with fatherhood, maybe. And I still miss him, of course. For the card that year, I wanted to use an image from our childhood, a favorite toy that my brothers, my sister and I all played with. One Christmas, my brother received a tabletop rod-hockey game, and I remember it as a toy we all loved to play with. My brother carefully put the stickers on the little flat guys -- one team was the Bruins (his hockey team, and the team of his beloved Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito) and the other was the Blackhawks (where Phil's brother Tony played goalie). I guess partly too because we all had a soft spot, and still do, for Chicago teams, since Chicago was our mother's town.

So the hockey player relates to my dad. A Christmas gift from him that we all loved. I loved the way the puck dropped from a chute on the scorboard which arched over center ice. This card was just a private nod to Dad, from a guy who was just beginning to learn what being a dad means.

And the Peace and Joy part, I guess I just thought was a little bit funny.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holiday card, 2003

Untitled, linocut with watercolor.

Like the reindeer, I liked the off kilter composition, especially with Santa, as if you're just getting a glimpse of him, like Bigfoot or something. This is another that was kind of labor intensive, hand coloring each one with watercolor after printing the linocut. Two different reds, two different yellows, one blue. And had to be careful because the printing ink I use [Speedball] is water soluble, too. I remember my father liked this one; he said it felt like an old fashioned illustration to him.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday card, 2002

Dasher, linocut.

I wanted to do something with a simple cut line and also liked the way the fragment of the image could represent the entire animal. I'd forgotten that I'd named this one after one of the eight reindeer. Why 'Dasher?' I dunno. Seemed like a Dasher, I guess.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday card, 2001

Sledboy, linocut.

I was kind of surprised to look back and see that this was the card from that year. But I'm glad to see it was. My oldest brother says this is still his favorite of all the holiday cards. I remember it took me a while to get the drawing and design right, and I tried a few different versions till I settled on the solution of white ink printed on a cool-toned blue card stock. This is the only card whose image bleeds all the way to the edges of the card.

We spent a lot of time sledding the hills of Highland Park in Toledo when I was kid, and those hours in the snow were definitely on my mind when I made this. I tried hard to get the weight and gesture of the kid just right as he trudges back up the hill, hauling his Flexible Flyer. When I was sledding, I would not go back inside until my feet were absolutely numb. It helped that we lived down half a block and across the street from the park. There were a couple big blizzards in '77 and '78, and one year there was an ice storm that turned the hill and field into a sheet of ice that could carry you all the way to McCarthy Ballpark.

For some reason, a cherished childhood memory for me is this big box of black galoshes we had, and wearing bread bags on our feet to help them slide in and keep them dry and warm. And a big thick candle we used to wax our runners. And lying on our backs with our feet up against the radiator [our house in the Old West End had stand up radiators; when we moved to the South Side of Toledo, the radiators were in the floor]. And hot chocolate in Santa Claus mugs. [Santa Claus mug...a future card design? Hmm....]

Anyway, lots of associations pile up this time of year, I guess. Highland now has a much bigger sledding hill, as my nieces and nephews will tell you.

Holiday card, 2000 [not to be confused with Deathrace 2000]

Snow, 2-color linocut on translucent card stock.

This was printed in two colors on two sides of translucent card stock, which gives it a little bit of depth. Looking back now, I wonder if that double-sidedness doesn't have something to do with my old friend and fellow painter Tim Litzmann's work, who works in acrylics on the reverse side of plexiglass. And who I need to get back in touch with. At any rate, I was also thinking about Japanese woodcuts because of an exhibition of Hiroshige's 100 Views of Edo at the Brooklyn Museum [a show which has probably influenced my holiday cards ever since, as a matter of fact]. I still like this one a lot.

By the way, Deathrace 2000.

Some action

Nice to see Omar and co. working hard at the winter meetings. Especially when it improves the bullpen.

Welcome, Frankie and J.J.

