Sunday, August 22, 2010

New Julian Merrow-Smith book!

A couple of days ago, I received the new Julian Merrow-Smith book of his "Postcard from Provence" paintings.  In a word;  Wow!  The reproductions are beautiful and most are life-size, with a few being enlarged for the inside and back covers.  For those of you who follow his website, you know his work, so I won't post any images.  If you don't follow the site, I most strongly recommend a visit.  You won't be disappointed and, if you're like me, will be inspired.  A link to his site is on my blog list.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

First Studio, Cerreto, Italy, 1994.

We moved to Italy in 1994, following my retirement from the navy.  I thought such a move would go a long way, literally and figuratively, toward getting away from everything I'd known and thereby give my new life as a painter one hell of a kick-start.
Our rental farm house had a small garage, complete with fireplace and sink, so I thought it would be perfect for a first studio.  I spent many happy hours here painting, contemplating life in Italy, drinking the wine we helped make and taking more than a few naps.  We would also roast chestnuts, grill sausages and occasionally, even park the car here.

Looking into Mt. Saint Helens.

It took us awhile living in Portland before we made the drive to have a look at Mt. Saint Helens.  I really didn't think it would be much to see, mostly gray ash and tree stumps.  What a surprise we were in for!   On a beautiful spring day in 2004 we decided it was time.
There are several stops along the way, each bringing you closer to the crater and different spectacular scenery.  Anticipation builds as you get close to the ultimate destination;  Johnston Ridge Visitor Center, located only five miles away from the still alive-and-growing crater.
We were awe-struck being so close to the blown-out section of the volcano, allowing us to  peer inside and see the building lava dome.  Steam rising from various places inside the crater heightens feelings of excitement, a bit of nervousness and even a little fear.  It emphasizes the fact that you're standing very close to one of nature's most dramatic and potentially deadly continuing events.

"A Gentleman of India", 2010

I just signed it today and submitted it for jury consideration to the Portland Art Museum's Rental/Sales Gallery.  Should it be accepted, a frame becomes the next problem.  I hate choosing frames and don't always really like those suggested by framers.  Guess I should always use gallery-wrap canvasses to eliminate the issue.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mr. Charlie Wilson receives his portrait, 2009.

We used to live in the same building as Charlie and came to know him as a neighbor.  Another friend, also a building resident, Ms Laurie Wayne, did a short documentary about him as a film class project.  He was chosen as her subject because of his many years of service to others.  His apartment is always completely full of donated clothes, toys, small appliances and other stuff which he "makes well" and provides to those in need.  Here, he is seen at his 94th-birthday party given by grateful recipients of his kindness and generosity.  At the party, his daughter, who helps him serve so many, presented the portrait I did of him.  Few people in Portland haven't heard his name and his service to others puts him right up there with Mother Teresa, in my humble opinion.

My Old Flight Boots, IV, 2003.

2003 was a great year for me.  Not only did I take second prize in the Coos Bay exhibition, but I also was juried into the Rental/Sales Gallery of the Portland Art Museum.  That year, I believe ninety-eight artists applied for membership, including myself, and ten of us were selected.  I was on a roll!  This painting was one of the five submitted to the jury.  On the evening of the show for newly-selected artists, this was the first work to rent or sell.  It rented many times over a three-year period, however, it did not sell.  My old flight boots have seen a lot of this planet and to date, I've painted five "portraits" of them.  This version is my favorite and remains in our home.  The original and first was painted in the small garage attached to our rental home in Cerreto, a small conglomeration of farmer's homes about seven miles outside of Pitigliano.  It was painted during an all-night session and I was quite proud of the effort.  Before leaving Italy, I offered any of my paintings as gifts to a small group of  Carmelite Sisters residing in a cloister behind the neighborhood chapel.  To my surprise and shock, the Mother Superior indicated she liked the flight boots.  Never expecting them to actually accept a painting, I was staggered to hand her what I considered my best work to date.  Though I am not religious, I couldn't help but think if there were a god, she was really testing me!  I don't know if the nun is still alive, much less if the painting is still with her. 

