Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Still life, late 90's

In the late '90's, I threw myself humbly into still life painting, working toward that clarity of color and light, and straightforwardness of technique, that I'd learned to admire so much in the early Impressionists. The Cezanne retrospective in Philadelphia helped, too.

The above is from 1998, oil, about 24x30in.

Pink, 1997, oil on canvas, 16x11in.

White Irises, 2000, oil, 36x26in.

Skull with Lemons, 1997, oil, 18x20in.

Tulips in a coffee can, 1996, oil, 24x20.

Blue Hydrangeas, 1997, oil, 14x11in. Private collection, Mexico.

Big pinks, 2000, oil, 30x30in.

Walnuts, eggplants, flower, 1997, oil, 18x20in.

African daisies, 2000, oil, 36x26in.

White flowers, 1997, oil, 20x18in.

The Mets do not need to trade Jose Reyes. That's absurd.

Monday, June 29, 2009

the Frick Collection

Last Wednesday I had the day off. I left the house early for a doctor's appointment in Manhattan. I like my doctor, but I don't like having to go to midtown to see him, and it gives me yet another excuse to avoid doctor visits. This was kind of a part one visit. I met with a naturopathic doctor who works in his practice, and they took a lot of blood, and then I see my regular doctor this Thursday to talk about the blood work, which will mostly be a discussion of how bad my cholesterol is. I've been working hard at improving my diet, and exercising more often for the last 14 months or so, and I've lost about thirty pounds in that time. I feel pretty damn good. But unfortunately, I'm pretty sure I'm still going to have to go on meds to get the cholesterol under control, and that disappoints me.

After the doc visit, I found a diner for some breakfast, since I'd had to fast for the blood work, and after that, I decided to walk the twenty blocks or so up to the Frick Collection, a place that has always been one of my favorite spots in NYC. The secret has gotten out, so it's not quite the restful and quiet place it used to be, but that's okay. It still has some of the most beautiful paintings in New York.

They have all their Whistlers all in one place for a special exhibition. I don't care a whole lot for Whistler, to tell the truth, but it was nice to see the four full length portraits all together in the oval room, just off the courtyard [I have always loved the spitting frogs in the courtyard]. Interesting to see how he used different coarsenesses of canvas with his thin and breathy washes. Only one of the four is a very good painting, although they all are worth looking at.

I have also always loved the Titian, the Bellini, the Holbein, and the great Vermeer of the soldier and the laughing woman. What I found interesting this visit is how different things strike you as you age, even with galleries and paintings as familiar and comforting as the Frick's. I'm getting older, so more than ever I found myself wondering about some of the people in the paintings, particularly Hals' big round guy with the twinkly eye. Like so many before me, I marvel at the silky and luminous blacks, but this time I'm also just a little curious about who this guy was, what it was like for him to be painted by Hals, what was on his mind, what they talked about. Maybe I'm getting sentimental.

With the way the Mets are playing, I'll take all the sentiment I can get. And beauty.

The Frick is the kind of place where every time I've walked out of there I'm sure I've found a new favorite painting. This time it was a smallish painting by Goya, a simple portrait of a woman with pale and fair skin, dark eyes and hair, the hint of a moustache, dressed in a simple black dress, standing against a brownish murky background. What made this my favorite of this trip: the difference in handling between the delicate, gorgeous, precisely observed painting of her face, and the coarser, rough, faster handing of her figure and the black dress and grey gloves. Rough and thick paint there, delicate and pearly here.

I spent a little more time than I usually do with the early Italian paintings, too, especially the little Pieros, so serious and dignified and then that red, wow. And all in all, I came away that day with a new appreciation for the strangeness that runs through the history of Western painting [the Ingres! that arm is all wrong, but who cares! those weird old stories and juxtapositions of scale in the religious paintings, the odd narratives in the Veroneses. And partly, you find what you look for, and what you've been thinking about, and lord knows I've been embracing the oddities in my work lately.].

After the Frick, I walked down Fifth to Union Square, about fifty-five blocks, taking my time, people watching on the Library steps, getting rained on a little bit, window shopping. Highlight was watching a guy in a suit ahead of me fruitlessly trying to catch a cab going downtown, waving and checking his watching and jogging and waving again. No cab for you, pally.

I do like knocking around Manhattan with no place to be.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More old paintings, circa 1995

Grey still life (1995), 24x28in.

Backyard (1995), 24x28in.

Night car (1995), 20x24in.

Tulips (1995), 24x20in.

House (1995), 24x28in.

