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  • Plein air paintings from Greece 2016

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    Plein Air of Athens in the Morning, 14×18″

     

    Here are (finally) good images of my pictures from Greece this past summer.  There’s been a backlog of teaching, painting, emailing and everything else that got in the way of touching up, varnishing and photographing.  Better late than never, here we are in November.

     

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    Messinian Patina, Morning 14×18″

     

    I really enjoy painting in Greece (you can see some of my Greek pictures from winter 2014/15 in this post).  It’s a great country for painting- besides the sites and weather, food is cheap, and lodgings are not expensive.  If you are into painting cityscape, Athens is a lot of fun with all the ruins peppered through the city, and the subway is brand new and super easy to get around with.  This time though I spent most of my time painting in the Peloponnese.

     

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    Terpsithea, 12×16″

     

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    Agrylis 12×16″

     

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    Vromoneri 10×14″

     

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    Methoni Castle 12×16″

     

    One nice aspect of painting in Greece is that there really has been no impressionist vein ‘outdoor painting’ tradition to speak of post-war.  There are great contemporary Greek Artists (Giorgos Rorris comes to mind), but I’m quite sure in many of the places I painted I am the first person with an easel they’ve seen painting outside; I’m a novelty.  I speak Greek well enough at this point to interact with the locals, and the interaction is often a version of the following:

    them: “Hey,  what are you doing?”

    me: “Good, just painting a little.”

    them: pensive silence “… ….Why?”

    me: “I like it, it’s my job.”

    them: “huh. That’s my house/land/tree/olive field in the painting.”

    me: “Oh really.  Nice house/land/tree/olive field.”

    them: “Can I have it?” pointing at the painting

    me: awkward silence “well, no, it’s my work.”

    them: “why?” 

    and so on.  It’s a breath of fresh air from the folks in New England that want to tell me about their Aunt’s paintings.  On a trip years ago a farmer asked me to trade a picture for some of his watermelons.

     

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    Kyparissia 14×18″

     

     

  • Blue Hill/Deer Isle Peninsula October 2016

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    Back in 2013, a group of my friends and I were invited to paint in Plyos, the Russian city in the Ivanovo region where Isaak Levitan painted many of his most important pictures.  The weather wasn’t great (you can read about that trip by clicking here, and I should really rephotograph the paintings I still have from the trip ).  During that difficult trip we developed a lot of camaraderie with our Russian counterparts, though we had little common language.  Painting through the torrential rain every day, and complaining and drinking at night.

    This year, my friend Ben Fenske wanted to return the favor, so he invited a small group of the Russian artists we painted with to come paint in the US, and organized an exhibition at the end of the trip at Grenning Gallery in Sag Harbor, NY– Ben also organized a few American artists as counterparts, as we had in 2013.  The artists that were painting together were Carl Bretzke, Viktor Butko, Ben Fenske, Olga Karpacheva, Stapleton Kearns, Tim McGuire, Jesse Powell, Irina Rybekova and Oleg Zhuravlev [click any artist’s name for a link to their website] Additionally, my friend Kelly Carmody had been painting in Maine, and we spent time painting with her throughout the trip.  Jesse Powell was gracious enough to host our very large group at his family’s camp on a pond in Blue Hill, ME.  We were there for peak fall color, and thankfully the weather was mostly good.

     

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    Trips like these are interesting- whatever the weather ends up being like, there’s an undeniable energy in getting a large group of artists together; everyone brings their ‘A’ game, and there is a sort of friendly competition and excitement to watching the group’s work develop.  For me personally, being away from my family encourages me to spend every waking moment working on paintings, as I want to make sure I’m using my time well.   As an artist it’s an energizing experience, however your paintings end up it will revitalize your studio time.  There is a bit of magic in all the big personalities, on your feet working all day, and large dinners at night.  It was intense, and exhausting.

