Saturday, October 4, 2014

Yellow Glyphs

Yellow Glyphs
Acrylic, 70x60 2014

This is inspired by Mayan glyphs, whose meaning is inscrutable, but whose form is intriguing. I started with form, allowing meaning to come later, if ever. I then solidified it with airbrush, imagining a  consistent light source.
This, too, is an alternate history. What in the heck type of civilisation would create such a language!?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Herre in Fall

Herre in Fall
watercolor 30x40 2014
I climbed a short way up a small hill in Herre, careful not to slip on the mossy rocks, still wet with morning dew. I settled on a place to sit and intently lay in colours, enjoying working in the medium I hadn't used for some time. 
Aside from a ladybug that crawled across the paper, there were no distractions… until something kept bustling in back of me. I paid it no heed, rapt in my painting. Perhaps it was birds fighting. After a few minutes more I broke off my concentration. What was that crackling?  Smoke… was someone burning leaves? There was something noisy; the wood was really cracking. I walked closer, to get a view beyond the bushes and trees--POP pop POP! Firecrackers?  Then I saw flames shooting from a roof!

I gingerly climbed down the slippery hill to the road.  Panic and chaos.  Firetrucks began filling the narrow road, one, two, three, four, more and more.  After an hour or so I made it back to where I had lain my painting things. I worked a few minutes more, but found it difficult to concentrate. I'll call it done.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Chameleon Mosaic
Acrylic 46x76 2014

This is from the ghost sign series, inspired by brick wall signage. I recreate the rough texture of bricks, inscribed in relief. It's an alternate history, depicting a sign that could be, or could have been.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


acrylic on canvas 70x60, 2014

This Fall is unusually warm, and it is still pleasant to work outdoors. I'm taking advantage of the good weather to experiment with some new techniques, which are greatly helped by being outdoors. I've dusted off my Iwata airbrush, which I bought two years ago, but haven't used much.

As any airbrusher knows, doing the actual "airbrushing" is only a step in a process of planning and preparation. First I had to figure out how to get a smooth, flat surface. This means stapling the canvas to plywood and applying several coats of gesso, which can be sanded down (nice to be outside when sanding.) 

As long as I had to do so much prep work, why not begin "painting" during the prep work? So I applied layers of black and gray, which resulted in an interesting texture when sanded. The sanding became part of the artistic and design process. Though I had a visually textured surface, it was smooth enough to apply the finicky fisket film, which masks areas during the airbrushing. The result is a surprising combination of texture and smooth gradients. It's "airy" but also physical.

I've painted this motif several times already; perhaps this is the final version, the Skap that is meant to be.

Monday, September 15, 2014


River Path, Fall
oil 40x30 2014

The warmest Fall I remember pushes me into summer habits, painting another river scene with a palette gearing more toward Autumn.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Self Portrait MIB
oil 40x30 2014

I did this self portrait as a watcher or Man in Black. It's a nod to the bald men from Fringe, but also to the original incarnations given us by the paranoid and special contactee, Albert Bender. Folklore has it that these men in black were either government agents or extraterrestrials, or beings that needed a default look and suit.
Somewhere I read that Albert Bender was an artist. I will take a leap and propose that he might have been inspired by the original man in black, Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte. The artist chose this outfit for his persona, and depicted men in his paintings who wore such "default" suits. Hence, I include a Magritte cloudy sky.

Greenpoint Watercolor

Greenpoint Empire
watercolor 30x40 2000

This was rescued by my brother, who found it recently among a pile of paintings stored in rural Pennsylvania. Miraculously, this work on paper shows no mice nibbles or foxing, despite years in a damp trailer.

It was painted from the roof of my loft in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (Huron Street.) I have framed it without a matt, hanging.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Queens Clock

Queens Clock
oil 70 x 99 2014

This painting has been lying around the studio for around four years, so it is a young chicken compared with some of the paintings I have occupied myself with. These have inceptions way back in the later 20th Century!

In any case, Queens Clock deals with time figuratively and literally (it has a working clock embedded into it.) The sky has a craquelure that I consciously developed (I would not recommend this technique as it requires ridiculous patience.)