All these are oil on canvas, painted not long after grad school, working through some of the de Kooning and Diebenkorn influences, but also starting to look toward more traditional, perception-based paintings, strongly influenced by my job as a guard at the Metropolitan. In particular, there was a huge and beautiful show there, Origins of Impressionism, which focused on the early work of the French Impressionists, and which would lead me to spend a few years painting outdoors and from still lifes in the studio, working toward toward a clarity of light and color and a directness of technique. Examples of that stuff to come, too.

With these, the landscapes are done from memory or imagination, the still lifes from direct observation. The grey still life was especially a response to the still lifes in the Origins show, while the tulips, which are now in my mother's house, was more a synthesis of observation and abex technique. The house an example of that, too, strongly influenced by de Kooning's so-called highway paintings of the fifties. The car more of a mood piece, and the backyard from a strong childhood memory. The backyard painting is in a private collection in San Francisco, the house in a private collection in Colorado, and the grey still life was used as a promotional poster for an arts series at my undergraduate school, Wittenberg University.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What's on the door in the previous post

On the left, some personal photos: my son; me and my son at his first mets game in 2004; him and his mother on the Southwyck carousel in Toledo; a print I made of him; my wife and I dancing at a wedding; my dad; my son laughing when he was a few months old.

A postcard of a middle eastern painting. A polaroid of Gilligan's Island. A polaroid of a beach movie. A couple old photos I found in a thrift store. A clipping of a photo of silent film star Louise Brooks from an old New York magazine. Johnny Cash.

Reproduction of a drawing by my friend Jeff Gabel, which posits that guilt is the major impulse in art making.

Some Preston Sturges quotations. Giulietta Masina in La Strada. An early American portrait. Bela Lugosi and friend, from a BAM calendar. Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret, dancing in Viva Las Vegas. A baroque Spanish still life. An Ingres drawing.

A watercolor by my son.

"I was so modest then that I was vain." Willem de Kooning.

"The movies are the best proof that Americans are liveliest and freest when we don't take ourselves too seriously." Pauline Kael.

"When you are afraid of making too many paintings, then you will make a good painting." Kung Hsien.

"If I could tell you anything, I would say that you have time." Agnes Martin.

Fortune cookie fortune: When the time comes, take the top one.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

studio odds n ends

Some random, photos, clippings, quotes on my studio door. The watercolor is my son's.

A weird plaster caryatid I trashpicked about 8 yrs ago.

high up on my studio wall, a drawing of my father, and some paintings by my son. From time to time he comes to the studio and I set him up to make some paintings. He likes to use one of my printmaking ink rollers, and he goes to town with it.

A flattened Mister Softee cup, pinned to my wall like a prize butterfly. One magical summer in Toledo, our first on the South Side after living in the Old West End, there was a Mister Softee truck in the neighborhood, serving soft serve ambrosia right out of a truck! It never came back after that, and when I moved to NYC in 1991, I was overjoyed to see this chimeric totem from my childhood was alive and well in the big city.

Blurry self portrait.

Small drawings and paintings kept in the corner during the open studio.


I have a lot of books in my studio. I like to have books around. I kind of have to have books around, just the way I was raised. In my studio are artist monographs, exhibition catalogs, comic books, novels, notes on craft, criticism, movie books, and just plain weird little things that I've picked up here and there because they appeal to me for whatever reason. These pics give you an idea.
Artists: de Kooning, Matisse, Diebenkorn, Hiroshige, Beckmann, Bonnard, Elizabeth Murray, Katz, Gerhard Richter, Luc Tuymans, Manet, Cezanne, Degas, Guston, Morandi, La Tour, Vermeer, Seurat....
Movies: a book on Godard with lots of great pics, Kael's I Lost it at the Movies, Naha's Horrors from Screen to Scream [a book from my childhood], Lumet's Making Movies....
Novelists and fiction: James, Hammett, Chandler, Kundera, Hornby, Greene, Gardner....
Miscellaneous: Bowling for All, an old instructional football book, a couple books about lovebirds that were presents from a couple old friends when I moved in, an old junior high health text from the 1970's, a kid's book about the human body, Origins of Marvel Comics and its two sequels....
Criticism: Kael, Porter, Ashberry....
They come from all over, the books. Most are second hand, one way or another, found on a stoop, bought at a used shop or library sale, gift from friends. That's another good thing about books, they come from all over, and you never know when one will catch your eye, or why.

Pics from the Open Studio Weekend

Some shots of the studio, which cleans up pretty well, as works were installed for the Atlantic Avenue ArtWalk opens studios. It's a cozy space, with nice light, and private. You can see more photos here: http://picasaweb.google.com/packyjewell/Openstudio#

The weekend went as well as these things can. Nothing too annoying or humiliating happened [you tell with what high hopes I approach these things]; on the contrary, plenty of positive feedback, visitors were mostly strangers, and a pretty decent amount of traffic. Thanks to everyone who stopped by, friend or stranger.