It was time for Aaron to go. Fan faves Joe Smith and Endy are also gone, but that's the nature of the game, and we wish them well. [Have I ever mentioned that I was in the house for The Catch?]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holiday card, 1999

Tree, cut paper.

Yes, I hand-cut all the cards we sent out that year. But it sounds like more work than it was. I did it as we went, watching tv, and they were pretty easy cuts and folds, almost all straight lines. I had some other designs that I may use some year when I feel like playing with scissors again, but they were all a little more complicated, so we'll see. I did like the elegance of it and the whiteness.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Holiday card, 1998

Snowman, linocut.

The second annual Christmas card was pretty straightforward and traditional, and I still like it a lot. It is self-contained, and kind of old-fashioned looking, and since it was one color, it was easy to print. I think I ran it off myself in one afternoon. It also feels very quiet and still to me, like a chilly night with a clear sky.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Holiday card, 1997

Treeseller. Woodcut with watercolor.

In 1997, I made the first of what would become an annual tradition: a handmade holiday greeting card. Before this year's Christmas comes, I hope to post all that have come along since then. The first was cut from a cheap piece of pine, and printed on Rives BFK [the last time I would use either wood or BFK paper]. For our Christmas-celebrating friends and family, I handcolored the guy's Santa cap in red and wrote "Merry Christmas" in blue ink with a reed pen. For our other-denominational friends, I left the cap uncolored and wrote "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings," I don't quite remember which. I think this proof may be the only copy of this one that I still have. I don't remember how many we printed, but in the years since, I've usually made editions in the 50-100 range, just to make sure we have plenty.

The Treeseller was an image I'd also played around with in drawings and paintings, because I've always liked the sight of trees lined up on NYC sidewalks in December. My father, who took his Christmas trees seriously, always felt there was some kind of Noellian evergreen conspiracy which sent all the best trees to this fair city. "They're all perfect!" he used to say. "You guys get all the best trees!" Produce, too, according to my mother, who once said she bought and sliced the perfect tomato right here in Brooklyn. Go figya.

I have a big painting based on the Treeseller image; I'll have to shoot and post it one of these Yules.

Quick portraits

Boy in Vest, felt tip marker, @16x12in.
The Sunday before Halloween, our building had a little Halloween party out front for both the building's growing kid population and for other kids on the block. I volunteered to draw some Halloween pictures fof kids to color -- vampires, werewolves, skeletons, witches and the like -- but when I sat down one of the older kids asked if I could draw him. Um, sure, I said, and luckily I had some halfway decent drawing chops that day and spent the next couple hours mostly drawing full-length portraits like the one above [sorry about the photo quality, maybe I can reshoot it another day]. It was totally unexpected, and a lot of fun, and the kids were all gracious and serious, and some even took the time to add some pretty serious color to theirs. I wish I'd snapped some more [the one above was left behind, so apparently every kid wasn't so flattered].
I did also end up doing some monster requests, the likes of Chucky and Michael Myers, and one kid asked for a rhino -- and not the Spider-Man badguy. When I used to do drawings for kids at a day camp while I was in college, I'd end up making a couple dozen rainbow unicorns and a few dozen more Rambos. So this was a nice little change of pace, and a challenge.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


White, yes...and dark too, please.

Stuffing. With whatever's lying around. Decent whole wheat bread, rye bread, nuts, seeds, sausage, apples, onion, herbs, celery.

Mashed potatoes? A little bit, please-- I make'em skins on, cooked with roasted garlic, and one sweet potato.

Cranberry sauce.

Pumpkin pie. Whipped cream. Vanilla ice cream. This year, it's pumpkin cheesecake.

Sometimes, poached pears. Not this one.

Some kind of vegetable side -- beans or brussels sprouts or whatever.

Red wine. Or prosecco.

No marshmallows.

Football on Thanksgiving is overrated. I hate the Cowboys. I grew up with the Lions, and as far as I know there aren't any Billy Simses or Barry Sanderses in Motown anymore, which are the only reasons I've ever known to watch that less than fabled franchise. Hell, they're lucky if they have any latter day Mel Farrs. [...superstar, for a Farr better deal....]