Self-Portrait

This self-portrait was painted, I believe, in the late nineties, but I didn't sign it, don't remember the year and it is in the collection of my first and, to date, only patrons, Dr. Andrea and Mr. Jared Haller of Indianapolis, Indiana.  I love it because of the loose brushwork and the fact that I had a whole lot more hair then.

The Old Teapot, 2003.


This large still life is part of the permanent collection of the Southwest Oregon Community College Foundation. It was awarded second prize in a juried exhibition at the Coos Bay (Oregon) Art Museum in 2003. The annual exhibition titled, "Expressions West", included entries from the thirteen western states. "The Old Teapot" was entered on my behalf by a Portland art gallery owner, Mr. Robert Joki. I guess he saw promise in the work, though I was reluctant to even submit an entry. The runner-up prize was a $3,000-purchase award. Needless to say, such an outcome was a huge shock and I will forever be grateful to Mr. Joki for his support.

Self-Portrait at 55, 2005.


Painted during my "Rembrandt Phase", it's a fairly large canvas, 24-by-20 inches. People seem to think I was angry, but the expression was simply the result of the intense concentration. It's very obvious Rembrandt's reputation remains secure.

The Copper Pot, 2007.

I used to do mostly still life paintings and here's an example I'm not unhappy with.

Michele enjoys the view of Pitigliano, Nov, 2008.

The location is the shop of one of Tuscany's most famous moto-enthusiasts, Tarziello Niccolai.  To make this simple, he's a relative of Michele's by marriage...sort of.  Anyway, it's a wonder he ever got any work done with a view like this.  Michele's father was born in Pitigliano.  He came to America at the age of seven, with his mother and brother, following their father's immigration.  They settled in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where Michele was born.

A view of Pitigliano, Italy.

Another part of the view from Tarziello's shop.  The town was built originally by the Etruscans, who favored such locations for the protection they offered.  Or, perhaps they just loved the views!  They were known for their love of earthly pleasures, not unlike the current residents.

Sunrise from our room in the Albergo di Guastini, Pitigliano, Italy

We were in this same hotel during our first visit to Pitigliano in 1992.  It's built on the edge of the cliff and the view is quite stunning.  Pitigliano is located about two-hours NE of Rome, in Toscana.

Another door from our Pitigliano visit.

An old entryway in Pitigliano, Italy.

We took a short trip to Pitigliano, Italy in November, 2008, to visit Michele's relatives and the many friends we made during our stay there from the fall of 1994 till spring of 1996.  The old doors throughout the centro storico of Pitigliano had so much character, I couldn't resist taking these photos.  Might very likely become a painting someday.

Fritz Junker, 2009.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Gentleman of India


Another painting I'm not sure is finished yet.  Background issues are being considered, as well as, highlights on his face.  The source photo for this work comes from Jeremy Hodes, of Canberra, Australia.  He snapped this gentleman's image while visiting a village in India and published it on his blog, http://tofuphotography.blogspot.com.  I contacted him a few days ago to arrange for permission to use it and he most generously granted me the rights for no charge.  As a thank-you, I'm about to begin a portrait of his wife.  What a wonderful time to be alive!  Instant global communication and friendships formed thanks to computers and the Internet.  

Work Continues



Work on GW's portrait continues.  I significantly lightened the background, which completely changed the look.  I'd been struggling with the values until I realized the reference photo was basically a back-light set-up.  Applying the light background brought the previous work into a more acceptable value range.  Still needs work, however.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Another work-in-progress, Aug 2, 2010

This is a portrait of a neighbor and it may be a long-haul before it sees the light of day.  He has very particular ideas of what he wants this to be and I'm quite certain adjustments will be required.  He hopes I finish it before he dies and my hope is to complete it before I die!  Good Luck to us both! 

Work in Progress, Aug 2, 2010

This self-portrait is an experiment with color and a bit more freedom with the brush.  David Lobenberg, an artist I hold in high esteem, despite his relentless and dogged attacks, would, I hope, applaud this effort.  He's a strong proponent of loose, painterly brushwork and having fun.  These two concepts are seldom seen in my work-to-date, though I'm working on it!  Come back to see the final outcome!