It was inspired by a NY trip where we stayed in a Long Island City hotel near the Seven line. This part of Queens is one of my favourite parts of the city, which looks magical when one rides the high-up, elevated train, the spires of Manhattan ahead.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Empire Watercolor

watercolor 70x50 1992

When my brother retrieved some old paintings recently I began thinking of framing some watercolors. This one is pretty large. It's not dainty and intimate, so I am building a frame more like the type I use for oil paintings, skipping the matt.

The scene shows a raw time in NY, when old Union Square still had some decaying signage of local stores. Empire was then abandoned, showing layers of eras, a 3-D ghost sign (see earlier post.)  I wonder if one could find such a view these days.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


oil 70x90 2014

Recently my brother sent me some half-done paintings that have been stored in a trailer in rural Pennsylvania for 15 years. These are inspiring me because their surface is so thick. Before he sent them I had already begun exploring paint in a more concrete or matter-oriented way. So it was natural to finish some long-dormant works, returning to a thick paint style.

This is one of my ghost sign series, where I depict wall advertising of different eras. The wall is a palimpsest, a surface reused, which has traces of what lay before. Over time the newer layer merges with earlier layers as the surface degrades. It's a pop-art vanitas, inviting the viewer to reconstruct traces and reflect on the transience of trends and consumer culture.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dam pipe

Dam Pipe
oil 30x40 2014

This mysterious scene greets one if he strays from the path, and chooses his foothold carefully among the damp, moss-mottled stones below the dam at Hellestvedtvannet, Herre. A huge pipe, perhaps 3 meters in diameter, carries water from the dam to hydro-electric turbines. The pipe has sprung several leaks, adding to the rapids. I was attracted to the strange blending of ancient and recent technology (the riveted iron pipe buttressed by cyclopian stones, which would have looked antique even during Roman times.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


oil 40x30 2014

An old-style wooden boat, called a kogg, along the Herre River.

Friday, August 8, 2014


oil 30x40 2014

August still prevails, washing the lapping waves and glacier-hewn islets with warmth. This viewpoint is off a quickly-missed turnoff from the winding road between Herre and Porsgrunn. It's used often by radar-armed police to snag speeders--and by fishermen, liking the natural shelf of rocks that slope quickly to the water. Very good for setting up an easel too. Today the wind blew as strongly as the sun beat down, adding urgency in capturing the choppy water and flighty clouds.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Morning at Hellestvedtvannet

Morning at Hellestvedtvannet
oil 30x40 2014

Early this morning I drove up to this nearby lake and completed this scene. It's idyllic spot for boating and bathing, but not a soul stirred in the early hours.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Wall Street 2014

Wall Street 2014
oil 154 x 76 cm 2014

This painting is a commission. It has proven a very challenging project, and has taken a good deal of time.
I generally like to work faster, but one advantage to a work that has taken eons, is that one receives  interesting feedback over time, from people who happen to observe it in the studio. I enjoy hearing different interpretations, and they can be inspiring.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Working on Wall St.

Wall Street

This painting has been about 80% done for far too long. As if that wasn't enough, it's a commission. Time to get down to business!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Frier Stua

Frier Stua
40x30 oil 2014

This rural spot is actually on the grounds of Rafnes gaard, a well-groomed manor house and estate. Though modern cottages often have a rustic look, this one is authentically old, perhaps centuries. I painted it from the Seagull Skerry during two evenings. The fjord-facing side of the skerry is popular with local fishermen. In a sense I fish there too, catching light.

Monday, June 9, 2014

From the Risør Fleck

Fra Risør Flekken
oil 30x40 2014

Centuries ago Dutch seamen needed a landmark along the South Coast of Norway. At that time the town of Risør was an important timber port, so a cliff above it was turned into a landmark with the help of lime white-wash. This is called the Risør Fleck, maintained up until today. The viewpoint from this high ground affords great views of the coast and the town, most of whose houses are white by tradition. The sun was bright and the wind strong, my easel needing ballast to keep it from blowing away.

Saturday, June 7, 2014


oil 50x50 2014

This is wide open, full of associations and ambiguity, so I thought I would title it Skap, which is more grammatically ambiguous than the English Closet.