Last couple years, I've been able to grill the turkey, but our deck is off limits this year due to a building renovation project, so I'm going back indoors. The good part about that is I can cook the stuffing in the bird, which I don't do when I'm cooking it on the grill. Grilling does produce a nice turkey, crisp outside, moist in. And frees up the kitchen, of course, which is saying something here in NYC.

Post dinner nap is always nice, too. Usually during the Lions game.

The aftermath: gallons and gallons of turkey soup. Best way to eat leftovers: turkey meat, stuffing, mashed potatoes all mixed up in one skillet and heated through on the stove top. When I was a kid, cold white turkey meat with Lawry's seasoned salt.

Things I didn't eat as a kid: stuffing, pumpkin pie, cranberries. Thanks God for acquired tastes.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Autumn in New York

My son's day care was closed on Veteran's Day, so he and I had the day off together. It was the kind of brilliant Fall day, with richly colored leaves and crisp air and sharpedged sunshine, that reminds me why I live in this great, big, beautiful city. We went to Central Park, where the light really was knifelike, cutting at an Emily Dickinson slant through the trees. He ate a midmorning hot dog in front of the Met, and was a good sport for me when I wanted to go inside.

I wanted to make sure I saw the Morandi exhibition before it closes, and I figured that if at all possible, a weekday morning would be best for avoiding the crowds. Having a four year-old with you is not optimal for looking at Morandi's slow and exacting work, but it's better than missing the show entirely.

Like I said a couple months ago, I do wish they had hung the show in more spacious, better lit galleries. I remember the lower level of the Lehman Wing was one of the toughest places to stay awake when I was working as a guard there, although it's different now, trafficwise, because of the new public cafeteria down there as well.

I'd still like to go back alone and take more time with the show. It was my first time seeing the landscapes, which are dishraggy in color and tone, and not in a good way. So they were disappointing to me. (Although the landscape etchings are very fine.) But the still lifes, of which I've seen only a handful in person before, as there are not many Morandis on this side of the Atlantic, are great. The delicately muddy palette works on the intimate scale of still life, but it is only weak and dull in a landscape, where you expect the light to, well, do something. And every once in a while, there's a tone or color in a still life that rings like a bell, whether the brushwork is shaky and shimmery or tight and focussed.

Compositionally, I had never seen, even in reproduction, the odd still lifes that sit on one half of the canvas and run off the side. The more tightly composed pictures, with objects centered like family portraits in early photography, are more stately, the bottles and vessels and boxes gathered and crowded into even more intimate groups, as if you were looking into a full elevator with glass walls. It makes me think of de Kooning's quotation about all the space a painter needs, which goes something like, if you stretch your arms down along your sides, and wonder where your fingers are. Yes, I'm not sure how much sense it makes, but I will say that some days it makes more sense than others.

And the watercolors are strange and gorgeous, like shadow plays.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Gorilla with girl (2007), oil on canvas, 54x60in.

House (2006), oil on canvas, 18x20in.

Gorilla with showgirl, (2007), pastel on paper, @42x42in.

Backstage with skeleton (2005), oil on canvas, 14x20in.

Ever since he found out one of my favorite movies of all time is the original King Kong, my son says I should be the giant gorilla for Halloween. He is going to be a vampire bat.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

Football weather

Homecoming (2000), oil on canvas, 72x42in.

It's been what we used to call football weather back when I was growing up in Ohia. Cool, crisp, brilliant blue skies. Gorgeous.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


2005, oil transfer on paper with charcoal and pastel, @18x20in.

Monday, September 29, 2008

No joy, etc.

I just hate -- hate -- that it was the Marlins again.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, another long, cold, dark offseason.