     

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    Here are a few of my pictures I started during the trip, and I have finished in the studio (Next post I will put the other half of the paintings from the trip, they are larger and have been taking more time to complete)

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    Stonington Harbor from Church St, 20×24″

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    Golden Hour, Allen Cove 14×18″

     

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    Lobster Pound, 22×28″

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    Powell Camp 12×16″

     

    Here’s some pictures from the trip of the group at work:

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    Tim McGuire painting in Stonington

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    Olga Karpacheva painting at Jesse Powell’s in the rain

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    Oleg Zhuravlev in Stonington on the Highlands

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    Irina Rybekova and Zhuravlev on Mt Cadillac above Eagle Lake

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    Jesse Powell painting in Stonington

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    Stapleton Kearns in Stonington

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    Me painting at Powell Camp

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    Olga Karpacheva and myself painting a Lobster Pound

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    Kelly Carmody

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    Ben Fenske and Viktor Butko painting happily in the rain

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    Fenske and Carmody in Stonington

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    Viktor Butko painting the Lobster Co-Op

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    Carl Bretzke painting in Stonington

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    the day we were completely rained out we took the Russians to the Farnsworth in Rockland to see the Wyeth collection

    The fall color was fantastic, though going into the trip I was slightly concerned the Russians would find inland Maine too similar to Russia- I had forgotten that though they also have fantastic fall color, they don’t have all the blood red maple foliage.

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    Our show at Grenning Gallery in Sag Harbor will open on November 5th.  Most of the artists will be in attendance.

  • Landscape Commission

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     Beech Hill Pond, Maine 24×30″

     

    Here’s another recent commissioned painting.  It’s a view of the pond where the couple was married back in September of this year.  Each day I worked on it was blue sky, but there was a crisp wind, and I think that comes through a bit in the final picture.  Although this September was very warm I’ve never been colder in recent memory than when laying out this painting.  I’ll include a couple of details below.

     

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  • Dalai Lama Portrait

    Late last year I was commissioned by The Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT to do a portrait of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama for the center, and to be presented to the Dalai Lama during his visit to Boston, his 3rd public event with the center at MIT.

    After many iterations, this is the final painting, 24×20″-

     

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    During the event the portrait was privately presented to HHDL, and the center asked for him to do a blessing and write on the portrait.  The portrait, with the Dalai Lama’s writing, will remain part of the Center’s collection at MIT.   Here is a couple of very nice images of the moment:

     

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  • Landscape Show on Long Island

    Here are a couple of paintings that left the studio this morning for Grenning Gallery’s annual summer landscape exhibition.   The show opens this Saturday, August 30th.

     

    Cape Ann 30x30"

    Cape Ann 30×30″

    Lotus and Lilies 22x28"

    Lotus and Lilies 22×28″

     

     

  • Coming Home

    What a whirlwind trip to Florence.  To see the city we lived in, to absorb the sounds and light, visit some of my favorite restaurants and spend time with some of my favorite people.  It was great to be back in town, to just concentrate on painting outdoors.

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    Ponte Vecchio, Backlit 30x40cm

    I lived in Florence for more than a decade, yet somehow I never got around to painting some of the hallmarks of the city.  I guess it just felt too touristy at the time.  As soon as I settled in Boston I realized there were a few views of Florence I had always wanted to paint, but never did.

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    Morning, Ponte Vecchio 25×35

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    Market at San Lorenzo, 30x40cm

    It was a great time to be in town, the Florence Academy’s term was just closing, so I was able to visit with a lot of old students and friends.  Robert Bodem’s sculpture program had its final open house at its current location in Via Luna, and that gave me a great opportunity to paint a view I had wanted to for years.  We lived just around the corner from Via Luna, and I had always wanted to paint the humble little street corner.

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    Via Luna, 25×35

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    Santo Spirito, Before Summer Storm 30x40cm

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    Santa Trinita’, Before Sunset 25×35

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    Piazza Santissima Annunziata 30x40cm

    It was great just to concentrate on sketching, walking all over the city, painting places as if I was visiting old friends.

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    National Library, 45x55cm

     

    On a personal note, an interesting part of the trip was that after a few days enjoying being in Florence I suddenly realized how much I missed Boston.  It’s a curious thing when your concept of ‘home’ changes.

    It’s been fantastic to spend the past few days in the studio, touching up the sketches, listening to good music and enjoying the sound of the train passing nearby.

    It’s great to be home.

     

  • Antique Studio Easel

    Last month I bought a beautiful, though in dire need of repair, antique easel.  I’ve since been restoring it.  It’s a good, sturdy old easel, and it has some unique features integrated into its design… I figured it would be worth sharing.