Fridges, safes, compartments, ovens, interiors, MRI and CT scanners, revelations, encapsulations… You can go a lot of places here, so I decided to keep it simple regarding color choice.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Totem in Porcelain

Totem Pole
porcelain 33cm high
Roman Scott 2014

I finally fired this successfully. These guys have been through a variety of glazes and kilns at various firing temperatures, the last at stoneware setting.

It's one solid piece. Ernest Borgnine, Big Brother, Lee Van Cleef, Tor Johnson

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ship by Seagull Skerry, Rafnes

Skip ved måkeskjær
30x40 oil 2014

Toward evening the long rays of the Scandinavian summer sun turn vistas into haunting perspectives. This is related to the beguiling mirages and tricks the desert can play on the eye--but a corollary or reversal. While the high desert turns distant knobs into lunar landmarks one foolishly thinks are near, in the fjords and woods of Norway landmarks can seem overly large, heaping a greater distance to a view that really is not so far away. The stillness and lapping waves add to the uncanniness.

When one paints for a few hours on site, with great concentration, not all is quiet. Fairly spirited dialogues ensue for me--acquaintances who comment and kibitz over the canvas. One who came along during this painting was the rotund Giorgio De Chirico, one of my favourite painters, most seminal a century ago. Perhaps the ship peaking over the low-lying skerry recalls a melancholic locomotive puffing away, strangely placed over a piazza. Too, I let myself go with viridian in the distant hills. (He was so partial to that color.)

Monday, May 26, 2014


40x30 oil 2014

About two weeks ago I sat up my easel in my yard, painting the scene seen across the river. Today I sat the easel across the river, looking at my yard. I painted it during two consecutive days, about two hours per session ending around noon, when the sun and warmth is at its apex. Yesterday, when I was carrying the half-finished canvas home, a neighbor commented that it was a summer picture. That it is.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Rafnes gaard

Rafnes Gaard
30x40 oil 2014

Luck with weather has held, bringing yet another warm day. Yesterday was 17. May (the bicentennial of Norway's constitution, no less!) It was a day of festivities and socialising, not really a painting day. Today was another story. I headed to the nearby Rafnes gaard, a park that is landscaped and maintained to come alive with a serene feeling of bursting color.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Hidden Quay

The Hidden Quay
30x40 oil 2014

This morning the overcast sky and chilly wind appeared to usher in yet another dreary day. But  around noon the sun made an appearance.  Quickly, (all things need to be quick with plain air painting)  I threw my palette and easel in the car and drove a short distance to Vold, an area I often drive past, but rarely dally at. I figured it might have something that strikes me, and so I wandered around, finding a hidden spot with a little beach and quay.

Among marshy reeds I settled, choosing to stand with the easel erected higher (I am often tempted by a rock or log to turn into a bench, but this spot had no such temptations.) The sun and clouds fluctuated a lot, but I managed to finish the painting in one sitting of about three hours.

As I painted I mused a little about Impressionism. I feel that we associate Impressionism with photography, inasmuch as impressionist painters are thought to seize a moment. This is ironic; it could well be, as David Hockney proposes, that the painters centuries earlier (Caravaggio, Dutch still-life painters, etc.) employed photography far more as a tool than did the later impressionists. When one paints directly on site, one is seizing a moment--but a long moment, lasting hours, compressing much together.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Path by River

Path by River, Herre
40x30 oil 2014

My motifs are getting ever more local. I finished this one today from our yard, abutting the river. All winter I look out to this scene, the path seeming so slippery and icy, lit grimly by dim street lamps. I prefer it now, awoken in spring, raked by morning light.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

River Reflections

River Reflections
30 x40 oil 2014

1. May, Herre, Norway. The day was a brisk one, with a chilly wind, despite the bright sun. The light, as well as the breeze, made for good painting weather if one kept his coat on and stayed in the sun by the river bank.  Gusts of wind changed the water surface minute by minute. Likewise, swiftly moving clouds changed the light. No problem--just cast your eyes to the palette and mix a color. When the paint's on the brush, the scene has changed back to what you remembered.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Giddy Night

Giddy Night
30 x40 oil 2014
As the evening descends traffic slows in Soho, gridlocked, as giddy window shoppers crowd the boutique-ridden streets.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Woods over Herre

Woods over Herre
40x30 oil 2014
When spring is warm as it was today, Nature just calls out to be painted. In this sketch I strove to capture the scene quickly, before shadows and glinting highlights changed.