When I played baseball as a kid, I never quite got the game. It was a mystery to me, the whole rate of failure, the game in your head, the bounces, the inches, the judgment of the umpire. Football was my game, something straightforward, physical. Line up across another guy and try to knock the snot out of him. Baseball, I was too uptight to really let it it fly. And my mind wandered. Now, watching games, I prefer baseball to football in every way. The beauty, the rhythms, the day to day of it. Today football is a different game from the one I loved, a game of specialization and matchups and strategy, plugging players in and out for specific plays, situations. That's just boring and impersonal to me, a kid who soaked up the stories of the sixties Packers and Giants and Browns and Rams.

Anyway, even though I love baseball now, there are still things I just don't get. The biggest being that you just can't bend any given situation to your will, at least as a hitter. The game is just too big and crazy and mysterious to me. Football, I always felt like you had a little control over things, if only biggest there's always somebody waiting to be knocked down.

Anyway, the first, undisputed fact is the bullpen has to be rebuilt from the ground up. Maybe you keep a couple guys, I don't know, but most of them have to be gone.

Friday, September 19, 2008


2003, oil on canvas, 22x28in.

Corn muffin

2003, oil on paper, @6x6in.


1998, charcoal, @20x15in.

Morandi in the basement / Mets in the pennant race

I am looking forward to seeing the Morandi retrospective at the Met, but I was a little disappointed to see in the Times today that it's hanging in the lower level of the Lehman wing, which is below ground in a strange, circular layout of galleries adjacent to the cafeteria. Holland Cotter thinks this is fitting; I'd rather see these subtle, straightforward paintings up on the second floor in some skylit galleries and with some room to maneuver [a Morandi show is a rare event this side of the Atlantic; it's going to be crowded down in the Lehman catacombs]. There is some indirect natural light in the Lehman wing, but it's mostly for the interior courtyard where they usually don't hang art. Anyway, I hope I'm wrong, and the space does not take away from the work.


Meanwhile, the Mets are in a real, live division championship race with the Phillies, and it is excruciating fun.


Today's post was brought to you by the letter M.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Kid's eye view

What happens when my son gets his hands on a camera. At the risk of sounding like an easily pleased, too-proud parent, it's kind of nice to be reminded what the world looks like to a four year-old. The Wiggles shot from the tv is a little odd, considering he hasn't watched them in years. Looks like the Wiggles are in that transporter thing on Star Trek.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Highly recommended

Go see this show at Spencer Brownstone.

Jeff Gabel is a friend of mine who makes great work.

His latest drawings and stories are at Spencer Brownstone Gallery, 39 Wooster Street, till October 25.

I could describe his work, describe him, tell some funny story about some night we were drinking, but the thing is, you should just go see his work. Seriously, dude.

Last call [for us] at Shea

Yesterday was our last regular-season visit to Shea. We are still hoping for a chance to go back in the postseason, but we have two full weeks of baseball season left with a one-game lead over the Phils, so there's no way of knowing the chances yet [so let's go].

Therefore, we approached yesterday's game against the Braves like our last-ever, ever, ever game at Shea Stadium. I wore my favorite, if beaten and battered, torn and tattered, sweaty old royal blue Mets cap. And the day was pretty much a microcosm of the Met fan experience: good starting pitching, big day from David Wright, two run lead going into the ninth, majestic bullpen meltdown, enough of a rally in the bottom of the ninth to get your hopes up, but ultimately falling short. Designed to break your heart, indeed, pally. You know, it don't come easy.

A bittersweet goodbye to Shea. Consolation in the upcoming fourteen games over fourteen days and what should be a wild ride. Consolation in the last ever Mr. Met Dash at Shea, and my son's joy at running the bases. This time he was more determined than ever, and a laughing member of the field crew had to catch him after he crossed home plate because he was making a beeline for the home dugout. I lifted him up and he was panting like a racehorse. Consolation in my son seeing Mr. Met in the second inning, getting a pat on the head from the big fluffy hand. Consolation in seeing the home run apple twice, thanks to Mr. Wright.