Another nice thing was catching up a little with some of my neighbors, whom I'm really bad about chatting with when I'm over there working. They are all very talented, hardworking people, and it's a real pleasure to share the floor with them. There's a jewelry designer, a couple fashion designers who make hats and swimsuits, among other things, and another painter who also does some illustration and teaches at SVA. More on them soon, and I'll give some links to their work. Met some new neighbors too, who seem really nice.

There was only one visitor I would've liked to throw out on his ass. Near the end of the day Sunday, a cute little young couple came in, didn't say much at all to me, but I heard him say something about feeling like he was in a swimming pool [the blue], and she laughed. Now, I'm the first to admit being a little overly sensitive, but my goodness it's rude to be welcomed into a strangers studio and make a crappy joke about the work. So I stewed a little over how I wished I'd asked him what he said and then kicked him out. Okay, I'm over it. Overwhelmingly, people were nice, and I really don't mind how many people made some harmless remark about my 'Blue Period.' I don't mind, but I notice. Sensitive, sure. Not proud of it.

So, a good weekend. Now, I have to put everything back and get back to work. Which will be a relief. Thanks again, to all who came by. Maybe I'll make it a regular thing.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Open studio this weekend

The door's open, Saturday and Sunday, 1-6pm, as part of the sixth annual Atlantic Avenue ArtWalk. See previous post for more info.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Some more old stuff

Upside-down Tricycle (1992), oil on canvas, 30x30in.

Tireswing (1992), oil on canvas, 40x40in.

Lawn chairs and backstoop (1992), oil on canvas, 50x50in.

Porch (1992), oil on canvas, 60x36in.

Way (1993), oil on canvas, @32x42in.

Tireswing, Porch, and Way were all in my thesis show. For more about my days at Pratt, what I was thinking and doing, see the previous post. Tireswing is now in a private collection in Brooklyn. My mother always said the little boy reminded her of one of my brothers.

Take me back

Four Houses, 1992-3, oil on canvas, @40x60in.

Recently had some old slides scanned to digital and, although they are not always the best quality, I'll be posting some of them here, and you can also see them in my picasa albums, link to the right. This splashy thing was a part of my MFA Thesis exhibition at Pratt Institute in the spring of 1993, and is now tucked away in a storage locker on Flatbush a few blocks from my studio. Very much in thrall to the Bay Area Figurative painters of the 50's and 60's back then, especially Richard Diebenkorn, by far the best of the lot. And also starting to come more and more under the influences of de Kooning and Matisse, but more on that later. I was learning to paint, obviously, and I was in love with the splash and the sturm, etc. I was, what, 24 or 25 when I was painting this one. My god, that's young.

Four Houses is based on a photo of a row of houses in the neighborhood where I grew up in Toledo, viewed from Highland Park, looking across South Avenue. I was big into exploring images from childhood back then, toys and houses and fields. More to come.

Monday, June 1, 2009

first trip to citi field for a game

We went on Saturday, and I knew the Marlins were throwing their ace, Josh Johnson, who absolutely owns the Mets, but I was a little disappointed about our lineup, which featured only Carlos Beltran in terms of marquee players. Admittedly, the Mets are hurting so bad lately, there aren't many marquee players even available on any given day [I really miss watching Jose play], and so after an extra-inning night game, the glaring sit-outs were David Wright and Gary Sheffield - and Luis Castillo, to a lesser extent. But another plus was getting to see young Fernando Martinez play, and he got a lot of chances in right field, and swung the bat pretty well, too. And remembered to run, and run hard, to first.

Still, it was a beautiful day for a ballgame. We sat in a Promenade level box, in the left field corner. We got our free tote bags, and we got there early enough that our wait in the Shake Shack line was only about fifteen minutes. My god, those are good burgers. Looking forward to trying Blue Smoke next time. It took longer to wait in line for my son to get his turn at the wiffle ball field.

Our seats were good. I guess they would be called 'obstructed view' because the left field corner is below the sight line. Some idiot fans nearby, but what you gonna do. At least they weren't nasty. For most of the game it was this older loudmouthed dope in front of us, and then when they left in the eighth [wasn't much of a ball game, but it being our first game we weren't going anywhere], there were these younger loudmouthed dopes sitting behind us. It felt like they were shouting right in our ears, and talking like Tim McCarver acolytes. Later they moved and I noticed they were wearing flipflops. I've said it before -- don't wear flipflops to a baseball game.

Bad game, but enjoyable day. And my son, as usual, fell asleep on my lap on the 7 train. Maybe I'll post some of the photos he took later in the week.