Monday, April 21, 2014


Boathouse at Frierstua, Herre
30 x 40 2014

Spring has arrived-- time to get my paint field kit together. The sun shone on my back, and mossy rocks were my bench, as tried out some old fashioned plein air painting today.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sea of Memory

Sea of Memory
50 x 70 2014

This one started as a Bob Ross wave, but quickly turned into a surreal allegory in which I had fun.

I've always been intrigued by the difference between human and geologic time. The sea--the grinding, relentless, eternal beginning-- seems to be a place where geologic and human time coexist.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Wet Flat Iron

Wet Flat Iron
70 x 50 oil 2014

This was a very wet-on-wet technique, where the fluid paint was worked into running glazes, the material mimicking the nature of humid streetlight halos during an inky urban night. When I look at it at a distance (seeing it as a photograph in this post) I note that it is slightly surreal.

The picture is dream-like or pared down to a memory. I simplified the intersections, leaving out  confusing barriers of bollards and planters that clutter the area nowadays. Why are there three taxis, only? Do they echo the triangular Flat Iron Building? A lone pedestrian tries to hail them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Tony 8th Ave. & 36 St.
50 x 50 oil 2014

This will begin a series of character studies, inspired by old photos found in my archive. This scene is now a quarter century in the past, so details found in the photo have begun to assert a special veneer of history. Because I was concerned with time here, I decided to pack this little canvas with denotative detail.

The makes of cars, for instance, look different, sporting the more angular 70/80s style. Public telephone boxes were still a fixture of each block (the trash bag poncho-wearing street guy looks to be approaching a phone… a reflexive finger search for a free quarter, or an urgent call?)

Tony, the white-jacketed gent, is certainly a NY type. Can he still be seen on the streets, or is he more a part of our collective imagination, promulgated by wise guy films and TV?  I've always been intrigued by his pose. For a guy with obvious experience and street smarts, doesn't he seem a bit hesitant, especially in the middle of busy 8th Ave? Or did I capture him the very instant he spots someone… someone he has been looking for fervently, or perhaps someone he has been hoping to avoid?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Papaya Square

Papaya Square
50 x 50 oil 2014

About a year ago I was struck with this corner at 14 Street and Second Ave. It seems to evoke New York that is harder to come by these days. The store is indigenous, or at least not a multinational Star Bucks-like chain, which seems to have taken over much of Manhattan. I like the sign because it has sculptural elements, not a plastic banner.

The time of day is crepuscular--yeah, might be leaning on my nocturne crutch a bit here, but not full-blown. The effulgence of the corner warrants it--and I am still challenging myself in that I have chosen the tricky square as a format. I've always avoided the square, having somehow absorbed the idea that it is noncommittal. (neither landscape or portrait.)

Perhaps painters eschew the square because of its static nature. I've tried to offset this by inferring movement by the cropped taxis: one entering, one leaving. The viewer completes the circuit, imagining the world to the sides.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bike Lane

Bike Lane, Brooklyn Bridge
40x50 oil 2014

I had fun with this summer scene set at the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge during summer. This area is chaotic, a bottle neck of pedestrians who are sometimes confused about the walking lanes vs. the biking lanes.

I wanted to compare and contrast the milling people and congested traffic with the more imposing, immobile gothic towers of the bridge ahead. I wonder if the biker will manage to find his way forward without breaking. This is an atypical scene to paint, full of day lit colors and human anecdote and incident-- a challenge for me.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bump Ahead

Bump Ahead

50x40 oil 2014

I'm getting the paint palette rolling again with some smaller paintings. Painting has been challenging lately after a series of abdominal operations. Not only is it a highly mental activity, it's also physical--something one is aware of when standing or even sitting up straight is compromised or painful.

Nonetheless, when you get over the bump and heal a bit, painting can be therapeutic if you don't overdue it--so I like to do these smaller format, more intimate canvases. I'm not soft-pedaling, however: I've chosen to explore some lucidly day lit scenes, full of detail and color. My crutch of the nocturne (which is concerned primarily with values at the expense of colors ) lies in the corner for the moment.