We're going to miss Shea. A mess of a ballpark, sure, but ours, and seriously underrated. I saw Springsteen and the E Street Band there in 2003. I was there for game 7 in 2006. A Sunday game against the Braves on September 23, 2001 was one of the most emotionally draining days I've ever had, and was the first time in those days after the towers fell that I remember feeling anything like joy because the ballgame gave us a sense of community that was overpowering and, yes, healing [although it was another heartbreaking bullpen catastrophe. Thanks, Armando]. I liked Shea's wide open feel, the views of the subway and the LIRR out past the bullpen, and for some reason, I grew to love the upper deck best of all, sitting out there free and easy in the breeze with everything laid out below and only sky and jet airliners overhead. In comparison, Yankee Stadium felt claustrophobic to me after I grew to know Shea so well. But there's lots of baseball left, so no need to get sentimental yet. Let's go Mets!

Friday, September 12, 2008


2008, oil on canvas, 15x10in.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

More works in progress

Party (2008), oil on canvas, 20x28in.

Phone call (2008), in progress (second state), oil on canvas, 20x20in.

Woman with wine and man (2008), in progress (second state), oil on canvas, 36x54in.

Woman in doorway (2008), in progress (second state), oil on canvas, 36x54in.

Woman with mirror and lamp (2008), in progress (second state), oil on canvas, 40x50in.

Dutch Genre Painting

I was looking at the progress on the latest B-movie paintings this weekend, and it occurred to me that there is a link between this work and Dutch genre painting of the seventeenth century. These interiors of mine, often with single women, or with ambiguous relations between men and women, painted with a severely limited palette meant to evoke the flickering blue light of television screens, feel to me like more menacing relations to the finely wrought, crystalline and grey Dutch paintings of men and women in interiors, sharing wine, playing music. Perhaps not so much the great Vermeer, but more akin to the lesser, though also great, Dutch painters like Ter Borch and de Hooch. Sometimes my work feels like Dutch genre paintings filtered through film noir. Some of these Dutch paintings also feel ambiguous to our eyes, though usually the meaning would have been crystal clear to seventeenth century Dutch viewers. In a similar way, I like to consider Matisse's underrated Nice-period work of the 1920's to be luxurious, overheated heirs to Dutch genre painting.

Friday, September 5, 2008


Face (2008), oil on paper, @22x15in.

Profile (2008), oil on paper, @22x15in.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Dying mall with American flag

2008, oil and pastel on paper, @20x28in.

We visited my home town last March. Toledo, Ohio. It was a rainy week so one day my mother, my wife and I took my son to Soutwyck Mall, where a carousel still runs even though most of the stores have left. I was kind of intrigued by the dying mall, which reminded me of a Romero movie. It was the mall where we played video games and watched movies and drank Orange Juliuses when I was growing up. So it was strange to see the doors shuttered and locked, but all the fixtures still bright and clean, the place mostly used by senior citizens getting in their morning exercise on a rainy day by walking the halls in their running shoes and track outfits. I took some photographs, including the one upon which this picture is based, and I believe that sometime in the next year or so I'll do a series based on the images of this dying mall.

In general, I was kind of saddened to see how my home town had grown kind of shabby in the years since I left. Roads in bad shape, malls emptying while new ones are built even further and further away from the city's center. To say nothing of the downtown, which started its slide some thirty years ago (was very sad to see the science center in the old Portside mall had closed). The image above is from the center fountain area of the mall. Its wide, plush carpeted, green steps was a place to hang out with friends, but the giant flag was not there when I was growing up, so I take it to be a post-9/11 decoration. There were still a few shops there when we were there -- a tattoo parlor, a couple gender-specific Foot Lockers, a couple other athletic stores. Just a weird, eerie feeling.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Happy Birthday

Flowers, 2000, charcoal, 22x15in.
Love and thanks to my wife on her birthday.

Recent work

Party, 2008, acrylic on paper, 11x15in.

Magic act, 2008, oil on canvas, 26x36in.

Hand, 2008, oil on canvas, 26x36in.