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    The new studio easel

    The easel’s made of oak…I could see clearly that it was old, as it had crumbling original varnish all over the parts that hadn’t been handled for some time.  Much of the wood had splintered.  The casters and crank mechanism were still in good condition, though needed some oil.

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    Upon further inspection, I found the company’s tag that produced the easel.  F. Weber (now Martin/F. Weber Co.)still makes artist materials, though nothing like this old easel.  They make mostly aluminum, tabletop easels from what I’ve seen today.  I hadn’t ever heard of the company other than their partnership with Bob Ross to sell art materials. *edit 4/24/12 it appears F.Weber’s sister company, Martin Universal Design now does their easel production. You can check out the site atwww.martinuniversaldesign.com for a list of their easels.  

    After looking a bit at their site, I understood that this easel must be from before 1919, as the company’s name changed after the death of Mr. Weber.  Not a big surprise, as it takes about that long for a varnish to become as brittle and flaky as it was on the easel.

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    Here’s a shot of the old cast iron clamps

    Today, most of the easels in the states are made with plastic fittings that strip and ruin with time and use.  I was very happy to see that most of the original cast iron pieces of the easel were still intact.

    Interestingly, this easel’s crank system is unlike any I’ve seen before.  Most ‘crank’ easels use threaded rod to lower and raise the shelf of the easel.  This easel has instead a row of pegs.

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    Here you can see the row of pegs and the crank

    The pegs are mounted and descended by a spiral-shaped piece of cast iron.

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    Another view of the crank system

    In the picture above you can get a sense of how the easel raises and lowers.  The cast-iron crank gives a great deal of stability for working, and less tedious raising and lowering paintings than other, threaded rod crank style easels…not surprising, I suppose.

    When you use an old easel, you can’t help but to be a bit curious as to who used the easel before you.

    I’m also curious if anyone’s come across this particular crank system before.

     

    *Edit 4/24/12

    I’ve gotten in touch with the good folks at Martin/F. Weber.   They had a look through their old catalogues, and have told me that my easel is the Rembrandt Winding Studio Easel (either model number 17 or 18, I have elements of both, it seems).  This design easel was produced from 1903 to 1919, so mine’s from somewhere in that arc of time.

  • Historic Boston Studios

    The other day, I noticed for the first time part of the façade of the Beth Israel Medical Center- I had never noticed it was once the Massachusetts School of Art (which is now MassArt).  It had been taken over by Beth Israel in the late 80′s.  I was struck with the beauty of the stone carving and lettering.  It’s at the corner of Brookline & Longwood, in the heart of today’s hospital district.

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    Façade of the old Mass Art building

    The inscription on this side reads “Every genuine work of art has as much reason for being as the earth and the sun”.  

    Here’s the other entrance:

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    The other door

    The other door reads  “The useful and elegant arts minister to the comfort of man and gladden his eye with beauty”

    Here’s a couple other shots of the building I found on the net:

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    an image of the building from the 50’s

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    another detail

     

    The most well known of Boston’s historic artist studios is still in use today.  The Fenway Studios were built in 1904 and has continually had artists working in them since then…. and after becoming a national landmark it will continue to be.  It’s written about extensively on their website.

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    Here is a video on youtube featuring two of the artists from the Fenway Studios.  Gives you a pretty good sense of the building.

     

    Another interesting defunct studio building is the Riverway Studios, now the Wheelock College library.  The Riverway Studio building was built in 1915,  under direction by Frank Benson and Ned Tarbell.  I’ve read that DeCamp may have been involved in the design  as well, though most places mention only Benson and Tarbell.

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    It was a popular Boston studio, where many painters of note, including  William Paxton, Gertrude Fiske, Benson and Tarbell worked.     Unfortunately, the studio’s use was short-lived, Wheelock College bought the building in 1944.  You can read more about their renovation of the building here.

    Visiting the building today, you can see very little evidence of the building’s previous use.  The building has been renovated many times, starting the year it was bought.  You can, however, still get an ethereal sense of what the spaces were like by the proportions of the room, and of course by the beautiful 15-foot windows that are still in place.

    Though the trees on Boston’s Riverway now block much of the natural light, looking through the window you can still glimpse some of the skyline that appears in one of Benson’s etchings that he’d clearly done from the window.  That’s about all that’s left of the artist studio that was there.

     

     

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